113. The Eighteen Prayer

I heard on Kislev 15, Shabbat

In the Shmone Esrei (Eighteen) Prayer, “for You hear the prayer of every mouth in Your people, Israel, with mercy.” This seems perplexing: first we say, “for You hear the prayer of every mouth,” meaning even with an unworthy mouth — the Creator still hears. It is written, “every mouth,” meaning even an unworthy one. Afterwards it says, “Your people, Israel, with mercy,” meaning specifically a prayer that is in mercy. Otherwise it is not heard.

The thing is that we must know all the heaviness in the work of God is because of the oppositeness that is in every step. For example, there is a rule that man must be humble. But if we follow this end, although our sages said, “be very, very humble,” still this end does not mean that it should be a rule. This is because it is known that one should go against the whole world, and not be cancelled by the proliferation of views that abound in the world, as it is written, “And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord.” Hence, this rule is not a rule that we can call complete.

And if we go by the other end, which is pride, that, too, is wrong, since “all who is proud,” says the Creator, “he and I cannot dwell in the same abode.” And we can also see oppositeness in the matter of suffering. That is, if the Creator sends suffering to some person, and we should believe that the Creator is benevolent, then the suffering He had sent are necessarily to that person’s benefit. Thus, why do we pray that the Creator will remove the suffering from us?

And concerning suffering, we should know that sufferings only come to correct us to be qualified to receive the Light of the Creator. The role of the suffering is only to cleanse the body, as our sages said, “as salt sweetens meat, suffering cleanses the body.” In the matter of prayer, they had made the correction that it would be instead of suffering. Thus, prayer, too, cleanses the body.

However, a prayer is called “the path of Torah.” This is why the prayer is more effective in sweetening the body than suffering. Therefore, it is a Mitzva to pray for the suffering, since additional benefit stems from that to the individual and to the whole.

Because of that, the oppositeness causes one heaviness and cessations in the work of God, and one cannot continue the work, and feels bad. It seems to him that he is unworthy of assuming the burden of the Kingdom of Heaven “as an ox to the burden and as a donkey to the load.” Thus, at that time he is called “unwanted.”

However, one’s sole intention is to extend faith, called Malchut, meaning to raise Shechina (Divinity) from the dust. One’s aim is to glorify His Name in the world, meaning His greatness, so that the Holy Shechina will not take the form of meagerness and poverty. Thus, the Creator hears “the prayer of every mouth,” even of one who is not so worthy, who feels that he is still remote from the work of God.

This is the meaning of “for You hear the prayer of every mouth.” When does He hear every mouth? When the people of Israel pray with mercy, meaning simple mercy. When one prays to raise Divinity from the dust, to receive faith.

It is similar to one who has not eaten in three days. Then, when he asks of another to be given something to eat, he is not asking for any luxuries or extras; he is simply asking to be given something to revive his soul.

Similarly, in the work of God, when one finds oneself standing between heaven and earth, he is not asking for something redundant of the Creator, but only for the Light of faith, that the Creator will open his eyes so he can assume the discernment of faith. This is called “raising Divinity from the dust.” And this prayer is accepted from “every mouth.” That is, in any state a person is in, if one asks to revive one’s soul with faith, this prayer is answered.

And this is called “with mercy,” when one’s prayer is only to be pitied from Above so he can sustain his vitality. And this is the meaning of what is written in The Zohar, that a prayer for the poor is immediately accepted. That is, when it is for the Holy Shechina, it is immediately accepted.

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