Inapoi la pagina 1986 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link
The Reason for Straightening the Legs and Covering the Head During the Prayer
Article No. 32, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86
It is written in The Zohar (Vaetchanan, item 10): “Come and see, he who stands during the prayer should straighten his legs and cover his head as one who is standing before the King, and he should cover his eyes so as not to look at the Shechina [divinity].” In The Zohar (Vaetchanan, item 11) he asks, “You say, ‘One who is looking at the Shechina while he is praying.’ But how can he look at the Shechina? He replies, ‘It is to verify that the Shechina is standing in front of him during his prayer. This is why he must not open his eyes.’”
We should understand what the matter of straightening the legs implies, for it seems to be a condition in the prayer, meaning it implies an important issue, so what is it? We should also understand why we must cover the head during the prayer. It cannot be said that it means we must cover the head with the Talit [prayer shawl] during the prayer, for this pertains only to the morning prayer. But in the afternoon and evening prayers, which we pray without a Talit, how can we speak of covering the head? So what does it imply?
Also, what does it mean to cover the eyes? We cover our eyes when we read the Shema reading, but here he says that during the prayer we should also cover our eyes, so we should know what these words imply. We should also understand the reply of the holy Zohar to the question, “How can he look at the Shechina?”
He explains that it is to verify that the Shechina is standing in front of him during his prayer. But the answer is unclear: What is the connection between closing the eyes and knowing that the Shechina is standing in front of him? To understand the above we must return to the whole matter of the work of creation—what it is for and what is the degree that Creation should achieve?
It is known that the purpose of creation was to do good to His creations. To this comes the famous question, “Why then are the delight and pleasure not evident to each and every one of the creatures? Rather, we see the opposite: the whole world is suffering and tormented before they obtain some delight and pleasure. For the most part, when a person introspects, he says what our sages said, “It would have been better not to be born than to be born” (Iruvin, 13). In their words, “It would be preferable for man not to be born than to be born.”
It is known that the answer is that in order not to have shame, called “bread of shame,” we were given a correction called “equivalence of form.” This means that every delight and pleasure that one receives should be with the intention to bestow. In order to be able to accustom himself to receive pleasures in order to bestow there had to be a Tzimtzum [restriction] and concealment, so we would not see the great pleasures dressed in Torah and Mitzvot [commandments] right away.
We can learn the order of the work in order to bestow in corporeal matters, where there are only small pleasures, which the holy Zohar calls “thin light,” meaning “very faint light.” That is, holy sparks fell into the Klipot [shells/peels] so they will exist. On that light, which is found in corporeal pleasures, we can learn how to receive them in order to bestow because on smaller pleasures it is easier to accustom ourselves to receive them only in order to bestow. That is, it is easier to say, “If I cannot aim to bestow I give them up and do not want to receive these pleasures because by them I become separated from the Creator.”
It is known that He works only to bestow, and the lower one wants specifically to receive. Thus, there is no equivalence of form here. For this reason, meaning, since he wants to adhere to the Creator, the act of reception detaches him from feeling the Creator due to the Tzimtzum and concealment that took place so he could accustom himself to be able to do things and direct them to bestow. But if the Providence of the Creator were revealed, the delight and pleasure would be revealed and man would not be able to overcome his vessels of reception.
By this we will understand what our sages said, that during the prayer a man must straighten his legs. Raglaim [legs] comes from the word Meraglim [spies]. That is, the argument of the spies comes to a person. They saw that it was not worthwhile to commence the work to reach the holy land, which is the land of Israel, for two reasons: 1) What would the will to receive gain if he walked on the path that reaches only the King? That is, he would toil with his work that he is doing for the Creator and the will to receive will not benefit, but lose, and the desire to bestow will gain. But what will the will to receive—which is the heart of the created being—have? 2) Even if we say that it is worthwhile to serve the King, that it brings man great pleasure, not every person is fit for this. This must require special stipulations, which are specifically for people born with great talents and courage, who can overcome all the obstacles found when wanting to approach Kedusha [holiness/sanctity].
Rather, it is enough for us to remain on the same level as the whole of Israel. Why should we seek higher degrees than the general public? I don’t need to be an exception and I am content with simply keeping Torah and Mitzvot, without any intentions. This work will certainly be easier because it is closer to our vessels of reception.
Why should I look at a handful of people saying that the most important is to work for the Creator? Surely, the whole public is working for the Creator, so I will be as one of them. This is called “spies.”
It was said that during the prayer he must straighten his legs. This means that he should say that what the spies are showing him, this way—that only a handful of people say that we must walk only in this path—that only this path is the truth, and not the other ways, although they are paths of truth.
This is as our sages said, “One should always engage in Torah and Mitzvot Lo Lishma [not for Her sake], and from Lo Lishma he will come to Lishma [for Her sake].” What our sages said must be true, but this path of trying to walk on the path that leads directly for the Creator is called “the complete truth.” This means that he should reply to the spies telling him that what he was doing was wrong, “Now I am going to ask the Creator to help me walk on my way, which I have chosen now, and say that only this is an upright way.”
This is the meaning of having to straighten the legs during the prayer. It follows that the prayer that he is going to pray to the Creator is for a deficiency, for if he has no deficiency, he has nothing for which to ask and pray. And what is my deficiency? It is that I see that the spies won’t leave me alone, and I don’t want to walk in their ways. However, I see that all my thoughts and desires are only for my own benefit, and I see that I cannot do anything for the Creator.
Thus, all I need now, and for which I should ask the Creator, is that He will give me a Kli [vessel], called “desire.” That is, I am deficient of deficiency, meaning a desire to want to serve the King, and that this will be my every wish and aspiration, and not to worry about things that do not concern serving the Creator.
However, the real reason why a person does not crave to serve the King is not that he does not want to serve the King. Rather, Baal HaSulam said that the reason is that he does not believe that he is standing before the King. But when he feels that he is standing before the King, his choice becomes annulled and he annuls before the King as a candle before a torch.
It therefore follows that the main thing on which one should work in his labor is to be rewarded with faith, meaning to feel that the Creator exists, as our sages said (Pirkey Avot), “The eye sees and the ear hears,” since there is concealment over us. But before we exit self-love, we are still under the Tzimtzum that was done, so that the place of reception will be dark, without light, which is called “a space vacant of upper light.”
For this reason, he asks the Creator to open his eyes so he will feel that he is standing in front of the Creator. He needs this not because he wants to enjoy standing in front of the Creator. Rather, he wants to bestow upon the Creator and cannot do anything because he still does not feel the importance of the Creator. Instead, to him, the Shechina is in exile. That is, when it occurs to him to do something for the Creator and not think of his own benefit, the world grows dark on him. It seems to him that now he has passed away from the world and died.
That is, he begins to feel that his entire existence is annulled and he no longer merits a name. For this reason, right at the beginning of his entrance into that state he wants to escape it because at that time he feels the unpleasantness that this situation is causing him, and he cannot continue walking on this path. He understands that if he begins to walk on the path of “Only for the Creator,” he should feel life and happiness. But suddenly he sees the opposite.
This brings up the question, “Why is this so?” The answer is that in this state, when he feels this way, he can feel the meaning of “Shechina in the dust.” That is, he feels that he has fallen so low that he has really stooped to the ground. Afterwards, when he knows what is “Shechina in the dust,” he can pray to the Creator and do good deeds so the Creator will raise the Shechina from the dust.
That is, where he felt that assuming the burden of the kingdom of heaven—meaning to work only for the Creator and not for himself—tastes like dust, he asks the Creator to remove His concealment from him so he will be rewarded with seeing that the Shechina is called the “land of the living.” That is, precisely by wanting to do everything for the Creator and not for his own benefit, precisely from here one is rewarded with the real life. This is the meaning of the “land of the living,” a land from which life springs to all. Conversely, the land of the Sitra Achra [other side] is called a “land that consumes its dwellers.”
It is known that the matter of reception causes separation from the Kedusha. For this reason, “the wicked in their lives are called ‘dead.’” Bestowal is called Dvekut, as it is written, “And you who cling to the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.” This means that a person wanting the Creator to open his eyes and to be rewarded with faith, meaning to feel His existence, does not mean that he craves the pleasure of feeling that he is standing before the King. Rather, he craves not to be wicked by not wanting to observe the commandment of loving the Creator. And although there cannot be love without pleasure, there is the matter that one wants it directly, and indirectly, something else is drawn.
For example, a person wants to love his children because he wants to enjoy it. Although it cannot be said that he loves the matter and does not feel pleasure about it, for where one feels suffering we cannot speak of love. Only sometimes we say that we are happy about suffering, since by this we might gain something. It is like a person going through surgery in a hospital. He pays the doctor a lot of money, and he does not say that he loves it, but he is happy about it because by this he will gain something important—his life.
Therefore, we cannot say that he wants to love his children and work for them so as to enjoy. Rather, the fact that he wants to love is love that comes naturally and has nothing to do with pleasure. But his love for them gives him joy. It follows that the pleasure derived from love of the children is extended indirectly.
It is the same when a person asks the Creator to bring him closer and give him the light of faith, to feel the existence of the Creator. Naturally, at that time he annuls before the Creator and certainly enjoys. However, this is not what he means. Rather, his intention is that he wants the Creator to bring him closer because he sees that he is wicked and cannot do anything, except for his own benefit. Thus, he truly wants to exit self-love.
It follows that his intention is to exit self-love, and not to receive greater pleasure. That is, since he does not enjoy corporeal pleasures all that much, to give more pleasure to his will to receive, this is his purpose, meaning that he wants his self-love will have more pleasure. Certainly not! On the contrary, he wants to exit self-love altogether.
But the reason that causes him to want to ask the Creator to take him out of self-love and give him the light of faith is only that he is Jewish and must observe Torah and Mitzvot because the Creator has commanded us to observe His will. But he sees that he has nothing to do with bestowing upon the Creator. Rather, all his concerns are as those of the gentiles, only self-love. This motivates him to go and ask for something—to be able to be a Jew and not a gentile who belongs to the nations of the world.
However, we should remember that it is impossible to feel the existence of the Creator without feeling pleasure. And yet, this is so when the pleasure comes to him indirectly, meaning when he does not intend it but that it comes to him by itself because it is natural that when we feel that we are standing before the King we feel the importance of the King, and to that extent we are filled with pleasure.
It therefore follows that it cannot be said that he is standing before the King and feels that he wants to annul before the King, and at the same time feel unpleasantness because he wants to annul. Therefore, when a person sees, if he begins to work in order to bestow and feels that by his annulling before the Creator he feels unpleasantness, he should say that this is not the form of the King, but that such a feeling came to him in order to know the meaning of “Shechina in exile” or “Shechina in the dust.”
Then the time is ripe for praying to the Creator to bring him closer, since otherwise he sees that there is no way that he will be able to enter Kedusha by himself, since he feels that all the body’s organs resist serving the King and annulling his existence, so all his aspirations will be only to serve the King. At that time he is called “deficient,” when there is no one in the world who can help him but the Creator Himself.
However, regarding the deficiency, we should make several discernments in order to be fit for fulfillment when praying to the Creator to help him:
1) He has what he needs, but he does not feel its absence. For example, a man has a family of six, and his friends have a family as big as his and live in three rooms, while he lives in an apartment with two rooms. He is content with little and does not feel deficient of another room. Naturally, when he does not feel deficient he does not make efforts to obtain another room. It follows that with such a deficiency we cannot speak of prayer, therefore granting the prayer is irrelevant because “there is no light without a Kli, since there is no filling without a lack.”
2) He feels its deficiency and begins to try to obtain it. However, after some time of making efforts to satisfy his need he sees that he cannot obtain it so easily and despairs. He begins to tell himself that he does not have to be among the prominent people in the public and can settle for what he has. By man’s nature, the laziness helps him justify his lack of effort to a great extent. Hence, now he is restful and carefree because now he does not want anything.
However, since before he despaired he made great efforts to obtain what he wanted, thoughts of the deficiencies, the filling he had hoped to achieve, keep coming to him. And as much as he had exerted to obtain them, it is as though the filling itself is awakening him now to begin the work anew.
At that time a person comes to a state where he asks the Creator to remove all the thoughts that awaken him to feel deficient and work on them. Instead, he prays that no lack will come into his mind. All he wants now, and if he attains this it will be a state he calls, “good,” is not to feel any lack.
It therefore follows that the filling he hopes for is not to have a sense of deficiency. This is the entire filling for which he hopes. Now he wants to enjoy the absence of feeling deficiencies, and does not expect the filling of the deficiencies. Rather, the whole satisfaction is in the absence of the feeling of lack. This is what he wants now, that this will be the best state in his life.
This means that should his friend come and ask him, “Do you need anything? I will try to grant you your wish,” he will reply to him, “Believe me that now I am in a state where I do not need anything. Now all I want is rest, not to worry about anything. I am embarrassed to tell you since you came to me and you probably came in order to delight me, but to tell you the truth, even you are interrupting my rest by having to try to think what to speak to you about. So I’ll tell you the truth, go in peace and do me a favor, tell all our friends not to come visit me if they see that I am not around you, since the only good I feel in my life is rest from all the troubles.”
Certainly, when a person prays that the Creator will satisfy such a deficiency he cannot receive satisfaction of such a prayer, which is built on the foundation of despair and idleness. He wants the Creator to help him be lazy, and such a deficiency is not about to be filled because such fillings will not build the world. All the prayers must be for construction, and not the other way around. We must pray for the correction of the world, and idleness will not yield any construction.
3) He feels his deficiency and all the thoughts of idleness and despair cannot satisfy his lack. For this reason he tries to seek advice on how to obtain what he wants. It follows that he is praying to the Creator for the filling of his deficiency because he wants the construction of the world. He sees that in the state he is in, he is also constructing, but all the buildings he is building are like little children playing and building toy houses then dismantling them, only in order to build once more. It is the building they enjoy.
Likewise, he is looking at the corporeal life. And as the games of the children who are building will not build the world, corporeal pleasures will not be the construction of the world, which must have been created for a purpose and not for little children. So how can he agree to remain among little children?
And although the children laugh at him that he does not want to play with them and do not understand him, thinking that he probably does not have a sense for life and does not know that we can enjoy life, but he is not like everyone else, but seemingly wants to retire from the world and go to the desert to live like the desert animals.
And yet, he cannot give them any answers since he has no common language with them. In any case, he is suffering due to his lack—that he wants to be rewarded with spiritual life. It follows that only in the third discernment of a deficiency can we say that his prayer is called “a prayer,” since he demands filling, so he can correct the world, so as to have the ability to receive the purpose of creation, which is to do good to His creations. He believes that all the concealment and restriction that exist in the world is because we haven’t the proper tools fit for the abundance of Godliness, which is a vessel of bestowal.
For this reason, he asks the Creator to give him vessels of bestowal. We can obtain this by feeling the greatness and importance of the King. But when the Shechina is in exile and when the work tastes like dust, how can we continue this work? This is why a prayer such as this is accepted.
Now we can interpret the words of the holy Zohar, when we asked about the intention of saying that we must cover the head and close our eyes as though standing before the King. It is known that the head is called “man’s mind.” Likewise, the eyes are regarded as the mind, as it is written, “The eyes of the congregation,” which means the elders of the congregation.
Covering and closing mean not looking at what the mind tells him. This means that when a person stands in the prayer, he must believe that he is standing before the King. Although he does not feel the King, he should pray that the Creator will give him the power of faith to feel that he is standing in front of the King. That is, he wants the power of faith that will be just like knowing, meaning that the body will be impressed by the faith that he believes, as though he is seeing the King and is impressed with the King. This is the faith for which he prays.
This is why he says that it is forbidden to open the eyes during the prayer because it is forbidden to look at the Shechina. The holy Zohar asks, “How can he look at the Shechina?” He replies that it is to verify that the Shechina is standing in front of him during his prayer, which is why he is forbidden to open his eyes.
We asked, “What is the answer?” The thing is that the faith that a person believes should be exactly as if he is seeing the Shechina. Otherwise, if his faith has not reached this level, it is not regarded as real faith. This is the kind of faith for which one should pray, that the faith will work in him as though he is seeing everything with his eyes.
Inapoi la pagina 1986 (ŞLAVEY HASULAM (TREPTELE SCĂRII) – link