HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER

The Baal Shem Tov Times

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

1Isaiah 51:1
2Zohar 3:222b
3Proverbs 14:10
4Psalms 101:7

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

5.a2 Praying for the Shechinah’s suffering to subside.

A wise person knows that all of their own suffering also causes pain to the Divine Presence, as it says in the Talmud, “When a person is in pain, what does the Shechinah say? ‘My head hurts me! My arm hurts me!'”1 Thus, if the wise person prays for the Shechinah’s suffering to subside, their own suffering will abate as well.
Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Beshalach

1Talmud Sanhedrin 46a

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 24th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

5.a1 Praying for the needs of the Shechinah.

Tzaddikim are the messengers of the Matron.1 Through their own suffering and deprivation, they know the privations of the Shechinah and pray for its needs to be fulfilled, uniting it with the Holy One. This is the greatness of prayer.2

This answers the age-old question as to why we need to pray, since G?d surely knows our needs. It is written, “He tests the loins and the heart.”3 Prayer is for a higher purpose. When we realize that our own lacking derives from the privations Above and pray for the Shechinah’s needs to be fulfilled, our own needs will also be assuaged. However, you should never think about your own needs, only the needs of the Shechinah.
Tzafnah Paneach p. 50c

1A reference to the Shechinah.
22ee also Degel Machane Ephraim, B’Chukosai: What is it in a person that feels pleasure or pain? It is his soul and life-force, for when these depart, he feels nothing. Now, this life-force is united with the source of all life and creation, which is G?d. When you remember this and think about your source, which is the Shechinah, and pray for it, you create a complete unification. This is the meaning of, “Tzaddikim are the messengers of the Matron.” Through their own deprivation and suffering, they know and pray for any lacking in the Shechinah.
3Jeremiah 11:20

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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The HEART OF PRAYER 17th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 17th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

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.
5Judgement.
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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The HEART OF PRAYER 16th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 16th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

Section 2.14

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

The exile of the Divine Presence means that extraneous thoughts “ride” on your words.
Darchei Tzedek, part 1, 20

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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The HEART OF PRAYER 15th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 15th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

Section 2.10

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

Words, our very vitality, are from G-d.

Words, which are your very vitality, are from G-d. When you say a good word, it rises up and causes Supernal Speech to rain down more vitality upon you. But when you speak evil words, your life-force departs without ascending and it may be lost completely. Thus, people say: “He talked it out – er hot ois giret.”1
Tzava’as HaRivash, 103

1He explained it publicly.

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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The HEART OF PRAYER 14th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 14th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

Section 3.5

Learning a passage of Zohar before each of the daily prayers.

The Baal Shem Tov instructed his disciples to learn a passage of Zohar before each of the daily prayers.
Likutey Torah, hadracha 7

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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