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What Is Heaviness of the Head in the Work?

Article No. 25, Tav-Shin-Mem-Zayin, 1986-87

Our sages said (Berachot 30b), “One does not pray unless with heaviness of the head.”

RASHI interprets that heaviness of the head means subduing. Our sages also said there, “One does not pray out of sadness, and not out of lightheadedness.” RASHI interprets that lightheadedness means the opposite of heaviness of the head.

We should understand that when he says, “only out of heaviness of the head,” it means that if he does not have heaviness of the head he should not pray. But afterwards it is written, “One does not pray, and not out of lightheadedness.” This means that if there is no lightheadedness then one can pray, and there is no need [to wait] for heaviness of the head.

Rather, this implies that if he does not have lightheadedness then he has heaviness of the head. And also to the contrary, if he does not have heaviness of the head then he is already lightheaded. That is, there is nothing in the middle between heaviness of the head and lightheadedness. Because of it, there is no contradiction between the phrases. However, we should understand how it is possible that there is nothing between heaviness of the head and lightheadedness.

And mainly, we should understand what is the prayer, of which they said, “One does not pray unless,” according to the conditions that our sages said. In other words, what is a prayer? There must be these conditions there; otherwise, it is impossible to pray.

Our sages said (Taanit 2), “To love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart.” Which is work that is in the heart? It is prayer.

We should understand why a prayer is called “work in the heart,” more than the rest of the Mitzvot[commandments] in the Torah. Is the study of Torah not as great a work as prayer?

We should also ask why is it that specifically prayer is called “work in the heart.” We cannot say that only a prayer belongs to the heart and not the Torah, since the Torah belongs to the heart, as well. It is as Rabbi Eben Ezra says (presented in the introduction to the book Panim Masbirot), “Know that the Torah was given only to men of heart.”

Thus, we should understand 1) why a “prayer” is regarded as work more than the rest of the Mitzvot, 2) why specifically a prayer is called “the work in the heart,” and not “the work in the mind.” Concerning prayer, which is work in the heart, our sages told us, “One does not pray unless out of heaviness of the head.” This means that precisely through this his prayer will be in order. Thus, we should understand what is “heaviness of the head.”

To understand the above, we first need to reiterate what is known concerning the purpose of creation. Although it is clear, we should reiterate in order to remember the goal, which is a guarantee that they will not miss the goal. Concerning the purpose of creation, we should speak of only two topics: a) the Creator, who is the Giver, b) the creatures—the receivers of the abundance.

The purpose of creation, which is “His desire to do good to His creations,” has created creatures to receive what He wishes to give them, meaning to receive the delight He wishes to impart upon them. This is the meaning of doing good, since it cannot be said that one is receiving something good without enjoyment. In other words, if he does not enjoy it, why is it regarded as good?

Yet, we see that a person enjoys only what he craves. For this reason, He has created in the creatures a desire to crave to receive pleasures. This is called “will to receive for one’s own sake.” In the upper worlds, the will to receive for one’s own sake is called Malchut, and also Aviut [thickness], once the will to receive for oneself has been disqualified and it is forbidden to use this Kli [vessel] without corrections.

However, a correction was placed here on the will to receive, not to use it as it emerged upon its creation, meaning in the first root when it was born, due to the disparity of form between it and the Creator, since the Creator is the giver and the creatures will be receiving.

In order to have equivalence of form, meaning that the receiver, too, will be regarded as a giver, or else there will not be equivalence of form, causing the creatures to feel unpleasantness upon reception of the delight and pleasure, called “shame.” In order to spare the creatures this shame, a correction was made called “receiving in order to bestow.” This means that although he is receiving with his Kli, called “craving,” meaning that it is impossible to enjoy the benefit unless he craves to receive it, but the correction is that he should place an intention over the act. That is, he must see that although the desire to receive it is in full power, if he cannot aim to bestow contentment upon his Maker, he relinquishes the pleasure despite his yearning.

The reason he relinquishes it should be only because he wants Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, called “equivalence of form,” as our sages said, “As He is merciful, you are merciful.” From that correction extends to us a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment. That is, before the lower ones have this aim and can relinquish even the greatest pleasures if they cannot aim to bestow upon the Creator, there is darkness in the world.

In other words, the Creator is hidden from the creatures; they do not feel Him. Yet, we must believe above reason that He has connection with the creatures and He has created them in order to impart upon them delight and pleasure. This is not so with what appears to our eyes. Before we can aim to bestow, we are placed under the governance of the darkness and nothing spiritual illuminates. At that time the purpose of creation, to do good to His creations, is not disclosed because at that time they see only suffering and pain in the world, and do not see the guidance of The Good Who Does Good. Yet, we must believe that the purpose of creation, to do good to His creations, is the absolute truth, and the reason we do not see this is because of a correction for us, which is called “Tzimtzum and concealment of the face.”

This is as he says (in “Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Item 10), “Thus, you find that this soul, which is the light of life that is dressed in the body, extends existence from absence. As it traverses the four worlds ABYA, it becomes increasingly removed from the light of His face until it comes into its designated Kli, called Guf [body]. And even if the light in it has so diminished that its origin becomes undetectable…”

This causes us to have work on faith because it is no longer apparent in our soul that it comes from the Creator. Instead, we need special work to believe in the Creator, that He is the one leading all the creatures. It therefore follows that all the heaviness we feel in the work of bestowal is not because it is hard for us to work without reward because of our nature, called “will to receive.” Rather, there is a completely different matter here, since according to the rule that Baal HaSulam said, there is a trait in our nature that every lower one wants to annul before the upper one, who is the most important to him. A common person derives pleasure from serving an important person, as our sages said (Kidushin 7), “With an important person, she gives, and he says, ‘You are hereby sanctified,’” for his reception, which is in order to delight the one who gives him, is regarded as complete bestowal and giving to her.

The reason for this is that by nature, a person enjoys giving and bestowing upon an important person. This brings up the question, Why is it difficult for us to observe Torah and Mitzvot in order to bestow? The answer is that because of the correction of the bread of shame, a correction was made called “Tzimtzum, concealment, and darkness,” whereby as long as the creatures are under the control of the receiver for himself, they are so removed from their root that their origin becomes undetectable.

Instead, we were given the work above reason, where although we do not see or feel any spiritual matter, we must do everything above reason. This causes us the heaviness in the work of bestowal. It therefore follows that when we want to walk on the path of truth in the work, we must ask the Creator to give us the power of faith.

It is written (in the prayer of Rabbi Elimelech, “A Prayer before a Prayer”), “Set Your faith in our hearts forever, ceaselessly.” This means that the Creator will give us the power of faith so we will feel that we are serving the King of Kings, and our body will certainly annul “as a candle before a torch.”

However, since we are born with an inherent mind and reason, which is our leader, our guide, who tells us what is good and what is bad for us, for this reason, anything that we do not understand with our reason, it tells us it is not good for us.

Therefore, when we are given the work of faith above reason, our reason comes and makes us think that we should not walk on this path. Instead, it argues, “Did the Creator give us a mind for no reason? He certainly created everything for our sake,” meaning so we will enjoy it. And it brings as evidence the verse, “One should praise according to one’s intellect.”

All of a sudden, the person comes to the body and says, “It’s true that until now you have been my guide, and I never did anything against reason, meaning I followed your command. But henceforth, know that anything you tell me to do, I will not listen to you, but only according to what I heard from books and authors. I take upon me the burden of the kingdom of heaven above reason, and I want to serve the Creator as befits a great king. From now on, I do not want to be concerned with it at all, but that my thoughts will be only for Your sake, the Creator.”

It therefore follows that in order to be able to get to the truth, all that a person lacks is faith above reason. The body resists this with all its might, and from this extends our lack of progress in the work of the Creator. This is called “heaviness of the head,” for “head” means man’s reason. If a person follows what the reason tells him, it is called “lightheadedness,” meaning it is something that is easy for the reason to tolerate, for one to do things that the reason dictates to him.

But if a person wants to go above reason, this is called “heaviness of the head,” meaning it is difficult for the reason, called “head,” to tolerate when a person wants to go against reason, and regards it as a burden and a load. This is called “heaviness of the head.”

By this we should interpret what is written, “One does not pray unless with heaviness of the head.” In other words, our sages advise us how one should pray. They tell us, “only with heaviness of the head.” This means that one should see what he needs before he prays, and on this lack he prays that the Creator will satisfy his lack.

Therefore, one should first check oneself to see if he can take upon himself to walk in faith above reason, called “heaviness of the head,” and only then will pray that the Creator will establish the faith in his heart, for if there is faith above reason, then he has everything, as was said, that the small one annuls before the great one.

This is the meaning of what RASHI interpreted, that heaviness of the head means subduing. What is subduing? It is when a person subdues before the great one and heeds the view of the great one. This means that if a little child tells something to a grownup, and the grownup sees that what the child is saying makes sense, the grownup will certainly listen to him. Yet, this does not mean that the grown one subdued before the little one.

Rather, what is subduing? If a person seeks the advice of the great one about what he should do, and the great one tells him, “Do this and that,” and the person sees that it makes no sense at all, and if he asked someone if he should listen to what the great one said, he would certainly tell him that it makes no sense and he must not listen to him, yet if that person subdues himself, meaning subjugates his reason and the reason of the public, which are against the reason of the great one, and listens to him, this is called “subduing,” when he listens to the great one above reason.

This is very difficult to do, and it is called “The matter is heavy to do.” It is also called “I am of heavy mouth and heavy tongue,” said about Moses. Mosses is called “the faithful shepherd,” since Moses is called “faith,” and with faith there is no mouth or tongue, for mouth and tongue mean that he explains the matters with mind and reason, while Moses is faith above reason.

From this we can understand what RASHI interprets about lightheadedness being the opposite of heaviness of the head, and why he does not interpret directly but says that it is the opposite of heaviness of the head. It is so because he wants to interpret to us more clearly what is heaviness of the head, that it is about faith above reason. This is why he tells us that lightheadedness is the opposite of faith above reason.

In other words, he explains to us that there is nothing in between them, but either faith above reason, called “heaviness of the head,” or within reason, called “lightheadedness,” since something that is clothed in mind and reason is easy for the head to agree for a person to do these actions, which are built on a foundation that the outer intellect understands.

But if a person is told to do things that contradict the mind and reason, it is heaviness of the head. That is, it is a heavy burden for the intellect to tolerate. Therefore, when one is told to take upon himself the burden of the kingdom of heaven “as an ox to the burden and as a donkey to the load,” he objects.

According to the above, we can understand why the Mishnah says, “One does not pray unless with heaviness of the head.” It means that if he has no heaviness of the head, he must not pray. The Gemara says, “One does not pray out of lightheadedness.”

We were wondering, for here it means that if he has no lightheadedness, even though he has no heaviness of the head, he can already pray. This means that there is no in between here. And according to the above, there really is no in between. Rather, either he has faith above reason, called “heaviness of the head,” or faith within reason, called “lightheadedness,” since it is easy for the mind to understand and agree if the intellect mandates that he should do these actions.

But in between, there is nothing. Therefore, one who wants to pray to the Creator certainly has faith, or he would not come to pray. However, a) either he prays on a basis of faith within reason, called “lightheadedness,” as RASHI interpreted, that he has no subduing, b) or he prays with heaviness of the head, when he has subduing. That is, he subdues his reason and does not look at it, as though it is worthless, and his entire basis is built on faith above reason.

Now we can understand the question we asked, Why is prayer called “work”? Moreover, it is called “work in the heart”! It is known that “work” means that a person needs to do something that the body does not enjoy doing. This is called “work.” For this reason, a person cannot work without reward. But if a person enjoys the work, it is not regarded as exertion.

This means that the same act that a person does, to one who does not enjoy doing it, it is regarded as “labor,” and to another, who enjoys what he is doing, it is not regarded as labor or work. Hence, naturally, he does not need to receive any reward in return for it. Because a person cannot do anything without pleasure, when he does something he does not enjoy, why does he do it?

The answer is that he is expecting to benefit from the work he is doing now at a later time, meaning that he will receive reward for the work and will enjoy. It follows that when one does something without pleasure, from where does he derive strength to work? We must say that he is looking at the reward, and this gives him fuel for the work.

For example, assume that the ADMOR of Lubavitch lands at the airport and he has a suitcase. He gives it to the porter, whose job is to take the suitcase to the taxi. Afterward, he will demand his payment for his work. This is so because he does not recognize the importance of the rabbi. Yet, if the rabbi were to give the suitcase to one of his followers, and the rabbi would want to pay him for his work, the follower will not want to receive, since he already received pleasure while working, for he considers it a fortune to serve the rabbi.

It is as we explained, a prayer should be with heaviness of the head, meaning when a person feels that he does not have faith above reason, meaning that the reason does not mandate him to work in order to bestow, yet the person understands the primary goal should be to be rewarded with Dvekut[adhesion] with the Creator. Since the reason objects to this, he must go against reason, and this is very hard work.

Since he is asking the Creator to give him something to which all of his organs object, it follows that each and every prayer he makes to the Creator has its special work. This is why a prayer is called “work in the heart,” meaning that he wants to go against the intellect and the mind, which tell him the complete opposite.

This is why it is not called “the work of the brain,” since the work of the brain means that a person exerts to understand something with his mind and reason. But here he does not want to understand with his reason that we should serve the Creator in a state of knowing. Rather, he wants to serve the Creator specifically with faith above reason. This is why a prayer is called “work in the heart.”

Accordingly, we should interpret “One does not pray,” for a prayer is a lack. When a person lacks something and cannot obtain his wish by himself, he asks others to help him. Therefore, when one comes to pray to the Creator to help him, he first needs to see what he really needs, meaning that if he were given what he asks, he will be a complete person who lacks nothing.

This pertains specifically to faith, for when a person is rewarded with permanent faith above reason, he is rewarded with everything. This is why they said, “One does not pray unless with a lack of heaviness of the head,” meaning for the Creator to give him the light of faith.

Inapoi la pagina 1987 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link

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