How Are You Dealing With The Distractions of Life?

We all have a lot of stuff on our plate, families, making a living, Torah learning, community service and more. In addition, people seem to have shorter attention spans these days.

How have the Beyond BT readers deal with these challenges?

Do you use time management systems to organize your life?

Do you make time to just sit and think and focus on your most important goals?

What Torah based solutions have you found to help face these challenges?

Have you found any useful techniques to help with keeping the distractions at bay during davening?

17 comments on “How Are You Dealing With The Distractions of Life?

  1. Zev,
    Aiyecha? It is not nice to call someone’s comment patronizing and divisive (right in the middle of the 9 days) and then just pack out. Please come back so we can have a civil discussion and maybe learn from each other. I now re-read your words. Maybe you mistakenly thought that I am an FFB. I could see where my words could come across as patronizing if they had been written by an FFB. I am a card carrying, proud BT.

  2. Hi Zev,
    Who are you? I would really like to meet you in person so we could discuss this. You said or alluded to a lot of different things in your post. I’d appreciate it if you could try to point out exactly what in my post came across as patronizing and divisive.

    The larger subject of how BT’s should relate to integration is something that has come up a bunch of times on this blog. Yes, I am definitely of the opinion that normalizing into the larger frum world is a very positive goal, in general.

    I went to R. Brezak. He did not indicate that he was addressing specifically the issue of children of FFB parents and I doubt that other speakers would do that either. According to an article by Rabbi Ben Tzion Kokis(long-time mashgiach at Ohr Someach Monsey) children of BT’s are over-represented in the “at risk” population.

    As far BT wives vs FFB wives go, all I can say is that my impressions are very different than yours. FFB women are generally married much younger when they have more energy, are much more used to taking care of young children and are more likely to have a mother in town and a relationship them such that they will be wanted in the house.

    How does advocating for better integration create a divide? It would seem that just the opposite would be true, no? Please explain because I would really like to understand your point.

    BTs are superstars and sincere FFBs are superstars. Each one has great maalos and we should try to learn from each other. I have enormous respect for BTs and I do not look down at myself for being one.

    You say on one hand that I should stop seeing the world as black and white and yet you make a blanket statement that FFB crowd stays far away from BTs. Heh? Please clarify. Whenever we make a simcha I have lots of FFBs from my shul present.

    Please respond because I would really like to continue a dialogue with you

  3. Michoel – I found your post to be both patronizing and divisive. While I think the overall tone of your post was to help and instruct, your general comments about the behavior of BT children leaves much to be desired. You make it seem like we have to beg you to let us in the club.

    FFB/BT is certainly a factor in child behavior , but many other elements contribute to a positive outcome. I have heard many FFB AND BT parents talking about stocks, business, etc in the middle of davening. Terrible chinuch for any child but ill-manered children are certainly not the excluive domain of the BT world. Who do you think all of those chinuch books by Rabbi Brezak, T Heller or E Jungreis are? Rabbi Horowitz , who was here in Baltimore last year,constantly talks about kids at risk in the FFB world. Could these be the same well mannered kids that you spoke of in your post?

    As far as those BT wives are concerned, I have seen just as many FFB wives stressed out with sister in laws who are just as busy with their own families as well with little time to help. Bye the way BT bubbies are more that happy to help out with the family just like FFB bubbies.

    I could be wrong on this point, but you seem to be the type that creates what I call the Cool Divide here in Baltimore. The FFB crowd stays far away from the BT’s at almost every opportunity. I have davened in almost every shul in Baltimore and this seems to be a pervasive fact. Sad but true.

    Michoel BT’s are the superstars of the Torah world. Very few are so Moiser Nefesh to grab onto and live a Toradig way of life. It’s been over 20 yrs for me and I still cannot stop thanking Hashem for the zchus to learn and live a Torah life. Being able to raise children with Torah values is an even bigger zchus.

    Stop seeing the world so black and white – no pun intended. See you at shul.

  4. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said that the way towards proper concentration in prayer starts by thinking of the simple meaning of all the words.

  5. For most Jews, the first step towards better prayer is to learn the simple translation of the words.

    Do not assume that someone knows the simple translation of the words just because he prayed with an Orthodox minyan every day for the past 65 years.

  6. First off, Charlie, congratulations! That is a very impressive achievement!

    Nathan, I was impressed by the work that it was immediately obvious in your post! It’s bulletproof on the halachic point. I just don’t know, however, how realistic it is for a lot of people who, unlike Mordechai and me, don’t have access to shuls where these rules are mainly observed. For most people, moving their families is not really practical. But I do agree with you that better shul decorum goes a long way toward better davening.

    In addition to this, I think it is fair to say that better davening begets better davening. In the first sense I mean that if one invests the time and energy in really learning both what the words mean and what the different building blocks of the nusach hatefilah [liturgy] are and what they do,* one will, not surprisingly, find davening far more (1) interesting, (2) satisfying and (3) engaging — a threefold cord that is rather bulletproof in its own way, and is portable to boot. Distractions often fade into the background when you are really engaged.

    * I really tried to get across how I experienced an eye-opening level of enlightenment about certain aspects of what I had been doing in shul for nearly 20 years in this post, but it’s really a bit of a mess due to my brutalization of an already pedestrian — well, no, let’s say trite, actually — metaphor. But I am linking to it here to demonstrate that you can actually see growth in your understanding of what’s going on in shul after that long. I am sure I have reaped the rewards in kavonah [focus].

  7. I daven in the Yekkish Shul in Baltimore, the former rabbanus of Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l. The decorum is outstanding, about the best I have ever experienced (aside from the davening in yeshivos). People sometimes bring young children for Shabbos by night, or a weekday mincha. Even if they make a bit of noise, I find it about a zillion times less disturbing then one cell phone in the middle of shmoneh esreh, which is very common b’avonoseinu harabim. Kids can’t be allowed to run wild, but if there is a room elsewhere in the building where they can play or read when they get restless, then let them come to shul and go into the other room. Rav Shlomo Freifeld encouraged the bringing of young children. There are many places that do that.

    The Tana D’vei Eliyahu quoted by Nathan is actually a raya g’dolah that they TOOK THEIR CHILDREN TO SHUL, and those that protested seemingly were objecting to the child not answering. But they were NOT objecting to the child’s presence.

    Shul is better for kids then sitting around board waiting for Shabbos to end so they can get back to video games.

    Particularly BTs, whose children do not have frum Buubies and Zeides and cousins, can gain a lot from going to shul, and seeing how FFB children interact with their parents and grand-parents, and see the kavod given to the Rav. In general, it acclimates them well toward being part of frum society. Also, a man’s baalas t’shuvah wife is much more likely to feel overwhelmed by a few kids and no help from sisters in law. So if the kids can stay reasonable quite, let the father take them and give her a break.

  8. I’m also insistent on absolute silence and decorum in shul. I feel fortunate to live in Passaic where I can daven in this kind of environment.

    That said, love your fellow Jew – even the ones who talk in shul.

  9. Mazal Tov Charlie!

    As for time management, Covey’s “First Things First” is good for the bigger picture and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is good for the details.

  10. Dear Mordechai Eliyohu of KGH,

    Since you appreciated my microscopic display of Torah knowledge, I will give you more:

    Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Raba, Chapter 13, Paragraph 8:

    It once happened that one man and his son went to synagogue, and everyone there was answering AMEN and HALLELUYAH after the prayer leader

    But his son answered words of nonsense, and his father said nothing to him. The people told the man to protest to his son, but the man answered them: What can I do? He is a child, he will play.

    The child and his father continued this way the next day and the entire Sukkot holiday.

    Before that year ended, his wife and children and grandson all died, 15 people in that family died. Only two members of that family survived: the first was lame and blind and the second was stupid and wicked.

    NOTE: The Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ketubot, page 106A teaches that everything in Tanna DeBei EliyahuRaba comes from Eliyahu HaNavi [the prophet Elijah].

    Sefer HaShelah HaKodesh, tractate Tamid, Chapter Ner Mitzvah, Siman 76:

    In this time, young children who come to synagogue bring punishment to those who brought them, because they come to desecrate the sanctity of the House of Our G_d, and to play as if they were in the public park of a town [playground].

    They arise to jest with each other and strike each other, some of them singing, some of them crying, some of them speaking and some of them screaming. They run from place to place and tell each other to run. Some of them use the [synagogue as if it were a] bathroom [they have accidents and everyone shouts:] bring water! [to clean up the mess].

    Sometimes a father will hand his child a book [probably a siddur or Chumash], and the child will throw it to the ground or tear it into a dozen pieces.

    The conclusion of the matter is that the noise of their nonsense destroys the concentration [kavanah] of the people who pray, and the result there is the desecration of the Name of Heaven. And those who bring young children to the synagogue in this manner should not hope for reward, instead they should worry about receiving punishment.

    Magen Avraham on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 124, Sif Katan 11:

    The Shnei Luchot HaBrit taught:
    It is necessary to train them [children] to stand [in synagogue] in awe and fear.
    If they run around and play in the synagogue, it is better to NOT bring them.

    Magen Avraham on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Introduction to Siman 589:

    Maharil complained about people who bring young children to the synagogue, because they confuse the minds of the listeners, except when the women take them and keep them [the children] near them, because they [the women] are exempt [from praying].

    Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD:

    Small children sometimes romp around the synagogue.

    “Let them feel at home in the synagogue,” goes the argument.

    But the synagogue is not a home, and it should not be a playground.

    ALL halachic authorities state that children who are too young to be able to sit quietly in shul, should NOT be brought to shul.

    SOURCE: Reading for Shevat 22 (page 142) from Wisdom Each Day by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2000, Mesorah Publications, ISBN 1578195500.

    Rabbi Joey Haber:

    There is nothing more annoying that watching someone else’s rowdy kids.

    SOURCE: CD-ROM # 151 Am I the Judge? from

    I hope this helps.


  11. Professor Hall, Mazal Tov to you.
    (And thank you for providing us with this inspiring message.)

    Nathan, I (somehow) failed to realize that you are such an erudite Talmid Chochom until I read this post.
    Yasher Koach for giving us such a broad wealth of source-materials on this important topic.

  12. This is going to sound corny, but I really have found thrice-daily prayer, daily torah study, and full Shabat observance to be helpful in dealing with my crazy workaholic lifestyle. (And two weeks ago my promotion to full Professor took effect.)

  13. Bob Miller, I thank you for reading my message.

    I invested significant efforts in writing it, so it is good to know at least one person istened. This is my response;

    Rambam, Igeret HaShmad, page 19:

    “If a Jew lives in a place where it is impossible to practice the Jewish faith, then he must move to where it is possible, whatever the expense or loss.”

    I hope this helps.

  14. Nathan,

    If we follow your (1) and (2) to the letter, many of us will find no nearby place to daven b’tzibbur. This in itself presents serious halachic problems.


    Have you found any useful techniques to help with keeping the distractions at bay during davening?


    {1} Avoid synagogues where the Halachic prohibition against talking-in-shul is ignored.

    Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chayim, Siman 1, Sif 4;
    Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chayim, Siman 56, Sif 1;
    Mishnah Berurah on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 124:4, Sif Katan 17 and Sif Katan 20;
    Mishnah Berurah, Commentary on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 124:7;
    Mishnah Berurah, Commentary on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 151:1;
    Chafetz CXhaim, Sefer HaMitzvos HaKitzur, Positive Commandments, Mitzvah 18.

    {2} Avoid synagogues where the Halachic prohibition against bringing young children to synagogue is ignored.

    Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chaim, Siman 98, Sif 1, Sif Katan 3;
    Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chaim, Siman 124, Sif 7, Sif Katan 28;
    Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chaim, Siman 689, Sif 6, Sif Katan 18.

    {3} Arrive in synagogue as early as possible, because it is easier to concentrate when there are fewer people present.

    The earlier you arrive, the fewer people who will be there to distract you, and the more time you you will have to pray until the noisy crowds arrive.

    Tehillim, chapter 88, verse 14:
    …and in the morning, my prayer will be early to greet You.

    Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot, Page 47B:
    Each of the first ten men receives a reward equal to the entire congreagation.

    I hope this helps :-)

  16. I participate in an amazing teleconference every Tuesday night with Rebbetzin Tzipora Harris from Aish HaTorah. It’s been really helpful in clarifying and achieving my goals. It’s open to all Jewish women regardless of background or current observance. Here’s the contact number to sign up: 212-579-1388.

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