THE HEART OF PRAYER
The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer
5.a3 Beseech G-d for righteousness’s sake, to unite the Shechinah with the Holy One.
“Hear me, pursuers of righteousness, you who seek G-d. Look at the rock from where you were hewn and the pit from where you were dug. Look at Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. He was one alone when I called him, and I blessed him and made him many.”1
The “pursuers of righteousness” are those who pursue faith. They are the seekers of G-d. If you want to know faith and to be attached to this righteousness, do not look at it directly, as do others who cause themselves to die. Rather, “look at the rock from where you were hewn.”2
It has been explained that all requests should be on behalf of the Shechinah. This is called prayer, for the Divine Presence beseeches and prays to G-d for its needs. Now, whatever a person lacks is caused by a lack in the Shechinah, and in praying for that lack to be rectified Above, a healing is automatically drawn below.
However, “the heart knows its own bitterness”3 and that not all times are equal. If a person experiences some great pain, G-d forbid, and prays for themselves without realizing that the Shechinah is also suffering, it would have been much better to pray for it instead. In the middle of prayer, a person might try to forget themselves and pray for the Shechinah alone, but without truly being able to overcome their own pain. By claiming to be praying for the Shechinah without truly negating their own needs, they may actually be pushed away entirely for G- d knows what is true. Therefore, the advice is to pray simply on whichever level possible. Simply keep your mouth and heart together, for “a speaker of lies will not be established before My eyes.”4
The lowest level of creation is called Malchus by itself. This, however, is not the case when the Shechinah is truly united with the Holy One through prayer. Then, they are attached to Zeir Anpin. This is not the case with Malchus alone. Only when Malchus is united with the Holy One does a person also become attached to the true source. Therefore, “Pursuers of justice, who search for G-d” are the righteous messengers of the Shechinah. It is as though they beseech G-d for righteousness itself to unite the Shechinah with the Holy One.
Toldos Yaakov Yosef p. 100d
Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore
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Source: The Baal Shem Tov Foundation