Author Topic: (on praying) My Question and Answer from a Great Kabbalist.  (Read 1330 times)

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Offline Tzvi Ben Roshel1

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(on praying) My Question and Answer from a Great Kabbalist.
« on: November 15, 2007, 10:48:21 PM »
Should I read Psalms in my mother tongue English or in Hebrew, which I hardly understand?  Also, my friend can't read Hebrew. Is he allowed to recite regular prayers and blessings in English? Does it make a difference?


I posed your question to the Kabbalist elder Rabbi Eliahu Leon Levi, shlita, who said that you should definitely say Psalms in Hebrew. Even your friend who can't read Hebrew letters, he should read the Hebrew words of the prayers and blessings transliterated into English.

Rabbi Leon has often emphasized the power of Hebrew words and letters. When pronounced, they trigger off reactions that reach the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. The Hebrew letters are grouped into 5 phonetic categories depending on what part of the mouth the sound emanates from:

throat אחהע
palate גיכק
tongue דטלנת
teeth זסשרץ
lips בומף
The Kabbalah views these groupings with major significance. When Hebrew prayers and blessings are recited with the aforementioned organs of speech, the letters form syllables which form words that contain each within them a unique Kabbalist code that illuminates the soul.

In other words, the juxtaposition of letters in Hebrew words is not a mere coincidence, but rather carries spiritual overtones. Reciting Psalms in English would lack the full esoteric impact that King David implanted in the Psalms.

This would be like writing the word "bread" down on a piece of paper and eating it. In both the analogy and the case of reciting prayers in English, the full nourishment that benefits the body and soul is severely lacking.

But how can a Jew worship G-d with all his heart when he has no earthly idea what he is saying?

Two answers: 1. The approach to prayer is an integral part of prayer. 2. Glance at the English translation as you recite them.

1. Even if a person doesn't know how to pray, or doesn't understand the words he is saying, if he turns to G-d with all his heart begging forgiveness for his erroneous ways; if he cries out his remorse and his heartfelt desire to draw closer to G-d; if he is overwhelmed with awe and joy at the opportunity to converse with G-d in private audience, his supplication is heard loud and clear. The approach to prayer is as important as prayer itself. A person must step up to prayer confessing his transgressions, and rejoicing at the honor to speak before the King of Kings.

Pharoah's daughter has compassion on MosesOn this same note, the Zohar [Tikunei Zohar: Noach, 21] draws an analogy between the opening verse of the amidah, "Hashem s'fatai tiftach...[G-d open my lips...]" [Psalms: 51:17] and the verse regarding the daughter of Pharoah who finds Moses in the wicker basket on the Nile river: "And when she opened it [Heb. - tiftach] , she saw the child, and behold the boy was crying, and she had compassion on him..." [Exodus 2:6]. We see that the Hebrew word tiftach (open) is used in both verses.

The Zohar draws on this and concludes that just as the daughter of Pharoah had compassion on Moses when she opened the basket and he was crying, so too, when "Israel opens their prayer with crying, the same result is effected: [G-d] 'will have compassion on him.'"

2. Along with a Hebrew ulpan course, I would suggest praying with a prayerbook that has English translation so that you can slowly progress through the services, pronouncing the Hebrew words and glancing over at the English for their meaning. Perhaps try a linear prayerbook.

Rabbi Leon's answer is to recite prayers and blessings in Hebrew. I note that there are authorities who allow reciting them in English, under the circumstances you describe. But why not enjoy the best of both worlds, as we suggested.

Prayer is not easy, and is, in fact, called "work of the heart." May your prayers be answered in the most positive of ways.
The Academy of Elijah taught, whoever studies the laws (of the Torah) every day, (he) is guaranteed to have a share in the World to Come.

‏119:139 צִמְּתַתְנִי קִנְאָתִי כִּישָׁכְחוּ דְבָרֶיךָ צָרָי
My zeal incenses me, for my adversaries have forgotten Your words.
‏119:141 צָעִיר אָנֹכִי וְנִבְזֶה פִּקֻּדֶיךָ, לֹא שָׁכָחְתִּי.
 I am young and despised; I have not forgotten Your precepts.

" A fool does not realize, and an unwise person does not understand this (i.e. the following:) When the wicked bloom like grass, and the evildoers blossom (i.e. when they seem extremly successful), it is to destroy them forever (i.e. they are rewarded for their few good deeds in this World, and they will have no portion in the World to Come!)

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