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Divine Service Through Mind and Heart

Divine Service Through Mind and Heart

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By the Grace of G‑d
28 Tishrei 5714 [October 7, 1953]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

To my Brethren Everywhere G‑d bless you all,

Greeting and Blessing:

It was with pleasure that I received your books, the first three volumes of Ne'im Zemirot Yisrael, an anthology of the sayings and expositions of our sages on the book of Psalms. Many thanks for your gift.

As is known, there are two dominating forces in the spiritual life of man: the mind and the heart, feeling and intellect.

Corresponding to these, man's service of his Maker also follows two pathways: the path of Torah and the path of prayer. The Torah is our "wisdom and understanding"1; prayer is "the service of the heart,"2 "in the heart and with the heart" (as Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi expressed it).

All the same, these two paths are intertwined. Indeed, the entirety of creation, deriving as it does from the Absolute Singularity, forms a united, integrated whole; to the extent that even on the most superficial level, the discerning eye can recognize the cohesion and integration of the various components of creation.

How much more so is this the case with the Jew and all things holy, in which the light of the One G‑d is so much more manifest. Here, each element's integration with the other is even more recognizable...

So it is with the two areas of man's service of G‑d. The study of Torah must be saturated with the feelings of the heart, both during study--as our sages have said, "One3 who reads the Torah without melody, and studies Mishnah without song, it is of him that the verse says4, 'I have given them laws devoid of good'"--as well as prior to study, by first reciting a blessing over the Torah, the significance of which is that one senses how dear and precious it is and fixes these feelings in one's heart.5

Similarly, the service of prayer, though it is "the service of the heart," must be preceded by an in-depth contemplation of the greatness of G‑d and the lowliness of man.6 During prayer, one must think of how the divine presence stands before him.7 And the law is that prayer without kavannah (awareness and intent) is invalid.8

In addition, prayer includes many "intellectual" passages--e.g., the arrangement of the praises of G‑d, Pesukei Dezimrah, the blessings on the Shema, etc.--while the Torah has "emotional" parts, such as the book of Psalms, which consists of praises and exultation of G‑d.

On this level, too--within the intellectual element of prayer and within the emotional element of Torah--there is also integration. The thought, contemplation and knowledge of the greatness, wisdom and power of G‑d connected with prayer, must generate a love and an awe of G‑d. On the other hand, the "prayer" elements of Torah--e.g. the book of Psalms--require in-depth study, understanding and comprehension.

The opening words of Psalm 90--"A prayer to Moses"--express this concept. According to the Zohar, this alludes to the connection and union of "prayer" and of "Moses" (by whose name the entire Torah is called), as they become one in a singular union.9

You have had the distinct merit of making this ideal accessible to the public with your books. Now, in addition to the main thing, which is reciting Psalms with feeling of the heart and an outpouring of the soul, all can study the best of its commentaries to attain an in-depth understanding of its words. May this merit stand by you, and may you be given strength to continue to bring close and unite the people of Israel to their Father in Heaven through the purity of prayer and the wholesomeness of Torah.

(Free translation. Printed in Igrot Kodesh, vol. XIII, pp. 7-9)

Footnotes
2.
Talmud, Taanit 2a.
3.
Ibid., Megillah 32a.
5.
See Talmud, Nedarim 81a; Ran, ibid.
6.
Talmud, Berachot 30b; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 98:1.
7.
Shulchan Aruch, ibid.
8.
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayer, 4:15. See Chidushei Rabbi Chaim HaLevi, ibid.; Tanya, part IV, p. 154b.
9.
Zohar, part II, 137b; Mikdash Melech, ibid.
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Anonymous October 11, 2006

It is amazing to think that by properly uniting heart and mind we have the opportunity to get closer to G-d.... that the whole point and focus is becoming closer to Him, and that the more unified our prayers are, and the more passion we have for learning, the closer we can become... Reply

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