Netivot Shalom on Prayer 3

The Netivot Shalom quotes a piece of Gemara based on the last week’s Torah portion, בשלח.  BT Sotah 30a describes how at the splitting of the sea, even the infant on its mother’s knee and the baby breastfeeding, experienced the שכינה and sang out in praise the words זה אלי ואנוהו, this is my G-d and I will glorify Him.   R. Berezovsky discusses how this shows that it is an essential element of the Israelite to feel an innate sense of needing to praise G-d in song, through the use of poetics.  This Gemara also teaches the idea of a sophisticated simplicity.  The infant recognizes the granduer of the divine but as an infant, there is no rationalization.  It is simply “This is My G-d and I will glorify Him.”

Netivot Shalom on Prayer 2

In discussing the concept of prayer being worship of the heart, R. Berezovsky presents a fascinating interpretation of a passage in BT Berachot 8a.  The Talmud states:  “R’ Hisda said that a person must always enter through two entrances and then pray.”   This passage has a few meanings.  Some read this literally, that a synagogue needs two entrances before the sanctuary.  If we look at most synagogues, the sanctuary is not immediately at the entrance of the synagogue.  There is at least one additional door to enter before the sanctuary.  R. Berezovsky reads this passage as referring to two levels a person must achieve before reaching the place of prayer.  The first is to rid one’s mind of all extraneous thoughts, only focusing on our worship of G-d.  The second door is to then work towards unifying and pairing with the divine. Only once we reach those two levels can we truly be praying, which is the worship of the heart.

Netivot Shalom on Prayer

In the modern Hasidic work, Netivot Shalom, R. Shalom Noah Berezovsky, the previous Slonimer Rebbe of Jerusalem, discusses the concept of how asking for our needs can be considered part of תפילה.  His question is predicated on the equation of prayer with service of the heart (עבודה שבלב).   If we are serving G-d through our words, it would seem antithetical to be asking G-d for our needs.

R. Berezovsky argues that part of prayer, based on the R. Chaim of Brisk’s famous essay on Rambam’s view of prayer, is to be focused on standing before G-d.  When we are truly focused on where our prayers are directed, we bring about a connection between ourselves and G-d.  As such, when we are pouring our hearts out the G-d, we are connecting to G-d, for we are recognizing that it is only G-d that can truly provide for our needs and remove our troubles.