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Shabbat, December 3rd,
Shabbat Ends 17:06
Torah Portion: Toldot
Abraham prayed. Isaac prayed. Jacob prayed.
At the same time, it seems that prayer’s beauty doesn’t always come easily. Perhaps that’s because we can’t assume that simply opening a prayer book will bring us to an emotional connection with the
Divine. One needs the right mental posture, and some emotional availability, to bring prayer to life.
Prayer can be a powerful exercise, but it needs some preliminary attitude adjustment.
One aspect of this can be found in the Talmud’s advice to give charity before we pray. Many spiritual
Masters would, as preparation for their prayers, seek opportunities to help the poor, because we believe that one’s personal prayers are energized by one’s contribution to another’s life.
Why? Charity is a great thing. But what connection does it have with my prayers? How do we connect the dots between helping the pauper and our personal prayer enthusiasm?
Authentic prayer requires a sense of need. Prayer is about yearning and connecting. Yearning for, and connecting with, my G-d. Yearning for, and connecting with, my destiny. Yearning for, and connecting with, my higher self. Yearning is the soul of prayer, because it means that I recognize something beyond me. I yearn to reach higher, to do better, to outrun my weaker self.
Conversely, if I’m all wrapped up in myself, I’m not yearning for anything. I’m not seeing higher; I’m just seeing me.
Scripture describes the human soul as “G-d’s flame”, and that imagery reflects the yearning idea.
Just as the flame flickers higher, seemingly trying to reach beyond itself, so too does the soul consistently yearn to touch the Divine. In this vein, Chassidic thought sees our charity as important therapy. If we can bring ourselves to feel for others’ needs, if we can crawl out of ourselves to empathize with someone else, then we’re ready to yearn. The Tzedaka exercise helps us leave our own self-focus, and venture into the world of relationship with Other. It enables us to connect with the people you see to your right and to your left.
And it enables you to connect with G-d. Just look up.
Rabbi Yanky and Rivky Klein
This email is In Loving memory of my dear father
R’ Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM