Ask the rabbi

  • Halacha
  • Prayer

Davening, sta’’m etc.


Rabbi Chaim Tabasky

11 Cheshvan 5768
I have read many sources including inferences from the Tur, Beit Yosef, Gemara, Gra etc. that imply and say outright that one who is not precise in the dikduk of his hebrew pronounciation is only yotzei bediavad of his obligation to recite shema and other parts of davening. i have also heard from many rabbis that it is more important to have kavana and know what you are saying than to get the words absolutely correct. furthermore though i understand that one who is davening in hebrew is yotzei even if he doesnt understand what he is saying. therefore how can one reconcile or approach the correct way to daven given that for most people dikduk is hard or unapparent, it takes a very long time to understand the words and get dikduk right and may not be practical when trying to daven with a minyan? is it better to daven without proper dikduk and have more kavana or have proper dikduk and lesser kavana?
Although it is bedieved to pronounce words incorrectly, it is also bedieved to daven without kavannah. Intention is of three types. One is the awareness that one is standing before HaShem and engaged in worship. This may be fulfilled, at times with great intensity, even if one doesn't know the meaning of the words. According to the Rambam, prayer without such awareness is not prayer at all. It demands concentration and refraining from thinking about other matters. This is difficult to do even when one understands the prayers. Secondly, one should have intention that one is fulfilling the commandments involved in prayer. This is especially important in a Torah command like Shema. Thirdly, there is the intention of the words of the particular prayer, which includes both knowing the meaning of the specific words, but more important, knowing the intention of the section. For instance, one may not know the meaning of each word of the shma, but he must know that reciting the Shma means accepting belief in G-d and His commandments. It is also true that to pray with correct pronunciation isa facilitated by knowing the meaning of the words. Each person must find the proper balance, but I would certainly suggest that every day one tries to learn a bit of tyhe translation of the prayers, pluis take a bit of time to focus and concentrate on the sections you are about to say.
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