September 22, 2023
September 22, 2023

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Too Busy to Pray, Busier Than God Wants Us to Be?

I write this piece with just over 24 hours remaining until Kol Nidrei and of course, we are on deadline, as we often seem to be during these shorter weeks with the Yamim Noraim and Sukkot coming around. Due to the timing of Yom Kippur last Tuesday night and Wednesday (our usual deadline times), this week’s Sukkot edition required us to go to print on a Monday night which is never easy for us and our staff, nor for our advertisers and writers, with more stressful early deadlines for all. And I know it’s not just us at the paper but that many, if not most, of our readers feel similarly stressed at work, at school and even at home, with all of the necessary pre-Yom Tov preparations to be made during these busy weeks.

Being busy is a subject I often think about, especially after yet another Sunday spent working almost all day in front of the computer (although I managed to put up our sukkah, and the lights also, and spend some time with my family). Still ringing in my ears are the words on this topic that I heard over Shabbat from my rav, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs of Teaneck’s Cong. Beth Aaron, at the big Shabbat Shuva drasha. While I remember most of the questions he asked about the words of the Kol Nidrei declaration and the great answers he gave (but don’t test me on it, please) what stood out to me most was his memory of a sign he remembers seeing over 30 years ago at the Teaneck home of his then-friend and current mechutan, Rabbi Moshe Benovitz.

That sign read: If you don’t have time to pray, you are busier than God ever intended you to be. Rabbi Rothwachs explained that those words have stayed with him for decades, and I admit they have stuck with me also in the day or so since I heard them. Am I too busy to really daven? Sometimes, I think I am, and I imagine many people have probably felt this way at different times in their lives.

I thought about that because we are heading into Yom Kippur and I must confess that ever since my post-high school/yeshiva days, I have felt that the only day annually that I am able to truly daven with real enjoyment and concentration to the best of my ability is on Yom Kippur. It’s the only day where I can try to disconnect fully from all that is going on in my life and attempt to wholeheartedly concentrate on the tefillot at hand. And I believe that fasting is a big part of it also, as I am not thinking during Mussaf Shemoneh Esrei about what I am having at the kiddush, what delicacy my wife has made for lunch or who our guests may or may not be.

You see, the Yom Kippur day, with its far fewer distractions than even a normal Shabbat and weekend, is really the only day that I am completely not “busy” in the modern sense, and able to think about having a good davening, actually reading and saying the tefillot with a higher level of understanding and kavana than normal. Part of me sometimes wishes that we had more days in the year like Yom Kippur.

In a certain sense, Yom Kippur would seem to be quite a busy day with so much to daven for and so much to say from the machzor, all with only a small break during the day at best. We are busy all day in shul. But I find it exactly the opposite. For me, the structure of the machzor and the sounds of the chazan and my fellow shul members all blend together to create a very ”non-busy” day, and in most years, an uplifting one spiritually, mentally and even physically. I am pretty sure I am not alone in thinking this, although you probably may not have thought about it in this way. I hope for many more uplifting days in the future!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish our staff, our advertisers and our readership and growing communities all a special Gmar Chatimah Tova and Chag Sameach!

By Moshe Kinderlehrer/
Co-Publisher/The Jewish Link


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