I always write in my sefarim, all of them. I recently suggested to a class that they write in their Tanach's, and was rewarded with expressions of shock – but I believe that most of us need to write in order to remember, and what better place than in the sefer from which we learn?
But that's not the subject of this post. Here, I'm expanding on a suggestion I made in the derashah here, that we should write in our siddurim, to help ourselves focus.
It's a way to corral ourselves during our distracted moments, and draw ourselves back.
It's a way to personalize our davening, by highlighting elements that matter to us.
It's a way to remember the items that catch our eye or ear and inspire us once, for the next time we daven.
So here's what I do:
I underline key words and phrases that I want to have special meaning, to ensure that I think when I get there.
Example: The word ואהבת ("And you shall love HaShem your Gd") in Shma. בכל יום אברכך ("I will praise You daily") in Ashrei. והשב את העבודה לדביר ביתך ("Return the service to Your home") in the amidah. The verbs in Psalm 100 (Mizmor l'Todah).
I make notations to call attention to interesting structural/poetic elements.
Examples: The Heaven/Earth contrast in Psalm 148 (aka "the third Hallelukah"), the thematic sets of lines in Avinu Malkeinu, and the Personal/Communal/Global sets in Ashrei.
I add reminders.
Examples: "מצות עשה (This fulfills a commandment)" before Shma, or circling רפאנו (the first word of the blessing for healing in the amidah).
I write in food for thought.
Examples: In תקע בשופר (the blessing for redemption in the Amidah) I have a question mark which reminds me to think about the difference between the roles of a שופר and a נס. In the first pre-Shma blessing in Shacharit, I note Rav Kook's thought from Orot on the link between Gd as "master of wars" and "seeder of justice".
I'm sure there's a lot more people could do with this. What would you add? Or are you horrified by the whole concept?