Friday, July 10, 2009

Moving Our Hearts Along with Our Lips

There is an unfortunate phenomenon found in many minyans in both the US and Israel called the 30-minute morning service. Slurred speech and speed-reading have unfortunately become the norm in many shuls.

When I walk out of a such a minyan, I can’t help but feel that the purpose was nothing more than fulfilling an obligation. Certainly doing any mitzvah is commendable, but from another perspective an essential component is missing.

Rabbi Tzadok HaCohen from Lublin, a Lithuanian-trained Talmudist-turned-Chasid, teaches that the essential part of prayer is the desire to pray.

We see in the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice, which like prayer is also called by the name “avodah” (work or practice), that the essence was not the sacrifice itself, but rather the desire to serve God. Sacrifice was a vehicle through which to bring one into the presence of God, but without a yearning for divine connection, the act is hollow.

So too with prayer; words void of feeling are like a body with no soul, and are nearly meaningless. God doesn’t want holy mumbling martyrs; Hashem wants our hearts.

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