Tuesday, February 16, 2016

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How to attach to G-d through prayer

by Reb Aharon Rubin, from Eye to the Infinite, shared with permission.

How to attach to G-d through prayer

Prayer is a very powerful and potent form of meditation. Just as Torah-learning has two purposes – learning in order to cleave to G-d or to acquire Torah-knowledge, so prayer has two distinct objectives: to pray for one’s needs or to come close­ to G-d.

Asking G-d to fulfil our re­quests is essential to attaining deveikuth, since it cultivates the mindset that only G-d can truly look after us and provide for us.[1] Using prayer to gain awareness of G-d’s Presence is the mits­voh of attaching to G-d, ובו תדבק – “And in Him you shall cleave” (Deut. 10:20). This is indicated by the Hebrew word for prayer, תפלה–tefilloh, which is related to the word פתל PSSL, mean­ing, “en­twine” or “attach to”.[2] Prayer attaches one to G-d.

At its essence, prayer is a communion in the inner­most chambers of one’s heart,[3] one’s per­sonal Holy of Holies (Qodesh Qodoshim) where the G-dly soul resides[4] and emotion unites with truth.[5] Here, deep within one’s psy­che, the heart whispers words of prayer and praise to G-d; there is a natural bond with G-d,[6] a connec­tion to the Holy of Holies of the Di­vine.[7]

This spiritual un­ion has G-d’s Seal.[8] The art of prayer lies in accessing this hidden, inner sanc­tum. By internalising that G-d is the reason of your existence, your prayer will come from the depths of your being and penetrate the heav­ens.

The word, te­fil­loh, also implies another highly important component of prayer. Tefilloh, from the verb, leHithpallel, “to pray”, comes from the root, pallel, “to imagine”, “to visualise”.[9] The reflexive, mithpallel, means to imagine oneself, i.e. to self-visualise. Praying to G-d is an exercise in self-visuali­sation – realising the self to be before G-d and verbalising that visualisation. Only relatively recently has prayer been read from a prayer book. In times gone-by, the leader of the service would have lead the service orally; the entire prayer was a mindful experience of standing before G-d.

This is the secret of efficacious tefilloh: the steadfast conception that you are standing before G-d, speaking directly to Him. This visualisation/perception PLL causes a spiritual bond, a פתל PSSL, an attachment, the strength of the bond depending on the depth of the perception.

Since having this awareness is not always easy, the Ba’al Shem Tov out­lines three steps:

  • hachno’oh – humility before G-d,
  • havdoloh – separating from the physical and from anything that is hold­ing you back from attaching to G-d, and
  • hamtoqoh – the resultant spiritual ‘sweetening’ of the self and all worlds, consequence of the soul’s attachment to G-d.

Humility and self-nullification (hachno’oh, by attaching to the words), separate you from the physical (havdoloh), bringing you to deveikuth (hamtoqoh). These three steps can be seen in the simple yet profound apho­rism, with which we start morning prayers:

לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמים וכו' ומודה על האמת ודובר אמת בלבבו – “Let a person al­ways be aware of G-d and fear Heaven, agree with the truth and speak truth in his heart.” [10]


[1] Ramban says that attain­ment of true reliance on G-d is our purpose on this world (Ramban, Exodus 13:16 and Sefer Emunoh Ubito­chon). This increases close­ness to G-d, which in turn brings down influx.

[2] See Rashi, Genesis 30:8, Deut. 32:5. תפלה Tefilloh is also related to the verb tofel used in Mishnaic Hebrew, which means ‘secondary to’ or ‘to bind together’.

[3] Sifri Deut. 22:25.

[4] מה הקב"ה יושב בחדרי חדרים אף נשמה יושבת בחדרי חדרים יבא מי שיש בו חמשה דברים הללו וישבח למי שיש בו חמשה דברים הללו – “Just as G-d dwells in the innermost chambers, so the soul dwells within the inner­most cham­bers (of a person); let that which has these five prop­erties come and praise He Who has these five properties.” Brochoth 10a.

[5] Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi of Robschits, Zera Qodesh, Bereishith. Also Noam Elimelech, Beshalach, s.v. biqtsei hamidbor.

[6] See also Bovo Qamo, 3b, where man is called “the beseecher”. This means that to pray and beseech G-d is a natural, inherently human, quality.

[7] See Da’ath Tevunoth [Ramchal] 5:6, Nefesh HaChaim, Chapter 1.

[8] See Shabboth 55a; Yoma 69b – the Seal of G-d is אמת Emeth (truth). The letters of the word emeth (truth) occur as the last letters of words at the beginning and end of the Genesis creation narra­tive.

[9] See Rashi, Gen. 48:11.

[10] Tanna D’vei Eliyohu (possibly quoted in Kesuboth 106a) Chapter 21.

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