A Letter from the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn,1
On the Importance of Pronouncing Prayers Properly
(Igros Kodesh, Vol. 7, p. 142)

Writes the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe: “I would like to appro­priate an amazing story which was printed in the Mattei Yehudah, by Rabbi Leib Oppenheim (published 1699-1700, with approbations by the Rabbis of Prague and Frankfort)

I, [i.e., Rabbi Leib Oppenheim,] have seen a manuscript of the great Torah scholar, Rabbi Meir, Chief Rabbi and head of the Yeshivah of the Jewish community of Lvov. He found a story in the work of a certain Kabbalist, who copied from the manu­script of his Torah teacher, the great scholar Rabbi Mordechai Yoffe [c. 1535-1612, known as the Levush, after the title of his renowned works], of blessed memory:

There was a certain man by the name of Rabbi Azaria, son of Rabbi Yedidia, who was very saintly and a great ascetic, out­standing in his knowledge of PaRDeS [acronym for Pshat, Remez, Drush, Sod—levels of Scriptural interpretation embracing the full spectrum of Torah subjects from legal to mystical].

He appeared in a dream to his friend, Rabbi Gedalia, and told him, a year after his passing, that he had been brought before the Heavenly Court. They had told him: “Look up and see!”

“I saw what appeared to be small flowers, as many as the stars of the heavens. Immediately, a great fear fell upon me, and all my limbs and my knees were trembling. I asked: ‘What are these?’

“They answered me:

“ ‘These are the nekudos [Hebrew vowels] that you have mis­treated. In your prayers, you pronounced a tzeireh instead of a sh’va, and a chirik instead of a shuruk, and other substitutions. You also skipped over letters by not pausing between adjacent ones. Not one of these letters and nekudos that you have ever spoiled is missing from here. All of them are bringing accusa­tions against you and demanding judgment, saying that this person has mistreated us and put us to shame, preventing us from becoming part of the Divine Crown.

“ ‘However, G‑d loves justice. Your judgment has been decided that you will be reincarnated so that perhaps you will be able to correct the misdeed. If not for your good deeds that have protected you, your judgment would have been much more severe.’ ”