[Avodah] ADHD and Havinenu

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Thu Mar 28 09:29:05 PDT 2013

On Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 01:24:25AM -0400, David Wacholder wrote:
: [Old joke] Why did our fathers put the Tephillin Shel Rosh onto their head,
: despite lacking mirrors,to find the central axis of the top of their head,
: whereas even Bar Mitzva boys today are given mirrors to find it?
: Answer: People's heads  became smaller. As a result, they can no longer
: locate the center of their heads without a GPS device.

A ,pre seropis answer, cut-n-pasted from my blog post at

    When I started wearing tefillin, few people used a small hand mirror
    to see whether or not it was properly centered. I recall men using the
    shiny metal area indicating where to push on a door, the window in a
    door to a darkened stairwell, and other awkward solutions. Compared
    to that, the current ubiquity of mirrors, whether in the tefillin bag
    or even glued to the bottom of the tefillin box is a G-d-send. But
    for most of Jewish history, mirrors were not cheap to come by. So
    what did the Ribbono shel olam expect us to do?

    We lived for millenia before the heter iska allowed someone to
    give someone else money in a mechanism that allowed him to make
    money on the deal. The current interest free gema"ch is laudable,
    but we no longer feel the sense of brotherhood of "achikha ha'evyon"
    (your impoverished brother) that the Torah speaks of receiving your
    loan. Not to the extent that someone could buy a home off gema"ch
    money. Jewish society decayed, and workarounds had to be provided
    to minimize the impact of that decay.

    Without the mirror, the only way to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin
    correctly is through areivus, each person in the minyan taking
    responsibility for each other's tefillin. Tefillin actually
    underscored the unity of the minyan, and the brotherhood of all
    Jews. But Jewish society decayed, and workarounds had to be provided
    to minimize the impact of that decay. The mirror is a better solution
    than trying to catch your reflection in a doorknob.

: SIDDUR OTZAR HATEFILLOT is a good place to start. It needs some reworking
: to catch up to our standards as it is almost a century old.  There were no
: I-Phones in Ozharov, my father's "heimishe" Shtedtl, but there were
: functioning wells.

Compehension is only part of the route to better davening.

What we also need to work on is accepting the notion of a religious
experience in which nothing new is learned. Tefillah as encounter,
rather than as learning experience.

I can't believe that we're expected to say the same words every day
and it's not supposed to be some kind of meditative practice, if not
what we would call actual "meditation".

Quoting from a more recent blog post, here is one possibily I've
been experimenting with lately (although the post doesn't mention
tefillah in particular)

    Rav Reueven Leuchter, opens his series on Concentration (first
    va'ad <http://ravleuchter.com/?p=1089>) contrasting between using
    the mind to problem-solve, and using the mind to create and refine
    an idea. People think of thinking in terms of knowing how to solve
    problems. But an idiot savant can solve math problems well beyond
    the reach of normal people. Problem solving isn't a measure of being
    an ideal human being. Where the mind is spiritual is in its ability
    to hold and create intangible entities, ideas.

    Picture it as circling the idea, seeing it from every angle. For
    example (his example), assuming you're exploring the verse, "Da lifnei
    Mi atah omeid -- Know before Whom you stand." Turn it around.... "DA
    lifnei Mi atah omeiad. Da LIFNEI Mi atah omeid... Know before WHOM
    you stand. Know before Whom YOU stand. Know before Whom you STAND."

    Polish each facet of the idea to a good shine. Make the idea real,
    massive. (Mass: someone who is contemplating a weighty thought can't
    simply be pushed aside by the allure of a shiny object or other
    distraction around him.) Make it a fine brick in a palace you build
    in your mind. A piece of a whole world of spirituality.

I've been picking sentences from the siddur and applying this technique
during davening. E.g. "Poseiach es Yadekha..." or "Ana H' ki ani

: Replying directly, Rav Abbadi printed in his Tshuvot - name not coming to
: me - a shortened Birkat Hamazon - so those who make Mezonot for lack of
: time can say just the very minimum.  As far as I have heard there was
: little enthusiasm for it. Perhaps we fear the "slippery slope" and any
: buffet or change of routine may lead to abandonment of all.

The C movement's history gives much justification to this fear. In any
case, Siddur Sefas Yisrael has (R' Rallis Weisenthal w/ assistance from
Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz and KAYJ) has both Havinenu and a shortened
bentching on pg 407, <http://j.mp/10UScQT> or

Given the juxtaposition of topics, it hit me that Havineinu might be a
great key for understanding the primary themes of the middle berakhos
of the full Shemoneh Esrei. We not only have the chasimah and the me'ein
hachasimah to tell us the thesis of "Atah Chonein", but we also
know that the core theme must be captured in the words "havineinu H'
E-lokeinu ladaas derakhakha".

: Taking the Frankel Rambam, or even Rav Saadya Gaon's siddur, and praying
: from it, is that even more radical? Our Al Hamichya is competitive in
: length with their entire Birkat Hamazon.

: What about a Teimani Baladi Tichlal? ...

I have less problem with an Ashkenazi temporarily borrowing Teimani or
Rambam's siddur than R' Saadia Gaon. The point at which ALL contemporary
siddurim diverge is that we are all praying from descendents of R' Amram
Gaon's siddur. Davening from R' Saadia Gaon's siddur or some Nusach EY
is leaving that universal conensus.

(Aside from my skepticism about being able to recreate any Nusach EY
piecing together one consistent nusach from the bits found in the Cairo
genizah, even with hints found in the Y-mi or medrashim.)

: Praying from the wrong Siddur worked for me, at times, short term. Perhaps
: it even had some effect long term.

For me too. What has also worked is praying my own nusach while reading
from a siddur in another nusach. BUT... there is a major gotcha: you don't
know when the two nusachos are simply variants on the same theme, and
when they differ because they are intentionally invoking different themes.

I also find this a MAJOR issue when listening to a shiur. The maggid
shiur could use one rishon (eg) to reinforce the point of the other, by
assuming the two rishonim hold slightly different variants of the same
basic shitah, or he could use one as a foil for the other, by making the
whole point about the distinction between the shitos. Does the Rambam's
text shed light on the gemara as Rashi understood it? Or perhaps that's
the whole reason why the Rambam didn't quite the gemara as we have it
verbatum because he DOESN'T understand it as Rashi would?

But an example that takes us back to the siddur: "kulam ke'echad onim
ve'omerim beyir'ah" in Birkhas Yotzer Or, nusach Ashkenaz.

It could be read as
1- an idiom referring to one spoken declaration. Or as
2- "qedushah kulam ke'echad onim, ve'omerim beyir'ah 'Qadosh...'"

Nusach Sepharad requires the latter, since they have an adjective which
breaks the idiom, "kulam ke'echad onim be'eimah, veomerim beyir'ah

Now, does that shed light on how to parse the Ashkenazi nusach? IOW, we
might assume that Ashkenaz too has a comma between "kulam ke'echad onim"
and "ve'omerim" because we treat nusach Sepharad as a paraalel. Or did the
Ashkenazi nusach refrain from the "be'eimah" because it bedavqa wants a
single idiom -- in contrast to Sepharad?

You can pick your conclusion first, and "prove" it either way from the
same text.

But all these thoughts inform two different ways of saying my inherited
nusach, which only came to mind because I was looking at a slightly different

: The classic print of Machazor Vitri (Halacha and Nusach, centered around
: Rashi's students. Hebrewbooks.org makes it  freely available. Pages 148-154
: - at the havdala end of the Shabbos prayers - makes almost a dissection of
: every word of the Nishmas Kol Chai prayer. I am convinced that the main
: narrator, unnamed except "Rebbe" - is Rashi himself.  The "scribe" is the
: Rabeinu Eliezer Ben Nathan, the RAAVAN.

I wanted to do the same contrasting MV and of Ashkenazic versions of Seder
R' Amram with contemporary Ashknenaz(es). (Not for davening, for study.) But
just coming through the hebrewbooks.org copy for the nusach of the actual
ancient nusach was harrowing. I kept on missing pieces among everything

: Nishmas with color coding is a far more inspiring prayer.

If you have it in electronic form, I'd be happy to host it on Avodah's
archive of PDFs. (Named "www.aishdas.org/avodah/faxes" for historical

: Integration of  Tana"ch with Tefilah, and allowing the students to interact
: with it, may be a tremendous potential uplift in our educational systems.

Teaching tefillah is tough. In fact, one of the ways I tortured my
daughter's then-future chasan was by asking him for a solution to the
following dilemma:

If you teach tefillah too young, then you inculcate a habit of saying
meaningless syllables. A habit most people slip back to even after
learning the meaning.

If you don't teach it that young, you don't inculcate the habit at all,
at least not sufficiently enough to motivate spending over an hour a day
davening. It has to be unthinkable not to, and that requires starting
very early.

(Don't worry: he's my son-in-law now.)


Micha Berger             Today is the 2nd day
micha at aishdas.org        in/toward the omer.
http://www.aishdas.org   Gevurah sheb'Chesed: What is constricted
Fax: (270) 514-1507                           Chesed?

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