the nightwatch

The Noam Elimelech (פרשת בא) takes a familliar mention in the Talmud and reinterprets it here as pointers for tefillah. Naturally, since he's bringing abstract ideas down into the practical realm of tefillah (a subject close to my heart) we will delve into it here.

The Talmud (Berachot 3a) tells us the night is broken into three watches:
  1. A Donkey breying
  2. Dogs barking
  3. A mother nursing her child
Reb Elimelech explains that each of these watches corresponds to one of the three types of blessing the Tzaddik brings into the world through his prayer:
  1. Children - בני
    • This is symbolized by Avraham when he used his great kindness and eagerness to perform God's will as a means to pray and beseech on behalf of the life of his son, Yitzhak on the way to the Akeidah. (The binding of Isaac) First he saddled his donkey (in hebrew donkey shares the same word as physicality/material) then at the end of his journey he said to his two servants, we will [both] go and we will bow [in prayer] and we will [both] return to you.
  2. Life/health - חיי
    • This is symbolized by the hour in which HaShem killed all the firstborn in egypt, as well as by the fact that no dog barked at the Jews, meaning they had succeeded in achieving this level of prayer, overcoming this watch of the night.
  3. Food/livelihood - מזוני
    • Here the mother feeding her infant symbolizes that this is the time of night to pray regarding our livelihood, that all of our monetary and gustatory (food) needs will be met.
So, perhaps if we really want to work on a particular aspect of our tefillah, or if we feel connected to one aspect in particular, we now know of an oppurtune time for each of them.


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