Monday, May 16, 2016

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Heartfelt Jewish Prayer

imageReb Shmaryahu Sassonkin records his arrival to the Tomchei Temimim yeshivah generations ago in Lubavitch in Russia:

I still hadn't been accepted into the yeshivah, since I first needed to be tested by Reb Volf Levitin, whose job was overseeing the learning, and so I sought a quiet corner where I could delve into the sugya which I had been told to prepare. I was certain that I would find no one in the small zal since davening had already finished. I entered the zal with my Gemara Gittin, but how surprised was I to discover that while the learning had already begun in the large zal and the resounding sound of study could be heard throughout the area, here, in the small zal, there stood a number of bochurim facing the wall, davening from the depths of their heart. I stood in wonder, staring at them silently, and could not understand why they were still davening after the time for davening had ended.

I had never witnessed anything like this, I had never seen anyone daven so late, and I stood puzzling over what was going on with their davening. Sometimes they would fall silent, deep in thought, apparently contemplating some topic. Then they would become aroused, one humming a heartbreaking tune, while another sang a song of joy. One beseeched in a pleading voice, "May You illuminate our eyes with Your Torah, and may You cleave our heart to Your mitzvos," while another cried out tearfully, "May we not be embarrassed and may we not be ashamed and may we never stumble for eternity."

And there I stood, thinking to myself, "Ribono Shel Olam! What is going on here?! I know that people cry over their miserable lot when they’re upset or depressed, like a pauper dying of hunger, or someone with a sick relative, or when faced with the prospect of a sinking ship. Crying and shedding tears would be quite appropriate in those situations. But these young men – what are they lacking? They don't suffer from hunger, they have no ill ones at home and their ships aren’t sinking!"

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