A Deep Prayer, reprinted with kind permission of:
A Deep Prayer
by the Chafetz Chaim zt”l
Likutei Amarim ch.11
The Chafetz Chaim zt’l implores his generation on the need for solitary prayer:
“In summation, all the many calamities that come on us and that we are not saved from them is because we are not screaming and outpouring in prayer over them. If we would pray and would pour out before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, certainly our prayers and supplications would not return empty. And it’s not enough for a person to pray the shemonei esrei three times a day, rather a few times per day, a person needs to pour out prayers and supplications in solitude, in his house, from the depths of his heart. Because the three prayers (shemonei esrei) are already fixed in his mouth and he doesn’t take them to heart so much. But if a person would contemplate in solitude and make a cheshbon hanefesh on his personal situation, his great poverty and his many toils, and for all this to live on crusty bread and water, then he will pour out his heart like water in front of Hashem, yisborach, and the prayer will go out with deep kavana and with a broken heart and a lowly spirit. A prayer like this will certainly not return empty. And then when his soul is bitter on him, on his situation and his weak standing, and he drops supplications before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he should also remember the great pain of Hashem yisborach, because he also, so to speak, does not have rest. In all our suffering He suffers…”
Chafetz Chaim – Likutei Amarim ch.11
comment: Rabbi Avigdor Miller once said that “prayer today is in a rut. It has been reduced to a meaningless recital of words.”
Most of us don’t pray because we don’t think it will make any difference. We pray and nothing happens, so we think prayer has no power. This thinking is erroneous. The reason we see nothing is because our prayers lack true kavana (intent). Come and hear the powerful words of the Vilna Gaon:
“there is no crying except from the heart…tefila needs kavana and ikar (primary) kavana is with tears (Vilna Gaon on Esther 8:3)”
A serious prayer must be accompanied by tears, otherwise, you heart is not really there. So next time you feel down, maybe you are disappointed things didn’t go as you would have hoped. Or maybe you’re dissatisfied with life in general, if so it’s a golden opportunity to cry out to H-shem for help. Get the onions out and pour out your heart like water. Even if you don’t see results immediately, don’t give up because certainly, if you continue doing this, over the months and years, in the end it will certainly help very much.
The Chazon Ish zt’l said: “I put more kochos (exertion) in Avodas Hatefila (prayer) than Avodas of learning.”
(heard from Rabbi Nissan Kaplan in name of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbauch)
* My master, (the Arizal) would give two conditions for attaining of wisdom (in torah) – one is to minimize speech and to keep silent as much as possible, to not let out of your mouth any sicha betela (useless speech), as the Sages said “the fence to wisdom is silence” (Pirkei Avos). Two – for all things that you do not understand in the torah, cry over it, much crying. (Rabbi Chaim Vital – Pri Etz Chaim Shaar Hanhagas HaLimud)
* When saying ‘atah chonen’ which is the beginning of the tefila, one should put to heart..the entire creation of man is for wisdom and knowledge and this is man’s greatness. Therefore they said “atah chonen l’adam daas” – l’adam (to man) specifically. And this is a free gift, because what did the Creator of the world see to give to the man from the ground ‘daas’, to know of the heaven on high, and all the forms of the holy chariot, and the throne of glory (of G-d), and knowledge of the combination of Divine names with which G-d formed the world? This must be only because of great, endless compassion. And for this, a man should pour down tears like a river and to request understanding (deah) from G-d as a free gift. (Shemonei Esrei by Rabbi Yehonasan Eibshetz)
The Vast Desert of Solitude
The Vast Desert of Solitud, reprinted with kind permission of:
Oh that I had wings like a dove! then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, I would dwell in the wilderness forever. (Tehilim 55:7)
The Vast Desert of Solitud
send the crowds away
When Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman – later known as the Ponivezher Rav, who raised the banner of Torah in Israel, was returning home to his parents he passed by the the town of Radin (in Poland pre-WWII). He later recounted:
“As I was passing by Radin, I asked myself how could I pass by the “holy sanctuary” of the Chafetz Chaim without stopping there? I took a shortcut and arrived in Radin late in the afternoon. The Chafetz Chaim’s house was dark.
I entered and found no one there. I sat down on a bench and wondered what the Chafetz Chaim looked like and whether I would merit to see him. As I meditated, the Rebetzin entered and asked me what I wanted. I told her that I wished to see the Chafetz Chaim. She told me to wait awhile until he arrives. While waiting for the Chafetz Chaim, I heard a piercing cry from the upper floor, a cry that bespoke terrible pain. Seeing that I had become frightened, the Rebbetzin approached me and said: “Sir don’t be frightened. That’s my husband praying for a woman in labor who is giving birth right now.” I immediately said to myself: “Yoshe, how can you leave such a place in which dwells a man who is capable of such heartrending crying on behalf of others?!” So I decided to stay in Radin and study under him.”
Compared to the previous generations, the service of prayer has almost completely disappeared. Many of the gedolim (leaders) of previous generations would regularly spend time in solitude and pour out their hearts to G-d.
The technological revolution has disconnected us with nature, and as a result, with ourselves and with G-d. The constant chatter of crowds of people, the endless noise of machines and electronic gadgets has barraged and cluttered our minds. Technology has also brought with it long work weeks at meaningless jobs, doing meaningless work resulting in millions of people with unprecedented dissatisfaction and mental illnesses.
To develop a proper awareness of G-d’s presence (yira shamayim), a person needs to spend time alone. As long as he is with other people, or involved in activities, he can put the reality of G-d’s presence aside so to speak. But when he finds himself alone, especially in raw nature, untouched by the hands of man, “the awesome presence of the King falls on him and his heart breaks (Talmud Berachos 34b Rashi-‘dmatzli’) “. This is why the Talmud says (Berachos 5b) one should try to pray at the front of the synagogue with no separation between oneself and the wall. As long as there are other people in front of you who can see your face, you’re not mentally alone and cannot turn to G-d properly (covering one’s face with a tallis helps in this regard).
Of course, G-d is here with you always. He’s here in this room right now. And one should pause and think for a moment about this. My teacher, Rabbi Moshe Lazerus, shlita (a Rosh Yeshiva and close student of Avigdor Miller zt”l), taught us that it is crucial to spend 10 minutes a day in seclusion and privacy in order to talk to Hashem. He used to tell us (to the effect of) “I don’t know how you can daven (pray) or be religious for that matter, without having a personal relationship with Hashem. Who are you praying to? A concept? I empathize with you. Without a relationship with Him, prayer must be torture. Doing this makes Him real. G-d becomes real. The Torah becomes real, it comes alive. The Avos are suddenly real people that lived and not just stories. They’re your relatives, your great-grandparents.”
By the way, the procedure he recommended for this, is to lock yourself in a room every day for 5 or 10 minutes and talk to Him (no phones, etc., if possible put a “do not disturb” sign). As you talk to Him, imagine what you think He would say to you.
For example, thank Him for what you are grateful for, like health, food, good parents, etc. Then tell Him what you think He owes you …
Basically, to develop a personal relationship with Him in the tradition of the great baalei mussar.
If you’re the deeply spiritual type, I would also suggest, return to nature once a month for a few hours. Send the crowds away, go to the forests or to the mountains, and seek Him in receptive silence. Many of the great baalei mussar did this on a daily basis (the really great ones hid away for years). Observe the trees and flowers and animals and birds, the sea and clouds and sky and stars. It’s a tremendous way to reconnect with Him. Hopefully, the barriers will drop, and you will see, you will make contact. You will feel the King’s awesome presence and the infinite wisdom in His creation. That is the cure for loneliness. Generally, we seek to cure our loneliness through emotional dependence on people, through gregariousness and noise. That is no cure. Get back to things, get back to reality. Then you will know that your heart has brought you to the vast desert of solitude, there is noone there at your side, absolutely no one.
The truth is eventually you will lose every single person in your life, never to see them again. You will lose your parents, your wife, your siblings, your children, your friends – everybody. And you will be utterly alone.
Alone that is, except for the Almighty. Now’s the time to build the relationship with Him. (Just don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate being a loner. A person should be “mixed” with others and try to help them, whether emotionally or physically. Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l said that you should make efforts to do things so that people will like you. The main point, though is not to lose the most important relationship.)
The Chafetz Chaim once saw a very happy student in his yeshiva come to bid him farewell before returning to his parents for the festivals. The Chafetz Chaim turned to his disciples around him and said “See how happy this talmid is to be going back to his father’s house. Is this not the way a Jew should feel when he is about to die and return to his Father in Heaven?”. – Sparks of Mussar pg.218
Rav Miller zt”l also gave a practical method for developing a relationship with Hashem: (tape shaar habitachon – chovos halevavos).
1. Constantly ask G-d for help.
Before you proceed on anything, ask Him for help.
Example: Salesman in waiting room. “Ribono Shel Olam, give me success with this customer.”
Or if you want to learn a sugya in shas, say “Hashem, give me success in learning this subject in the gemora.”
Or if you’re going for a walk, ask Hashem to give you success in crossing all the streets safely.
2. Thank Hashem no matter the outcome.
If it happens that you are successful, thank Hashem profusely, at length afterwards and always consider what he did for you.
Even if you were not successful, you should still thank Hashem because whatever happens is certainly for your benefit.
Rav Miller advised that in using this method, a person will learn to attribute everything that happens to him to Hashem and build the precious fundamental, trait of bitachon (trust in G-d). People generally have an incorrect and simplistic understanding of Bitachon. They believe, if you ask hard enough Hashem will do what you want. This is really the opposite of `bitachon’. The Chazon Ish explains bitachon as – trusting that whatever Hashem does is for the best and that He KNOWS what He is doing! (heard from Rabbi Lazerus)
I’ll end off with this incredible statement by Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm (one of the great mussar giants of pre-WWII Europe) zt”l wrote:
“A great principle in joy of the heart and health of the body, and more for the service of G-d is to search for closeness (kirva) to G-d and not closeness to human beings. Besides being a big headache in many ways, there’s no greater burden on a person than seeking closeness from other human beings. And what is a man that you want to search for closeness to him? He seems like a friend when it is to his benefit, or when he wants to, but they don’t stand by a person in his difficult time (pirkei avos 2:3) But closeness to G-d, although He’s not visible, there is no time that He doesn’t want.
Know my precious son, that the main wealth of a person is that which is in a person’s hand and noone else can touch. All the more so, it should not depend on other people’s whims. And one who seeks closeness to human beings, he is in need of gifts from flesh and blood. There’s no difference between seeking physical gifts from others and seeking closeness (emotional gifts) from them. It’s all the same. And therefore, there is no greater poor man than one who seeks closeness and love from others, and there is no greater wealth than he who has removed from himself the desire to be loved by other human beings. – (Sefer Zikaron Beis Kelm pg.265)
In summation, the best way to get the best perspective is to begin by taking those 10 minutes a day to develop a relationship with or reconnect to Hashem.
When I read this post in November last year, it made my eyes watery.
This post had a very special impact on me, in that, I always keep remembering it, and I said this I must share with my beloved.
If you delve into it, you will find it has a profund message for all of us.
Posted by nava, Wednesday, November 07, 2007.
By Anonymous at Mystical Paths.
A man’s daughter had asked the local Rabbi to come and pray with her father. When the Rabbi arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair sat beside his bed. The Rabbi assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.
“I guess you were expecting me”, he said.
“No, who are you?” said the father. The Rabbi told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up.”
“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?.” Puzzled, the Rabbi shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. In Shul I used to hear the Rabbi talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” The old man continued, “Until one day four years ago, my best friend said to me, “Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with HASHEM.
Here is what I suggest. “Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see HASHEM on the chair. It’s not spooky because He promised us, “I will be with you always”.
“Then just speak to Him in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”
“So, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The Rabbi was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the Shul.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the Rabbi that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?,” he asked.
“Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, he was no longer breathing. …But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?”
The Rabbi wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”
I asked HASHEM for water, He gave us oceans.
I asked HASHEM for a flower, He gave us gardens.
I asked HASHEM for a friend, He gave me all of YOU…
If HASHEM brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
Happy moments, praise HASHEM.
Difficult moments, seek HASHEM.
Quiet moments, worship HASHEM.
Painful moments, trust in HASHEM.
Every living moment, thank HASHEM.
Daddy’s Empty Chair, reprinted with the kind permission of Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths.
Here you have it beloved brethren, the only weapon that will defeat Eretz Ysrael’s enemies, is PRAYER, not weapons, or any person or army but simple sincere PRAYER from way deep within our heart.
We have to get hold of our sword (Emunah) and start praying (Tefillah) to Hashem, in order to clean the path so that Mosiach can come and deliver Klal Ysrael from our enemies.
Rabbi Lazer Brody from Lazer Beams has a wonderful spiritual explanation about the threat against Israel and how to deal with it.
Kindly click here to listen.