Monday, February 15, 2016

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Prayer and Laughter

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

Prayer and Laughter

The name, Isaac, is also im­portant. Both Abraham and Jacob prayed regu­larly. Yet Scriptures singles out Isaac.[1] It would appear that he embodied the qualities and disposi­tion needed for meditation and prayer, and they are hinted at in his name.[2]

Isaac – in Hebrew, יצחק Yitschok means, “he laughed”, a de­riva­tive of צחק tsochaq, meaning, to laugh and, a similar word, שחק sochaq, to rejoice. Whereas laughter and rejoicing are both expressions of joy, laughter is a more spontaneous, concentrated form of joy. Scriptures tells us that there is strength and joy in G-d’s Place.[3] This combination of strength and joy is ‘laughter’, the secret of Yitschok. [4]

Pro­phetic medita­tion and prayer need joy because around G-d is only joy.[5] Since the ‘nature’ of the Divine Presence is supreme joy, beholding it can only be done from a place of joy.[6]

צחוק tsechoq – joy and laughter is born through the discover­y of light within the dark­ness, symptomatic of the de­light of the meditative experience. Thus, צחוק tsechoq relates to שחק Sochaq, which relates to שוח ­Suach, the verb used here for medita­tion, which in turn relates to שיחה si­choh, speech, verbal medi­ta­tion or prayer.

(Interest­ingly, com­bining ישחק sochaq (rejoice) with לשוח lo­suach (to med­itate – see Genesis, 24:63), we obtain קולי שח qoly soch, “my voice speaks” or קולי חש qoly chash, “my voice is silent”, two pertinent phrases describing the main methods of prayer meditation – the au­dible and the si­lent. This is particularly signifi­cant when we realise that in the afore-mentioned verse, Yitschok had just returned from Gan Eden,[7] which is guarded by the Chashmal ‘revolving sword’ the ‘speaking-silence’ (see Part 2, Chapter 1, Locks and Keys). Through the double-edged sword of prayer, loud prayer to counteract the ‘inner chatter’ and silent prayer to go within the ‘silence’, we can penetrate the miasma of silent chatter within the mind and enter Gan Eden.)

Prayer verbalises deep emotion. The release of fo­cused feeling is then sim­ilar to laughter, intense and re­laxing due to the tran­scen­dental union of the soul with the Infinite One as the person es­capes his ego. Prayer, the inner soul of laughter, dis­cov­ers eternity within the con­striction of time. It penetrates, defines and expands the ephem­eral, elusive pre­sent. It is the paradox of Yitschok, Sarah’s only child born to her in her old age: immortality within mortality, the sweetness in the bitter, the infi­nite within the fi­nite.


[1] See Brochoth 26b.

[2] See ibid. 7b regarding the significance of a person’s name.

[3] I Chronicles, 16:27 – עז וחדוה במקומו – “Strength and joy are in His Place”. (Interestingly, chedvoh (joy) and moqom (place) is gematriah, “Yitschok”.)

[4] The letters צ and ש are interchangeable. See also Psalms 110:7.

[5] Chagigoh 5b.

[6] This is connected with the phenomenon of resonance discussed in Part 1. See also Brochoth 31a: “One should not get up to pray from [a mood of] sadness, lethargy, mirth, converse, light-headedness or worthless activities but from the joy of a Mitsvoh”. Cf. Pesochim 117a: “The Shechinoh does not rest [upon a person] from [a mood of] lethargy, sadness, mirth, converse, light-headedness or worthless activities but from the joy of a Mitsvoh, as it says ‘And now bring me a musician, and it was when the musician played that the Hand of G-d came upon him’ (I Kings, 3)”.

[7] See Targum Yerushalmi, Gen. 24:63.

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