Chapter 2: Shaar Hachassidus-The purpose & Meaning of prayer

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Chapter 2: Shaar Hachassidus-The purpose & Meaning of prayer

The purpose of prayer:[1]
  1. Knowing that G-d is the sole provider of everything:

Prayer is a G-d-given conduit for us to be able to receive things that we desire from G-d, through asking Him who has the ability to provide us. Hashem desired that we look up to Him for all of our needs, and have the knowledge that He has the ability to provide us with everything we want the desire at all times. Hashem commanded us the Mitzvah of prayer In order so we make our requests only to Him, that he alone should save us from all of our suffering. This Mitzvah is a major foundation of our faith, as through at one knows and understands that G-d alone is the ruler of the world and gives Providence over every detail of its creations and he alone has the power to save them.

  1. Purpose of prayer is attachment-The word Tefila-Hatofel Keli Cheres:

The word Tefila is related to the word Hatofel Keli Cheres, which refers to one who attaches an item to a vessel. It also relates to the word “Niftol Niftalti/I have become bound.” The correlation between the words is that the entire purpose of prayer is for one to attach his soul to G-d to the point that he becomes a single unit with Him. Thus, the purpose of Tefila is for one to arouse feelings of being attached to G-d.

  1. Shacharis is the time to arouse love and fear and expand his love of G-d:

The time of day that Hashem established for strengthening the arms and head is during the prayer of Shacharis, which is a time of mercy and auspiciousness above. The arms refer to love and fear, the right arm being love and the left arm being fear. Thus, the designated time for a Jew to expand his love of G-d is during the time of prayer. This begins with Pesukei Dezimra and the blessings [of the morning and the blessings of the Shema]. The liturgy of the prayer was established by the Anshei Knesses Hagedola and it contains various verses that discuss matters that arouse love and fear of G-d. This is the meaning of the verse, Im Bechukosaiy Teileichu, as Hashem is pleading with us that we should use the opportunity given during prayer to grow and strengthen our love for Him. There is no need to search for other options, as this is the best of the options that we have.

  1. The purpose of our existence in the eyes of the Ramban:

The intent of all the Mitzvos is to believe in G-d and give thanks to Him for creating us. This is the entire purpose of creation, as there is no other reason for the original creation. The only desire that G-d has in the lower beings is that man know G-d and give thanks to Him for creating him. This is the purpose of prayer, and the communal services that take place in Shul; in order to have a set area to give praise to G-d for creating them, and to publicize this matter that we are His creations.

The effect of prayer:[2]
  1. Prayer atones for neglecting positive commands:

In the times of the Temple the Tamid sacrifice would atone for the nullification of positive commands. Today, prayer has taken its place in this atonement, and thus after one has done Teshuvah, the prayer of each day fully atones. The prayers of the afternoon [i.e. Mincha] atone for the sins done during the day, and the morning prayers [i.e. Shacharis] atone for the sins done the previous night. This is the meaning behind the blessing of “Selach Lanu” recited with Shemoneh Esrei, in which we ask G-d to forgive us, and He certainly does so.

  1. Prayer is the conduit to help one achieve love and fear of G-d and steer away from sin:

One who is attached to Hashem through love and fear cannot stumble upon even a light sin. This love and fear can only be achieved through learning Torah Lishma, and through first Davening with Dveikus and excitement of the heart. Those people who belittle prayer, cannot achieve Dveikus with Hashem through their Torah learning. Their Torah learning is simply to gain wisdom and knowledge and not to attach to Hashem.

  1. Emuna that one’s Tefilos have effect:

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the main aspect of prayer is for one to believe that Hashem fills all the worlds and through his prayer, the Shechina is elevated. He is also to believe that as soon as he verbalizes his request from Hashem, it is fulfilled. Now, although one does not always see this fulfillment, nevertheless it is simply because it is concealed from him. This means, that although the request may not be fulfilled in the specific area that he asked, nonetheless, it is fulfilled somewhere in the world. For example, if one requests from Hashem to remove a certain suffering from him, and he sees that the suffering is continuing, it is perhaps because he needs this suffering to refine him from sin, or perhaps it is for some other good outcome. Nevertheless, his prayer does affect some other area or realm of the world, and there is thus no prayer which is returned empty.

  1. Davening with proper concentration brings one to Yiras Shamayim:

Davening with proper concentration is a great assistance for a person to stand against his evil inclinations throughout the entire day.

  1. When one Davens and learns, his root soul and corresponding angels do so likewise:

Rebbe Meir states in Pirkei Avos, that if one exerted effort in learning Torah, he has a lot of reward awaiting him, while if he nullified himself from Torah learning, he has many that are nullified opposite him. This means as follows: When one sings praise to Hashem [in prayer] and learns Torah, the root of his soul which rests under the chair of glory, likewise sings and learns. Furthermore, all the angels that were created through one’s Mitzvos also join in song above. This is the meaning of the above statement in Pirkei Avos, as when one learns Torah he causes many angles to also learn Torah and therefore he receives the reward of all of them. However, if he nullifies himself from learning Torah, this causes that also his corresponding angels are nullified, and there are therefore “many that are nullified opposite him.”

  The greatness of prayer:[3]
  1. Experiencing G-d during Davening:

Prayer is the one hour of the day that G-d has chosen to reveal Himself to the hearts of His subjects, to have them visit his Shechina, and to be accessible to all those that seek Him. It is similar to a king of flesh and blood who comes and reveals himself to his subjects in all his glory and magnificence, in which everyone runs to get a glimpse at him. Thus, certainly during prayer one is to have absolute focus and attentiveness to try to get a glimpse of the King of all Kings which is revealed at that time. This revelation of Hashem occurs in both the upper and lower worlds, and is revealed below at those who desire to glimpse at Him, within the words of prayer. Hashem is revealed during prayer in accordance to his intellect and root of his soul.

The Avoda of prayer:[4]
  1. Main Avoda of Tefila is Merirus:

The main aspect of prayer is for one to use the left side, which refers to having a great bitterness in his soul of his distance from G-d, and to humble himself to the ultimate.

  1. How to Daven with emotion:

How does one Daven with emotion; with an arousal of love and fear of G-d and with fervor and concentration? Certainly, this cannot be accomplished if one grabs and quickly wears his Tallis and Tefillin without any prior preparation. One must first learn a chapter of Tanya or a Mamar of Chassidus. The main thing is for one to properly comprehend it and know the conclusions that derive from the teaching. One is to then contemplate this matter prior to wearing the Tallis and Tefillin. After wearing the Tallis and Tefillin one is not to begin Hodu right away, but is to rather contemplate a certain matter. Afterwards one can Daven with even merely Pirush Hamilos, although making sure that he hears each word that he is saying. When one does so, he will find within the words of the Davening similar content to that of his contemplation.

  1. Davening for revelation of G-dliness:

One is to enter prayer with both a broken heart over one’s low spiritual levels, and with a gladness of spirit over his contemplation of G-d’s greatness. As a result of this, during prayer one is to certainly ask and plead from the depths of his heart for there to be revelation of G-dliness in his soul and in the world.

  1. The effect one’s Torah learning has on his Davening:

During prayer one is to ask and plead before Hashem, from the depths of his heart, for there to be revelation of G-dliness in his soul and in the world. As a result of this request, one is able to force his inclination to learn a lot more Torah than he is accustomed to study. He is to make sure to learn Torah at every possible moment available. One who has the opportunity to learn Torah and does not do so, on him the verse states that “Hikareis Tikareis”, that he is cut off. This means to say, that one who does not use his time for Torah learning, the Elokus leaves [his soul], Heaven Forefend. Although in prayer, we request from Hashem that we should be able to draw Elokus below, nevertheless, this matter is dependent on whether one uses his time properly for learning and Tzedaka. One who Davens for it, but does not use his time properly, is considered to have Davened a prayer in vain [i.e. Tefilas Shav]. Hashem punishes such a person by arranging for him to be occupied in worldly matters of nonsense, that disturb him from being able to serve Him. On this the verse in Mishleiy states “Masir Azno Mishmoa Torah Gam Tefilaso Toeiva,” that if one removes his ear from listening to Torah, also his prayer is an abomination, as it causes his request for revelation of G-dliness to go to waste. 

  1. Ascending the worlds during prayer:

In Kabbala, it is explained that the Shacharis prayer is likened to a ladder, in which we climb up the four worlds of Assiya, Yetzira, Beriya, and Atzilus. The summit of Atzilus is reached during Shemoneh Esrei. One is to actively contemplate and try to feel this matter in each stage of Davening. One is to imagine being in the world of Assiya in the start of Davening, in the world of Yetizra in Pesukei Dezimra, in the world of Beriya in Birchas Shema, and in the world of Atzilus in Shemoneh Esrei.

  1. Descending the worlds after Shemoneh Esrei:

Just as we climb the worlds during Davening, so too, we descend from the worlds during Davening, in order to return back to earth. When does this descent take place? Starting from Tachanun. While Shemoneh Esrei is the ascent to Atzilus, Tachanun is the descent from Atzilus. Ashreiy and Uva Letziyon, in which we mention the angels, is similar to Birchas Shema and is the descent from the world of Atzilus into the world of Beriya. Shir Shel Yom is similar to Pesukei Dezimra, in which we sing praise to G-d, and represents the descent from the world of Beriyah to the world of Yetzira. Ein Kelokeinu and Pitum Haketores is similar to Hodu, in which we give thanks to Hashem, and represents the descent from the world of Yetzira to the world of Assiya. Aleinu Leshabeiach represents the landing back on earth.    


  1. Contemplation during prayer:

Contemplation, known as Hisbonenus, is an integral part of prayer, and is esspecially emphasized in the Chassidic mode of prayer. The goal of the contemplation is to arouse real and true feelings of love and fear of G-d during the prayer.

  1. Why specifically during prayer are we plagued with many worries and thoughts?

Proper prayer refines oneself from evil. It separates the evil from the good, and helps one realize what is evil and what he must fix. For this reason, the evil inclination tries very hard to disturb man specifically during prayer, in order to refrain one from separating it from good.

  1. Why were the prayers only enacted in latter generations?

In the times of the First Temple, people did not pray at all [a set prayer]. In the Second Temple however, the Anshei Knesses Hagedola established a short prayer that was recited each day. Eventually, the current long liturgy of our daily prayer was established. This development of prayer throughout the generations is not a matter of coincidence. In the era of the First Temple, the evil was not very strong and hence did not require the fire of prayer to refine it. The people’s actions were dedicated to elevating the evil through the Karbanos, which sufficed. However, as the generations progressed, so did the level of evil. In the Second Temple, the level of evil that existed required a short prayer to purify it. In the current era of exile, the evil is so strong that a very long prayer, with a lot of fiery love for G-d, is required in order to refine it. The same applies in each generation; the lower the generation, the greater the emphasis it must place on prayer. Thus, the time spent in prayer does not signify a holier generation or person. On the contrary, it means that evil has increased and mixed into the good and hence requires more time at prayer to refine it. The refining of the animal soul is accomplished by contemplating how the vitality of the animal soul comes from G-d, as without His life-force it would not be able to live, and the purpose of its existence is like the parable of the harlot, on a mission from G-d. In truth, evil has no existence.


  1. Prayer is a time of war:

The verse states, “When one leaves to war against the enemy and Hashem gives them into your hands and you take a captive.” The Zohar states that this war does not just refer to the physical battles experienced by the Jewish people during warfare, but also to a spiritual battle that occurs every day. The Zohar states that the time of prayer is a time of war. This is also seen from the verse that was stated by Yaakov: “That I have taken from the Emorites with my sword and bow”. Unkelus translates this to mean that, “I have taken with my Prayer and Supplication”. These statements seem puzzling. What war is fought during prayer, and if a war is fought during prayer then why are we required to pray daily and once the war is won the previous day, why are we required to wage a new war the next day? So the battle that is fought during prayer is with the animal soul versus the G-dly soul. Each day a person’s Yeitzer Hara is overcome with passion and desire for physical matters, and every day one is required to consume this fire of passion within the heavenly fire. Each person is given an exact amount of days to live, as it states in the verse, Yamim Yutzru. These days were not assigned based on the needs of the G-dly soul, as the soul does not require any Tikkun for itself, being that it is eternal and is not invested within time, but rather unites with its source in the Or Ein Sof. Man’s days were allocated to him according to the needs of his animal soul, based on the amount of sparks that fell into it during the Sheviras Hakeilim. These sparks are required to be elevated from it throughout one’s life, and each day a new spark and power is elevated.

The stages of war in prayer: The reason why prayer is the time of war is because through contemplation in prayer, Pesukeiy Dezimrah one nullifies the power of the animal soul, especially through the contemplation of how all creations are nullified to G-d. However, this contemplation in this part of the prayer only separates the evil from the good within the animal soul, however to eradicate the evil completely, for this one needs Kerias Shema, as Shema is called a spear being that it contains a total of 248 words, plus 6 words of Shema, thus making up the gematria of the word spear/Romach. This spear of the Shema removes the vitality of Kelipah from our bodies. Nevertheless, only in the previous generations was Shema alone able to eradicate the evil being that back then it was not so powerful. However now in Ikvusa Demishecha one needs also Shemoneh Esreiy which is an influence of Havayah Elokeiynu in order to eradicate all the evil. Similarly, Selach Lanu is not said due to the fear of punishment but in order so G-d reshine upon us His will.

The angels and prayer:[5]
  1. The angel Sandalfon:

The angel Sandalfon is higher than all other angels, including Hadarniel. He creates crowns for Hashem from prayers of the Jewish people, and then Hashem accepts their prayers. Moshe went to him with Hadarniel to accept the Torah.


  1. The Angels elevate the prayers of the Jewish people:

It states in the Zohar that there are a number of angels who are appointed to receive the praise of the Jewish people and elevate them. The reason that the praise of the Jewish people require elevation is because it is not possible for the physical voice and sound of a person to be elevated on high and be incorporated within the infinite light of G-d without the assistance of the Angels. This is similar to the blood supply of the body which is there to help attach the animal soul to the body.

  1. Birth and death of angels within prayer:

Many myriads of angels die and are reborn within their daily praise of G-d. They burn within the great revelation of G-dliness which arouses within them a boundless feeling of passion and G-d then revives them. This is the meaning of the verse “Yotzer Mesharsim”, that Hashem recreates his servants, his angels. [Angels pray just like man below, however their prayer involves a revelation of G-dliness which they vividly experience. However, this revelation is too much energy for them to handle and they thus experience an expiry of their soul, and cease to exist as a soul and body. This mainly occurs during the recital of Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh in the blessings of Shema. Hashem however then revives the angels to serve Him again.]


  1. Prayer corresponds to the Karbanos:[6]

A. Daily prayer instead of Karbanos:

Among the numerous commandments that will only be fulfilled in the times of Moshiach, the main service of G-d that will take place then will be the sacrificial offerings called the Karbanos. In exile, we are unable to bring actual sacrifices, although we are able to perform a service which is similar and stands in place of the Karbanos. This is the service of prayer. In prayer we offer our very soul to G-d and elevate it to be united with the Or Ein Sof. It is a service that encompasses one’s very essence and gives the Jew a unique experience of unity with G-d that cannot be experienced otherwise, not even through Karbanos. Karbanos involve the soul of the animal and have no effect on the soul of the Jew.

  1. The daily prayer elevates the animal soul daily like a Karban:

Each day a person’s Yeitzer Hara is overcome with passion and desire for physical matters, and every day one is required to consume this fire of passion within the heavenly fire. Each person is given an exact amount of days to live, as it states in the verse, Yamim Yutzru. These days were not assigned based on the needs of the G-dly soul, as the soul does not require any Tikkun for itself, being that it is eternal and is not invested within time, but rather unites with its source in the Or Ein Sof. Man’s days were allocated to him according to the needs of his animal soul, based on the amount of sparks that fell into it during the Sheviras Hakeilim. These sparks are required to be elevated from it throughout one’s life, and each day a new spark and power is elevated.

  1. Why do we Daven every day if all is decreed on Rosh Hashanah?[7]

There is a famous question raised in classical Talmudic commentators regarding the entire concept of daily prayer. We all know that all of our future occurrences are decreed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What purpose then is there in praying daily for matters that have already been decided? This brings us into a fascinating exploration of what the decree of Rosh Hashanah really affects and how it still leaves room for daily prayer on those matters that were decreed.

  1. Rosh Hashanah-A sublime blessing; Daily prayer-Transforms the sublime into physical blessing:

On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is allotted a certain amount of G-dly blessing. However, the revelation of this blessing takes place only in the world of Atzilus, where it remains in a spiritual state. Every day, there is a particular judgment placed on the person as to whether or not he  merits to have this Divine blessing physically expressed to him in this world. Is he worthy enough today to have the Divine blessing, which was allotted to his soul on Rosh Hashanah, make its descent through each world until it transforms into physical blessing below? Or perhaps he is not befitting of such, and thus the Divine revelation of blessing will remain above in Atzilus and will be received by him only as Divine pleasure in Gan Eden. This then is the reason for daily prayer; it asks G-d to send us our allotted blessing so that we should see its fruition in the physical world.

  1. Understanding the opinions in the Gemara:

Based on the above, the following Talmudic dispute can be understood. The Gemara [Rosh Hashanah 8a] states that there is a dispute between the Chachamim and Rebbe Yossi with regard to when man is judged. The Chachamim say man is judged once a year, on Rosh Hashanah. Rebbe Yossi holds that man is judged daily. Now, one must say that both opinions concur that there is yearly as well as daily judgment, as even Rebbe Yossi agrees that Rosh Hashanah is the annual Day of Judgment, and even the Chachamim agree there is a need to pray daily. Based on the above, their opinions are understood. The spiritual blessing is drawn down on Rosh Hashanah, and this what the Chachamim emphasize in their opinion. The transformation of this blessing into physical terms, however, occurs through the daily judgment and this is what is emphasized by Rebbe Yossi. Thus, in truth, there is no dispute between them at all.

  1. The setbacks and hindrances of the descent of the Divine blessing from Atzilus to this world:

The Chesed that is in the world of Atzilus is held back and delayed until it reaches this world, for upon its arrival at each world, from Heichal to Heichal, there is a judgment – a judgment regarding whether the Chesed should be drawn down below. The courts above look into his case, and there are many prosecutors that claim that he has sinned and is hence not befitting to receive the Chesed.

Machshavos Zaros-Disturbing thoughts during prayer:
  1. Cause of Machshavos Zaros:[8]

Unfit to be in Heichal Hashem: When one is involved in Torah learning or prayer, he is found in the Heichal/chamber of Hashem, in a chamber of spiritual revelation of G-dliness. At times, one is not befitting to be inside Hashem’s personal chamber and this causes foreign thoughts [of worldly pleasures] to fall into one’s mind while he is learning and Davening, thus distracting him from the spiritual experience and removing him from the chamber. This is based on the Zohar which states that one is judged in every Heichal he enters of spiritual experience to see if he is fit to receive it, and if not he is banished. The banishment is accomplished through challenging him with foreign thoughts.

One is responsible for his own Machshavos Zaros: In general Machshavos Zaros during Torah and prayer come as result of concealment from one’s body and animal soul, especially after the sin of Adam and during the times of exile. Nevertheless, even these thoughts would not be of such great disturbance and concealment if not for the fact the person himself aggravates the situation. Majority of disturbing thoughts during Torah and prayer are instigated by the person himself. For example, if thoughts of Parnasa trouble a person during his Torah and Avoda, it is due to his own negligence, as if he would contemplate that the blessing for Parnasa comes from Hashem, he would not at all be troubled by this.

Purpose of thoughts is to subdue them: Thoughts of evil are drawn to a person from the Heichalos of Kelipa. They are brought in order to be subdued and pushed away from the person’s mind. Through doing so one removes the concealment of these Heichalos of Kelipos, hence breaking them and causing G-d’s infinite light to be Istaleik in all worlds. This subduing of evil thoughts is accomplished by one removing his mind from the evil and focusing on holy matters.

How to banish Machshavos Zaros:[9]

Its possible-When you sleep, you don’t have worries: Just as when one drifts to sleep he has no worries or foreign thoughts troubling him, so too, when one is Davening, it is possible to rid oneself of all foreign thoughts and internal disturbances. [The fact that one can fall asleep sleep without being troubled by foreign thoughts proves that in truth they are not so important, and it is certainly possible to rid oneself of them throughout his prayer]. If one can get rid of foreign thoughts for a physical matter, then certainly one can do so for prayer which is for the benefit of their soul.]

External disturbance-Contemplate its purpose is to disturb you so you have greater Kavana: In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains that at times a disturbance is purposely brought onto a person in order so he strengthen his concentration. He explains as follows: When a gentile is disturbing one’s prayer, it is a spark of the Shechina in exile. The reason why Hashem is permitting and even assisting the gentile to disturb one’s prayer is in order so one strengthen his concentration on his prayer to such intensity that he becomes unaware of the Gentile. Through doing so, not only does one have a greater prayer, but he also redeems the spark of the Shechina found in exile in the gentile. Nonetheless, the Rebbe emphasizes that this only applies to external disturbances caused by a gentile and the like, and not towards one’s personal foreign thoughts.

Midas Hanetzach: In order to overpower one’s foreign thoughts which come like a river one needs to arouse within his soul the Mida of Netzach, stubborn determination, to banish the thoughts. [The Mida of Netzach when aroused allows one to accomplish things that seemed completely out of reach prior. Often, failure of achievement comes from a lack of motivation and push to reach one’s goal. The Mida of Netzach activates an inner soul power of determination to meet one’s goal no matter what.]

Ignoring thoughts pushes them off forever: When one ignores the Machshava Zara that comes to him during Torah and prayer, and pushes it away telling himself that it is only coming to interfere with his Avoda, then not only does he end up not entertaining the foreign thoughts, but even stops it from coming back to him. 

Saying the paragraph of Eish Tamid: Eliyah Hanavi revealed to the Ramak that to ban foreign thoughts one is to say the paragraph of Eish Tamid Tukad. Through remembering one’s love and passion to Hashem that is discussed in that paragraph one is able to abolish the evil thoughts.


A Chassidic Discourse on the importance of prayer


“Lo Hibit Avon Beyaakov …

[Likkutei Torah p. 140]


  1. Why is prayer only Rabbinical?

The Sages state that Tefillah is referred to as Avodas Haleiv, and it is only Rabbinical. This matter seems puzzling [as in light of what was explained above, it is specifically Avoda which creates a Dirah for Hashem] for the Mishneh states that the Sages were more stringent regarding the Kavana in Shemoneh Esrei than the Kavana in Shema, even though the Shema is Biblical according to all. If so, how can prayer not be considered one of the Biblical commands?

  1. Prayer is the spinal cord of the Mitzvos:

The Sages[10] state that the 18 blessings of Shemoneh Esrei correspond to the 18 disks of the spine through which the spinal cord enters. What does this mean? The spinal cord is the source of movement and feeling for the entire body from head to toe, and through it vitality is drawn from the brain into each and every limb. Injury to the spinal cord causes paralysis and the person is considered as if dead. The disks of the spine protect the spinal cord and serve as the vessel that hold and direct it down the spine. With that said, one can clearly understand the importance that the spine plays in the body and how it is verifiably one of the central limbs on which the body’s function is dependent. Yet, we find that when the Sages[11] listed the 248 limbs of the body, they did not include the spinal cord and they completely ignored its existence. This is most puzzling in light of the importance that it plays to the body. This is similar to the Mitzvah of prayer, which is considered to be the spinal cord of the Mitzvos, and is also not counted as part of the 248 Positive Mitzvos. The reason that prayer is compared to the spinal cord is because it serves a similar function in respect to the Mitzvos. To understand this matter, we must first introduce the idea of Kavana in Mitzvos.

Prayer is the Kavana behind the Mitzvos: The Sages state that Mitzvos require Kavana/intent. This intent refers to prayer, which is the inner dimension and intent of the Mitzvos. Prayer therefore is the foundation and edifice that supports and establishes all 248 Mitzvos and is similar to the spinal cord that enlivens all 248 limbs of the body. To properly understand this, we must first examine the purpose of prayer:

  1. The purpose of prayer and its uniqueness – To draw G-dliness down below:

The main purpose of prayer is to arouse a fervent desire and passion to have the G-dliness that is above the worlds revealed below in this world. This is the meaning of the word Baruch. Baruch means Hamshacha, which means “drawing down.” We thus request from Hashem in every blessing, “Please draw your revelation down into this world. We desire to see You and be with You.” In each blessing, we request a drawing down of G-dly revelation and Or Ein Sof into the matter that the blessing refers to. For example, in the blessing of Rofei Cholim, we request from Hashem to draw the revelation into this physical world in a way that is expressed by manipulating nature and healing the sick. In the blessings of Birchas Hashanim, we request that the G-dliness become revealed and cause rain to come down and vegetation to grow. This ability is only found in prayer, in contrast to Torah and Mitzvos, as only prayer has the ability to change the nature of the world through revelation, whereas a Mitzvah does not change physical nature. For example, when one dons Tefillin, no physical change is seen to occur to the leather of the Tefillin. Thus, in conclusion, we see that each one of the 18 blessings in Shemoneh Esrei serves as a conduit to hold the revelation of the Or Ein Sof in this world. This is necessary, as the blessing of G-d and revelation of His Divine light cannot reside in an empty area void of vessels. We thus mention all the requests in Shemoneh Esrei in order to make the vessels for the Divine light to reside. Nonetheless, it is understood that the main purpose is the Divine light (which is drawn down into this world) and not the vessel alone. This is similar to the 18 spinal disks that house the spinal cord; the main purpose is the cord and the disks merely serve as protection for the cord. In the wording of Kabbalah, this Hamshacha that occurs in Davening is referred to as Hamshachas Hamochin [drawing of intellect]. Just as the spinal cord connects the brain to every part of the body, so does our Davening connect physicality to the level of Daas, which thereby contains a revelation of G-dliness.

  1. What does prayer have to do with the Kavana of the Mitzvos?

Based on the above understanding of the purpose of prayer, we can now understand the role that prayer plays for the Mitzvos. The purpose of the Mitzvos is to draw down G-dliness below and make a dwelling place for Him. The Mitzvos themselves refine and elevate the physical objects used for the Mitzvah and turn them into a proper receptacle for the G-dliness to shine in and be revealed. Yet the Mitzvah alone does not accomplish the actual drawing and revelation of the G-dliness; for that we need prayer. Prayer draws the G-dliness into those vessels that have been refined by the Mitzvos. Now, although without the Mitzvos there would be no vessels for the prayer-drawn G-dliness to reside in, nevertheless it is understood that the main purpose is the G-dliness and not the vessel. Thus prayer creates the “cache” of G-dliness that we use to draw into the Mitzvos. In particular, prayer draws down a very general revelation of G-dliness and it is the blessing before each Mitzvah that then draws down a specific revelation from within the general revelation previously brought down by prayer.

  1. The different types of vessels created for G-dliness to reside in:

We first explained that the 18 blessings are vessels to hold G-dliness, and then we said that the Mitzvos are vessels to hold G-dliness. In truth, there is a third vessel, which is Torah learning. Torah learning is counted as one of the 248 Positive Commandments, yet it is unlike the others. Torah learning serves as an inner vessel, while the other Mitzvos serve as external vessels. Torah learning draws G-dliness into the person and the realm of speech, while the Mitzvos draw the G-dliness into the objects of the world. This is similar to the vital organs of the body versus the external organs. Thus, in total, there are three types of vessels created for the G-dliness that is elicited via prayer:

  1. The 18 blessings of Shemoneh Esrei that hold the G-dliness drawn down during prayer so that it remains in this world.
  2. Torah learning, which draws the G-dliness internally into man.
  3. Mitzvos, which draw the G-dliness into the objects of the world.

  1. The reason why prayer is not counted as one of the 248 positive commands:

The above now provides an insight into why prayer is not just another Positive Commandment and therefore was not counted as part of the 248 Mitzvos. The 248 commandments are a list of vessels that G-d commanded us to refine and prepare for Him to be drawn down into. However, prayer is what achieves the actual drawing down. It is thus on a much higher level than the Mitzvos, which are mere vessels, and it is the main intent and purpose of each one of the 248 commandments. As such, it cannot be counted as just another one of the 248. This is similar to the spinal cord that is not just another limb within the body, but a central limb that serves to connect and give life to all the others. This is why it too is not counted on the same level as the other limbs. 

Why aren’t the 18 blessings counted as 18 separate Mitzvos from amongst the 248, if the 18 spinal disks are listed in the Mishneh as 18 different limbs from within the 248? The answer is because the blessings of the prayer are completely nullified to the purpose of the prayer, which is to draw G-dliness, and just like the drawing of G-dliness is not counted as a separate Mitzvah, so too the 18 blessings are not counted separately.

  “Whoever claims that prayer is Rabbinical has not seen light in all his days”[12]

In a letter[13] written to Alexander of Shklov, in response to complaints by the Misnagdim in Shklov against the length of prayer of the Chassidim, the Alter Rebbe made the following statement: “Those who say [one should not overemphasize] prayer due to it being merely a Rabbinical injunction have not seen light in all their days.” At first glance, this statement seems rather puzzling, as there are Rishonim who rule that prayer is Rabbinical, and the Alter Rebbe himself rules (Shulchan Aruch 106/2) that it is Rabbinical, so what is his complaint against the Misnagdim? Based on the Mamar above, this is clearly understood, for the fact that prayer is Rabbinical is not because it is of less importance than the other Mitzvos, but on the contrary, it is the soul behind all the Mitzvos and hence was not listed as one of the commandments (which are only the body and vessels for the G-dliness.) When we say that prayer is Rabbinical, this only refers to the time and Nussach of prayer. However, the idea of prayer is the root and foundation of all the Biblical commandments. Thus, one who insists that even the essence of prayer is Rabbinical has never seen light in all his days. This means he has yet to recognize the G-dliness drawn through prayer into his Mitzvos.


[1] See Mishnayos Keilim 3:4-5 and Rambam Keilim 20:1; Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 433; Ramban Al Hatorah end of Parshas Bo; Ben Porat Yosef Kuntrus Achron 127b; Keser Shem Tov 81; Tanya Igeres Hakodesh 1 in end; Torah Or Teruma 79d; Likkutei Torah Bechukosai 45-46; Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila 1; Likkutei Torah Toras Shmuel 5640 p. 300; Kuntrus Hatefila beginning of chapter 1; Sefer Hamamrim 5669 p. 348; 5709 p. 79; 5738:242; Toras Menachem 9:16; Sefer Hasichos 5750 2:199 footnote 181; Igros Kodesh 11:400

[2] See Ben Porat Yosef Kuntrus Achron 127a; Keser Shem Tov 80; Keser Shem Tov 238; Likkutei Yekarim 22; Likkutei Torah p. 29

[3] See Igeres Hakodesh 24;Likkutei Torah Behar p. 82; Torah Or Bo; Derech Mitzvosecha, “Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila”

[4] See Keser Shem Tov 216; Likkutei Yekarim 16a; Likuteiy Torah p. 6, p. 61b; Parshas Chukas “Vayaas Moshe Nachash Nechoshes …”; Ki Setzei 37b; Siddur Im Dach p. 19; Siddur Im Dach Terumas Hadeshen; Derech Mitzvosecha Shoresh Mitzvas Hatefila 11 [p. 120]; Toras Shalom Purim p. 7-8; “Ladat Eich Lihitpalel” [Gopin] volume 4 Hakdama

[5] See Zohar Beshalach 58a; Reishis Chochma Shaar Hayireh 2:3-4; Likkutei Torah Bamidbar 22; Likkutei Torah Seitzei 34b;

[6] See Torah Or Vayechi; Likkutei Torah Parshas Ki Seitzei p. 34b “Ki Seitzei Lamilchama…”

[7] See Tosafus Shabbos 12b; R”H 16a; Likkutei Torah Parshas Korach p. 55b “Vihinei Parach Mateh Aharon … Veyigmol Shekeidim”; Kuntrus Umayan 17:25; Likkutei Sichos 9:375

[8] See Keser Shem Tov 39, 93, 395 [taken from Magid Devarav Leyaakov 118]; Toldos Yaakov Yosef Vayeitzei 23; Or Torah [Maggid] Vayeishev; Likkutei Torah Chukas “Al Kein Yomru Hamoshlim”; Mamar Basi Legani Yud Shevat 5730 15 [Mugah, printed in Melukat 4 p. 148]; Tanya chapter 27

[9] See Shlah Shaar Haosiyos Lamed p. 69a; Keser Shem Tov 84; Tanya Igeres Hakodesh 25; Basi Legani of Rebbe Rayatz 20; Mamar Basi Legani Yud Shevat 5730 15, printed in Melukat Daled p. 148-151 [Mugah]; Kuntrus Havoda11 p. 23, brought in Melukat ibid p. 149

[10] Brachos 28b

[11] Mishneh, end of Ohalos, chapter 3

[12] See Toras Menachem 27 p. 47

[13] Iggros Kodesh Admur Hazaken 15

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