Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Empty Prayer

We know that a mitzvah that is done without kavanah is like a body without a neshamah—surely an aspect of pigul, as the Tifers Shlomo, zt”l, writes. Yet many people have a hard time directing their thoughts. Rav Wolbe, zt”l, illustrated this failing with a true story,
“Once, a certain avreich was in the grocery, looking for various items required at home. He put aside one item after another. Strangely, just as he was reaching for the eggs, he felt a curious pain in his chest. After a moment he felt another pain and suddenly found himself...in shul davening shemonah esrei. The pains had been nothing more the obligatory rap on the chest during selach lanu!”
Although prayer without kavanah is very precious since it reaches the highest heights as the Nefesh Hachaim explicitly writes, it is also an aspect of pigul, since it lacks a neshamah.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, along with Rav Aharon of Karlin, zt”l, explain that—unlike actual pigul—such a tefilah is redeemable since it can be imbued with kavanah later. “Even when a person cannot daven with kavanah he must never refrain from davening in whatever way he can. Although for the present the tefillah without kavanah cannot ascend on high, when he will say a tefillah with kavanah he will revive all the ‘empty’ tefillos, enabling them to ascend on high on the ‘coattails’ of the prayer said with kavanah.”

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