Rabbi Elazar opened [his discourse] by saying, "Who is there among you that fears G‑d...[that obeys the voice of His servant]? (Isaiah 50:10) What is the meaning of "that obeys the voice of His servant"? This verse has been explained (Berachot 6B] and set by the Colleagues as referring to prayers. It is as follows: Whoever is accustomed to come to the synagogue to pray; one day he doesn't come, G‑d inquires about him and says, "Who is there among you that fears G‑d, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in dark places, and has no light?" What is the meaning of "that obeys the voice of His servant" - the voice of whom? If you say that of "His servant" is it referring to a prophet or some other person, what is the connection between a prophet or any other person and his prayer? Is it because, by praying, he obeys the voice of a prophet or another person in the world?

It is only that he who says his prayer service regularly, listens to that voice with which G‑d calls to him. And He takes pride in him, saying that he definitely is His servant. That is the meaning of: "That listens to the voice." To which voice? To that voice that he is considered "His servant." That is the highest praise that a voice was proclaiming about him that he is His servant. Furthermore, a voice is heard in all these heavens, that he is a servant in the service of the Holy King. This is the meaning of: "That he hears the voice [proclaiming him to be] His servant."

"That walks in dark places, and has no light." Because he did not come to pray, he "walks in dark places"? It was however explained that before Israel gather into the synagogues to pray, the Other Side stands around and blocks all the upper lights so that they should not emanate and spread out over the world. Three times a day, this Other Side, which is male and female aspects, goes and wanders around the world (to draw flow to the external forces). That time [when the Other Side is wandering about] was appropriated for prayers, because then no accusations prevail.

Then is the opportune period for prayer, because they [the Male and Female aspects of the Other Side] go to loiter in the Mountains of Darkness and Mount Nishpe. At that moment, the windows of the upper lights are opened and they emanate and rest upon the houses of worship on the heads of those who say prayers. And the lights are dispersed over their heads. The G‑d inquires about the one who isn't there and declares, it is a pity about this one who used to come here; now, he "walks in dark places," he is removed from the lights and has gone to wander in the mountains in the world [for he is now under the dominion of the Other Side in the Mountains of Darkness]. He left that brightness, which is the lamp that gives light [in the synagogues] and has no part in it. This is what is written: "And has no light," as it was spread and rests upon the others that are there. How much benefit was lost to him. If he were there, "let him trust in the name of G‑d," meaning he would be included in the first 'servant' [before the Amida prayer] "and rely upon his Elokim" in the secret meaning of the second 'servant' [after the Amidah].

Rabbi Shimon said, My son Elazar, it is certain that the spirit of prophecy prevails on you.

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

G‑d in search of man, as R. Heschel (a'h) wrote: this is why we say in our daily liturgy, "Give strength to G‑d". It's not just that we need Him; He knows what you are up to, and why, and He wants you to want Him. But our prayer counts. G‑d desires the heart—your heart for Him.

G‑d is jealous, a good thing if it leads to constructive relationships. Just as there is light, so too is there dark places. The closer we get to Holiness, the more potential for negativity to adhere. The righteous have a harder struggle with their passions. To choose a path toward G‑d under this constant onslaught only increases His favor.

Once one commits to dancing with G‑d, it needs to be a regular gig, or else the Eternal, as it were, feels slighted. This may seem strange, but nonetheless - as explained above - is required for our G‑d-wrestling below.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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