I was literally the bride that knew nothing when I got married—nothing about cooking and other domestic aspects of life. I didn’t know what simmering meant or how to trim green beans, or even that I had to freeze salmon if I wasn’t going to cook it in the next day or two. (I may have had to discard some expensive protein due to that error.) I also didn’t know about cleaning scum from chicken.

I remember making my first chicken soup, and I was perplexed by all the brown stuff floating at the top. I asked my wise mother-in-law, and she told me that I had to boil the chicken first before making the soup. When you boil it, the heat causes the scum to rise; then it can be cleared off, and the chicken is ready to make a clear golden soup.

It works that way with silver, too. When silver gets mixed in with other impurities, applying extensive heat causes the silver to be refined, as anything unwanted gets separated from the silver. The silversmiths of old put the silver in the heat of the fire, and the more unwanted materials were mixed in.

This helps explain an interesting phenomenon related to prayer. During the days of the First Temple, no formal prayer was needed. There was no formal established prayer for Jews to pray other than sacrificing animals in the Temple. During the second Temple, some prayers were established, but they were kind of short and sweet. Today, there is an entire book of prayers to be recited, three times a day, with detailed songs and praises of G‑d to be recited multiple times a day.


Because today, we have to turn up the heat. The more negative spiritual forces tug at us, the more they need to be counteracted with fiery spiritual passion. The more temptations taunt us, the more effort needs to be invested to remain connected.

That’s where prayer comes in. In the times of the First Temple, Jews were on a high spiritual level that their souls had much less impurity to remove. From the time of the Second Temple and as each subsequent generation continues, there is a sort of scum that becomes intertwined with our soul. And so we pray a lot.

We pray, and we contemplate during prayer about G‑d’s greatness in creation, and we develop a great desire to cleave to G‑d. Thinking about G‑d leads to loving G‑d, which is a blazing fire in our heart that actually purifies it. This is the fire that sets calm from the chaos, as all the scum of our soul shifts to the top and a pure heart remains. The more impurities, the more effort and time are needed to create this fire to remove the negative forces clinging to our pure soul.

The fire of prayer is a prerequisite to working with our animal soul by giving us the clarity to be able to identify and disassociate with the negative elements within us—then we have an ability to actually refine the animal soul and sweeten it. This clarity allows us to see that the temptations and desires of our body are a test meant to be overcome, and that our inner true desire, even of the animal soul, is to fulfill G‑d’s will.

At its core, our body is not a bad guy. The energy and passion of our animal soul can be channeled to the service of G‑d. But before we work with it, we must purify it. Once the negative forces separate from the positive, we can begin to see the source of our body as good and allow our body to help us in the service of G‑d, rather than hinder it.

Ah ... there’s nothing like a clear, golden (and scum-free) chicken soup.

Source: From the Maamar in Likkutei Torah “va’yas moshe nachash nechoshet,” as explained in Chassidut Mevueret, Chapter 3.