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Av 5763 – Getting Out of A Spiritual Rut

1 Menachem Av, 5763

Lichvod Rabbi Orlofsky,

I am new to this website so I don’t know who this is going to – but I am really inspired by the site – so I decided to ask you a question that has been on my mind for a while.

Lately, I’ve been so caught up in work that I find I have no time to daven. But it’s not just that, because even when I do find time to daven, like on Shabbos morning, I sort get busy with other things and never end up davening. Sometimes (and I feel really guilty about it) I don’t even want to daven. I know I should daven and that I really owe it to Hashem for all the wonderful things he does for me, but somehow I can’t get out of this rut. What bothers me even more is that I used to daven all the time and many times with a lot of kavana and appreciation for it. So now when I seem to be in this endless cycle of no prayer it’s disheartening. I was wondering if you could give me some advice to help me stay focused and want to daven again.

Name & Seminary withheld

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Dear Name Withheld,

Welcome to JEMSEM! Questions like yours end up being sent to me since they aren’t questions with halachic implications that need to be answered by someone who really knows what he’s talking about.

Besides, I can relate to your question on a personal level. In my own life, I get into ruts (the last one started in 1974) and I find myself not doing things that I think are important. Even more, I find I don’t even do things I REALLY want to do, things I enjoy doing.

This is a perfectly normal situation. All of us go through times in our lives when we are excited and enthusiastic. Then the excitement begins to wane and we are left without that fire that we had at the beginning. So what do we do in such a situation?

If you have ever been hiking and you lose your footing, you might suddenly find yourself sliding down the side of the mountain. Now some people in that situation will just lie there limply and think to themselves “I’m sliding down the side of the mountain! I’m going to have to climb all the way back up!” And sure enough when they hit bottom, that’s exactly what they do – they have to climb all the way back up to get back to where they were.

There are however, people who stick out there feet and grab with their hands to slow down and stop they’re descent. They won’t fall so far, and it will be easier for them to regain the levels they lost.

This phenomenon affects us in all areas of life. Some people instead of washing the few dishes they use each day and wiping off the counter and maybe even sweeping the floor, they wait until entropy has completely reduced their kitchen to a state of total chaos. Then they get depressed at the size of the job and lose hope of ever restoring order. I know a guy who keeps putting off washing his tztzis until he decides he might as well just put it into shammes
and buy new ones.

This rule also applies to interpersonal relationships. I know many people who forgot to pay a shiva call and planned to call the person and apologize. But as the days became weeks became months, it became too hard for them to face the person. So instead they just avoided the person for years! There are marriages that end in divorce for no better reason than lack of maintenance.

You have to focus on one idea – you ENJOY davening. It is a positive force in your life. Forget that you have to, or that you’re being an ingrate. It is a positive and enjoyable experience, something that you want to do.

The problem is, where do you start? Like many people (girls in particular) you are all or nothing. Instead of davening meaningfully for five or six minutes you tell yourself I need twenty minutes or half an hour. So, instead you do nothing.

I don’t know about you, but personally I like to sit down and eat like a mentch. But if I can’t, I grab something to eat. Because otherwise I will pass out. Davening is the same thing – grab a nosh if you haven’t got time for a real seuda. Sometimes I email people who have written me just to let them know I haven’t forgotten them, I just haven’t had time to write back yet.

That’s my advice. Break out of the rut with a five minute a day regimen of shema and shemona esrei. No it’s not ideal, but it’s a lot better than nothing!

And no guilt. Just say, “Hi Hashem, sorry I’ve been so busy that I got into a rut. I just wanted to take a few minutes to say Hi, and when I get out of this we are going to have a real deep conversation like we used to.”

Good Luck.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky