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    Focus on prayers – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What shall I do if I am distracted by something during davening?

    A. Judaism is an extended dialogue. God talks to man, man talks to God.

    It is exemplified at times of prayer. Our davening is like Jacob’s angels which went up to God and came back with His response (Gen. 28:12).

    In theory this is what the siddur facilitates, but some people find their attention wandering.

    The Rambam says, “Clear out all other thoughts and know that you are standing before the Divine Presence” (Hil’chot T’fillah 4:16). All very well, but it is hard to banish distractions.

    In a parable the Chafetz Chayyim said that a poor woman had a fruit stall in the market that made a bare living. Hooligans knocked over the stall and the apples went flying. A passer-by re-erected her stall and picked up some of the fruit, adding this advice: “When someone grabs your apples, snatch as many as you can and put them in another bag.”

    The Chafetz Chayyim applied this to prayer. He said, “When distractions attack you, don’t give in. Overcome them with thoughts that outweigh the distractions.”

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