Why do many chassidim pray so late?
by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg
1. Chassidus demands that prayer be preceded by strenuous preparation: Immersion in the Mikvah, studying chassidus, meditating into the greatness of G-d, etc. This is especially true on Shabbat, a day which is supposed to be devoted to spirituality and our connection with G-d. Therefore, it was always the accepted practice by Chassidim to start praying late. In fact, the Minyan of the Lubavitcher Rebbe starts at 10:00am every day.
The important thing is to start Davening before the end of zeman Tefillah (the "conclusion of the time of prayer" - which is approximately four hours after sunrise). We consider the preparations for prayer as part of prayer (because it is impossible for a Chassid to pray without it), and therefore if the preparations started on time there is no problem.
A Chassidic master (I think it was R' Meir of Premishlan) once said: There is no such thing as tefillah b'zmanah (timely prayer). The Mitnagdim (non-chassidim) have b'zmanah (timliness), but no tefillah (prayer - because they do not prepare properly), and chassidim have tefillah but no b'zmanah!
2. This, obviously, applies only to someone who is actually involved in preparing for prayer from the early hours in the morning....
R' Yisroel of Ruzhin once gave the following parable: There was once a peasant who would come home from work every day at five thirty in the afternoon. At six o'clock, every day, the door to the kitchen would swing open and his wife would walk in with a plate of boiled potatoes and black bread.
One day the peasant comes home, as usual he sits down by the table and waits for the standard meal to come, but six o'clock comes and goes and his wife does not appear. At first he is slightly annoyed, but then he realizes that the reason for the delay is because his wife is most probably preparing a special meal tonight. Nu, it's worth it to wait a little extra!
It's seven o'clock, eight o'clock, nine o'clock... By now the peasant is envisioning a scrumptious meal with tender meat and fine wine followed by a delicious dessert. At nine thirty the door swings open and the wife appears with a plate of... boiled potatoes and black bread!
When the peasant sees this he starts screaming: "This is what I was waiting for all this time?!"
Similarly, if we make G-d wait for our prayer it better be a good one. Otherwise G-d asks,"this is what I was waiting for?!"
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