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Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's Lessons on Prayer

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » The Prayers | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The prayers on Rosh Hashanah differ from the rest of the year. Some passages appear unfamiliar, with words and sentences we are not accustomed to. While it is incumbent upon us to properly prepare for this holy day, we all know that each of us has some limitations. The following lessons from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev shed some light on how we can make the most of our prayers.

1. Everyone assembled in the synagogue was awaiting this moment. Their spiritual leader, the sainted Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was going to sound the Shofar himself this year. They knew of his dedication to G-d. They knew of his piety. They knew that there was no more worthy person to lead the congregation in this special Mitzvah on this holy day.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak readied himself for this task of utmost importance. He immersed in the Mikvah, purifying himself in preparation for this hallowed duty. When the time came for him to blow the Shofar, he looked angelic, garbed in his white kittel, enveloped in his Tallit. He recited the introductory prayers with utmost concentration, inspiring the entire congregation to do so with him. He then read a prefatory portion of the Zohar with heartfelt emotion. Now was the time for the blowing of the Shofar. The entire congregation stood with anticipation and trepidation, awaiting the blessings and the first sounds of the Shofar. But they did not come.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak placed the Shofar back down on the table before him. A few moments passed, and he again picked up the Shofar. He hesitated, and then placed the Shofar down once again
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak did not recite the blessings. Instead, he placed the Shofar back down on the table before him. A few moments passed, and he again picked up the Shofar. He readied himself to recite the blessing. He hesitated, and then placed the Shofar down once again. After some time had passed, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak turned to the confused assembled.

"My friends," he said, "there is seated here today a man. This man is not like you or me. He was separated from his family in his youth, and has no background or familiarity with his religion. He does not know how to read Hebrew, let alone pray. He knows that today is Rosh Hashanah, a day to pray to G-d, and he therefore joined us. Standing here, he saw the entire congregation immersed in meaningful and earnest prayer. He felt a jealousy, a burning feeling of envy, because he could not participate with the congregation. This man turned his head towards heaven, and cried his heart out.

"'Our merciful Father, You know all the sincere prayers, the depths of the feelings with which they are uttered, the meanings and implications of each and every word. The only thing I know are the 22 letters of the Alef-Bet. My prayer to You, on this holiest of days, is all that I know: Alef, Bet, Gimel, etc.. Please G-d, in Your abundant kindness, join together these letters to formulate a prayer for me.'"


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » Yom Kippur » The Prayers

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Tallit
A prayer shawl. A large four-cornered woolen garment with fringes attached to its corners in a specific manner. This garment is worn by males during the morning prayers, fulfilling the Biblical obligation of attaching fringes to four-cornered garments.
kittel
(Yiddish) A long white garment, normally made of cotton or linen, customarily worn by Ashkenazi married men on Yom Kippur. A kittel is also worn by Ashkenazi men beneath the wedding canopy.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.