THE HEART OF PRAYER – 17th Av, 5769
The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer
4.b4 Prayer can change a judgment from bad to good.
Nachmanides1 asks about the nature of prayer: How can it improve a Divine decree?2 Can G-d’s Will be changed?3 If a person were was praying for himself, we could understand how His Will can be changed. For just as he changed his own behavior from bad to good, so G-d’s decree can be changed from bad to good. But this principle should not apply to prayers offered on someone else’s behalf.
The Baal Shem Tov explained, in the name of his Heavenly teacher,3 that prayer sweetens the judgment of Malchut, which is called Din,4 in its root in Binah. When you pray in this way for a friend, you bind them to their Supernal root, and they become a different person.
To explain this further, it is known that the Divine decree is a drop of seed in the womb of Malchut, and that it is composed of letters. As the Talmud says: “Betzalel knew how to combine the letters that went into the creation of heaven and earth.”5 Now, the King of Kings surely does not carry out His decrees Himself. He appoints an emissary, who makes use of the word-combinations that convey the decree. However, the emissary can rearrange the first letters of the words so that they imply something else.6
Now, the Tzaddik is the emissary of the Shechinah,7 who knows how to sweeten the judgments and bind the drop that is in Malchut to Binah, thus transforming it into something else.
Katones Passim, p. 47b
1Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (1194ce.- 1270ce)
2See also the commentary “HaKosev” on Ein Yaakov, Berachos, chapter 5.
3Seeing that G-d’s Will is part of His Essence, since He is unchangeable, so His Will is unchangeable.
4The prophet, Achiya HaShiloni.
6 Berachos 55a.
7The Baal Shem Tov here specifies recombining the first letters of words to change the meaning of the decree. However, in other lessons, he speaks about different types of letter combinations that can alter the decree that descends from above. The Divine Presence; the Sefirah of Malchut of Knesset Israel, the collectivity collective of the Jewish souls. Literally, the “Matron,” a phrase from the Zohar for the Shechinah.
Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore
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