Individual Postings 1st appeared(& were copied in html form) on the Email List Mail Jewish

From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 22:39:03 -0400 Subject: RE: Concentration in Prayer In a recent posting I suggested prayer involves * an awareness of one's helplessness * ...before G-d. Since an Alzheimer's patient makes me aware of my helplessness(indeed, I may one day be like him) he is not to be considered as disturbing prayer but rather as helping it. In a rejoinder, Vol26n37, Zvi asks for sources and disputes 4 specific items in my posting. Paradoxically, the sharpness of his rejoinder allows me to crystallize the exact difference between us. I will first state the precise disagreement between us, then apply it to the four examples, and finally give sources. The discussion should enhance peoples appreciation of prayer. In a nutshell I equate "DISRUPTION" with anything that intefers with my awareness of helplessness while Zvi equates "DISRUPTION" with anything that (re)directs ones attention to something other than what they were doing(in psychology we refer to this as a "startle complex"). We can now understand that * A wicked person does NOT cause "redirection of attention" while a noise making Alzheimer does. Hence according to Zvi one is disruptive and one isn't. On the other hand, both the wicked and Alzheimer person enhance my capacity for seeing my potential helplessness(I could become wicked and I could become sick: hence I need G-ds help). (The fact that one redirects my attention by making noises is irrelevant to me.) Thus neither of these people is disruptive towards prayer. * Holding money during prayer would contradict my feeling of helplessness since money gives people power. Also people tend to think of money and money would redirect my attention. Thus according to both Zvi and myself coins would be a DISRUPTION. * My point about music was that music depicting grandeur(standard Christian music) contradicts "helplessness" while music depicting petition(standard Jewish music) is consistent with helplessness. Zvi's point was that neither of them distracts or redirects attention. * Finally Zvi and I explain the "decorum" laws of prayer differently. According to Zvi improper decorum "redirects ones attention" and hence decorum is required. However my position (see the top of this posting) is that decorum is needed not for concentration but because prayer also requires "..before G-d". Thus e.g. if I was wearing torn clothing, Zvi would say I will be redirecting my thoughts to the clothing and hence this is prohibited while I would say that even if I am aware of my helplessness I am not aware that I am before G-d(because you wouldn't stand before a king in torn clothing) and therefore I prohibit it. I now give sources: Rambam, Learning 3:13 citing Songs Rabbah emphasizes that the best learning takes place at night, because there are no distractions (in the sense of redirection of attention). Thus for learning we do equate distraction with redirection of attention(I also mentioned the Succah law that intensive learning need not take place in the Succah). The clearest source for my suggested "helplessness" definition of Prayer occurs in Rambam, Prayer 1:2--"...Prayer basically means asking for grace, praising G-ds (kingship) and asking ones needs(=helplessness)..." As I indicated the 13 requirements for prayer mentioned in Chapters 4,5 of Prayer emanate from the "before King" requirement of prayer. Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d.; ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu