A Lovely Hasidic Tale of Prayer

March 29, 2018

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Once during the Days of Awe (the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), the saint Yitzhak Luria heard the voice of God tell him that for all his prayerful mastery there was a man in a neighbouring town whose capacity for prayer exceeded even his own. As soon as he could, Rabbi Yitzhak travelled to that town and sought the man out.

‘I have heard wondrous things about you,’ he said to the man when he found him, ‘Are you a Torah scholar?’ ‘No,’ the man replied. ‘I have never had the opportunity to study.’

‘Then you must be a master of Psalms, a devotional genius who prays with great intensity.’ ‘No,’ the man said. ‘I have heard the Psalms many times, of course, but I do not know one well enough to recite it.’

‘And yet,’ Rabbi Luria cried, ‘I was told that the quality of your prayer surpasses even my own! What did you do during the Days of Awe that would merit such praise?’

‘Rabbi,’ the man said, ‘I am illiterate. Of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet I know about ten. When I entered the synagogue and saw the congregation so fervent in their prayers, my heart shattered within me. I couldn’t pray at all. So I said, O Lord of the Universe (Ribbono shel Olom) here are the letters I know: aleph, beis, gimmel, daled, hay, vav, zayin, chet, tes, yud. Combine them in a manner You understand, and I hope that they will be pleasing to you. And then I repeated these ten letters over and over again, trusting God to weave them into words”

– From Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained, trans. Rabbi Rami Shapiro 

Ya Haqq!

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“The finest thing that we can say of God is to be silent…”

March 2, 2018

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Now pay attention to this. God is nameless for no one can either speak of Him or know Him. Therefore when a pagan master says that what we can know or say of the First Cause reflects ourselves more than it does the First Cause, this transcends all speech and all understanding . . . He is being beyond being: He is a nothingness beyond being. Therefore St. Augustine says: ‘The finest thing that we can say of God is to be silent concerning him from the wisdom of inner riches.’  Be silent therefore, and do not chatter about God, for by chattering about Him, you tell lies and commit a sin. If you wish to be perfect and without sin, then do not prattle about God. Also you should not wish to understand anything about God, for God is beyond all understanding. A master says: If I had a God that I could understand, I would not regard him as God. If you understand anything about Him, then He is not in it, and by understanding something of Him, you fall into ignorance, and by falling into ignorance, you become like an animal since the animal part in creatures is that which is unknowing. If you do not wish to become like an animal, therefore, do not pretend that you understand anything of the ineffable God.

– Meister Eckhart

Ya Haqq!