Praying With Passion – How to Pray, Step by Step

Now we will begin explaining how prayer is the main method of bringing harmony [between these opposites, reconciling G‑dliness and the world]. The process of creation begins with HaShem’s Essential Self—as we see that everything is derived from His ability, as was explained. Likewise, we must begin our service of HaShem with an awareness of and connection to the Infinite One, blessed be He. Specifically, this means that the premise and beginning of one’s service must be simple, childlike faith in HaShem alone—that in truth there is nothing else, G‑d forbid, aside from HaShem alone. Therefore, there is nothing that can be outside of Him, since He is alone and nothing else exists that could be outside of Him. However, this faith must be truly known—with a strong feeling and conviction that is engraved deeply in the heart that it absolutely must be so.

This can be compared to a person who enters business in order to make a living. At first, he has no idea if his enterprise will succeed as he wishes. However, knows that his aspirations alone will accomplish nothing—he must work to make it happen. This sort of simple conviction—even in the face of uncertainty—is called Daas, “knowing”. This is the first premise of knowledge, which is still immature, because it lacks any understanding or experience to base itself on. Still and all, this sort of conviction lays the foundation upon which everything will be built.

We see this tangibly; no one can attain mature understanding without first going through an appropriate phase of immaturity, as it says, “The quality of a pumpkin is known by the quality of its bud”. [This being the case, developing the childlike qualities of simple faith, curiosity, and conviction are essential to ultimately knowing and understanding G‑dliness.]

This is true in general and also in every stage of growth. Without this foundation, nothing in the world could ever be accomplished. Thus, it is with this foundation that we must begin our service of HaShem each and every day—to bind ourselves to the Essential Self of the Infinite One, blessed be He, as explained. At this point, one must not worry what will come to be with him later since, “It is not your duty to complete the task.” After all, if one prays with some selfish motive this is called one who “Searches for gains in his prayers” [and such prayers are rejected]. This will suffice for the understanding. This is also referred to as “A woman that openly demands intimacy,” which is grounds for divorce; she forfeits her kesubah, as explained in Eitz Chayim.

Therefore, one must begin his prayers thinking only about the Infinite One alone—how He is above Creation. Thus, we begin our prayers every day with Adon Olam – “Master of the universe, Who ruled before any creature was created.” Likewise, we end our prayers by describing how there is nothing separate from Him, G‑d forbid. And so we recite, “And HaShem will be King over the entire earth. On that day HaShem will be One and His name will be One.” This will suffice for the understanding.

Only after this, once a person has truly attached himself to HaShem, can he begin to consider having proper intentions during his prayers—how this should be done and what he should think about. This is comparable to a person considering what business he will pursue and through which methods and means he will make an income. Similarly, one must contemplate [his spiritual business, so to speak]—how he will bring G‑dliness into every aspect of his life and come to understand that every aspect is really HaShem alone, so to speak, adding nothing to His unity nor changing Him in the least.

However, the beginning of the prayer service leading up to Baruch She’Amar (Blessed be He who spoke and the world was,) is all still the simple, immature knowledge. These prayers help one recognize this truth generally—that it is so and cannot be otherwise. For example, we say, “Fortunate are we, how good is our portion, and how pleasant our lot…” This means to say that our lot is none other than the Infinite One Himself, blessed be He. This is comparable to a young child bragging, “That is my father.” This is a general affirmation, for the child has no particular understanding of the nature or qualities of his father and he displays no specific benefit from his father in this praise. Rather, the child rejoices simply that “he is mine.” Similarly, we say, “Fortunate are we, how good is our portion and how pleasant our lot… that we wake up and go to sleep by saying, “Hear O Israel etc.” We are reveling simply that we can say Shema Yisrael, [because Hashem is our G‑d]. Thus, this is referred to as the “Small Shema,” because it is only a general affirmation and is a childlike and immature level of knowledge.

Therefore, this affirmation is insufficient and must be reaffirmed again in greater detail. The prayer therefore continues—“You are He before the world was created and You are He after the world was created,” without change whatsoever. Only now that this has been affirmed clearly can one begin to analyze how this is so in a way of particulars, with all the details of how HaShem’s greatness is manifest throughout creation. The first way of approaching HaShem, [with simple faith alone], is like the rain that dampens and softens the earth and makes it ready for plowing. So too, through general acceptance of the yoke of Heaven—albeit simple and undeveloped—a person removes the trait of egotism and self‑centeredness from himself. This makes him ready to submit to HaShem later during the “Great Shema” with mature and developed understanding.

After this, the prayers continue with Pesukei Dizimra. At this point, one begins to contemplate in detail how HaShem’s greatness is manifest in the world—so that every detail of creation is seen to be only Him alone. However, how is this possible? Although there are endless worlds, as it says, “And worlds without end,[1]” it is still only HaShem alone! Therefore, everything is the glory of the King. The Zohar says about this, “Go out and gaze at the glory of the King.” The main purpose of this is to deeply impress HaShem’s greatness upon oneself.

This is comparable to a man afflicted with boils that goes to see a great and awesome king. It is very difficult from him to even dream of experiencing the smallest ray of the king’s glory or to imagine being connected to the king in any way. His utter lowliness absolutely prevents this, and so he has not the slightest thought of personal gain in seeing the king. Rather, he goes to see the king only because when the king comes, one must go and see him for its own sake. This being the case, he approaches the king with complete humility and subservience, to the point that he is completely selfless and inconspicuous, even in his own mind. Such a person will truly gaze at the glory of the king. Because of this attitude, the more he sees, the more he is affected and it completely changes his nature.

In our case, this is accomplished by the detailed contemplation in Pesukei Dizimra, which describes His glory: “Praise HaShem from the heavens, praise him in the high places etc.” After this contemplation, comes Vayevarech David (And David blessed), which further describes all the many worlds with millions upon millions of levels to no end or limit, all full of angels, the heavenly hosts and souls. Still, “You, HaShem, are alone.” This automatically moves a person to his very core and his ego temporarily becomes dormant, just as the earth is overturned when plowed.[2] After this, the ground is ready for planting.

So too, after the lengthy contemplation of Pesukei Dizimra and Yotzer Ohr, which speaks of the great angels—the Serafim, Ofanim, and Chayos Hakodesh—and multitudes of worlds without end or limit, one becomes nullified and unified with the Living G‑d with fiery passion and profound feeling. Through this, HaShem’s Throne is uplifted, as explained previously. It occurs automatically, as if of its own accord, because of the deep contemplation that draws the person out of himself, since he has no personal motive. This will suffice for the understanding.

This is the viewpoint and understanding of the Upper Unity—how all the worlds and the entire process of creation, with all its contractions, are all united Above, so that HaShem’s unity becomes obvious. Only after this realization can one consider saying the Shema—“Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G‑d, HaShem is one,” for now he can properly declare that it is so.

To explain: Shema does not mean simply to hear, but to understand and it also implies to gather, as it says, “Saul gathered (vayishma) the people.” After doing so much contemplation throughout Pesukei Dizimra, Vayevarech David, and Yotzeir Ohr, each and every one of the soul’s faculties becomes nullified and subsumed in HaShem’s unity and Oneness from the point of view of the Upper Unity. At this stage, one understands that this is the truth from the perspective of G‑dliness. Thus, at the point of Shema one has “gathered” and mustered all of his faculties. Then, he begins Shema with a sense of “understanding.”

It is common knowledge that the words “HaShem is our G‑d” represent the union of the Father and Mother—the faculties of Chochmah and Binah (intuitive wisdom and logical understanding). This raises the question: after all, all of the prayers leading up to Shema entailed deep contemplation concerning G‑dliness, as explained at length. What is different now, upon reaching Shema that we contemplate with the faculties of Chochmah and Binah?

This may be understood by way of example: When a person exerts himself to understand some area of Talmud with the intent of deriving the law from his lengthy study and analysis, he studies the text until the depth of the matter becomes very clear to him. At this point, he has succeeded in extracting the law in its true light through his thorough analysis of the Talmud. This, obviously, requires the application of Chochmah and Binah (Insight and comprehension). Nevertheless, after this, he seeks to distill all that he has understood into a single point. With this, everything shines suddenly with a new light, for though he has already extrapolated the law, he must delve into the matter again to extract its essential point. Nonetheless, [the extraction of the essential point] came from his original illumination of the matter [through which he extrapolated the law]. This demonstrates that his second analysis to extract the point is a deeper, more internal sort of understanding than the first. This will suffice for the understanding.

Therefore, even after understanding HaShem’s unity initially throughout Pesukei Dizimra and Yotzeir Ohr, one must reach a deeper understanding of HaShem’s unity during the recitation of the Shema. This is called the union of the Father and Mother, which is an intimate and inward union. This is the meaning of Shema in the sense of “understanding.” This union with HaShem is called the “light planted for the righteous.” That is, the light of HaShem’s unity shines within each Jew in a personal, intimate way. [And so at the point of Shema, we must pause in our contemplation and think of what it all means to us personally and its practical implication in our life. This brings a person to a much deeper realization of his oneness with HaShem and the duty to serve Him with complete dedication and self‑sacrifice.]

After this, we recite, Baruch Shem—“Blessed is the name of His glorious kingship forever and ever.” This is the Lower Unity. The difference between the Upper and the Lower Unity is that the Upper Unity is to realize how from the perspective of G‑dliness above, every aspect of creation is unified with HaShem. However, the ultimate goal is for the creatures themselves to be illuminated with HaShem’s unity and Oneness even within their perspective as created beings. As an individual, this means that HaShem’s unity should not only be perceived by the soul as it transcends the world, but even as it comes into the body below, it should understand this to be true.

Generally, this is the manifestation of HaShem’s unity as expressed in the three lower worlds of Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya, because the glory of HaShem’s kingship is specifically manifest as it is below in the created worlds. This is implied by the prayer, “Blessed is the name of His glorious kingship forever and ever”—that HaShem’s majesty and kingship should be manifest and revealed in the lower worlds and in every individual according to his level. This is the Lower Unity. However the ability to recognize the Lower Unity depends on the understanding of the Upper Unity. If one did not truly recognize that everything is unified with HaShem from the upper vantage point, that in His eyes there is nothing separate from Him and that everything is completely unified and one, he will be incapable to perceiving the unity below.

This is explained in the Zohar when it describes the eternity of HaShem as expressed in the world (vaed—“forever and ever”) which expresses the full force of HaShem’s Oneness (echad—“One”). That is, if a person realizes HaShem’s Oneness clearly and strongly, he will have the ability to apply it below in actuality. This is the Lower Unity: when HaShem’s unity illuminates the individual in this manner. This is compared to the power of growth of the seed uniting with the power of growth of the earth. [Only by bringing these two forces together can there be any actual growth, just as a child can only be born through the combined abilities of the father and mother to give birth.] This will suffice for the understanding.

Nonetheless, although the Upper and Lower Unity are closely related and united, we must understand that the Lower Unity is not as great as the Upper Unity. It only mimics the true upper unity. This will suffice for the understanding. For example, the unity of the soul’s faculties within the essential self of the soul, in and of itself, cannot be compared to their state when revealed in the body, when the unity is perceived only through its bodily container. This will suffice for the understanding.

On that level, HaShem’s unity is expressed through a medium and any medium conceals the light contained in it. Therefore, at this point one must come to “Love HaShem your G‑d.” This means that he must come to appreciate G‑dliness from his own vantage point, which is the matter of approaching HaShem from down up and is comparable to the sprouting of a plant. Just as plant, once planted, continues to grow, so too, we declare our love for HaShem, “with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might,” implying that this love grows beyond all limitations and reaches far higher than logic or reason dictate.

One even reaches a state in which he, “cares for nothing else in the world” because his desire is only for the Essence of G‑dliness that transcends all revelation and manifestation. Thus, he cares not for the “World to Come” nor for this world or the Garden of Eden or for anything besides HaShem. He cares not for “heavens” which refers to HaShem’s encompassing light that defies expression within any medium or vessel, and he cares not for “earth” which refers to the vitality that illuminates within each world individually according to its nature. He wants none of this, but only to be subsumed and transparent to the Supernal Luminary—the very Essential Self and Being of HaShem alone, may He be blessed, as explained elsewhere. This is all a process of growth from down up until the inner point of one’s heart is revealed, which is called “with all your might.”

This is Divine service (avoda) in the sense of revelation, as explained previously at length. This is a process of accepting a higher authority and responsibility, committing with utter truth to fulfill the King’s command with absolute self‑sacrifice. Therefore, following this it says, “These matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart.” Then, in the second paragraph of Shema it specifically describes the acceptance to fulfill the commandments, as it says, “You shall gather your grain…” Our sages explain this to mean, “One must fulfill his religious obligations while attending to the practical considerations of his livelihood too.” In other words, [with this commitment] it is possible for a person to be involved in the physical world below, and transform that place itself into a home for HaShem—with no change at all in the revelation of HaShem, as it says, “I am HaShem, I do not change.”

This is true even from the perspective of the vessels that He is revealed through. This is the true and ultimate purpose of creation—for HaShem to have a dwelling place in the lower worlds and for His Essential Self to be fully revealed there, as explained elsewhere. After all, “G‑d did not create it for naught. Rather, it was formed to be settled.”  Thus, our sages taught, “If your heart runs, return to the One.” The desire and yearning for G‑dliness comes from the essential self of the soul and is beyond logic or reason in a manner of “all of your might.” This means that he desires to transcend the limits of his vessels, because, after all, he seeks G‑dliness and G‑dliness transcends any form or medium.

However, how is it that underneath all of these vessels, concealments and manifestations everything is G‑dliness? Everything that exists comes from HaShem’s true existence. It is known that the source of the vessels is from the True Being, which is higher than the vitality revealed in the vessels—for, He lives, but not like our life. Thus, all of the individual vessels do not create addition, division or change in Him, as it says, “I am HaShem, I do not change,” and “You are He before the creation of the world and You are He after the creation of the world.” Even now, He is, so to speak, completely alone. It is only that He is, so to speak, omnipotent and perfectly complete, and He hides Himself so that it will appear that the world is something separate from Him and a concrete entity. Thus, we view the heavens and the earth and all their creatures as something separate from HaShem, when in reality even the concealment itself is just an expression of G‑dliness, which He brings about for the benefit of His creatures. For, were we to see everything as it truly is from a G-dly perspective, we would be eating “bread of shame” and would have no pride in any of our accomplishments. Moreover, there would be neither reward nor punishment.

However, in truth all this is illusory and a person can remain deluded by this illusion, being that its purpose is to allow for free choice. Therefore, a person can [choose] to remain in a state in which G-dliness is concealed, which represents the “Exile of the Divine Presence”. This can come to the state of, “they were exiled to Rome and the Divine Presence went with them”, and even to the point of “a lamb standing silently while it is shorn,” as explained previously. Eventually, a person could descend to a level in which he no longer sees that HaShem gives life and existence to all, until he sinks into the “deeds of Rome” and forces the Divine Presence to remain hidden due to his poor choices, as explained elsewhere. In this way a person may even go against the will of HaShem, G‑d forbid, because of not fulfilling the true purpose of this illusion. Therefore, since in this world it is possible for HaShem’s presence to be hidden, the Jewish People must correct this through their efforts in Divine service (avoda).

Every Jew is rooted in HaShem’s Essential Self. Therefore every Jew has the ability to remove this concealment. To this end, we must work to undo the concealment step by step from down up, in the manner previously discussed—to nullify any concealment stage by stage until we reach the level of loving HaShem “with all your might.” On the other hand, when considered from the perspective of the Essence of G‑dliness, even the perceived entity itself in its current state of concealment is seen as nothing but pure G‑dliness, because “Everything is from You.” The ultimate purpose is to be able to recognize the G‑dliness inherent in the world, as it is—that even [in the world], one should see that there is nothing besides Him. After all, this is the true reality! Therefore, following this upward process of uncovering G‑dliness, a person must return to the world, in other words, he must “return to One” and find HaShem’s unity specifically in the world below.

The next stage of prayer is Emes Veyatziv (True and Upright). The purpose of this is to bring this higher point of view—that even the world as it seems separate, really is G‑dliness—down, so that it becomes fully recognized and established as true in every detail of the world. This is represented by the fifteen vavs in the prayer Emes Veyatziv. (The letter vav means a hook, and is shaped like one. It represents the fifteen stages of connecting and linking the view of the Upper Unity with the Lower Unity.) This is the process of bringing the “masculine” view of HaShem as the Creator and uniting it with the “feminine” view of the creatures, who view themselves merely as recipients of His G‑dliness. This feminine view is only half of the true picture and brings one to seek to be nullified to G‑dliness and transcend the world. In contrast, the masculine view [which comes from recognizing our inherent G‑dliness and that we have the ability to reveal HaShem’s unity even in the world] brings a person to strive to spread G‑dliness below and use the world as a tool to express the Infinite One, blessed be He.

This process of drawing down G‑dliness into the world occurs primarily in the Amida prayer. The first three blessing of the Amida correspond to the three intellectual faculties (Chochamah, Binah, and Daas). Even though we already developed an intellectual connection to HaShem during the recital of the Shema, that was an understanding aimed at nullification to and unity with G‑dliness. In contrast, the first three blessings of the Amida are a process of contemplating how to draw down G‑dliness into the world, specifically as it appears as a separate entity, and how to reveal that even this is all Him in reality, so to speak. Thus, we need a new form of contemplation in the Amida, and the first three blessings develop an understanding of how there only is HaShem, as seen in the medium and vessels. This is the meaning of, “Blessed are You HaShem”—we must draw down the transcendent revelation of HaShem into the natural order to recognize that He has not changed altogether. This will suffice for the understanding.

The twelve middle blessings correspond to the emotional faculties. At this point the intellectual process is complete and we understand the truth of it, therefore this conclusion must now be brought down and expressed in emotion. All the emotions must be permeated with this perspective so that every detail expresses the realization that there is nothing else but Him. This means that we must realize how the “bestowal of knowledge” and the “healing of the sick” all depends on Him alone and thus demonstrates that there is nothing but Him alone. Truth be told, although the blessings of the Amida discusses our physical needs, they also allude to the upper worlds, as it says, “How do we know that HaShem prays?” The purpose of discussing our physical needs is only for the True Being to be expressed in them. [This is because the existence of the physical world allows us to experience the True existence of HaShem.] This will suffice for the understanding.

The final three blessings of the Amida correspond to practical application into action—the faculties of Netzach, Hod, and Yesod. Now that we have completed the process of recognizing G‑dliness intellectually and emotionally, this will automatically motivate us to act upon it, commensurate to the strength of our understanding. For example, a child cannot walk until his mind is fully developed for walking. Thus the ultimate perfection is expressed in the feet—the ability to act. This is because the feet are useless without the intellect and the emotions. Therefore, if the feet function as they should, it is a sure sign that the mind and emotions are developed, as well. Also, without the feet (action), the mind and emotions remain entrapped in the person and cannot accomplish their desired purpose. In this sense, the faculties of netzach, hod and yisod are referred to as the feet. They display the firm strength of the mind and the emotions and uplift the entire body, even elevating the head.

This is impossible without these faculties. It therefore says, “The crown of the elderly is their grandchildren.” The intellect is called “elders,” whereas the emotions are called “children” and the faculties of action are called “grandchildren.” Thus, the feet carry the head and the heart from place to place, which they are helpless to do by themselves. Similarly, it is inconsequential for a person to merely be nullified to the king when standing before him or for his mind and heart to be completely taken up with Him at this point [of prayer, without the motivation to manifest it into action] .

Thus, our sages say, “The first three blessings are like a servant receiving a gift from the king. The last three blessings are like a servant as he leaves the presence of the king.” After all, the ultimate goal is specifically to make a dwelling place for HaShem below in this world, just as the power of a king is specifically evident when even people of a distant land fear him and submit to his authority and rule. So too, every person must extend the submission he feels when standing before the King, King of kings and carry it with him even when he is distant, so to speak. In this manner, just as the feet carry the person from place to place, so too, the faculties of Netzach, Hod and Yisod carry and uplift the intellect and emotions.

The ability to carry this conviction away, so to speak, stems from understanding the inner desire of the king, which transcends comprehension. This process is referred to as “increasing light to Atzilus.” This adds additional strength to the intellect and emotions. This is compared to eating, as it says, “The Jewish People nourish their Father in heaven.” This is comparable to how the fear of the power of the king strengthens a person’s ability to understand and feel that which relates to the kingdom. Such a person will set himself aside and apply himself to deeply consider every nuance of the kingdom. This gives him a fresh and energetic view of the same details—for now they are a matter of deep personal interest and relevance to him. He will no longer view any detail as something irrelevant or detached from HaShem, blessed be He.

This is all accomplished through the eighteen blessings of the Amida prayer, as discussed regarding the analogy of the spinal cord. Through this, the recognition of submission to HaShem extends even to the limited worlds, and even after the time of prayer. Thus, G‑dliness is seen as equally relevant to matters of business or food and drink. This is Torah, which is G‑dliness applied to physical affairs. The 613 commandments of the Torah are all performed with physical objects and yet, the Torah and HaShem are one.

From the perspective of HaShem Himself, everything in the physical world is not an illusion, for everything in the world is only Him, may He be blessed. Thus, through prayer, everything can be elevated, joined and united with the True Essence—even eating, drinking and conducting business—when they are all done according to Torah. This is the ultimate purpose of their existence: that the reality that there is nothing but HaShem should be revealed below in the 248 limbs of man, which correspond to the 248 positive commandments that are performed with physical objects that appear separate from Him, blessed be He. These become united with Him like the limbs of a body when the soul enters them [causing them to become united with the soul as a single unit, rather than remaining as two distinct elements, spiritual and physical]. In this way, HaShem is drawn into the realm of man, even as He remains transcendent from man.

In this way, in every aspect of the world, we only see Him alone, so to speak. This must be completed in the end of the Amida in the blessing Sim Shalom (Grant Peace). This is like a person standing before a king—he must resolve to carry out the wishes of the king completely and have the conviction that it is not possible for him to act otherwise. This resolution is first formed in his intellect (Chaba”d), then in his emotions (Chaga”s) and finally in his motivation to act (Nehi”y). However, when he must take leave of the King in order to fulfill every nuance of the King’s decree, desire and will in a faraway place—it is possible that his determination can wane and be lacking in some way. More specifically, he may become engrossed his own affairs. Therefore, he must renew his submission to the Essential Self of the King once more—with the realization that he has no separate existence, in and of himself, nor desire for the world. [For although he had to use his own understanding and emotions to understand the directives of the King, he must now, once again put himself aside, so that his own opinions and desires do not taint his transparency to the King’s will.] This, in truth, is the highest level of submission [to the King]. This will suffice for the understanding.

Therefore, after the Amida we must recite Nefilas Apayim (the laying down of the face). In this prayer we read, “From David: To you, HaShem, I will uplift my soul…” This is the greatest level of union with HaShem. The Zohar refers to this as, “submitting one’s body to death.” This is described as death, because one must become nullified, as if he does not exist. This degree of submission cannot be found within the intellect and emotions—no matter how much they are nullified to HaShem—rather, he must reach higher – as if he altogether does not exist. This means that he desires nothing—as if he is dead. He desires nothing and is detached from all things. So must one be completely nullified to HaShem.

This is referred to as “a lion crouching over its prey.” Through this, one removes the power of the ego altogether, so that it cannot separate him from HaShem even when he distant from Him. Thus, even within the ego, which, in our perception, is distant from HaShem’s Essential Self, there should be no ego. Therefore, even when involved in physical matters such as food, drink, business matters and all other worldly affairs, everything is done with complete holiness and dedication to HaShem. Such a person can no longer have any illusions of separation when the body itself is holy in every aspect. This comes about through the laws of the Torah, which transform one’s surroundings to a place of Torah and mitzvos. This will suffice for the understanding.

This will be understood further by explaining why in Nefilas Apayim, which is composed of verses alphabetically ordered, there is no verse beginning with the letter kuf (ק). The letter kuf is one of the letters of the word sheker (שקר—falsehood). When falsehood exists, the side of evil mimics holiness like an ape imitating a man. This is called the “wild man” of evil, which opposes the man of holiness. This idea is represented in the form of the letter kuf, which has the appearance of a hei (ה), but with its foot protruding further down. The hei represents the revelation of diverse beings. But the leg of the hei does not descend below the line, representing that it remains part and parcel of the name of HaShem. This represents HaShem as He essentially is – “I am HaShem, I do not change.” In contrast, the letter kuf is the very same hei except that its foot descends below the line. This represents the very same diverse world, but disconnected from HaShem’s name. It therefore is viewed as something separate.

This is the “wild man” of evil that opposes the man of holiness who is nullified to G‑dliness. Regarding the “Time to Come”, when the prophecy, “I will remove the spirit of impurity from the earth” will be fulfilled, it says “the reed and cane shall be cut down.” This represents that the foot of the kuf that protrudes under the line and departs from HaShem’s unity, blessed be He, will cease to exist. Until that time, however, we must nullify it as if it does not exist, through self‑sacrifice as if unto death. Therefore, there is no verse here beginning with the letter kuf (ק)—symbolizing that on this level there is no room for ego that separates a person from HaShem. This will suffice for the understanding.

However, at this point a person is left with one remaining deficiency—he remains as a non‑entity and feels that he is nothing. With this attitude, who is there to fulfill HaShem’s will, and fulfill the purpose of creation—to make a dwelling place for HaShem in the lower worlds? Therefore, one must not remain here but go on to be uplifted and take strength from G‑dliness. This is possible since after true self‑sacrifice any feeling of authority stems only from G‑dliness and not from his own ego. Thus, this does not lead to anything opposed to G‑dliness, G-d forbid. Therefore, after Nefilas Apayim, a person is like a lion crouching over its prey, as mentioned previously.

Because this self‑sacrifice is so strong, it is possible for the person to be uplifted[3] and imbued with G‑dly understanding. This allows him to have a sense of self without it being self‑centered altogether. Instead, it is a purely a G‑dly self. This is expressed in the continuing verses of the prayers—Uva Litziyon (Come to Zion)—which describes HaShem’s greatness and also contains the words of kedushah, similar to what was recited in the Amida. This is referred to as the prayer of Atzilus, as known from the writings of the Arizal that Ashrei and Uva Litziyon represent the conclusion of Atzilus. The only difference is that here the words of kedusha are translated into Aramaic for a reason explained there. This will suffice for the understanding.

After this, the prayers continue with Aleinu Lishabeiach – “It is incumbent on us to praise… that He has not made us like the nations of the earth…” This is the conclusion of the prayer service and therefore the time is near that one must involve himself in the world of diversity. At this point he needs recognize that there are other nations on earth who oppose the will of HaShem. However, “He did not make our lot like theirs…” It is self-understood that [involvement with the world] requires an impression to remain of one’s prayers—that some impression of his understanding during prayer should permeate every aspect of his life. This is the submission to G‑dliness which he felt during prayer. Only an impression remains, thus allowing him to be involved with affairs the world, because if this understanding was to illuminate every detail of his life fully—which is the essence of nullification—he would be incapable of perceiving all the details of the world, whereas in truth, he must make a dwelling place for HaShem in the lower world.

On the other hand, if the higher perception completely leaves him, without even leaving a trace impression, he could fall back into lowly physical pursuits and even his performance of Torah and mitzvos would remain below, without any revelation of G‑dliness. How much more so would his eating, drinking and involvement in business affairs be in complete opposition to G‑dliness! Therefore, HaShem permits an impression of it to remain in us. This is comparable to a person who leaves the palace of the king, specifically to fulfill the king’s directives. In reality, he still serves the king completely, but he now becomes completely preoccupied with performing his mission. However, in his memory there must always remain some impression of the king himself. This protects him from deviating from the desire of the king.

Thus we say, “He has not made us like the nations of the earth…” Indeed, the entire song of Aleinu is in this fashion. Therefore, “We hope for You, to see the glory of Your might speedily, to remove all idols from the earth.” Once this is accomplished, the words “the dominion is Yours” will be realized, and “on that day HaShem will be One and His name will be One.” In “Time to Come” this will be revealed and we will see G‑d eye to eye. Our physical eyes will then be able to behold G‑dliness as a direct experience, just as our eyes now see physical things with the grasp of the physical sense of sight. In the same manner, we will then see the G‑dly vitality that brings everything into being and gives it life at every moment. This will not merely be the perception of the mind’s eye or the “eye of the heart,” but the physical eye will literally be capable of seeing G‑dliness. This will suffice for the understanding.

However, at this time we can have a foretaste of this, because this is the “time for deeds” through which we initiate everything that occurs in the future. Therefore, we must transform the physical world into a fitting abode for HaShem to reside in, like the body to the soul. This is the process of Divine service (avoda) similar to tanning leather, as mentioned above, in which the object itself is transformed and the substance shines and expresses how it truly is from the perspective of G‑dliness. This is accomplished through Torah and mitzvos, but on condition that they are preceded by prayer, which is the central support beam that runs from top to bottom, as explained in the analogy of the spinal cord. After this G‑dliness is revealed through His Torah and mitzvos and the 248 positive commandments become the limbs of the King. On the other hand, if someone says, “I have no need for anything but Torah [thus excluding prayer]—in truth, he even lacks Torah.” This will suffice for the understanding.

[Summary: We begin our prayers by connecting to HaShem’s Essential Self with simple faith (emunah) like a child. This is a necessary prerequisite to any contemplation and understanding that will follow.

Then, we strive to view the world from the perspective of HaShem’s wisdom (Chochmah), through viewing everything as merely an expression of G-dliness.

After this is accomplished, we seek to bring this understanding into the perspective of creation, to even see G-dliness in the lower worlds. This is the perspective of HaShem’s understanding (Binah), which we internalize and express through Torah and mitzvos. This is the service of revealing G-dliness, similar to working the earth to produce food.

Finally, we must completely rid ourselves of any ego and self-centeredness and replace it with a G-dly sense of Self. This reveals HaShem’s Essential Self and transforms the world (from our perception) from something detached from HaShem, into something inseparable from HaShem Himself. This is the service of transformation, similar to tanning leather. Although this will only be fully realized when Moshiach comes, nonetheless it depends on our efforts to now.]



[1] The word is vowelized as almos, which means maidens. However, it is homiletically read with the vowelization as olamos, which means worlds.

[2] Perhaps the implication is that, when plowing, what was on the surface becomes hidden, and what was hidden is revealed. So too, through this contemplation, the normal ego is hidden, while the soul’s nullification to G‑d is awoken and revealed.

[3] As it says, mi yakimenu, and mi represents binah.

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