Rabbi Shimon opened [his discourse] with [the verse], "A psalm of David. 'To You, O G‑d [Havayah], do I lift up my soul. O my G‑d, I trust in You...[let me not be ashamed.]'" (Psalms 25:1-2) Why did David see fit to prepare this praise so, since all praises that are in alphabetical order are complete, while this one is missing the vav [as well as the beit and kuf]? And why is this Psalm arranged [by the Great Sanhedrin] for the prostration penitential "falling upon the face" [part of the daily prayer service, i.e. Tachanun]?

This is a supreme mystery concealed among the colleagues. During the time night falls, the lower tree [malchut] on which death attaches [for the external forces both attach too and suckle from malchut and their grip is called “death”] spreads its branches [through the power of the external forces] and covers everything. Therefore, it becomes dark [through the power of the gevurot of the external forces], and all the inhabitants of the world have a taste of death [people go to sleep at night and sleep is called 1/60 of death]. Man, anticipating this, gives Her the deposit of his soul, depositing it as a pledge in Her hand [By saying the verse, “In Your hands I deposit my soul” at the “Bedtime Reading of Shema”, a person willingly and consciously gives over his soul temporarily to the level of malchut until morning]. And since She took the soul as a deposit, the deposit returns to its owner when morning comes. When morning arrives and the pledge is returned to him, he is required to bless G‑d [as we say first thing in the morning in the Elokai HaNeshama prayer: "Who restores souls to dead bodies"] who is the level of highest trust. [Malchut is called the lower level of faith and responds to tiferet, called here the higher level of faith.]

After waking, he enters the synagogue, adorned with his Tefilin and covered with Tzitzit [a tallit], enters and cleanses himself [inwardly], first by [reciting the text of the incense and] sacrificial offerings. After that, he accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven by [reciting] the order of David's praises, which are arranged as acceptance of the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom. And in this order of praises [in Pesukei deZimra] he causes that yoke to settle within him. Following that is the order of prayer while seated [the blessings of the reading of Shema, related to malchut] and the order of the standing prayer [the Amida, related to Zeir Anpin] to connect them together [to do a complete unification in the final blessing, Sim Shalom].

Come and see the mystery of it [how the physical mitzvahs and prayer service rectify the four worlds of Asiya, Yetzira, Beriya and Atzilut]. Although prayer depends on speech and the utterance of the mouth [to elevate and connect the worlds], everything is essentially dependent upon the first actions [he did in the physical world by washing and cleansing himself and adorning tallit and tefillin to separate the kelipot from the external part of each World], and afterwards upon speech and uttering with the mouth [to remedy the internal portion of each]. And what is the activity? It is those very actions that a person performs first that themselves cause effects similar to prayer.1 And a person must not say a prayer until he first conducts acts that resemble the power of prayer.

The first activity is when a person gets up [from bed]. He must cleanse himself first [by washing his hands, representing the removal of the kelipot from the external aspect of the world of Asiya and by relieving himself, he will fix the internal aspect of the external world of Asiya]. Following that, he must accept the yoke [of Heaven] upon himself, by covering his head [with a tallit and intend to separate out the external forces of the world of Yetzira, and intend that the smaller tallit katan rectifies the internal aspect of that world] . Afterwards, he ties the knot of unification - these are the Tefilin, on the head [to fix the external of Atzilut] and on the arm and hand [to remedy the external of the world of Beriya] - and affix them with a knot on the left hand, facing the heart, as we explained concerning, "His left hand is under my head" (Songs 2:6) and: "Set Me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm" (Songs 8:6) And this we explained elsewhere. All this is the action that [must] be done before praying.

Following this [fixing of the external parts of the worlds of Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya], when a person enters the synagogue [from here we see the basis for the custom to appear in the synagogue already adorned with tallit and tefilin], he should first cause himself to be purified with the sacrificial offerings, by means of speech [by saying the texts with the intent to raise up the internal aspect of the world of Asiya]. Then, one should accept the yoke of malchut to spread over his head with the praises of King David, corresponding to the act of covering himself with the tallit [but now he is raising the internal part of Yetzira]. Following this is the seated prayer [the Shema and its berachot, rectifying the internal part of the world of Beriya], which corresponds to the [internal aspect of the earlier act of putting on the] hand tefilin [that rectified the external part of the world of Beriya]. Then is the standing prayer [and the internal part of the world of Atzilut] which parallels the head tefilin [that earlier rectified the external part of the world of Atzilut]. Thus each one corresponds to the other: the deed to speech, since certainly prayer depends on both speech and deed.

If his deed is flawed [because he does not do the physical mitzvahs of wearing talit and tefilin that separate out the kelipot which stand at the external part of each world], then his speech is also not rectified since it issues out from a defective place [and he cannot elevate the internal part of each world to rectify it because he has not removed the external negative attributes beforehand and they hold his prayer back], and his words are not considered prayer. And that person becomes flawed above and below, since it is necessary to demonstrate a deed and say the proper speech about it, and only then is it considered a perfect prayer. Woe unto the person who flaws his prayer, the service of his Master! About him it is written: "When you come to appear before Me....even when you make many prayers, I will not hear," (Isaiah 1:12-15) because this [the rectification of the worlds] depends upon both deed and speech.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does this mean to you, and why is it revealed now?

So, are you ready for your midterm in Kabbalah 201? The Zohar sets the basics for the later Kabbalists to flesh out the intentions for the prayer service which is based on the elevations of the 4 worlds of Making, Forming, Creating, and Nearness. The essence of the above Zohar is this: we need to first fix the external before perfecting the internal. An action need be done well and with proper intent before speech.

For example, in a wedding ceremony, the groom and bride drink from the wine, he takes the ring carefully and with intent and holds his bride's hand, and then, and only then, with the ring ready to place on her right index finger, says, "Behold, you are consecrated to me by means of this ring, according to the ritual of Moses and Israel." Action first, then speech. Both need to be done precisely to perfect a marriage in holiness.

So too in the rest of our life. Action, then Speech. Perfected, then connected, then elevated.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.