By COLlive staff
In describing his decision to travel to Reb DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, the Alter Rebbe says he faced a fork in the road: to go to Vilna to learn how to learn, or go to Mezeritch and learn how to daven. He chose Mezeritch.
Tefillah is the hallmark of Chabad chassidus. As Lubavitchers, davening is what we do!
How to daven is the focal point of much of chassidus, and in recalling chassidim of old we invariably discuss the hours they devoted to davening.
“Today it is difficult to daven like the chassidim did way back when,” says Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan, Head Shliach to Maryland. “In a hurried world driven by instant gratification, it is difficult to slow down and muster even some of the focus that serious Chassidishe davening requires.
“A chossid once described davening as ‘trefen zich mit’n Eibershter – meeting with G-d.’ One wouldn’t walk into a meeting unprepared. One would – at the very least – know the topic, and likely research it extensively. The more important the meeting, the more preparation that is required. Preparing to “meet G-d” requires intensive preparation and research into the words of davening. That is what learning chassidus before davening gives you.
“The sheer amount of time we spend each week davening should drive us to capitalize on the time spent. If I wanted to take away ten hours of your week, your first question would be, ‘for how much?’ On average, each of us will spend more than 10 hours each week davening. If we’re not growing, if we’re not gaining anything from that time, what is the point?
“We know what we are supposed to do. We’ve heard stories of our grandparents, we’ve learned what it says in chassidus. But there is often a disconnect between learning a ma’amor and applying that to a page of davening.
“In creating the “Siddur Illuminated by Chassidus” we’ve helped address that. We not only provide the pirush hamilos with a translation of the siddur, but the chassidisheh pirush hamilos, the deeper meaning of the words of davening as elucidated throughout the teachings of Chabad chassidus.
“When you rush through reading “ki nisgav shmo levado’ everyday, it is because the words don’t strike you. However, once you’ve discovered what chassidus says about it, just seeing the words will trigger the thought which compels you to stop and think about it. The mere knowledge of the meaning is enough to drastically better your daily meeting with Hashem.”
Rabbi Shmuel Schlanger of Chabad of Bakersfield speaks of his days as a bochur listening to mashpi’im discuss the importance of davening, and how it impacts the entire day. “I was able to daven with a mashpiah like Rabbi Mendel Gordon in London who’s davening was loud and clear, and it was obvious to me he understood what he was saying and had a passion for it.
“I wanted to daven in a similar fashion, and as a shliach I want to share the beauty of davening with others. People tell me they are attracted to the Chabad House because of the meaningful davening.
“When the Siddur Illuminated by Chassidus was published, I began to learn from it myself. It immediately impacted my davening. I soon started sharing some of the thoughts at our Sunday minyan. One member so enjoyed the lessons he bought 20 copies for the entire minyan to study it together over bagels, lox and cream cheese. In his words, ‘the Siddur has helped make a meaningful davening that much more meaningful.’
“I’m ecstatic to hear that a second volume of Shabbos davening is slated for publication. Shabbos affords us even more time to truly focus on davening.”
The siddur can be used almost universally, from those already well versed in chassidus to beginners unable to even read Hebrew. The short, stand-alone lessons enable one to pick a portion of davening and study the depth and meaning behind it, without needing the background of the rest of the book, or even a background in learning chassidus.
In describing the work that went into making the Siddur, Rabbi Kaplan said “just the research for the material was a monumental task and took over three years of work. The material then had to be translated and edited in order to produce the finished seforim.”
The effort was led by the editor in chief Rabbi Eli Touger and Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg, who worked diligently to produce this excellent work under the guidance of Rabbi Yonah Avtzon of SIE.
Rabbi Kaplan also asked to give credit “to my good friend Reb Yaakov Cohen for his financial support for the entire project as well as his constant encouragement. We certainly owe a hearty Yasher Koach to all who worked on this.”
“Hearing the feedback from hundreds across the globe who learn it both individually and as part of group shiurim, novice to scholar alike, has truly been gratifying,” he concluded.
The new siddur is available on Kehot.com