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FAQ: Meditation and Prayer - 2

FAQ: Meditation and Prayer - 2

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QUESTION: "Does G‑d answer individual’s prayers?"

ANSWER: Yes. Absolutely. But the answer is not always "yes". G‑d also has free choice, right? And He chooses only what is best for us, even when we don't see it at the time.


QUESTION: "I was told that 'it is customary not to say Tehillim from sunset to midnight, but that it's permissible after midnight,' and I was told the reason was Kabbalistic. What is the Kabbalistic reason, and is this the custom in some or all circles?"

ANSWER: The hours from sunset to midnight are dominated by the divine attribute of Gevurah - might, justice. The hours from midnight to sunrise are dominated by the divine attribute of Chesed - kindness, love.

Those who try to custom themselves to be aligned with Kabbalah refrain from *reading* the Written Torah during the hours of Gevurah, and are careful to study Oral Torah then instead. This includes nearly all Chasidim and most Sephardim, and others as well.

Some say if you *study* Tehillim or Chumash then WITH a commentary, then it may be considered Oral Torah too.


QUESTION 1: "Is there a reason that some Psalms end with a double Amen, such as Psalm 89? Does it have something to do with the text themselves, the ferventness of the prayers, or both?

QUESTION 2: Also, would it be appropriate for me to end any prayer, especially a private, informal prayer with a double amen? Or, when a close friend writes a prayer on his blog, to respond with, "amen and amen"?"

ANSWER 1: GOOD questions! In the Books of Psalms, these usually signify the end of a large section, or even one of the five books of Psalms, as in the example you gave. However,

ANSWER 2: You are on to something, and I congratulate you. It is okay to say Amen twice with your own prayer, and according to Jewish mystical sources excellent to do so in response to prayers of others.


QUESTION: "How can I perform properly the "Tikkun Klali" of Rabbi Nachman, I mean, the hour and how to give the tzedakkah and to whom should I give it?

Also, how to start putting in practice the Kabalistic teachings, I don't mean to manipulate nature by the Names, but how to transform and remove impurities from one’s soul?
Also, the very fact of just studying the Zohar and the Kabbalah remove the husks?"

ANSWER: The ideal time for Tikun Klali is between midnight and dawn, but I see that many if not most Breslavers now do it immediately after the morning prayers. The tzadakah should be to help poor Jews, or another worthy Jewish cause. You can put it into a receptacle and store it until the opportunity arises to deliver it to someone or somewhere appropriate.

Studying Zohar and Kabbalah can inspire you to not listen to your evil inclination. Each time you deny it, you weaken the kelipot. Also, the study itself is purifying. Sincere prayer also helps with this.


QUESTION: "I've been reading the works of Rabbi Michael Laitman of Bnai Brak and he does not give any importance to meditation or practical Kabbalah. He gives importance to the desire of the heart to receive the light. My question is: Why the difference between Chasidism and R’ Laitman’s teachings? And may I be one with the Creator by either meditation, practical Kabbalah, prayer, or the real desire of the heart?"

ANSWER: According to Chasidism, and all schools of Judaism really, the ultimate measure of our relationship with the Creator is our deeds. Of course, meditation and sincerity both help to deepen the deed. But meditation and study without the proper deed in consequence is considered extremely unworthy and in some situations even dangerous. Does the author you cite stress or at least mention the importance of actually and physically fulfilling the commandments?


QUESTION: "Oracles and astrology certainly have a debatable value for spiritual seekers today. As the Kabbala offers deeper insight of G‑d's law, how are the laws concerning methods of divination and astrology further addressed?"

ANSWER: Divination is an absolute prohibition of the Torah. Kabbala is an integral part of Judaism, so there is nothing further to discuss. We find some room in Kabbala thought for astrology and palm-reading for character analysis, but not in an oracular or divination sense.


QUESTION: "I recently read that when praying for something, like sustenance and income, you should address G‑d by His correct holy name, for this petition, in order for Him to deliver.
If this is so, what should be the correct holy name or names to address G‑d? [list of Names omitted]

ANSWER: What you heard is not necessarily true, and is the opposite of true for someone who doesn't understand the precise meanings and intentions associated with each name, or have the requisite purity (almost impossible in the case of someone whose primary concern in prayer is income). It is advisable and preferable to call on G‑d using whatever name you are used to addressing him. Heartfelt prayers should come from the heart.


QUESTION: "I'm currently reading "Tzava'at Harivash", wherein the Bal Shem Tov continually discusses the importance of cleaving to G‑d, whether it be through prayer, or daily activities. I assume this is a form of meditation, so we don't dwell too long on negative thoughts that might naturally come-and-go through out the day. What kind of meditation is it, the four letter name? I understand when we study Torah this occurs naturally, but when we aren't, what should we do?"

ANSWER: You say you understand how this works during Torah study. One contribution of Chasidut is to reveal how this can also be accomplished during prayer and mitzvah performance, and perhaps even better than during Torah study (see below). The Besht is pushing it further, that it should be during all of our activities. It can be done through the meditation that you proposed, but that is not the Besht's emphasis. Rather, however, whenever one thinks of G‑d, that’s fine but the point is to have that thought in consciousness throughout the day as much as possible.

You will soon reach the section where the Besht observes that one obstacle towards this goal can be intensive Torah study itself! He notes that a person can study Talmud for eight hours straight and not once think of G‑d. He recommends specifically to full-time studiers to stop once an hour and think of the Giver of the Torah.


QUESTION: Do you have the text of the Kabbalistic "kavanot"/intentions to say before immersing in a mikvah? I know that these exist both in an Ari version and in a Besht version. If you have either of these in Hebrew and can e-mail them to me, it would considerably enrich my Friday pre-Shabbat immersions.

ANSWER: The Ari kavanot are to be found in Shaar Hakavanot and in Pri Etz Chayim.
The Besht kavanot are in Keter Shem Tov. These are available on CD by purchase, but not on the net, so far as I know. But to "considerably enrich my weekly erev Shabbat tevilah", surely it must be worth it to purchase a book or the disk. We have testimony from the Besht that the Ari accepted that the Besht's kavannot are more appropriate for the later generations.


QUESTION: "I understand that one should not utter the name of such and such supernal being, or the proper names of false idols. Does the invocation of a prohibited name have the same power if it is mental and not verbal, such as in random thought or if it just crawls into your head and won't go away?"

ANSWER: In terms of the Law, there is no prohibition in thinking, unless they are thoughts of worship to another god. Spiritually, it is wise to be careful even, or especially, with one's thoughts. Even if it "won't go away" you don't have to feed it energy by paying attention to it.

Yerachmiel Tilles is the co-founder of Ascent-of-Safed, and was its educational director for 18 years. He is the creator of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org and currently the director of both sites. He is also a well-known storyteller, a columnist for numerous chassidic publications, and a staff rabbi on AskMoses.com, as well as and the author of "Saturday Night, Full Moon": Intriguing Stories of Kabbalah Sages, Chasidic Masters and other Jewish Heroes.
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