The following was recently written by Rabbi Shimon Raichik to members of Congregation Levi Yitzchok in Los Angeles:
We are currently reading chumash Vayikra which begins with discussing karbonos. A karbron is an offering that is brought with nedivas halev, with the heartfelt intention to become closer to Hashem. This intention which accompanies a karbon, is critical both for the one who brings it as well as the Kohen who offers it, as is seen by it’s extensive halachos.
Nowadays, since we don’t have a Beis Hamikdash, our davening is in the place of the karbonos, as it says; Tefillos b’makom tamidim tiknum. This includes the tefillos of Shacharis, Mincha, Maariv, Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh etc. We also see this by the question that is asked: “What is the service with the heart?” and it’s answer; “this is tefilla.”
The reason we spend extra time davening, hopefully without paying attention to the clock, is because if we don’t pay attention to what we are saying it’s not just that we’re missing a part of the davening, we’re missing it’s entire essence. We need to understand what we are saying because, like offering a karbon in the Beis Hamikdash, our focus is on drawing ourselves together with the world, closer to Hashem.
In the Tanya, the Alter Rebbe demands from each and every one of us that we take davening seriously. Even if we are busy all week long, we still must set aside time, at the very least on Shabbos to davening slowly with intention. We know that the Frierdiker Rebbe says (quoted in Hayom Yom) that a lack proper davening causes the rest of our Torah and Mitzvos to become cold.
KNOWING ISN’T ENOUGH
Today, we have lots of information. What we lack is communication, meaning the translation of the information into our minds and hearts so that it has a practical impact on the way that we daven.
We know all the good and important things about davening. We know that davening is where we make all of our requests to Hashem, and that davening like a ladder to the heavens; we learned that. Because that information has yet to be integrated into the davening and a part of how we communicate with Hashem, the information remains peripheral, surrounding us but not really part of us; it’s just information.
You will know that this is true if you find ourselelf texting by Yishtabach. Doesn’t that tell us that we are definitely not communicating? This is what the Rebbe’s maamar “V’Atah Titzaveh” explains when it says that we believe and we know but we do not internalize…
We could have gone through the entire yeshiva system and not really gotten it. And why is that? It’s because for whatever reason we did not internalize what we learned. We remained perched above it watching, participating from above, in the age of information.
It’s a hard thing to watch.
I’ve offered a few people to put down their cell phones during davening with the following challenge: Let’s say you were in a business that required you to work for months to get a private audience with the CEO of your biggest potential customer. That meeting could really put your business over the top to become a success beyond your biggest dreams. If you finally got that meeting that you waited for, would you be spending the time you had in that meeting fiddling around texting and checking your emails and voice messages on your iPhone or your Android? So too here, you are now addressing Hashem and asking for teshuva, forgiveness, refuah, parnassa and geula, and your sitting there texting!?
Many know the story of how Rav Levi Yitzchok of Barditchev found a zechus for the Jew who was greasing the wheels of his wagon wearing tallis and tefillin. He said to Hashem; Look at your children who serve you even when they grease the wheels of their wagons! This does not mean however that he went into shul, banged on the bima and announced that the best time to daven is when you grease the wheels of your wagon!
The bottom line here is that we need to learn chassidus and we need to keep in mind what a great opportunity we have to be able to approach Hashem in davening. Each one of us can become a Mishkon to Hashem in this world. We need to keep in mind how great a mitzvah is, and to be really happy about having the opportunity to take advantage of each and every mitzvah that comes our way. When we work on this and internalize this into out daily lives, then our family feels it as well, and everything falls into place.
Let’s take a look around us today at what is going on in the world, in Israel and in the Ukraine and we will see that it is more urgent that ever before to do our part. It begins by realizing the great importance and effect our tefilla and tehillim has in our lives, the lives of our community and the world in general.
THE MINCHA-MAARIV SACRIFICE
During the last Chanukah before he had a stoke, my father (Rabbi Menachem Shmuel David Raichik OBM) told me a story which he heard from the Previous Rebbe in 5699-1938 at the last Yud Tes Kislev fabrengen that the Rebbe held in the Yeshiva in Otwosk before the Second World War:
Before he became known, the Baal Shem Tov would travel from town to town in order to uplift the spirits of Jewish people. He would tell them how much Hashem loves them. He had a special way of expressing how every Jew is a child of Hashem and that the love is so great that no matter how ‘busy’ Hashem is he listens to their prayers.
In the particular town that he was visiting at the time there lived a Jew named R. Yaakov who had mastered the entire Shas and knew every Rashi and Tosfos by heart. Learning by heart requires much more concentration than learning inside a sefer and any disturbance can cause you to loose your place.
Once, R. Yaakov was in the middle of leaning a very intricate Tosfos that took up most of a page of Gemara. One of his small children suddenly entered his study and began to talk about topics that interest a small child. R. Yaakov stopped right in the middle of the Tosfos and listened to his child. What the child said made an impression on him. He was interested to know what he was talking about even though he was in the middle of and so involved in the Tosfos.
The Baal Shem Tov explained that there is a Gemara that accounts for every hour of Hashem’s day, and how every moment is taken and accounted for. When his child, a Jew, calls out to Him, He stops whatever He is doing to listen, He wants to hear, He is concerned to know and is interested in what His child is asking.
The Rebbe explained that Hashem spoke to the melachim before creation saying: “Let us make man.” The melachim asked, who is this creature, man? Hashem then showed them what man looks like. The melachim asked; “Mah enosh ki sizkarenu.. – Who is this man that you should remember him, and the son of a mortal that You should be mindful of him (Tehillim 8:5)”, it is better that you have us. Nevertheless, Hashem “went on His own” as it were and created man.
The Rebbe continued by describing how a Jew tears himself away from work and goes to shul to daven Mincha-Maariv and in between learns Ayin Yaakov. Then he goes home and shares what he learned with his family. Hashem calls the malachim to have a look. He says to them, here is the man that you said not to create. He’s married, because I told him to. Because of that he now has a family to support. He has to go to work; I told him to. Nevertheless, with all of his difficulties, he tears himself away to go daven and learn. Then he takes the time to educate his children. He turns to the malachim saying, you have no family, or work or taxes. Even though man has all of these burdens he still does all of these things. Hashem then takes pride in us over the malachim.
The Rebbe concluded by saying that if we only realized how much Hashem takes pride in us and how important what we say is to Him, we would think very differently.