By Rabbi Dovid Markel
The chossid R. Chaim Moshe Alperovitz once related an exchange that he had with the chossid R. Yankel Zurbitzer. He recounted as follows:
“Once, I met R. Yankel on the streets of Moscow and he told me the following episode that occurred when he was in a private audience with Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe:
“‘I was in an audience with the Rebbe and he told me that I should be scrupulous with the Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law) to the letter, without any “chassidisheh games.” I asked the Rebbe if I was to be careful as well with the appointed times of prayer, to which he responded: “No. This certainly is not my intent. You should pray as chassidim are accustomed to pray; prepare for prayers and pray slowly—even if this comes at the expense of praying in the appointed times.”
“‘The Rebbe went on to explain: One can send a letter in various ways: A) Regular mail, where the individual does not rush the delivery and it arrives after a few days. B) Express mail, where the package is rushed and it arrives in a day. C) A telegram, which arrives immediately.
“‘”So too, in one’s service of G-d there are as well three types of people:
A) There are those that pray when they wake up. Their prayers arrive at their destination like standard mail.
B) Others wake up early and pray “vasikin,” being careful to say the Shemoneh Esrei at sunrise. Concerning them, the Shulchan Aruch states that they have great reward. Their prayers reach their destination quickly, like rushed mail.
C) Chassidim are accustomed to learn Chassidus prior to their prayers and to get ready for prayer extensively, afterwards praying at length. Despite the late time that they pray, their prayers arrive at their destination before even those that pray vasikin.”‘”