Rav Avigdor Miller on Tefillah B’kavana

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Q:
What is a good preparation someone could make to achieve tefilla b’kavana?

A:
The first preparation is to be a ma’amin – you have to believe in Hashem. Now, a ma’amin means a person who has learned chumash k’pshuto, or he has learned from his mother or father, if they are frum Jews. Emunah peshuta is a valuable accomplishment. If you learned the pashtus of the chumash, or you heard from your parents stories, then these things get into your blood and you’re a ma’amin. It is very important to be a ma’amin.

Those people who are in contact with the outside world, they should know that it’s not so easy, because the outside world poisons the mind. The world today is a world of foolishness, of mischief; everyone is looking for unnecessary things and many things are just to harm yourself. The schools are full of lunatics; children are taking dope in the public schools, and in the colleges they are teaching every kind of immorality. The colleges are worse than the dens of the underworld – no question about that. And so, when a person has contact with the outside world, it is difficult to put emunah into his minds.

So, it is very important to learn chumash pshutoi shel mikrah. You should learn what Hakadosh Baruch Hu did for Avraham, what he did for our Avos in Mitzrayim and little by little, the emunah enters your mind. Once you have the emunah within you, it is easier for you to respond to it and to talk to Hakadosh Baruch Hu to give you what you need.

Now, how to gain even more emunah, there are ways and means. The Rambam’s derech is כשיתבונן במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים – when you see the wonders of Hashem’s creation, and you see a chochma amuka she’ein lo keitz – there is a wisdom that has no end in all the things that Hashem created. And if you are misbonein, if you study that, then surely will come into your mind, the Rambam says, a love and a fear of Hashem. There are other ways too. Even by learning gemara, you should know a certain amount of emunah comes in. The fire of the gemara enters your blood and many people have become very frum Jews just from learning gemara. The spirit of the Tana’im and the Amora’im, the chachomim who put their lives into understanding d’var Hashem, that spirit transforms the talmidim, too. Whatever it is, there are a number of ways to aquire emunah, and all of them should be used. And once you’re a ma’amin, now we can start talking about tefillah b’kavana, because now at least there’s Somebody to talk to.

TAPE # E-91 (November 1996)