Handle With Care

Handle With Care

Handle With Care

What is the role of human effort? Can my life relate to G-d’s?

This is part four of a series on the Rebbe’s ma’amer, V’Avrohom Zokein, 5738 (1977), from Parshas Chayei Sara. Open part one, two and part three in a new tab. View and download the PDF here.

ו) וְיֵשׁ לוֹמַר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְשָׁר דְהַגַם שְׁהִזְדַכְּכוּת הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת וְהַעֲלָאתָן לְמַעֲלָה נַעֲשָׂה עַל יְדֵי הַמַלְאָכִים, מִכָּל מָקוֹם, מִכֵּיוָן שְׁתַּכְלִית הַשְׁלֵימוּת דְכָל עִנְיָן הוּא כַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא נַעֲשֶׂה עֲל יְדֵי עַבוֹדַת הָאָדָם (וְלָכֵן אָדָם רוֹצֶה בְּקַבּ שֶׁלוֹ דַוְקָא45), לָכֵן גַּם עִנְיָן הִזְדַכְּכוּת הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת, הָהַתְחָלָה בָּזֶה הוּא עֲל יְדֵי עֲבוֹדַת הָאָדָם.

The ultimate refinement of our Torah and mitzvos happens by us. After all, our Rabbis teach us, “Man prefers his own earnings [even if it’s less].” (Bava Metzia,38a) It’s the angels that complete the refinement and elevate our Torah and mitzvos, but it is we who initiate the process in the first place.

Our mitzvos and the Torah we learn, have a soul and a body. The soul is our intent—how sincere we are in our deed and our learning. The body is the object used to do the mitzvah or the subject in Torah we’re learning. The soul of our Torah learning and mitzvah doing wants to cling to G-d like a flame absorbed in a flame. The way we allow this soul to reunite with G-d is in our intent. Naturally, our efforts are limited, our intent can be less than perfect, and our consistency could always use help. This is where the angels come in. The angels intercept our prayer and our learning on their way up. The angels kiss, caress and repackage the souls of our learning and davening making them perfect. Although we ourselves can become one with G-d Himself through teshuvah, learning Torah and doing mitzvos, it’s the soul of our learning and davening—our intentions—that can be perfected.

Previously we learned that every mitzvah we do and the Torah we learn  creates a protective garment. These protective garments allow us to withstand and enjoy the light of the Sh’chinah in Gan Eden. Like physical garments, they need to be rid of any stains. Similarly, our deeds/learning need to be rid of any ulterior motives.

וְזֶהוּ מַה שְׁאִיתָא בְּתּוֹרָה אוֹר46 שֶׁכִּיבּוּס וְזִיכוּךְ הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת הוּא עֲל יְדֵי עֲבוֹדַת הַתְּפִלָּה, שֶׁהַכַּווָנָה בָּזֶה הִיא (לֹא רַק שְׁעַל יְדֵי הַתְּפִלָּה הוּא מְנַקֵה אֶת הַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת מִכָּל פְּסוֹלֶת, שֶׁלֹא יִהְיוּ בְּאוֹפֶן דְשֶׁלֹא לִשְׁמָהּ וְכַּיוֹצֶא בָּזֶה, כִּי אִם), שֶׁעַל יְדֵי הַתְּפִלָּה נַעֲשֶׂה גַּם (הַתְחָלַת47 הַ)זִיכוּךְ שֶׁלָהֶם, מַה שֶׁמִזְדַכְכוֹת מִגַשְׁמִיוּתָן וְעוֹלוֹת לְמַעֲלָה.

The main way to cleanse our garments—to cleanse our intentions—is through davening, prayer. Our focus during davening begins the process of elevating and refining our Torah and mitzvos.

דְהִנֵה תְּפִלָּה הִיא, ״סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה48״, הַיְּינוּ שֶׁהַתְּפִלָּה הִיא מְקַשֶׁרֶת אֶת בּ’ הַקְצָווֹת דְאֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם (מַטָה וּמַעֲלָה49), וּבְּפְַט עֲל פִּי הַיְדוּעַ50 שׁ״אַרְצָה״ (בְּתּוֹסֶפֶת ה’) הוּא מַדְרֵיגָה הַיוֹתֵר תַּחְתּוֹנָה שֶׁבָּאָרָץ הַלָזוּ הַגַשְׁמִית גוּפָא, וְ״שָּׁמַיְמָה״ (בְּתּוֹסֶפֶת ה’) הוּא מַדְרֵיגָה הַיוֹתֵר נַעֲֲלִית שֶׁבַּשָׁמַיִם (שְׁמֵי הַשָׁמַיִם), וְ״הַשָּׁמַיְמָה״ (בְּתּוֹסֶפֶת ה’ גַּם בְּתְּחִילָהּ) הוּא לְמַעֲלָה גַּם מִ״שָּׁמַיְמָה.״

What is davening?

Davening bridges the gap between heaven and earth: “…A ladder set up on the ground (artza) and its top reached heavenward (hashomayma)…” The Hebrew word for “ground” in the verse literally translates as “earthward.” This implies that the ladder of davening reaches the lowest plane of physical existence. The word “heavenward,” implies that ladder reaches to the highest heavens—and even higher. The letter “hei” at the beginning of the Hebrew word for “heavenward” defines it. It means the heavens to the highest of heavens.

Davening is the bridge between the highest heavens and the lowest lows. This means that every aspect of our lives—the stresses, the pains and the joys too—is connected to G-d. When we daven, we can think about G-d’s place in our lives and our place in His world. Not only can He relate to us, but we can relate to Him and His will. In Kuntres HaTefillah, the Rebbe Rashab explains what focusing during davening means. He explains that the first step is to contemplate how G-d is relevant in our lives. The way to do this, he explains, is by thinking about our life in detail—all the events, the people, our possessions, etc.—and observing how each part is orchestrated by G-d. When we daven like this, our perspective shifts from revolving around our own needs. We become more grateful, purposeful, and our motivations become purer. Our intentions are cleansed.

וְזֶהוּ ״סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה וְרֹאשׁוֹ מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה48,״ שֶׁעַל יְדֵי הַתְּפִלָּה “יוּכָל לִהְיוֹת עַלִיּיַת גַּם (הָאָדָם) הַנִמְצָא אַרְצָה בְמַדְרֵיגוֹת הַיוֹתֵר תַּחְתּוֹנוֹת שֶׁבָּאָרֶץ הַלָזוּ הַגַשְׁמִית לְהַשָּׁמַיְמָה לְהַמַדְרֵגוֹת הַיוֹתֵר נַעֲלוֹת וְנִפְלָאוֹת״51.

“…A ladder set up on the ground and its top reached heavenward” means that we human beings can reach the highest heights no matter how low we’ve fallen.

No matter how mundane we may become, prayer is a gate that’s always open. To initiate the process of becoming a better and more complete person, our focus has to change. By davening and shifting focus from what we need to the gifts we have, our motivations are aligned.

הִנֵה כְּמוֹ שֶׁהַתְּפִלָּה פּוֹעֶלֶת בְּהָאָדָם, שֶׁגַם כְּשֶׁהוּא נִמְצָא אַרְצָה יָכוֹל הוּא לְהִתְעַלוֹת לְהַשָּׁמַיְמָה (אֶלָא שֶׁצָרִיךְ לִהְיוֹת גַּם סִיוּעַ הַמַלְאָכִים דְחָבִּיק לָהּ כוּלְהוּ), עַל דֶרֶךְ זֶה פֹּועֶלֶת הִיא גַּם בְּכָל עִנְיָנֵי הָאָדָם52 וּבְּפְרַט בְּהַתּוֹרָה וּמִצְווֹת53 שֶׁלוֹ, שֶׁעַל יְדֵי ד’ הַשְׁלִיבוֹת דְתְּפִלָּה (שְׁהֵם כְּנֶגֶד ד’ עוֹלָמוֹת) עוֹלוֹת הֵן מֵעוֹלָם לְעוֹלָם, וְעַד שְׁהֵן עוֹלוֹת בִּבְחִינַת הַשָּׁמַיְמָה שֶׁלְמַעֲלָה מֵהַעוֹלָמוֹת, וְעַד שֶׁהֵן עוֹלוֹת לְמַהוּתוֹ וְעַצְמוּתוֹ יִתְבָּרֵךְ מַמָּשׁ.

Davening raises up the entire person: Every detail in our life can become G-dly—our Torah learning and mitzvah doing especially. The four stages of davening raises them up from world to world, to the highest heights—to literally G-d’s infinite self.

Our Rabbis teach us that Yaakov’s ladder had four rungs. Chassidus teaches that we can experience these four rungs in the four stages of prayer. The four stages of prayer are the four parts of Shacharis: 1) P’sukei D’zimra (“Verses of Praise”): where we acknowledge G-d’s place in the world and our lives. 2) The blessings that precede the Shema: where we help our animal soul relate to the angels that are holy animals. 3) The Shema: where we accept G-d as king and express our willingness to be His. 4) Shemone Esreiwhere we ask for our needs and the needs of the entire world. These four stages are a step-by-step process to climb higher on the ladder. Each step in davening takes us to a new rung in the higher worlds. The first stage is Asiyah, the World of Action—the world in which we live. The second is Yetzirah, the World of FormationThe third is Beriah, the World of Creation. The fourth is Atzilus, the World of Emanation—where everything is at one with G-d.

Our experience of life is physical. Davening helps us ascend through the “thickets” of physicality and see the world through a G-dly lens.


The way to align and cleanse our intentions is through davening. Like the bridge in Yaakov’s dream, davening connects the highest heavens with the lowest low—even the smallest details in our life can become G-dly.

45. ב”מ לח, א.

46. משפטים עו, א. שם, ג. דרמ”צ פג, א.

47. שלכן, גם העלאת התפלה היא ע”י המלאכים (מקומות שבהערה 32).

48. ויצא כח, יב. זח”א רסו, ב. זח”ג שו, ב. תקו”ז תי’ מה.

49. שהם לא רק רחוקים זמ”ז אלא גם הפכים (ד”ה זה היום תרצ”ד ספ”א – סה”מ קונטרסים ח”ב שיט, א).

50. ד”ה זה היום שם.

51. לשון כ”ק מו”ח אדמו”ר בד”ה זה היום הנ”ל רפ”ב.

52. ראה ד”ה זה היום שם ספ”ב (סה”מ שם שיט, ב): דע”י אותיות התפלה הוא ההעלאה של כל הענינים דארצה שהם עפ”י התורה.

53. ראה לקו”ת יו”כ סח, ב (הובא באוה”ת לתהלים שם) ש”מלאכי אלקים” (שעולים בהסולם דתפלה) הם המצוות.

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