For this reason, our Sages, of blessed memory, ordained that with prayer, one should [conduct himself] “as if he is standing before the king.”14

וְעַל כֵּן קָבְעוּ חֲכָמֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה בַּתְּפִלָּה: "כְּאִלּוּ עוֹמֵד לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ",

Now, if he is standing before the King of kings, why do our Sages say “as if”? This means:

At least he should make himself appear as if he is standing [before the king] in the sight of all who look with physical eyes at his actions and words,

עַל כָּל פָּנִים יִהְיֶה מַרְאֶה בְּעַצְמוֹ כְּאִלּוּ עוֹמֵד כוּ' לְעֵין כָּל רוֹאֶה בְּעֵינֵי בָשָׂר אֶל מַעֲשָׂיו וְדִיבּוּרָיו,

even though a fool has no thought—although he does not have even an intellectual realization that while standing in prayer he truly is standing before the King.

אַף שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מַחֲשָׁבָה – לַכְּסִיל.

It was concerning this matter—the realization that one is standing before the King at the time that He appointed to reveal His glory to those who seek Him—that all the prayers were instituted,15 [as is evident] to whoever meditates deeply upon them.

וְעַל זֶה הָעִנְיָן נִתְקַן כָּל הַתְּפִלּוֹת, לַמִּתְבּוֹנֵן בָּהֶם הֵיטֵב.

But he that does not show this [realization] is guilty of a capital offense,

וּמִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַרְאֶה כֵּן – מִתְחַיֵּיב בְּנַפְשׁוֹ.

and of him, it was said in the sacred Zohar16 that “he brings disgrace into the supernal order, and shows that he is separate [from holiness], and has no share in the G-d of Israel,” heaven forfend.

וְעָלָיו אָמְרוּ בַּזֹּהַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ: "דְּאַנְהִיג קְלָנָא בְּתִקּוּנָא עִילָּאָה וְאַחֲזֵי פֵרוּדָא, וְלֵית לֵיהּ חוּלָקָא בֶּאֱלָהָא דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל", רַחֲמָנָא לִצְּלָן.

Therefore, declares the Alter Rebbe, I am hereby acting as an agent of our Sages, of blessed memory,

עַל כֵּן, שְׁלִיחוּתַיְיהוּ דְּרַבּוֹתֵינוּ־זִכְרוֹנָם־לִבְרָכָה קָא עֲבִידְנָא,

to enact a decree17 to apply equally to everyone: No idle talk is to be spoken from the moment the Reader begins to recite the prayers until the end of the last Kaddish, at Shacharit, Minchah,18 and Arvit.19

לִגְזוֹר גְּזֵירָה שָׁוָה לְכָל נֶפֶשׁ, שֶׁלֹּא לָשׂוּחַ שִׂיחָה בְּטֵלָה מִשֶּׁיַּתְחִיל הַשְּׁלִיחַ צִיבּוּר לְהִתְפַּלֵּל הַתְּפִלָּה עַד גְּמַר קַדִּישׁ בַּתְרָא, שַׁחֲרִית עַרְבִית וּמִנְחָה וְכוּ'.

And he who disobeys intentionally shall sit on the ground and beg of three people to release him from the supernal excommunication that results from disobeying a Rabbinic decree.

וְהָעוֹבֵר עַל זֶה בְּזָדוֹן – יֵשֵׁב עַל הָאָרֶץ, וִיבַקֵּשׁ מִג' אֲנָשִׁים שֶׁיַּתִּירוּ לוֹ נִידּוּי שֶׁלְּמַעְלָה,

“He should repent, resolving to change his ways, and heal,”20 and retroactively, no excommunication whatsoever will have applied to him.

"וְשָׁב וְרָפָא לוֹ", וְלֹא חָל עָלָיו שׁוּם נִידּוּי לְמַפְרֵעַ כָּל עִיקָּר,

For from the very outset, it applied only to those who rebel and are willfully sinful and who do not care at all to seek atonement (as they ought) from heaven and from man for this grievous sin.

כִּי מִתְּחִלָּתוֹ לֹא חָל, כִּי אִם עַל הַמּוֹרְדִים וְהַפּוֹשְׁעִים שֶׁאֵינָם חוֹשְׁשִׁים כְּלָל לְבַקֵּשׁ כַּפָּרָה מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִן הַבְּרִיּוֹת עַל הֶעָוֹן פְּלִילִי הַזֶּה.

Also, [this excommunication applies] only when people speak deliberately and brazenly,

וְגַם, דַּוְקָא כְּשֶׁמְּדַבְּרִים בְּזָדוֹן בִּשְׁאָט נֶפֶשׁ,

but not to a person who forgets, or unwittingly uttered a few words, for he does not require a release [from the excommunication] at all.

וְלֹא עַל הַשּׁוֹכֵחַ אוֹ שֶׁנִּזְרְקוּ מִפִּיו כַּמָּה תֵּיבוֹת בְּלֹא מִתְכַּוֵּין, שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ הַתָּרָה כְּלָל.

“And G-d Who is righteous examines the heart and the kidneys”21: He probes a man’s inner integrity and is able to discern a deliberate offense from an unwitting one.

"וּבוֹחֵן לִבּוֹת וּכְלָיוֹת אֱלֹקִים צַדִּיק".

The Alter Rebbe concludes with a prayer: “Be benevolent, O G-d, unto the good,” i.e., to those who refrain utterly from idle speech, “and unto those who are upright in their hearts”22; i.e., also to those whose hearts meant well but from whose lips a few words inadvertently escaped.

"הֵטִיבָה ה' לַטּוֹבִים וְלִישָׁרִים בְּלִבּוֹתָם":