dancing breath

Once again, I return to my favorite topic, tefillah (תפילה) or prayer.
כרבי יוחנן דא"ר יוחנן ולואי שיתפלל אדם כל היום כולו למה שאין תפילה מפסדת
Like Rabi Yochanan, who says: would it were that man would pray throughout the entire day, why? because prayer is never lost.
תלמוד ירושלמי ברכות א:א - Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 1:1
Prayer is a form of connecting with HaShem. We can actually see why it is that Rabi Yochanan is the one who make's this claim. Rebbe Nachman says (Likkutei Moharan I:34) that one has to connect the uniqueness of each individual Jew (including the uniqueness of the collective) to the heart, in order to bring out God's kindness, to bring down blessing. He says that the point of uniqueness is the letter yud (י) the first letter of Rabi Yochanan's name. The heart, he says, is represented by the letter vav (ו) which we can see, happens to be the second letter of Rabi Yochanan's name. The remainder of his name is חנן beseeching, a word for prayer. So Rabi Yochanan's name embodies the nature of prayer according to Rebbe Nachman.

This kind of connection, this kind of constant searching for any connection with God, in everything in existence, this finding of that point from which we can jump from that thing back to God, that is the essence of prayer.

Would it were that man would spend all his days searching out these points of light in each and every thing, each and every person, each and every place, that he encounters. This is what the Notzer Hesed is talking about as well, when he says praying all day actually refers to performing yichudim (unifications) all day long.

[The Maor Eynayim might explain the first word of Parashath ואתחנן the same way, that moshe connected all the letters, from alef (א) to tav (ת) in his prayers to God.]

What is the purpose of this tefillah? One of the main purposes, is to enjoy our relationship to God, to experience HaShem, to grow closer to Him. Just as we talk out of respect to our parents but also in humor in mutual enjoyment, part of our prayers to God must be this mutual enjoyment. Prayer is saying pleasing things to God, as we say in the kavanah before all mitzwoth, לעשות נחת רוח ליוצרנו - to please our creator. The part of any mitzwah that is the desire to please God, and the joy we share with him in our performance, is tefillah. The dialog of our lives, that the Baal Shem Tov said is the total of our existence, this is tefillah.

The more we enjoy praying, the more HaShem enjoys our prayers. כמים הפנים אל הפנים (when we are happy speaking to someone it arouses similar feelings in that person as well. So too all the moreso with God, who loves us and cares for us always.) Be aware that this relationship has to be pure, with no ulterior motivations, (including the motivation to get high on God, instead of getting high to be with God.) otherwise who knows how far it can rip us away from our goal, before we even realize it, HaShem yishmor!.

From here we get to a place of the desire to make HaShem happy, לשעשע. Here we get to the story of David HaMelech who danced before the ארון הקודש. (the ark of the covenant) His wife, Michal, didn't understand the pure abandon of David who danced out of the pure desire to please his Father, his King, his Creator. [I have a nephew who enjoys moving, you can see when he moves that he is half-dancing simply because it's fun to move, a simple prayer to God from the breath of a baby] Michal, instead saw the dancing and thought it was low and petty, beneath the royalty of David HaMelech's position. She didn't know it was the highest prayer.

Rebbe Nachman has a very short Torah at the heart of his sefer Likkutei Moharan, I:32. (לב is heart, and its gematria is 32) It's been on my mind, why that Torah was chosen as the heart of all of his Torah. This morning when I actually completed the circuit between dancing and prayer, finally got to some simple beginnings of understanding that David HaMelech was praying with all of his being, that I understood why it was that Likkutei Moharan at its heart mentions two things. Prayer and Dancing.

Raising up our voices is high, we can alight to the supernal realms. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan talks about the various forms of Jewish meditation through song or speech that would allow Kabbalists to rise through the heavenly halls. But our voices are too thin, too ethereal to really bring God down here. We have bodies that are thick with physicality, dirty with grime and sweat. Our bodies, when we use them to pray, we make a real dwelling place for God in the darkest, rankest places of creation. We are dust and ashes, injected with holy breath. The breath and the dust are most at one, most united in serving HaShem in our dancing for His joy, to please Him at His creation.

All of our prayers should be like David HaMelech's dancing, wherever we are, whatever we are involved in, our bodies can be doing the same motions, the very same actions, but with completely different intent, we can be dancing and praying on the inside, until we get to the end of tehillim and כל הנשמה תהלל י-ה הללוי-ה! (all of our breath is praise to God)


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