Thursday, September 03, 2009


What Is Your Intention?

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

There is a tremendous Talmud Chacham (Torah Scholar) living here in the Old City. He is also the rav (rabbi) of the Old City. Actually, he recently semi- retired, and now his oldest son has taken over most of his communal duties. His name is Avigdor Nebenzahl. Almost every day, I would see him walking from his house to the synagogue, or to the yeshiva where he taught. Over the many years, I never once saw him walking in the street without an open sefer (holy book) in his hands, learning while he walked. He has a tremendous reputation amongst the learned Jews for being a truly learned man.

Recently, a newcomer to the Old City watched with great interest when Rabbi Nebenzahl backed away from the Kotel. Almost everyone turns to face the Kotel when they leave the immediate area. When you are at the Kotel, it is as if you are talking to the King. Certainly, if you were talking to an earthly king, you would not turn your back to him when you were dismissed. All the more so, we do not want to show disrespect to the King of kings.

Some back away for only a few steps as they leave the entrance, while some are strict to walk backwards all the way from the Kotel until they leave the entrance. Rabbi Nebenzahl follows the stricter custom.

The newcomer watched with great interest as Rabbi Nebenzahl backed away. He knows of the Rav’s excellent reputation and has quickly come to respect his opinions on all spiritual matters. When he saw the Rav backing away so intently, he could not restrain himself. He had to know, “What was the Rav’s kavanah as he backed away?”

Kavanah literally means “intention,” or “purpose.” But in the spiritual sense, its meaning has more to do with spiritual concentration, mindset, hope, or focus.

He went right over and asked the Rav what was his kavanah when he backed away. What he really wanted to know was what he himself should concentrate on when he backed away? He wanted to learn from this scholar’s vast experience. Was he supposed to be thinking of a certain Gemara? (section of Talmud) Maybe he should have one of G-d’s Holy Names in mind? What were the Rav’s deep, personal thoughts?

The Rav answered, “When you are backing away, it is most important to watch that you do not bump into anyone.”

Now you know why he is so highly respected.


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