between learning and prayer, who has time for work?

Learning and Prayer. Two things that make a Jew a Jew. Two things that can't be accomplished without connecting one's mind and heart with their creator. They're just two in a list of six hundred and thirteen. We've spoken about them both before, associating them with ratz and shav. (running and returning)

They're connection is quite intimate, the Talmud says that serious learners don't need to stop learning to pray, while in other places they question whether learning the appointed prayer at the appointed time counts as prayer or not. Chassidim similarly would learn well past the appointed times, and pray at all hours of the day, because if the learning didn't count as prayer, at least it was involved in preparation, there's no use praying without preparing first. Further, the Talmud also says that ideally a person should pray all day long. (The Hasidim HaRishonim (who lived well before the time of what we now consider Hasidim) would spend nine hours a day in prayer and meditation.) Contrast this with the Torah obligation to learn Torah day and night. They also happen to be two mitzwoth that everyone agrees require proper intention. (kavanah)

Rebbe Nachman actually tied them together really nicely in Likkutei Moharan I:22 explaining away the differences without even trying. Torah and Prayer, he says, is נעשה ונשמע (The Jews said to God when they received the Torah: We will do and we will listen - Naaseh v'Nishma) Na'aseh (we will do) is the the internal, it is where we are right now, our current situation, it is our Torah learning, Nishma (we will hear) is where we are aspiring to, it is our prayers, it is what is still beyond us.

He says we move from one place to the next, the place we are currently at is our Torah, the place we are heading towards is our Tefillah, our prayer. As we grow, we arrive at a new destination, and what was our prayer becomes our Torah. That which is in sight, on the new horizon becomes our prayer.

So our Tefillah is our Torah when it is still in its potential. Or conversely our Torah is actualized prayer.

So I think we can understand from this that when we are to sanctify ourselves with what is permitted to us, (לקדש את עצמו במותר לו) on the one hand it means with the Torah, which is now in our posession, whereas our Tefillah which is still beyond us. On the other hand, motar can mean what is still left over and separate from us, which would be our Tefillah. So we can see that we need to serve God both through prayer and learning.

When we are praying, we are drawing new Torah into ourselves. When we are learning that Torah, (we properly explore what is ours, what is us, and find our current limits) we are discovering new horizons (and directions/intentions (kivunim/kavanot share a root)) of prayer.

So, instead of seeing Torah and Tefillah as two separate mitzwoth, (which they are, which in itself is a kindness of God that we get double the reward) we can look at them as two sides of the single action of growing closer to HaShem.

[hopefully in my next post I will tie this together with the numerous other related posts.]


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