In the first va’ad Rav Wolbe sets up the importance of a moment of silence before prayer. Simply sitting still and focusing on your thoughts for about a minute can truly transform your experience of tefilfa. I know from my own experience how powerful this can be as a tool of meditation.
What Rav Wolbe points out is that in order to get to shul five minutes early you need to wake up a little earlier. In order to wake up earlier you have to go sleep earlier. So – you preparation for shacharit begins at bedtime of the night before.
In the second va’ad he begins to work through Birkot ha-Shachar. He starts with an analysis of the word “barch.” This is a word that has always puzzled me and I have often struggled with the correct translation. In addition he deals with the word “sechvi.” It is interesting to note that in this beracha we are thanking God for the natural instincts of the rooster.
He then moves on to the first two berachot of self identity. Here we see some of his prejudices against non-Jews. While his language is painful to read I think that he raises an important question of how much we allow the outside world to impact on who we are (assuming that we can make a distinction between “outside” and “inside”).
Next time he will deal with she-lo asani isha. I will also attempt to place that beracha in a broader context and give my own approach as to what it means to me.