Today is Israeli Independence Day. To read about Maran zt”l’s teachings on this matter, click here.
Question: There is a synagogue right next to my house where they pray quickly and I cannot keep up and thus, I cannot concentrate on my prayers properly. There is another synagogue nearby where they pray slower and I will be able to concentrate while praying, however, I will need to leave before the conclusion of the services in order to get to work on time. Where is it preferable for me to pray?
Answer: Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (quoted in Sefer Tefillah Be’Tzibbur, page 250) writes that if one has the option to pray in a synagogue that prays slower and where the environment is more serious and one can concentrate on one’s prayer but as a result, one will have to leave before the end of the Tefillah in order to get to work on time, it is preferable for one to pray in this synagogue where they pray slower since “less with concentration is better than more without concentration.”
He adds that one should attend this synagogue even if one will need to miss Torah reading on Mondays and Thursdays. Nevertheless, he must make sure that the other congregants understand why he is leaving early so they do not suspect him of treating the Tefillah disparagingly by fleeing from the synagogue. The great Rishon Le’Zion Shlit”a rules likewise in his Yalkut Yosef (Chapters 98-101).
Although one must certainly trust in Hashem, it is nevertheless inappropriate to think to one’s self that since one has prayed with concentration and fervor, Hashem will certainly answer one’s prayers. On the contrary, such thoughts cause one’s sins to be mentioned in Heaven since they begin to analyze this person’s actions to see if one is truly worthy of having one’s prayers answered as he is so confident in his merits (See Rosh Hashana 16b). This is what our Sages refer to as “analyzing one’s prayer.”
The Gemara (Berachot 32b) states: “Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: One who analyzes one’s prayer shall eventually come to heartache.” This means that if one prays lengthily and, as a result, is confident that one’s prayers will be answered, one will eventually be disappointed to realize that they will not and this will cause one heartache. (To remedy this, one should study Torah.)
Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 98) writes that one should think to one’s self: “Who am I that I should come before the King of all Kings to ask for anything? It is only that I rely the infinite kindness with which Hashem behaves with his creations, as the verse states, ‘And I shall pardon those who I shall pardon’ which our Sages (Berachot 7a) explain to refer to one who is improper and nonetheless, “And I shall pity those who I shall pity,” even if one is unworthy.” In this manner, one’s prayers shall be answered.