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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel Pekudei 5772

Ein Ayah: Praying with the Heart, Not with the Mind

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 9:23)

Gemara:     Is it so that praying for a long time is good? Doesn’t Rabbi Yochanan say that whoever prays for a long time and looks into it will ultimately come to heartache? …and doesn’t Rabbi Yitzchak say that three things bring up one’s sins: a leaning wall, looking into one’s prayer, and handing over to Hashem complaints against a person (relying on Hashem to punish him)? It depends if one just has a long prayer, which is good, or whether he also looks into it (Rashi – he reasons that since he prayed with strong concentration, Hashem will certainly do as he requested).


Ein Ayah:    The ability of prayer to improve one’s material and spiritual wellbeing, as Hashem incorporated into nature, depends on one understanding clearly what prayer is.

A person should know that all his strengths and the circumstances that surround him are arranged with Divine wisdom. When a person feels upset due to personal or communal circumstances and his pure heart turns to Hashem in prayer, this helps his moral standing. He need not be concerned with the philosophical question of whether people’s prayers can cause a change in the Divine plan. In truth, that which can bring a person to completeness (i.e., prayer) is part of the all-encompassing Divine plan. Since a person’s soul flourishes when he feels Hashem’s closeness upon turning to Him, nature is set up so that such beseeching before Him will be fruitful.

A person should concentrate in his prayer just on the feeling of connecting emotionally to Hashem through the process. It should not include intellectual calculations of gain and loss or determining philosophical truths based on it. The power of prayer was created for the feelings of the soul, not the limited human intellect.

If one delves deeply into the expected results of his prayer, he will not receive the results he seeks but will experience great disappointment. Rather he should treasure the ability to turn to Him with a full and thirsting soul. Hashem did not create man just for his intellect, but also so that his heart would be most moved when praying to Hashem in a time of need.

It is crucial to save oneself from over-intellectualization of the experience of prayer, which stems from one’s desire to feel that he can capture Hashem’s providence within his intellect. However, Hashem is beyond that and wants to engage man by giving him life in the realm of the body and the emotions, as well. That is why one who spends a long time on his prayer, but does so in a manner of trying to analyze what will come of it, will experience heartache. If someone treats the power of prayer as a power of nature [which must succeed], he will not only lose the full experience but will come to false beliefs.

It is important for man to have faith in Hashem to keep his physical and spiritual state stable so that he not be shocked and overpowered by the physical world. He thereby learns that not everything that man thinks is good is indeed so, for everything in the world is guided by Hashem. He will also not be despondent when times are hard and foreboding, for nothing can prevent Hashem from bringing salvation. Faith is not intended to make a person lazy and inattentive to the efforts needed for the success of the individual or the group. Faith is certainly not intended to give a person the confidence to put himself in a position of danger. That is why one must not walk next to a leaning wall.

Divine judgment is a pillar of the world, but that is primarily to keep a man’s evil inclination in check. It is not something that a person should misuse for personal gain at the expense of another person. If he does so, it will not help but will pollute his soul and will cause his sins to be remembered.  

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