To Perceive the Inner Dimension of Torah

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Making One’s Prayers a Delight to Hashem

In Chullin 60b, Rav Asi reconciles an apparent contradiction in the account of creation regarding when the grasses grew from the ground (see Bereshit 1:12 and Bereshit 2:5 for specifics). He answered as follows: שיצאו דשאים ועמדו על פתח קרקע עד שבא אדם הראשון ובקש עליהם רחמים וירדו גשמים וצמחו (The grasses emerged and stood on the entrance of the ground until Adam ha-Rishon came and requested mercy upon them, and rain descended and they sprouted). In Yevamot 64a, R’ Yitzchak asks an interesting question regarding the patriarchs: מפני מה היו אבותינו עקורים (Why were the patriarchs infertile?). Now, we might have thought that these two topics have nothing to do with each other; however, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Gemara teaches that they both emerge from the same ratzon of Hashem, i.e. מפני שהקדוש ברוך הוא מתאוה לתפלתן של צדיקים (because Ha-Kadosh, baruch Hu, desires the prayer of the tzaddikim).

Therefore, we must ask the obvious question, Why does Ha-Kadosh, baruch Hu, desire the prayer of the tzaddikim?

Hashem and His Torah are one. Just as the Torah has an external, revealed aspect along with an internal, hidden aspect, so to with Hashem. He is likewise hidden and revealed. In both cases, the revealed aspect is like a outer garment which clothes the inner aspect. Although the outer garment is readily perceived by all, the deeper essence is the aspect which is itself clothed. Regardless, R’ Nachman states explicitly in Likutei Moharan 73: כָּל אָדָם צָרִיךְ לְזָרֵז אֶת עַצְמוֹ לְהַשִּׂיג הַפְּנִימִיּוּת, מַה שֶּׁנִּסְתָּר מִמֶּנּוּ (Every person needs to urge himself on to grasp the inner aspect, that which is hidden from him).

This statement seems pretty bizarre. How can one perceive the internal, hidden aspect when, normally speaking, it can’t be perceived because it’s hidden? It seems like R’ Nachman is encouraging us to do something which is impossible. Generally speaking, according to the laws of nature, i.e. derech ha-teva, it would be impossible, for many things are impossible according to derech ha-teva. However, as we learned in last week’s study The Prison of Nature, we are supposed to be under Hashem’s hashgachah, not under teva. And how does that happen? It happens only if we really believe with full emunah in the power of tefillah, that tefillah can change teva. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to read that when R’ Nachman asks the question, אַךְ אֵיךְ יוּכַל לְהַגִּיעַ אֶל הַנִּסְתָּר מִמֶּנּוּ (However, how can we attain that which is hidden from us?), he provides the obvious answer, בִּתְפִלָּה (through tefillah).

But it’s not that simple, because R’ Nachman doesn’t just say ‘בִּתְפִלָּה’. His full answer is: בִּתְפִלָּה לִשְׁמָהּ, שֶׁיְּקַשֵּׁר הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה אֶל הַדִּבּוּר שֶׁל הַתְּפִלָּה, בְּקֶשֶׁר אַמִּיץ וְחָזָק (through tefillah lishma [for its own sake], that one connects his thought to the words of the tefillah with a mighty and strong connection). In L.M. 15:4, R’ Nachman expresses the same idea with slightly different wording: אֲבָל בְּזֶה הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֶה לִבְחִינַת נִסְתָּר עַל־יְדֵי תְּפִלָּה בִּמְסִירַת־נֶפֶשׁ (However, one can merit to the aspect of ‘hidden’ [even] in this world, through tefillah with self-sacrifice). Later on in that same teaching (L.M. 55:5), this type of tefillah is described further: שֶׁמִּתְפַּלֵּל בְּלִי שׁוּם כַּוָּנַת תּוֹעֶלֶת עַצְמוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ חוֹשֵׁב לִכְלוּם אֶת עַצְמוֹ, וְנִתְבַּטֵּל כָּל עַצְמוּתוֹ וְגַשְׁמִיּוּתוֹ, וְנִתְבַּטֵּל כְּאִלּוּ אֵינוֹ בָּעוֹלָם (He should pray without any concern for personal benefit, and he doesn’t even consider anything of his own essence, rather his essence and physicality are nullified to the extent that it is as if he’s not even in the world).

Clearly then, we are not speaking of ordinary tefillah. Rather, we are speaking of a very high level of tefillah, called tefillah lishma or tefillah b’mesirut nefesh. In other words, the only kavanah we should have is to fulfill the will of the Creator and to connect our thoughts to the words of the prayer. This is not a simple matter at all especially when one is in need of healing or parnasah or shalom bayit, etc. Regardless, the point is that if we want to comprehend the hidden aspect of Torah, then we’ll need to upgrade our tefillah. This is the secret that R’ Nachman is revealing to us all.

We now return to the question with which we began. Why does Hashem desire the prayer of the tzaddikim? The answer is provided in Michah 7:18: מִי־קֵל כָּמוֹךָ נֹשֵׂא עָוֺן וְעֹבֵר עַל־פֶּשַׁע לִשְׁאֵרִית נַחֲלָתוֹ לֹא־הֶחֱזִיק לָעַד אַפּוֹ כִּי־חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא (Who is G-d like You, forgiving iniquity, passing over the rebellion of the remnant of His heritage, not maintaining His anger forever, for He delights in chesed). How does this explain why Hashem desires the prayer of the tzaddikim? Let’s continue reading in L.M. 73 to find out the answer: וְרוֹצֶה תָּמִיד לְהַשְׁפִּיעַ הַשְׁפָּעוֹת וּבְרָכוֹת וְאֵין הַשְׁפָּעָה יְכוֹלָה לֵירֵד, רַק עַל־יְדֵי כְּלִי הַנִּקְרָא אֲנִי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם (He [Hashem] always wants to provide an influx of bounty and blessings, but this influx can only come down through a vessel called Ani [אֲנִי, I], as it says [Bamidbar 6:27]: ‘And I [Ani] will bless them’). The pshat of this pasuk is that Hashem promises to bless the people in general (or the kohanim in particular) when the kohanim bless the people. However, the word Ani seems superfluous. The pasuk could just have said אֲבָרֲכֵם [And I will bless them]. Therefore, R’ Nachman is teaching us that this Ani is not extra at all, rather it is there to teach us a deep secret about what is needed down below for Hashem to successfully provide an influx of bounty and blessing. And what is that secret? We need to make ourselves into a vessel known as Ani in order to receive the bounty that Hashem wants to provide. A משפיע [mashpia, a ‘giver’] is only able to give successfully if there is a מקבל [mekabel, a ‘receiver’]. Hashem is the mashpia, and each one of us needs to make himself into a fitting mekabel. The vessel that is able to receive from Hashem is known as אני, Ani.

In summary, when we pray in such a way that binds thought to speech we create a spiritual vessel known as Ani, and it is this vessel that can receive the influx of abundance and blessing that Hashem pours out to His creation. This explains why He desires the prayer of the tzaddikim. He desires it because they are the only ones who create this vessel with their prayers, thus giving Hashem pleasure, so to speak, because at least some of His creation are able to receive that which He is pouring out.

So, according to Likutei Moharan 73, what exactly is this vessel known as אני?

The א [aleph, אלף] stands for the tzaddik. How so? Tehillim 144 concludes with a very poetic description of the actualized blessings of the Nation of Yisrael when she is able to dwell in her land in peace and tranquility, free from the hatred of her enemies. David ha-Melech says (144:14): אַלּוּפֵינוּ מְסֻבָּלִים (Our aluphs are carried). What does this mean? Who or what are the aluphs? Rashi explains these cryptic words with the following statement: אלופים גדולים שבנו נסבלים על קטניהם שהקטנים נשמעים לגדולים (The great leaders [i.e. the aluphs] among us are carried by their young ones, that the young ones listen to the great ones). So we see that the nation’s great leaders, i.e. the tzaddikim, are called aluphim, which points to the letter א, the aleph. And since it is written in Yeshayah 60:21, וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים (all of Your people are tzaddikim), all Yisrael are destined to live up to their calling and acquire the attribute of the א in the vessel known as אני.

The נ [nun, נון] stands for speech. How so? Regarding Mashiach, it is written (Tehillim 72:17): יְהִי שְׁמוֹ לְעוֹלָם לִפְנֵי־שֶׁמֶשׁ יִנּוֹן שְׁמוֹ (May his name be forever, may his name continue to increase as long as the sun [shines]). The word יִנּוֹן [yinon] translated here as ‘continue to increase’ is derived either from the word נוּן [nun] or נִין [nin] which can mean to propagate or increase like fish. Rashi adds that the word yinon connotes מלכות [malchut, kingship]. But what does any of this have to do with speech? When discussing the ten sefirot, Eliyahu ha-Navi teaches that malchut corresponds to mouth, the source of speech (Tikkunei Zohar 17a): מַלְכוּת פֶּה (malchut is mouth). Therefore, since yinon, which comes from the word nun connotes malchut, and malchut is related to the mouth, and mouth is the source of speech, we see that the letter נ of the vessel known as אני relates to speech.

What about the final letter, the י [yud]? What does it stand for? At the beginning of the song that B’nei Yisrael sang after they crossed the Yam Suf, it is written (Shemot 15:1): אָז יָשִׁיר־מֹשֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לַייָ (Then, Moshe and B’nei Yisrael sang this song to Hashem). Although we usually translate the word יָשִׁיר [yashir] as ‘sang’, on the midrashic level, it may also be understood as ‘will sing’ for it points to a time in the future, at the final geulah, when Moshe will again sing this song together with B’nei Yisrael. Nevertheless, in Rashi’s explanation of the pshat, he addresses the issue of the unusual word form by comparing it to other places where a similar phrase is used and concludes with the following: שֶׁהַיּוּ”ד עַל שֵׁם הַמַּחֲשָׁבָה נֶאֶמְרָה (the yud is said regarding the intention [literally, ‘thought’]).

Putting all of these pieces together, we have a beautiful Torah that teaches that the vessel known as אני is created when we, living up to our calling as tzaddikim [corresponding to the א] not only speak [corresponding to the נ] the words of prayer but bind our thought [corresponding to the י] to those words with mesirut nefesh without any ulterior motives except to do the will of Hashem. When we learn to fulfill these conditions in our prayers, we create the vessel known as אני which is able to receive the influx of bounty and blessing that Hashem desires to give to us. In the words of R’ Nachman there: וְנִגְמָר הַכְּלִי הַנִּקְרָא “אֲנִי”, וְהַשֶּׁפַע יוֹרֵד, וְנִשְׁלָם חֵפֶץ הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ, כִּי חָפֵץ חֶסֶד הוּא, וּלְפִיכָךְ הַשֵּׁם יִתְבָּרַךְ מִתְאַוֶּה לִתְפִלָּתָן (Thus, the vessel known as Ani is completed, and the bounty descends, and Hashem’s delight is made complete, for ‘He desires chesed’; and thus, Hashem, may He be blessed, desires their prayer). And what is the greatest bounty that we can possibly receive from Hashem? It is the ability to grasp and comprehend the hidden aspect of the Torah.

But how does any of this ’cause’ the inner dimension of the Torah to be perceived by us? Whoever receives pleasure or delight from another is known as the ‘female’ vis-à-vis the other individual. Normally speaking, as we stated above, Hashem is the mashpia, the ‘male’ aspect, and we are the mekabel, the ‘female’ aspect. However, when Hashem receives delight from our prayers, then the tables are turned, so to speak. We become the mashpia and Hashem becomes the mekabel! Summarizing this idea, it is written in L.M. 15:5: וּכְשֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִתְפַּלְּלִין לְפָנָיו וּמְמַלְּאִין תַּאֲוָתוֹ, אֲזַי נַעֲשֶׂה, כִּבְיָכוֹל, בִּבְחִינַת אִשָּׁה, שֶׁהוּא מְקַבֵּל תַּעֲנוּג מֵעִמָּנוּ, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב (במדבר כ״ח:כ״ד): אִשֶּׁה רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַה’ – עַל־יְדֵי הָרֵיחַ נִיחוֹחַ שֶׁמְּקַבֵּל נַעֲשֶׂה בִּבְחִינַת אִשָּׁה (When Yisrael prays before Him and fulfills His desire, then He becomes, so to speak, the aspect of a ‘woman’ [ishah] in that He receives [mekabel] delight from us, as it is written [Bamidbar 28:24], ‘a fire-offering [isheh], a pleasing aroma, to Hashem’ – through the pleasing aroma that He receives, He takes on the aspect of ‘woman’ [ishah]).

What are the practical ramifications of Hashem taking upon Himself the aspect of ‘female’? Normally speaking, we receive Torah through Malchut, which corresponds to the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. This is the ‘female’ aspect. This Torah that we are able to receive is, of course, the revealed Torah. That’s why we can readily receive it. However, the secrets of the Torah are hidden because they correspond to Ha-Kadosh, baruch Hu, the ‘male’ aspect, also known as Ze’ir Anpin, which is a more ‘internal’ light compared to the light of Malchut. Think of Ze’ir Anpin as the hidden ‘body’ and Malchut as the external ‘clothing’. However, when Hashem becomes the ‘female’ aspect, He switches positions, so to speak, with the Shechinah, and takes on the aspect of the ‘clothing’, i.e. the revealed garment, while the Shechinah becomes the hidden ‘body’. As a result, the hidden aspect of the Torah is now on the ‘outside’, and the secrets of the Torah can now be attained and grasped by us because they have become revealed.

In conclusion, we see that (L.M. 15:5) וְאָז עַל־יְדֵי הַתְּפִלָּה נִתְגַּלֶּה אוֹרַיְתָא, הַיְנוּ סִתְרֵי אוֹרַיְתָא (it is through tefillah that Torah is revealed, i.e. the hidden [secrets] of the Torah).

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