An Easy Way to Have Kavana by Davening
Boruch Hashem I discovered an easy way to have kavana by davening. We say every morning in davening that for certain deeds a person receives the keren, principle, in the next world and the paros, interest, in this world. One of these deeds is ‘iyun tefilla,’ which means having kavana - concentrating by davening. So we see that kavana is very important. The Gemorah Rosh Hashana relates on pg. 18 that 2 people were really sick and they both davened, but only one person was healed. The Gemorah says this was because he davened beshlamos; and Rashi says that means with kavana. From here we also see that kavana is very important.
However, the Shulchon Aruch Aruch Chaim Simon 98 says that there are certain things that disturb our davening. We are not so makped because we don’t have such good kavana anyway, and the Mishna Berura says that even though we don’t have such good kavana, we still shouldn’t have those things that disturb us.
As stated before, Baruch Hashem I was able to discover a way to have a 100% kavena during davening: by comparing davening to going fishing. When a person goes fishing, if he tries to catch the fish by grabbing on to its body, even if he holds the fish right next to him the fish will slip away. But if he forgets about the body and only tries to put a hook in the fish’s mouth, then the body will follow along automatically. The fish can be in the sky, but if he has the hook securely in its mouth, then the fish will still be his.
So too by davening. I forget about trying to concentrate, since it’s very difficult. But take for instance Baruch She’amar. I say the first word, ‘Baruch,’ simply, and when I come to the second word, ‘she’amar,’ I ask myself what is the first nekuda under the second word ‘she’amar?’ When I notice that its a segal, pronounced ‘eh,’ then I notice the entire situation - everything that I am saying and its meaning. Then I read the third word simply and when I come to the fourth word I again ask myself what is the first nekuda under the fourth word ‘haolam.’ I notice that it’s a kometz, which is pronounced ‘uh.’ I again notice the entire situation, and everything that I am saying. I concentrate on its meaning. And so I proceed, at every other word, to notice the first nekudah underneath. I automatically notice the entire situation, along with everything that I am saying and its meaning. I’m able to have 100% kavena using this method.
I brought a raya, a proof, to this approach of being automatically involved with the entire situation by noticing the first nekuda of every other word. The proof is from the Gemorah Menachos daf 29 side 2, where it mentions the law regarding a sefer Torah. You can’t ask a regular person to tell you whether or not a letter in the sefer Torah is written properly. Instead, you must ask a child who is not too smart and not too stupid what the letter is, to determine if it’s written correctly. The reason for this, says the Gemorah, is because a certain person had a problem with his tefillin. The parsha regarding tefillin is written in Shemos perek yud gimel (because when you turn 13 you are bar mitzvah, and start putting on tefillin). It says in perek yud gimel pasuk tes vov “Ki hiksha Paroh.” When Paroh didn’t want to send out the Jews “Vayaharog Hashem kol habechorim.” Hashen killed all the bachorim. In this pasuk, part of the vov of ‘vayaharog’ is missing, making it look like a yud. But if you say that it’s a yud, then the word means as Rashi says, to chas v’shalim to kill Hashem - which is a terrible thing. Which is why any understanding adult will always say that the first letter is a vov and not a yud. But a child who’s not too smart and not too stupid will only see the letter and not the whole word. A stupid child will only know a whole letter and not part of a letter, as Rashi says. So therefore we see that when a regular person sees one letter he gets involved with the entire word. The Gemorah is using that fact in a negative way to disqualify the man from saying what the letter is, but I am using that same fact in a positive way - to be able to have kavana.
At one point Bilom didn’t want to curse the Jews. He wanted to run away. Rashi says that Hashen gave Bilom a rasen, a harness, and a chika, a hook, so that he shouldn’t run away. When we daven we say “Nafshanu chiksa laHashem” - with a hook we come to Hashem. We are using the hook in a positive way, to be able to have kavana by davening.
Another point I want to add is that even though a person has a good method to be able to have kavana, he still must remember to pray to Hashen to help him to have kavana. As it says in Orach Chaim simen tzadek ches 98 sif alef, “Hamispalel tzrech lachaven.” One who prays must have kavana. This law is based on the Gemorah Brachos pg. lamed alef 31. The Gemorah says further that Abah Shaul says “simen ladover” - a sign for this law is from the pasuk in Tehellim perek yud, “tachen lebam takshev aznacho.” On the outset, this means that if they prepare their hearts then You, Hashem, listen to their prayers. This sentence is also quoted in the Igeres HaRamban, the letter that the Ramban writes to his son regarding having kavana by davening. The Bach in simen tzadek ches 98 on the Tur asks, why does Aba Shaul say it’s a simen and not a direct quote from the pasuk in Tehillim? The Bach answers that since ‘tachen lebam’ means that You, Hashem, prepare the heart and Rashi says ‘im,’ if- which means to say that only if Hashem prepares the heart is the person able to have kavana, it’s therefore not a direct quote regarding the person preparing his heart. Only Hashem prepares the heart. Then the Bach asks, on the other side of the coin; since only Hashem prepares the heart, where is there even a simen that the person must prepare his heart? The Bach answers that Hashem prepares the person’s heart if the person himself wants to prepare it. If the person himself tries to prepare his heart, as it says, “haba letahar misayin ohso” - when the person makes the effort, Hashem helps him.
Rabbi Gedalia Max is the Dean of Yeshivas Hamatmonim, a home-schooling yeshiva elementary and high school for boys and girls separately. 718-436-3664.