Minute 714: Sidestep

“The Rabbi said that we shouldn’t think about other things when we are saying our daily prayers,” Mr. Haims said. “I think that’s idealistic and agree it’s the way things should be, but I don’t think it’s possible to achieve.”

“I can understand what you mean, but our Sages teach that nothing stands in the way of ratzon — desire. That means that if you want to, you can do it,” Mr. Raybach said.

“My neighbor said that when he davens, he sometimes travels all over the world in the five minutes it takes to complete Shemoneh Esrei!” Mr. Haims chuckled. “In fact, he once joked that instead of saying ‘oseh shalom to complete his prayer, he feels he should be saying ‘shalom aleichem’ when he ‘returns’ to the shul.”

“I repeat: if you want to, you can do it,” Mr. Raybach said. “It won’t be instantaneous, but there are techniques you can practice and with time you’ll succeed.”

The Mussar masters realized how difficult it is to achieve thought control and so they developed different ways to keep one in the proper frame of mind for communicating with Hashem. One simple way is to concentrate on translating the words as one speaks them. This slows down one’s prayers but at the same time focuses “mind energy” on a task that prevents other thoughts from entering one’s train of thought. Fighting a thought which interrupts prayer is like swatting a fly — as often as one shoos it away, it returns to annoy once again. By ignoring the distraction and concentrating on the words one is reciting, one will succeed in pushing the distraction aside. Sidestepping away from confrontation can put you on the road to victory.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

When you worry about something you are lacking, such as money or status, and in the midst of those thoughts you suddenly picture someone who has wealth or honor, these thoughts are the initial stages of envy. Those thoughts are dangerous roots which will destroy your love of your friends. It’s obligatory to overcome those thoughts immediately as they begin. (Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Sher, Cheshbon Hanefesh, introduction)


Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.