Kavanah for the Different Words of Tehillim
- Every place that mentions enemies (oyavim), haters (sonim), oppressors (tzarim), etc., you should have in mind the Heavenly prosecutors (mekatrigim), who are are the true enemies: enemies of our souls.
- Every place that mentions misfortune (tzarah), distress (tzukah), etc., you should have in mind your own personal distress.
Every place that mentions "life," you should have in mind 2 things:
1) your spiritual existence:
- that you should be alive
- that you should feel the love of God all your days
- that you should feel the fear of God all your days
- You should want to live in order to serve your Creator.
- You should not be the cause of any anger or grief for Hashem or the Shechinah.
- You should complete the rectification (tikkun) of your body, spirit, and soul.
- Oyev (enemy) – a hidden enemy, one who hates in his heart and wishes one evil
- Soneh (hater) – hates without wishing one evil
- Tzar (oppressor) – actively torments
- Metzukah, tzukah (distress) – emotional, internal troubles and suffering
- Tzarot, tzarah (misfortune) – outer troubles, troubles that come upon a person
As the Pele Yoetz explains [Vol. II, pg. 289]:
When a person says Tehillim with humility, from the depths of his heart and his intention is for the desires of Heaven, the words are ancient, words of the living God that were said by the holy Divinely inspired mouth of David Hamelech, whose merit should protect us.
They will certainly bear "fruit" and he will thus find his redemption, and he will be written the Book of Good Life, which refers to the life of the soul.
How to Read Tehillim according to Your Individual Ability
He recommends doing this over Rosh Hashanah (read all of Tehillim each day for those 2 days), but I've heard others recommend doing this over the 10 Days of Teshuvah, which comes out to a book day.
(Tehillim is split up into 5 books containing around 30-40 chapters each.)
While the Pele Yoetz lauds the recitation containing proper understanding of the meaning of the words, he adds that if one doesn't know the actual meaning, one should at least read them carefully letter by letter, word by word.
(I'm assuming there was no Bulgarian translation of Tehillim available at that time because he doesn't mention reading Tehillim in another language for those who can't understand the Hebrew, which is admittedly very hard Hebrew, harder than the Hebrew of Chumash. In Israel, they sell Tehillim with the modern Hebrew "translation" underneath each word because the syntax and vocabulary of Tehillim can be so challenging even for Hebrew-speakers until one learns it well enough.)
Needless to say, translations of Tehillim exist in almost every language, so you can use that too.
I personally know of illiterate women who cannot even read the words. Instead, they place their finger on each word and look at it. And in this way, they can participate in saying Tehillim, even as they technically remain completely silent.
It's the heart and the intention that counts.
At the same time, the Pele Yoetz repeats a well-known statement of the Sages in Tur, Orach Chaim, Siman 1:
"A small amount with proper intent is better than a large amount without proper intent."
"Tov me'at b'kavanah m'harbot b'lo kavanah."
And again, more than anything else, it's the heart that counts.