FOCUS in Prayer – The Return
How many of us and how many times we have lost our concentration during prayer, both at church and in our homes? The following (humorous) lines are intended to help us focus – and prepare better for this important spiritual discipline. Enjoy and learn. I did.
One day in the synagogue, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev seemed to be observing a group of his Hasidim as they prayed. When they were finished, he approached them with a hearty greeting, “Shalom aleichem!”
They looked startled to hear their rabbi pronounce the greeting traditionally given after returning from a long journey. “But Rabbi,” they said, “we have not been anywhere!”
The rabbi continued to shake hands with them, as though they were travellers arriving in Berditchev. He said, “From your faces it was obvious that your thoughts were in the grain market in Odessa or the woolen market in Lodz. None of you were actually here while you recited the prayers, so I was glad to welcome you back once you stopped.”
Notice that early in the intertestamental period a group called the Hasidim emerged. The Hasidim were people of prayer. They prescribed directing the heart toward God not simply at the moment of prayer, but an hour before actually praying.
While in prayer the Hasidim kept their hearts fixed on God. NOTHING was allowed to interrupt this spiritual union. In fact, according to their teachings in the Mishnah,
“Even if the king greets a man he may not return the greeting; and even if a snake were wrapped around his ankle [modern version: even if a cell/MP 3 was wrapped around his hand 🙂 ], he may not interrupt his prayer” (m. Berakhot 5:1).
Now this is focus and determination. Help us Lord to prepare well beforehand, and to take prayer more seriously.
The story about Rabbi Levi is from http://www.hasidicstories.com/. Thanks to Raj for sending it. The rest of the information is from Young – Meet the Rabbis, p. 21. This is also posted under Rabbinics.