|Keter Shem Tov: 136|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
"Prepare their hearts so that Your ears hear."1 The Baal Shem Tov taught2: If one was able to prepare his heart to pray before G·d without any ulterior motives or foreign thoughts, or at least with love and fear according to his level, this is the sign that one's prayers were accepted. This is alluded to in the verse, "Prepare their hearts so that Your ears hear," meaning that one can know while praying if one's prayers were accepted. This is also the meaning of Rabbi Chanina son of Dosa's statement, "If I am able to say my prayers fluently, [then I am sure that they were accepted]."3
When conditions are right, and one is able to pray properly, this level is referred to as "elevation." But at other times, one has to make many preparations and use many strategies so that one is able to pray properly after great effort, and even that is not assured. Nevertheless, one should not despair, for even when one sees that one is experiencing a storm of distractions and disturbances from serving G·d, one should realize that there are many other people right now in this level of "descent," and they are all "limbs of the Shechinah." Thus, the righteous person has descended at this time to unite with all those levels, in order to elevate them, as is alluded in the parable of the Prince.4
1 Psalms 10:17
2Toldoth, Naso #17.
3Tractate Berakhoth 34b. The entire reference to Rabbi Chanina is not found in the Toldoth, and is the curator's addition.
4The story referred to in many places in the Toldoth (Yithro #6; Emor #17; Metzora #1) is of a prince who degenerates from his noble behavior and eventually lives among the commoners. A variant of the story is quoted here in #144. His father, the king, sends one of his noblemen to try and convince the prince to return to the palace, but in order to do so, the nobleman must first meet with the prince at the prince's present level. So the nobleman dons the clothes of commoners, so that the prince thinks that he is also a commoner.
Compilers note: The Baal Shem Tov taught earlier and the Alter Rebbe writes in the Tanya that a Benoni, an intermediate man, who is having untoward thoughts during davening should understand that above all, these thoughts are sent by Hashem, with Hashem’s Chochmah, for him at that time. The Baal Shem Tov teaches this on a more global level, that EVERYTHING comes from Hashem so therefore so do these thoughts. This is why the Shema is not repeated.
The Alter Rebbe teaches this on a more specific level. A Benoni who has a Timtim Halev, a blockage of the heart, will have these thoughts for several reasons. One would be to draw his attention to a full accounting of all his thoughts, speech and actions to find an aveira of his youth, that he should have been able to withstand easily, but did not. Of course Teshuvah was successful, but the stain remained on his Neshama due to the utter lack of effort to repel the easily dispelled desire. It is this residual stain that causes the Timtim HaLev. The untoward thoughts are a sign sent by Hashem to redouble his efforts and remove that blot.
A second explanation, given by the Alter Rebbe is this: if you imagine 2 men wrestling, and one is ready to pin the other into submission, the one who is on the brink of subjugation will give a last supreme effort to turn the tide of the match, and once again the opponents are on equal footing, neither having a clear cut advantage.
As a Benoni, there is a constant battle within us between our Yatzer Tov and Yatzer Harah. When we are davening with good kavannah, our Yatzer Tov is winning the battle and the Yatzer Harah is at the brink of subjugation. It then gives a last ditched effort to break our kavannah by sending us an untoward thought.
The Alter Rebbe teaches on this that in actuality, instead of feeling depressed because of the thought, the Benoni should be joyful because his davening was SO good that the Yatzer Harah, Sitra Achra, Klippah within felt so threatened that it had to resort to a rather crude method to break the strangle hold it was in (the Yatzer Harah, etc, as we know, is usually very subtle and cunning).
The Benoni, who is experiencing a ‘descent’ due to the unwanted thoughts, now finds himself amongst all the other Benonim who have had their own descent, and in a spiritual and physical banding together all can be elevated. bzm
Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett and reprinted with the kind permission of the Baal Shem Tov Foundation. Please visitwww.baalshemtov.com
Compilers notes by Bentzion Meltzer
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