Letter: A Tribute to our Balei Tefilla

The summer months are waning and have begun winding down much to our adamant denial, and the school year has thankfully started again – Much to our greatest delight. The days have shortened and the lines in the clothing stores have increasingly lengthened. We know we are getting closer. The flurry of activity on the streets and in our homes have ramped up as we close out the final week of the year.

New machzorim are purchased, suits and dresses are tailored and pressed, recipes are getting tested and incorporated into the menu, Shul Gabbaim are on round-the-clock-duty, and the Rav is preparing a marathon of speeches.

Yeshivos are raising the intensity level of learning with a determined purpose, and Tzedokos are out in force.

Shofros are getting wiped down and cleaned, carpet-cleaning companies are working overtime, honey dishes have been removed from the breakfront, fruit platters are being formulated, and the well-wishes and phone calls have begun. Long weekday Davening‘s and heartfelt Selichos have by now become routine and the clock ticks. And ticks. A period of reflection comes upon us suddenly, and it dawns starkly that it’s that time of year again.

Now, while all of this is ongoing, there is a cadre of a selected few. Men who stem from a wide spectrum of backgrounds & professions – From the Accountant, to the Cheder Rebbi, to the Business Owner. The Bearded & Unbearded. Known & Unknown. Blue Shirt or White Shirt. Old & Young. They have all been selected and obtained their role for a variety of reasons. Some have been sought after, others were “there from the beginning”, and some, simply because no one else would… or could. They range in talent, experience, and ability. Many have it all.

But this week is different for them then it is for the rest of us. While we putter along on our daily errands – frantically tying up our personal loose ends – They are calmly practicing and mentally preparing. While we speed along in our cars listening to the news or talking on the phone; hands-free, they are humming the nusach and fitting in words to new song additions.

While we stay worry-free of the minor scratch-in-the-back-of-the-throat we developed yesterday morning, they are bee-lining to the nearest pharmacy to find a soother or are already using their tried-&-true method to stymie and hold off any oncoming disturbances to their vocals.

While we come to Shul; anxious and excited to hear the familiar strains of our favorite nusach and sections of the Tefilos, you are already sitting in your seat like a confident soldier headed into battle, zoning out the noise around you, and laser focused on your mission on behalf of all of us.

While we are enjoying the euphoric uplifting moments during the highlights, lost in the moment, you are looking down and swallowing purposefully in your throat to regain looseness and composure for the pages ahead.

While we sneak sitting-breaks for our feet in between Pesichos and the mandatory sections; peaking at the pages ahead, you stand steadfast, back straight and legs tireless while weaving through the Piyutim effortlessly and knowingly.

While we quietly hum a niggun or two that we remember from our old Shul or Yeshiva growing up, during a part of the Davening that you use something else, our now-grown-children are humming ‘your’ niggun in a Yeshiva or Shul – far away from their old neighborhood.

While we sit comfortably at our table with our young children at our side and perhaps our wives in the Ezras Nashin – enjoying the beautiful davening, your children sit themselves and together with your wife are following every motion you make and every syllable you utter in anxious silence urging you on and hoping that your voice stays steady and strong.

While we sit around our Yom Tov meal after Davening, going over your song choices and our favorites of the day, you are eating quietly, resting your voice, internally critiquing your performance, humbled by the outpouring of Yasher Koachs, and thinking about the next days work.

So whether you walk up to the Amud and say Ha’melech or Hi’nini – Ashrei or Barchu, you are in large part; the most important figures of the most important days of the year.

You see, you and Yomim Na’roim go hand-in-hand. Sure it’s a time for inspiring speeches, and self-reflection. Whats App messages, uplifting short videos, and calls to old friends. It’s surely a time for  personal discovery, earnest Teshuva, a re-dedication to Ruchnious, and a firm re-setting of priorities. But all of that is part of the larger picture that leads directly into Shul on Rosh Hashana morning.

“The Davening” is the key.

And so in closing, we would like to say, that in spite of all of our manic shopping, reckless driving, Shatnez drop off’s, frantic cooking, and sleeping-arrangements-for-visiting-married-children. In spite of all of our genuine efforts to come closer to Hashem throughout Elul, our renewed spiritual undertakings & our quest to truly accomplish what we need to, in these special days.

In spite of all of that, we now turn to you to take us to the finish line and make this our best, most inspired Yomim Na’roim Davening yet!

Because you always do.

And our appreciation for you is deep and heartfelt.

Yasher Koach Baal Tefilla!

Looking forward –


Your Grateful Mispallelim

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  1. Thank you so much for this beautiful letter of appreciation. It increased my own gratitude to the baalei tefillah who inspire my tefillos. I love these kinds of letters.

  2. I’m am a Baal tefila for many years and this is the most beautiful letter. Thank you for writing and for sharing. Your description of what what a Baal tefila goes through both physically and emotionally is spot on. Very often the only feedback a Baal tefila receives is a warm “shkoiach”. Your letter is a tremendous source of chizuk and inspiration to continue to put in all the time and energy that we do. Thank you!!

  3. As someone who goes through this ordeal every year I can’t thank the writer enough. He seems to have an up close look at the goings on in the house of the Baal Tefila (BT). Who knows, maybe he’s even a BT himself. Regardless, his description of the emotional and physical roller coaster the BT goes though is, as Yoselle wrote, spot on. And when a BT has sons and/or sons-in-law who advise him with ideas and give backup vocals, it is an added bonus that can’t be overstated. I have that luxury and I thank them profusely.

    May all the BT’s in Lakewood and the world over be matzliach in their quest and mission as spokespeople for their fellow mispallelim and may their tefillos pierce the heavens above insuring that all of Klal Yisroel are blessed with a כתיבה וחתימה טובה.

  4. Very very well written!! I can definitely relate as my father is a veteran Baal Tefila for over 20 years.
    And yes how this writer just portrayed it, we really must show the hakoros hatov that they so properly deserve.

  5. It must be no coincidences. that the roshai tavos of Bal Tefilah and Balai Teshuvah are the same. Meaning in order for one Baal Tefilah to be successful he must be the other also Baal Teshuva .

    May we all become true Balai Teshuva

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