I have had the opportunity to travel with Chani's students to Meron, Israel,and the Ukraine where we learned and davened in very special and holy places including the kever of the Baal Shem Tov. All unforgettable and seemed to engrave into my soul. We had time for solitary prayers, exercise, music, food and camaraderie. Simplicity in accommodations brought us comfort for long and usually quite warm days. As I have flipped through many photos from myself and others, the spark of joy in remembering these trips returned to me easily. I can't say enough of the genuine care which was shown to each of Chani Mandel's students.
My notes and thoughts from Chani's class on June 8,2020
There’s an increase in personal, community, and global chaos going on these days which is felt by most everyone in an intense manner. Yet many of us find it ever increasingly difficult to pray with an uninterrupted devotion. This can lead to frustration, depression, and apathy. We have child care needs, worries about our financial status, concerns about our husband’s hectic changes in schedule. The intensity has especially magnified with our safety concerns and lockdowns. The bombardment of thoughts and concerns during our prayer time is coming at us full force.
What can we do with these crazy moments?!
Last week Chani spoke in class [June 1, 2020] about her reading from "The Life of Rabbi Nachman" who encourages everyone to daven with great kavanah/wholeness of heart, and, as she says, "paying big attention to what we are saying, to put our thoughts to our speech." She reiterates that this doesn’t mean just to daven what the words are saying but with our thoughts all over the place.
So how does Rabbi Nachman guide us in praying with a good focus and a full heart when there are no words or when we feel "stony."? Likutey Moharan II Lesson 25 says that when we acknowledge, if only, just that desire to speak to Hashem, even if we feel distant from our divine service, our hearts and mouth will open. Using this humble cry as our prayer is very great and we can beg for Hashem’s mercy and compassion. This alone can bring us into a "now" moment with G-d and bring us to a "now" moment with G-d in our divine service.
It is said of Rabbi Noson's son, Reb Yitzchak of Tulchin, that he discussed these difficulties with his father. [See“Crossing the Narrow Bridge” by Chaim Kramer.] Rabbi Noson spurred him forward, telling him "Never despair, not to give up, and to keep trying." Rabbi Noson told his son about King David's struggle when David could not find the words to pray; he could only groan and cry to Hashem that his mouth was closed. King David's very uncomfortable situation led to his greatest expressions in Tehillim.
Never despair! Never give up!
Sweating Over the Holy
Someone Who May Be Upset With Us