אָמַר רַב חִיָּיא בַּר אָשֵׁי אָמַר רַב: כֹּל שֶׁאֵין דַּעְתּוֹ מְיוּשֶּׁבֶת עָלָיו אַל יִתְפַּלֵּל, מִשּׁוּם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בְּצָר אַל יוֹרֶה״. רַבִּי חֲנִינָא בְּיוֹמָא דְּרָתַח לָא מְצַלֵּי, אָמַר: ״בְּצָר אַל יוֹרֶה״ כְּתִיב. מָר עוּקְבָא בְּיוֹמָא דְשׁוּתָא לָא הֲוָה נָפֵיק לְבֵי דִינָא.

Rav Ḥiyya bar Ashi said that Rav said: Anyone whose mind is unsettled should not pray, as it is stated: When distressed, one should not issue decisions. The Gemara relates that Rabbi Ḥanina, on a day that he was angry, would not pray, as he said that it is written: When distressed, one should not issue decisions. The Gemara similarly relates that Mar Ukva, on a day of a south wind, would not venture out to the court, for this hot and harsh wind would disturb his usual clarity of mind.

אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: הַבָּא מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ, אַל יִתְפַּלֵּל שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וָאֶקְבְּצֵם אֶל הַנָּהָר הַבָּא אֶל אַחֲוָא וַנַּחֲנֶה שָׁם יָמִים שְׁלֹשָׁה וָאָבִינָה בָּעָם וְגוֹ׳״.

Rabbi Elazar said: One who returns home from a journey should not pray for three days while recovering from the hardship of being on the road, as it is stated: “And I gathered them together at the river that runs to Aḥava, and we encamped there for three days, and I inspected the people” (Ezra 8:15), after which it is stated: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Aḥava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a safe journey for us” (Ezra 8:21), which teaches that they rested three days before praying.

אֲבוּהּ דִּשְׁמוּאֵל, כִּי אָתֵי בְּאוֹרְחָא, לָא מְצַלֵּי תְּלָתָא יוֹמֵי. שְׁמוּאֵל לָא מְצַלֵּי בְּבֵיתָא דְּאִית בֵּיהּ שִׁיכְרָא. רַב פָּפָּא לָא מְצַלֵּי בְּבֵיתָא דְּאִית בֵּיהּ הַרְסָנָא.

The Gemara relates that Shmuel’s father, when he would return home from his journey, would not pray for three days, as he would have to rest from his journey. Shmuel himself would not pray in a house that contained an alcoholic beverage, as the scent of the alcohol would disturb his concentration during prayer. Similarly, Rav Pappa would not pray in a house that contained small fried fish, due to their smell.

Codified and described beautifully by Rambam Laws of Tefilla 4:16-17

כַּוָּנַת הַלֵּב כֵּיצַד. כָּל תְּפִלָּה שֶׁאֵינָהּ בְּכַוָּנָה אֵינָהּ תְּפִלָּה. וְאִם הִתְפַּלֵּל בְּלֹא כַּוָּנָה חוֹזֵר וּמִתְפַּלֵּל בְּכַוָּנָה. מָצָא דַּעְתּוֹ מְשֻׁבֶּשֶׁת וְלִבּוֹ טָרוּד אָסוּר לוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עַד שֶׁתִּתְיַשֵּׁב דַּעְתּוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ הַבָּא מִן הַדֶּרֶךְ וְהוּא עָיֵף אוֹ מֵצֵר אָסוּר לוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל עַד שֶׁתִּתְיַשֵּׁב דַּעְתּוֹ. אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים יִשְׁהֶה שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים עַד שֶׁיָּנוּחַ וְתִתְקָרֵר דַּעְתּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִתְפַּלֵּל:

Concentration of the mind—how is this condition [to be fulfilled?] Any prayer uttered without mental concentration is not prayer. If a service has been recited without such concentration, it must be recited again devoutly. A person finds that his thoughts are confused and his mind is distracted: He may not pray till he has recovered his mental composure. Hence, on returning from a journey or if one is weary or distressed, it is forbidden to pray till his mind is composed. The sages said that he should wait three days till he is rested and his mind is calm, and then he recites the prayers.

כֵּיצַד הִיא הַכַּוָּנָה. שֶׁיְּפַנֶּה אֶת לִבּוֹ מִכָּל הַמַּחֲשָׁבוֹת וְיִרְאֶה עַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ הוּא עוֹמֵד לִפְנֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לֵישֵׁב מְעַט קֹדֶם הַתְּפִלָּה כְּדֵי לְכַוֵּן אֶת לִבּוֹ וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִתְפַּלֵּל בְּנַחַת וּבְתַחֲנוּנִים וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה תְּפִלָּתוֹ כְּמִי שֶׁהָיָה נוֹשֵׂא מַשּׂאוֹי וּמַשְׁלִיכוֹ וְהוֹלֵךְ לוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לֵישֵׁב מְעַט אַחַר הַתְּפִלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִפָּטֵר. חֲסִידִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים הָיוּ שׁוֹהִין שָׁעָה אַחַת קֹדֶם תְּפִלָּה וְשָׁעָה אַחַת לְאַחַר תְּפִלָּה וּמַאֲרִיכִין בִּתְפִלָּה שָׁעָה:

What is to be understood by concentration of the mind? The mind should be freed from all extraneous thoughts and the one who prays should realize that he is standing before the Divine Presence. He should therefore sit awhile before beginning his prayers, so as to concentrate his mind, and then pray in gentle tones, beseechingly, and not regard the service as a burden which he is carrying and which he will cast off and proceed on his way. He should, accordingly, also sit awhile, after concluding the prayers, and then leave. The ancient saints were wont to pause and meditate one hour before the service, one hour after the service and take one hour in its recital.

שִׁכּוֹר אַל יִתְפַּלֵּל מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ כַּוָּנָה. וְאִם הִתְפַּלֵּל תְּפִלָּתוֹ תּוֹעֵבָה. לְפִיכָךְ חוֹזֵר וּמִתְפַּלֵּל כְּשֶׁיִּתְרוֹקֵן מִשִּׁכְרוּתוֹ. שָׁתוּי אַל יִתְפַּלֵּל וְאִם הִתְפַּלֵּל תְּפִלָּתוֹ תְּפִלָּה. אֵי זֶה שִׁכּוֹר זֶה שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְדַבֵּר לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. שָׁתוּי יָכוֹל לְדַבֵּר בִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְאֵינוֹ מִשְׁתַּבֵּשׁ. אַף עַל פִּי כֵן הוֹאִיל וְשָׁתָה רְבִיעִית יַיִן לֹא יִתְפַּלֵּל עַד שֶׁיָּסִיר יֵינוֹ מֵעָלָיו

An intoxicated person must not pray, because he cannot concentrate. If he prays, his prayer is an abomination. He must therefore recite the prayers again after he has recovered from his intoxication. A person under the influence of drink should not pray while in that condition. But if he has recited the service, it is regarded as prayer. A drunkard is one who is unable to speak in the royal presence. A person under the influence of drink is one who can speak in the presence of a king without committing error. Yet having drunk, if only a quarter of a log of wine,*Equal in volume to 1½ eggs. one is not to pray till he is rid of the effect of the wine he has taken.

וְכֵן אֵין עוֹמְדִין לְהִתְפַּלֵּל לֹא מִתּוֹךְ שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ קַלּוּת רֹאשׁ וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ שִׂיחָה וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ מְרִיבָה וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ כַּעַס אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה. וְלֹא מִתּוֹךְ דִּין וַהֲלָכָה אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵם דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא לִבּוֹ טָרוּד בַּהֲלָכָה. אֶלָּא מִתּוֹךְ דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה שֶׁאֵין בָּהּ עִיּוּן כְּגוֹן הֲלָכוֹת פְּסוּקוֹת:

So too, persons should not stand up to pray after indulging in jest, laughter, frivolity, idle talk, quarrelling or outburst of anger, but only after the study of Torah, not however of legal discussions by which the mind is distracted, but only after the study of such themes as require no profound reflection, as for instance established rules.

Ritva and Rashba

אמרו רבותי ז״ל שלא נאמרו דברים אלו אלא בדורת ההם שהיה לבם נכון אבל עכשיו בין כך ובין כך אין מתכוונין ומוטב שלא תתבטל התפלה:

On a Practical level, we do not follow this ruling, because if we did we would never pray because we are never in the right State of Mind.

Please do not give up on prayer.  It takes years and years of practice to learn how to appreciate prayer in philosophy, technique and intention of the heart and mind. It is enlightening to keep in mind the adage from Michael Jordan, and apply it to prayer:

“You can practice shooting 8 hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” -- Michael Jordan, The Champion’s Comeback: How Great Athletes Recover, Reflect and Reignite (2016) by Jim Afremow

for Video Shiur click here to listen:  Psychology of the DAF Eruvin 65

Translations Courtesy of Sefaria

 

 

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