True Secrets of the Seder HaTefillah

At the end of Shaar HaBrochos in Pri Etz Chaim from the Arizal there’s an apt description of the purpose of each part of davening according to Sod. Following is a paraphrased translation:”From waking up and washing the hands to remove the Ruach Ra (“evil wind,” the spirit of impurity) that falls upon them at night, to say Asher Yotzar and Elokai Neshomo to thank Hashem for kindly returning our neshomo to our bodies, along with the other Birkos HaShachar (Morning Blessings). After this one must sanctify oneself with actions directly related to this world through putting on tallis and tefillin and other relevant things, such as proper clothes for prayer, as there is an idea to have a special garment for tefillah, and gartel (prayer belt). Once this is accomplished, the way for davening must be cleared through the recitation of the Ketores (Incense-Offering), which is known according to Kabbalah to incinerate the Kochos HaTumah (Forces of Impurity) from the paths that prayer travels through. From saying Ketores, we have to recite the sections relevant to the Korban HaTamid brought twice a day, which serves to atone for our sins and clear the paths for our prayers to ascend from interference by those wicked forces created by our personal sins. After these steps are accomplished, then our prayers can ascend to Hashem properly. The verses of Pesukei D’Zimrah (Verses of Praiseful Song) are connected to the Kochos HaDin Shb’kdusha (Forces of Judgement of Holiness) that correspond to the Malachin Nukvin (Feminine Angels) who are the forces of holy judgement, for the Nekeiva (Feminine aspect) is always the root of Din, and this is connected to the realm of Sandal–Fon, wherein the angels organize their praises. All of this is to accomplish the Tikun of the Shechinah, as it is known she “nests” inSandal–Fon. After the Pesukei D’Zimrah, we say Shiras HaYam (Song at the Sea) which is a reference to Yesod, that is the last level of Sheish Kitzv’os (Six Branches) which “nests” in Metat–ron, which is called “Torah Sh’b’ksav” (The Written Torah). From this place begins the Tikun accomplished by way of Torah Sh’b’ksav, and she enters into the world of Malachim HaRachamim (The Angels of Mercy). These are accomplished through the 13 praises in Yishtabach, which correspond to the 13 Middos HaRachamim (Attributes of Mercy). From this the Shechinah travels from Heichal to Heichal.”Rabbeinu Chaim Vital zy’a goes much further and explains more the Tikkunim that are made going through Birkas Krias Shma, Krias Shma, Shmoneh Esreh etc until the end of Shachris. What we can learn from this long description of what happens and all these descriptions of angels and ascent of the Shechinah is how important each individual piece of davening is to the entire structure thereof. The Shechinah is called K’nesses Yisroel (Congregation of Israel) in many places, so we can understand that much of what is described as the ascent of the Shechinah is also the ascent of our own souls in the process of davening. Though many poskim say one should cut out parts of davening in order to say certain parts with the minyan, the mekubalim disagree, and the Baal HaTanya paskens in his Siddur that no part of davening should be skipped. For those who wish to disagree, he has a tshuva in his Shaalos U’Tshuvos that in short states that those who wish to follow the mainline poskim follow them, and those who follow Kabbalistic understandings of Torah should do like the mekubalim. It is also incredibly important to daven with kavanah, as the Rambam paskens that without kavanah one isn’t considered to have davened, and the Ari states in Pri Etz Chaim that prayer without intent leads to the great power of prayers being turned over to the Sitra Achra. Hashem should help us all to daven with kavanah and to accomplish the various different Tikunim that are done through davening; we should merit to see Moshiach soon.

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