"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Overcoming the coarse pre-Tefillah state

Overcoming the coarse pre-Tefillah state
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

During[1] sleep, the higher faculties of intellect and emotions[2] fall dormant, and only the more inferior faculties, such as the respiratory and digestive systems, remain functioning actively.

A parallel process occurs within the Neshamah: During sleep, the faculties of the Neshamah withdraw and become hidden, and the Bestial Soul, the coarse, animalistic side of the person, seizes control. And so before the Jew begins to pray in the morning, he is in a coarse, lowly, selfish state.

Of[3] this state we are told:[4] “Anyone who greets his fellow before he has prayed, it is as if he made him a bamah [a sacrificial altar for idolatry, may G–d save us], as it is written, “Stay away from a man whose soul is in his nose, for what [“bameh”] is he worth?”[5] The Talmud explains: “The word bameh can also be read bamah.”[6]

Granted,[7] every morning the Jew becomes “a new creature.”[8] This means that Hashem restores his Neshamah to him renewed and refreshed,[9] for which the Jew thanks Hashem in Modeh Ani “for returning my Neshamah within me.”

However, although upon waking, the Neshamah exists within in a refreshed state, before Tefillah it is said to be only “in his nose.”[10] This alludes to the Neshamah as it exists in a makif (“encompassing”) state.

In this context, the concept of makif refers to something that is present but hidden, not affecting the person on a conscious level.

So although the Jew always possesses a Neshamah,[11] when he first awakens, it is yet to have an impact on his conscious self. However, proper Tefillah reveals the Neshamah—i.e., it brings one to be consciously connected with and sensitive to his Neshamah.

Moreover,[12] through Tefillah one can overcome not only the coarseness brought on by sleep, but even the natural coarseness of the body and Bestial Soul.

To explain,[13] before birth, while the Neshamah is in heaven, it knows only spiritual realities. But when it descends to this world and becomes vested in a body and Bestial Soul, its perception of Hashem is vastly diminished. Its conscious intellect is coarsened, making it relate directly to the physical, and connect with the spiritual only via the physical.

To be specific, the soul-levels vested in the body are Nefesh, Ru’ach, and Neshamah. These levels also lie dormant before Tefillah,[14] and one reveals them through the first three sections of Tefillah, respectively.

Then in Shemonah Esrei one manifests the soul’s essential faculties (which surely lie dormant before Tefillah), as they existed before the Neshamah descended into a body. Generally speaking, this refers to revealing the level of Chaya, which is the root of the Neshamah. This is the ultimate goal of Tefillah.

[1] Sefer HaMa’amarim 5714, p. 156.
[2] In Chassidic parlance, the “kochos penimiyim.”
[3] Cf. Toras Menachem 5718, Vol. 22, pp. 89-90. Preface to Likkutei Torah l’Gimmel Parshiyos. Also printed in Ohr HaTorah, Bereshis, Vol. 6, 1020a ff.
[4] Berachos 14a.
[5] Yeshaya 2:22.
[6] This is a deeper explanation. The simple meaning of this law, as Rashi explains ibid., is that one should not engage in conversation with someone who has not yet prayed Shacharis, because the duty to honor Hashem in prayer takes precedence over the duty to honor one’s fellowman. Hence, the Maharsha explains that honoring one’s fellowman first is like sacrificing on a bamah, a personal altar outside the Beis HaMikdash, where it is forbidden to offer a sacrifice.
[7] Sefer HaMa’amarim 5724, pp. 176-177.
[8] Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, #702.
[9] Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZaken, Orach Chaim, Mahadura Kama, 4:1. Cf. 6:1, 46:6.
[10] Yeshaya 2:22. Cf. Likkutei Torah, Pinchas 79d. Ma’amarei Admur HaEmtza’i, Vayikra, Vol. 2, p. 757. Ma’amarei Admur HaEmtza’i, Hanachos 5577, p. 15.
[11] Even the most wicked Jew still possesses a Neshamah—see Tanya ch. 11, end.
[12] Sefer HaMa’amarim 5692-5693, p. 40 .
[13] Ibid., p. 24.
[14] Sefer HaMa’amarim 5672, Vol. 2, p. 809.

Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives 
Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).

Also dedicated by the Solomon family in honor of the birthday of Yehoshua Simcha ben
Chana Devorah.

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