Who Causes the Prayer

Article No. 18, Tav-Shin-Mem-Vav, 1985-86

Our sages wrote (Mesechet Berachot 32), “One should always praise the Creator and then pray.” This shows us that one should believe that when a person comes to a state where he feels his fault in the work of the Creator—when he feels that his faith is not as it should be, that is, able to believe that the Creator is benevolent, and this feeling, when he sees that he cannot thank the Creator and say wholeheartedly, “Blessed is He who said, ‘Let there be the world,’” meaning that he so enjoys the world that he thanks the Creator for having created the world so he has what to enjoy—if he doesn’t feel the delight and pleasure that can be received, it is hard for him to be thankful for it. And this pains him that he cannot praise the Creator for the world He has created and say wholeheartedly, “Blessed is He who said, ‘Let there be the world.’”

And that deficiency pains him, meaning he says that this feeling must have come to him because he is remote from the Creator, meaning immersed in self-love. This causes him to part from the Creator, meaning that he doesn’t feel the greatness of the Creator because the Creator is hidden from him.

And therefore, he cannot see the truth, as it is written, “For it is your life and the length of your days.” And also, he cannot feel the importance of the Torah, as it is written, “For this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations, who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”

When a person introspects and thinks, “Where is this excitement that the nations are saying about us, ‘Surely this ... is a wise and understanding people,’ because of the Torah, because we keep what is written, ‘Observe and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the nations.’ So why don’t I feel the importance of Torah and Mitzvot?”

In that state of reflection, when he feels how remote he is from any reverence for the work of the Creator, he begins to awaken and think, “Something must be done. I cannot stay in that state of lowliness for the rest of my life.” Certainly, this is the time when a person begins to pray to the Creator to bring him closer to Him and to help him from above, as our sages said, “He who comes to be purified is aided.”

In other words, He should lift the concealment of the greatness and importance of Kedusha [holiness] from him, so he can overcome all the ignoble thoughts and desires that come from self-love, and that all his concerns will be only about how he can do something for the Kedusha, called “in order to bestow contentment upon his Maker.” And certainly, this can only be to the extent that he believes in the greatness and importance of the Creator.

Thus, he asks the Creator to open his eyes so he will see and feel the greatness and importance of the Creator, as it is written (Psalm 88), “Lord, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” And then it is a prayer from the bottom of the heart. That is, at that time, a person wants the Creator to heal his heart, as it is written (Psalm 147), “Who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their sadness.”

And then one probably thinks that the awakening for the prayer that the Creator will bring him closer to Him came from himself, and he awaits the Creator’s salvation, that He will help him by granting his prayer. That is, that He will bring him closer to Him, as he is praying now because now he feels His lack, which he didn’t feel before.

Therefore, when a person doesn’t receive from the Creator what he thinks the Creator should give him, he becomes angry that the Creator is not granting his prayer. As for other people, he believes that He is not bringing them closer because they have no desire for spirituality. But he is not like other people, who have no affinity to the Creator, so the Creator doesn’t need to bring them closer anyway.

But this man, who prayed for the Creator to help him come closer to Him, the Creator Himself can see that he is not like other people. Rather, he is higher than the populace; he understands the world and its purpose, and he contemplates the purpose for which he was created and what he must achieve. But when he looks at other people, he sees their lowliness—that all their thoughts and actions are for their own benefit—and he feels that he understands differently because his mind and qualities are more virtuous and worthy than those of other people.

Moreover, sometimes he sees that he is even more virtuous than the people in his group. He sees that they occasionally think of spirituality, but he—his every thought and all his desires are only about spirituality. He always wants to exit self-love, and all his requests of the Creator are only for Him to deliver him from this lowliness. And he doesn’t see that his friends are equally serious, thinking only about spirituality.

For this reason, he is upset with the Creator for not granting his prayer, leaving him in his current state like the rest of the friends, and is not considerate with him, meaning with his prayer, which is truly prayed from the bottom of the heart. Thus, regarding the granting of the prayer, he finds a fault above.

And he asks himself, “But it is written, ‘For you hear the prayer of every mouth,’ and ‘Every mouth’ means that the whole mouth should ask the prayer, meaning that his whole body demands that the Creator will help him. But as for the rest of the people, their prayers are not answered because it is not with ‘every mouth.’”

Baal HaSulam said about it, “It is written, ‘And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear.’” He interpreted that when a person feels his fault and prays for the Creator to help him, it is not because a person feels his fault, and this gives him reason to pray. Rather, the reason is that he is favored by the Creator, and the Creator wishes to bring him near.

At that time, the Creator sends him the sensation of his own fault and calls upon him to join Him. In other words, it is the Creator who brings him near by giving him a desire to turn to the Creator and to speak to the Creator. It follows that he already had the granting of the prayer even before he prayed. That is, the Creator brought him closer by enabling him to speak to the Creator. This is called, “Before they call, I will answer.” That is, the Creator brought that person near Him before the thought appeared in the man’s mind that he should pray to the Creator.

But why did the Creator choose him and give him the call to come to Him and pray? To this, we have no answer. Instead, we must believe above reason that this is so. This is what we call, “Guidance of Private Providence.” One mustn’t say, “I’m waiting for the Creator to give me awakening from above, and then I will be able to work in the work of holiness.” Baal HaSulam said that in regard to the future, a person must believe in reward and punishment, meaning he must say (Avot, Chapter 1), “If I am not for me who is for me, and when I am for me, what am I, and if not now, then when?”

Thus, one mustn’t wait another moment. Instead, he should say, “If not now, then when?” And he must not wait for a better time, so “Then I will get up and do the work of holiness.” Rather, it is as our sages said (Avot, Chapter 2), “Do not say, ‘I will study when I have time,’ lest you will not have time.”

But after the fact, said Baal HaSulam, one must believe in private Providence—that it was not the person who called upon the Creator, but the Creator who called upon the person and told him, “I want you to speak to Me.” It follows that the reason for the nearing did not come from the individual but from the Creator. For this reason, one mustn’t think that the Creator did not hear the prayer. Rather, He brought him near even before he turned to the Creator to bring him near Him.

This is called, “Before they call, I will answer.” It follows from the above that if a person has awakened to sense his ignoble state, it did not come from the individual. Rather, the Creator sent him this feeling so he would ask to be brought closer. Therefore, as soon as one has a thought that he is remote from the Creator and wishes to pray to the Creator to bring him closer, he mustn’t pray until he first thanks the Creator for having called upon him to bring him closer.

The Creator wants man to pray to Him. And when a person does self-analysis into why he suddenly remembered that there is spirituality and that he should try to obtain something in spirituality, if he immediately says that the Creator sent him this thought, then he can pray.

This is the meaning of what our sages said, “One should always praise the Creator.” In other words, as soon as one begins to contemplate his situation concerning spirituality, he should promptly praise and thank the Creator for having given him the thought and desire for spirituality. Afterwards, when he knows that the Creator is calling him, he immediately begins to thank and praise the King for having brought him closer. This is when he can pray for his situation, since he sees that he is lacking Torah and doesn’t know any distinction between true and false, and he prays for the Creator to show him the path of truth.

Now we can understand what our sages said (Midrash Rabba, Toldot, 63, Mark 5), “‘And the Lord answered him.’ Rabbi Levi said, ‘There is an allegory about a prince who was striving to take a pound of gold from his father. He was striving from within and he was striving from without, since in Arabic, ‘striving’ means ‘asking.’’ He interprets there the gifts of priesthood, that ‘taking a pound means that his father, too, wished to give it, and was striving opposite him to hurry his taking.’”

From what we have explained, the reason that a person wants to draw near comes from the Creator. The Creator does not wait for a person to wake up, but awakens the person. Afterwards, one prays that the Creator will bring him closer. We can understand it with the allegory that he gives about the verse, “And ... answered him,” which means that Isaac prayed to the Creator.

And he gave an allegory about that, meaning that his father, that is, the Creator, conspires from within, meaning that his father gave him a thought and desire to pray to Him, and afterwards the prince conspires from without. In other words, the people of Israel are princes, and they are standing outside the King’s palace and wish to draw near the Creator, meaning enter the King’s palace. This means that his father in heaven started first.

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