SECTION 98 One must Concentrate while Praying. (1-5)

סימן צח צָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ כַּוָּנָה בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ וּבוֹ ה' סְעִיפִים:

1 What1 is meant by [preparing] one’s thoughts?2 When praying, one must concentrate in his heart on the meaning of the words3 that he utters with his lips,4 as it is written, “Prepare their hearts; let Your ear be attentive.”5 One should picture himself as if the Divine Presence abides before him6 and arouse his concentration and remove all the thoughts that disturb him, until his thoughts and concentration are clear while he is praying. He should consider that if he were speaking in the presence of a king of flesh and blood, he would marshal his words and concentrate on them thoroughly so that he would not falter; how much more should he prepare himself when facing the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, before Whom one must concentrate on one’s thoughts as well. For before Him, thought is like speech, since He examines all thoughts.

And indeed, this was the practice of the pious men and the men [distinguished by their] deeds:7 they would [sit in] solitude and concentrate on their prayers until they reached a state in which they rose above material consciousness8 and their intellectual spirit was dominant, and they attained a rung approaching that of prophecy.

If another thought occurs in the midst of prayer, one should remain silent until that thought ceases. If one cannot focus on the simple meaning of the words, he should at least think, while praying, about things that humble the heart and direct his feelings to his Father in Heaven. He should not think about frivolous matters. Before praying one should ponder upon the exaltedness of G‑d, blessed be He, and the lowliness of man, and remove [all thoughts of] mortal pleasure from his heart.

One should not kiss his young children in the synagogue, in order to implant in his heart that there is no love comparable to the love of the Omnipresent, blessed be He. Children who disturb their fathers while they are praying should not be brought to the synagogue at all.9

א מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ2 כֵּיצַד?א,1 הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל צָרִיךְ שֶׁיְּכַוֵּן בְּלִבּוֹב פֵּרוּשׁ הַמִּלּוֹת3 שֶׁמּוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו,ג,4 שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר:ד "תָּכִין לִבָּם תַּקְשִׁיב אָזְנֶךָ".5 וְצָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּרְאֶה עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ שְׁכִינָה שְׁרוּיָה כְּנֶגְדוֹ.ה,6 וְיָעִיר הַכַּוָּנָה וְיָסִיר כָּל הַמַּחֲשָׁבוֹת הַטּוֹרְדוֹת אוֹתוֹ,ו עַד שֶׁתִּשָּׁאֵר מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ וְכַוָּנָתוֹ זַכָּה בִּתְפִלָּתוֹ. וְיַחְשֹׁב כִּי אִלּוּ הָיָה מְדַבֵּר לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וָדָם הָיָה מְסַדֵּר דְּבָרָיו וּמְכַוֵּן בָּהֶם יָפֶה לְבַל יִכָּשֵׁל – קַל וָחֹמֶר לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְכַוֵּן לְפָנָיו אַף מַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ, כִּי לְפָנָיו הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה כְּדִבּוּר, כִּי כָּל הַמַּחֲשָׁבוֹת הוּא חוֹקֵר. וְכָךְ הָיוּ עוֹשִׂים חֲסִידִיםז וְאַנְשֵׁי מַעֲשֶׂה7 שֶׁהָיוּ מִתְבּוֹדְדִים וּמְכַוְּנִים בִּתְפִלָּתָם עַד שֶׁהָיוּ מַגִּיעִים לְהִתְפַּשְּׁטוּת הַגַּשְׁמִיּוּת8 וּלְהִתְגַּבְּרוּת רוּחַ הַשִּׂכְלִיּוּת עַד שֶׁהָיוּ מַגִּיעִים קָרוֹב לְמַעֲלַת הַנְּבוּאָה. וְאִם תָּבוֹא לוֹ מַחֲשָׁבָה אַחֶרֶת בְּתוֹךְ הַתְּפִלָּה – יִשְׁתֹּק עַד שֶׁתִּתְבַּטֵּל הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה.

וְאִם אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְכַוֵּן פֵּרוּשׁ הַמִּלּוֹת – עַל כָּל פָּנִים צָרִיךְ שֶׁיַּחְשֹׁבח בִּשְׁעַת הַתְּפִלָּהט בִּדְבָרִים הַמַּכְנִיעִים אֶת הַלֵּב וּמְכַוְּנִים לִבּוֹ לְאָבִיו שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם. וְלֹא יַחְשֹׁב בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהֶם קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ.י

וְקֹדֶם הַתְּפִלָּה יַחְשֹׁב מֵרוֹמְמוּת הָאֵל יִתְבָּרַךְ וְשִׁפְלוּת הָאָדָם,יא וְיָסִיר כָּל תַּעֲנוּגֵי אָדָם מִלִּבּוֹ.

וְאֵין לְנַשֵּׁק בָּנָיו הַקְּטַנִּים בְּבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת,יב כְּדֵי לִקְבֹּעַ בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁאֵין אַהֲבָה כְּאַהֲבַת הַמָּקוֹם בָּרוּךְ הוּא.

וִילָדִים הַמְּבַלְבְּלִים אֲבוֹתֵיהֶם בַּתְּפִלָּה – אֵין לַהֲבִיאָם כְּלָל לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת"יג,9

2 One should not pray in a place where there is something that disturbs his concentration,10 such as a place where there is strong-smelling fresh beer, nor at a time at which he cannot concentrate because his mind is unsettled due to a particular distress, anger, or the exertion of a journey. At present, however, we do not take these [restrictions] into account, because [regardless,] people do not concentrate so well during prayer.

ב לֹא יִתְפַּלֵּל לֹא בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁמְּבַטֵּל כַּוָּנָתוֹ,יד,10 כְּגוֹן בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁיֵּשׁ שֵׁכָר חָדָשׁ שֶׁמֵּרִיחַ, וְלֹא בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁמְּבַטֶּלֶת כַּוָּנָתוֹ, שֶׁאֵין דַּעְתּוֹ מְיֻשֶּׁבֶת עָלָיו מֵאֵיזֶה צַעַר אוֹ כַּעַס אוֹ מִטֹּרַח הַדֶּרֶךְ.

וְעַכְשָׁו אֵין אָנוּ נִזְהָרִין בְּכָל זֶה, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ מְכַוְּנִים כָּל כָּךְ בַּתְּפִלָּה:טו

3 One should not regard his prayers “as a routine matter, but as [an entreaty for] mercy and as supplication before the Omnipresent, blessed be He.”11 Implied is that one should not pray because of his obligation, to fulfill his duty.12 In such an instance, one perceives his prayers as a burden that he desires to dispose of. Rather, [he should see himself] as a person in need of something, who comes to make his request of the king. He should express his request in a spirit of supplication, like a beggar at the door.

ג אַל יַעֲשֶׂה תְּפִלָּתוֹ קֶבַע אֶלָּא רַחֲמִים וְתַחֲנוּנִים לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם בָּרוּךְ הוּא.טז,11 דְּהַיְנוּ,יז שֶׁלֹּא יִתְפַּלֵּל מִפְּנֵי הַחִיּוּב כְּדֵי לָצֵאת יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ,12 שֶׁאָז תְּפִלָּתוֹ דּוֹמָה עָלָיו כְּמַשּׂאוֹי וּמְבַקֵּשׁ לִפָּטֵר מִמֶּנָּה, אֶלָּא כְּמִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ דָּבָר וּבָא לְבַקֵּשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. וְגַם יֹאמְרֶנָּה בִּלְשׁוֹן תַּחֲנוּנִים,יח כְּרָשׁ הַמְבַקֵּשׁ בַּפֶּתַח:

4 Prayer takes the place of the sacrifices.13 One must therefore take care that [She­moneh Esreh be recited] with devout intent, as [is required when offering] a sacrifice. No other thought may be joined with it, just as [an inappropriate] thought can disqualify a sacrifice.14 It should [be recited] while standing,15 just as service [in the Beis HaMikdash was performed while standing]. One should have a fixed place [for prayer],16 just as each of the sacrifices had a fixed place for its slaughter and for the sprinkling of its blood.17 There should not be anything interposing between the worshiper and the wall [in front of him],18 in resemblance to a sacrifice which is disqualified if anything intervenes between [its blood] and the vessel [in which the blood is received].19 It is appropriate to have fine clothes set aside for prayer,20 [recalling] the priestly garments. Not everyone, however, can afford this expense. Nevertheless, for the sake of cleanliness, it is proper to have special pants to be worn when praying, (even though there is no greater halachic requirement for cleanliness with regard to prayer than there is with regard to Torah study, which is permissible even though the inner side of one’s pants is soiled, as explained in sec. 76[:2, 4].)

ד הַתְּפִלָּה הִיא בִּמְקוֹם קָרְבָּן.יט,13 וְלָכֵן צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר שֶׁתְּהֵא דֻּגְמַת הַקָּרְבָּן בְּכַוָּנָה, וְשֶׁלֹּא יְעָרֵב בָּהּ מַחֲשָׁבָה אַחֶרֶת כְּמוֹ מַחֲשָׁבָה שֶׁפּוֹסֶלֶת בַּקֳּדָשִׁים,כ,14 וּתְהֵא מְעֻמָּדכא,15 כְּמוֹ עֲבוֹדָה,כב וּקְבִיעוּת מָקוֹםכג,16 כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּנוֹתכד שֶׁכָּל אֶחָד קָבוּעַ מְקוֹמוֹ לִשְׁחִיטָתוֹ וּמַתַּן דָּמוֹ,17 וְשֶׁלֹּא יָחֹץ דָּבָר בֵּינוֹ לַקִּירכה,18 כְּמוֹ הַקָּרְבָּןכו שֶׁחֲצִיצָה פּוֹסֶלֶת בֵּינוֹ לַכְּלִי.19 וְרָאוּי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ מַלְבּוּשִׁים נָאִים מְיֻחָדִים לִתְפִלָּהכז,20 כְּמוֹ בִּגְדֵי כְּהֻנָּה, אֶלָּא שֶׁאֵין כָּל אָדָם יָכוֹל לְבַזְבֵּז עַל זֶה. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם, טוֹב שֶׁיִּהְיוּ לוֹ מִכְנָסַיִם מְיֻחָדִים לִתְפִלָּה, מִשּׁוּם נְקִיּוּתכח (אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמִּן הַדִּין אֵין צָרִיךְ נְקִיּוּת לִתְפִלָּה יוֹתֵר מִתַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה, שֶׁאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַמִּכְנָסַיִם מְלֻכְלָכִים מִבִּפְנִים – מֻתָּר, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר סִימָן ע"וכט):

Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch (Sichos In English)

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5 One should not think, “I am worthy that the Holy One, blessed be He, grant my request, because I concentrated while praying.” On the contrary, such an approach recalls one’s sins,21 for due to this his deeds are examined [to see if he is justified in being] confident in his merits. Instead, one should have in mind that the Holy One, blessed be He, should act out of kindness. One should say in his heart: “Who am I, poor and shameful, to come and make a request of the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He? [It would not be possible] if not for the abundant kindnesses with which He relates to His creations.”

ה אַל יַחְשֹׁב רָאוּי אֲנִי שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּקָּשָׁתִי כֵּיוָן שֶׁכִּוַּנְתִּי בַּתְּפִלָּה,ל כִּי אַדְּרַבָּה זֶהוּ מַזְכִּיר עֲוֹנוֹתָיו שֶׁל אָדָם,לא,21 שֶׁעַל יְדֵי כָּךְ מְפַשְׁפְּשִׁים בְּמַעֲשָׂיו לוֹמַר בָּטוּחַ הוּא בִּזְכֻיּוֹתָיו, אֶלָּא יַחְשֹׁב שֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּחַסְדּוֹ,לב וְיֹאמַר בְּלִבּוֹ: מִי אֲנִי דַּל וְנִבְזֶה בָּא לְבַקֵּשׁ מֵאֵת מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אִם לֹא מֵרֹב חֲסָדָיו שֶׁהוּא מִתְנַהֵג בָּהֶם עִם בְּרִיּוֹתָיו: