The War in Israel Part 5 - Transform Your Tefilos, Your Brachos, and Your Life

I would like to begin this segment with excerpts of three letters that were written by different individuals (numerous letters were received by the family) to the family of Rav Mordechai Dovid Kokis zt”l after his p’tirah at a young age. He was niftar on 15 Kislev 5780. (I am writing this segment on his actual fourth yahrzeit.)

  • ...I have a card that I use each morning to say Birchos HaShachar. I put a reminder on it to try to have kavanah before Shem Hashem… It makes a huge difference to my tefilah – and to my whole day. It helps me keep in mind that whatever the day brings is all from Hashem, and that everything is possible.
  •  …I just wanted to thank you for the tremendous chizuk and hisorerus that so many of us are receiving from your “project.” I find that my whole day has been transformed – not just my brachos and tefilah. I go through the day with a renewed clarity that stems from being m’chavein to Adon Hakol – the Shem Hashem – numerous times throughout the day. I tried to give over these ideas to some of my students, and it was incredible to see how even the uninterested students had tears in their eyes and were able and excited to connect.
  •  Without a doubt, the most influential person in my life this past year was Rav Mordechai Dovid Kokis, and I never met him. He walked me through my tefilos, [and] changed the way I daven and said brachos and Asher Yatzar… Ever since I heard his shmuess [on] kavanas Shem Hashem, I have tried to have kavanah. I’m sure that thousands of others are doing the same. In this sense, he was a rebbi to us all, and he takes this great z’chus with him to his place in Gan Eden.

I want to add my own personal attestation, as well. The efforts to focus before saying the Names of Hashem have made a very significant impact on my entire tefilah and brachos, and on my connection to Hashem. It is hard to believe that it has been only a few days since I found the Kuntres and have been trying to apply it. Hashem has granted me yet another wondrous, precious gift through the outstanding efforts of Rav Mordechai Dovid zt”l and through those who made available the Kuntres based on his shiurim. I thank his rebbetzin for her efforts to get me the Kuntres so quickly, which enabled me to be able to write this on the actual yahrzeit.

May this segment and our learning and growth in our tefilosbrachos, and connection to Hashem – as well as the emunah and bitachon that result from his inspiration – elevate his neshamah higher and higher in Gan Eden.

Rav Mordechai Dovid was a talmid chacham and a ben aliyah. He was not a public speaker. But when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, he decided that he must share with others the crucial importance of kavanah before saying the Names of Hashem. To that end, he went out of his comfort zone and began asking to speak at events. His heartfelt words spread to thousands who were inspired to act upon his inspiration and who saw significant benefits in their lives as a result.

The shiurim and the Kuntres depict the importance through many sources, including RishonimAcharonim, and g’dolim on both the severity of not paying attention when we say Hashem’s Name and the tremendous power of reciting the Names with proper kavanah. There is much more, as well, including a beautiful introduction by HaRav Shlomo Ben Tzion Kokis, Mashgiach of Lakewood’s Beth Medrash Govoha, and Rav of Monsey’s Khal Zichron Mordechai, father of Rav Mordechai Dovid. Also, there is overall chizuk for the great importance of tefilah in general.

We will attempt now to succinctly present a few practical points to get on the road to transforming our tefilosbrachosbitachon, and lives through targeted focus before saying Hashem’s Name.

  •  While effort is certainly necessary, the degree of effort to produce major results up in Heaven and down here is relatively minor.
  •  Proper kavanah while reciting Names of Hashem brings salvation and blessing (to each of us and to all of klal Yisrael).

Citing a number of p’sukim, the Gra adds another most remarkable point on this topic in his commentary on Nach. The pasuk states (I Divrei HaYamim 16:10): הִתְהַלְלוּ בְּשֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ and the Gra (ibid.) explains: “You should glory over the fact that you have merited to mention His Holy Name. And so it states (Yeshayah 50:10): יִבְטַח בְּשֵׁם ה'; this means: One should rely (in time of peril) on the merit generated by reciting the Shem Hashem… For recitation of Hashem’s Name leads to y’shuah, as it also states (T’hilim 20:8): "אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' אֱלֹקינוּ נַזְכִּיר" . 

  •  Kavanah for Hashem’s Name – both when written in the Name we don’t pronounce as written (“Sheim Havayah”) and when spelled out in the way we do pronounce it (AlefDaledNun, and then Yud) – means thinking only two words“Adon Hakol” – Master of All. Next week, b’ezras Hashem, we will present two more words that can add to enabling us to internalize as we focus on “Adon Hakol.”

[This is based on the opinion of the Vilna Gaon, cited by the Mishnah B’rurah, which seems to be the common custom of most people. The exception is the two Names in the pasuk “Shema Yisrael,” recited twice daily, for which additional kavanah is needed. Perhaps this will be addressed in a future segment.]

  •  As one of the letters above puts it: “It helps me to keep in mind that whatever the day brings is all from Hashem, and that everything is possible.”
  •  HaRav Shlomo Ben Tzion Kokis, father of Rav Mordechai Dovid, in his introduction, adds a point that was very impactful to me personally. He writes: “There is an awesome meaning within the Shem Hashem – namely, that He is the Adon Hakol, the Source of the entire b’riah (creation). And here lies the crucial point: The b’riah was created due to His desire to be meitiv (to bestow goodness).” Hashem is the “benevolent Source of all existence.”

“Bitachon is not a mere ‘feeling’ that a person can simply push or force into his heart. True bitachon stems from a deep awareness of the fundamental basis of the b’riah (mentioned above). This realization is the profound essence of His Name – May It be blessed!”

  •  The potential impact of thinking “Adon Hakol” over a thousand times weekly – recognizing and internalizing that Hashem controls every minute detail of world events and events in my personal life, AND that He created the world to bestow kindness and goodness – is life-changing if we focus properly before reciting the Name of Hashem.

Although we have experienced many excruciatingly painful and tragic events in the world and in our lives, we can strengthen ourselves throughout the day, every day, with the knowledge that although we have no ability to comprehend how these events can be for our benefit, we do know that the Master of All desires to bestow goodness, and that He created the world in order to do so.

  •  Focusing on kavanah before reciting the Name of Hashem has transformed the tefilah of many who have worked on this. Since we are now looking for the next Shem Hashem, we are more focused on all the words we are saying. This has a great impact on helping to remove distracting thoughts and keep us focused.
  •  Rav Malkiel Kotler, Rosh Yeshivah, Beth Medrash Govoha, in his letter of approbation, writes: “Every person should make a resolution in accordance with what he is able to do – be it once a day…”

Each of us can take upon ourselves whatever we think we can start with, and increase over time, as we see the real benefits. It could be one Sheim in one brachah a day, or it could be the entire Shemoneh Esrei – or just the first brachah of Shemoneh Esrei.

May our efforts to have proper kavanah for Hashem’s Name bring salvation and blessing for all of B’nei Yisrael and for each of ourselves and our families, and may it be a z’chus, as well, for Rav Mordechai Dovid zt”l and his family.