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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim | 5768

The Purpose of an Effective Tefilla

Ein Ayah

(based on Berachot 1:48)
Gemara: Abba Binyamin said: a person’s tefilla is accepted only in a beit knesset (synagogue), as it says: ‘To listen to the praise and the prayer.’ A place of praise is where prayer should be.
Ein Ayah: The foundation of the matter is that the goal of prayer is two-fold, according to which prayer is divided into two parts: praise and request.
One idea is that Hashem made a rule in His world that He provides man’s needs through his prayers, as it says: “The prayer of the righteous is His will” (Mishlei 15:8) and “their cry He shall hear and save them” (Tehillim 145:19). A second is that a person should turn his potential for sheleimut (completeness) into actuality by organizing his ideas of discussing Hashem’s greatness and getting his thoughts and all of his soul’s powers used to gazing at His pleasantness. This is the fruit of life and the goal of sheleimut. This type of activity includes the idea of announcing Hashem’s glory in His world and His closeness to people, especially those who cling to His ways.
It is proper to engrave in one’s heart that even the section of the prayers that focuses on requests is effective so that through this realization, man can come to the fullest, true sheleimut, which comes by realizing Hashem’s glory. Hashem wants us to know that prayer works and the closer one is to the Divine sheleimut by doing good deeds and developing his wisdom and fine attributes, the better chance his prayers have of being successful and his words of making an impression on the One who accepts the decrees of those whom He desires and fulfills them. This matter brings mankind closer to Hashem. Therefore, Hashem created a rule in the world to help prepare man to reach sheleimut. He who is wise understands through this the root of the existence of prayers without the need for philosophers’ many calculations. Therefore, there is a condition within the request section of the prayers that it should always be subservient to the loftier element of the prayers, which has to do with making Hashem’s honor known.
The existence of batei knesset and their sanctity as a mini-Mikdash is because they are buildings in which the existence and honor of Hashem is publicized. Therefore, it is proper to show that the part of request is also subservient and exists because of the goal of escaping the mistaken conception that the Ruler of the World has changes of heart. That is why [the gemara says] that a person’s prayers are accepted only in a beit knesset, which is the place of songs of praise. The foundation of the prayers of a beit knesset is in the lofty intellectual element, namely, the realization of Hashem’s greatness and closeness to us.
Within these two general elements of prayer, three parts are actually included. One is the goal of fulfilling the requests a person needs, which is the lower level of prayer. A higher level is to prepare man to have an enriching relationship with Hashem. The highest and loftiest element is to make Hashem’s greatness known in the world. This is why three parts of Shemoneh Esrei were instituted: the first three berachot, the last three, and the middle section. The first three [i.e., praise] improve a person’s level. After these, he can come to make his requests of Hashem [i.e., the middle section] without making conceptual mistakes. The goal of the last three is to recognize Hashem’s greatness based on prayers and their impact in the world.
Therefore, these two spiritual elements [corresponding to the first and last sections of prayer] cannot be separated because they are based on a spiritual concept that is totally disconnected to physicality regarding their goal. Therefore, the first three and last three are considered one, in contrast to the middle section, whose goal is for concrete gains, and, therefore, includes different levels according to the needs.
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