Continued from the last posting here:
Likutey Moharan I:9 – Week 1
“And know! Everything depends on the degree of emes (truth) a person has. For the main light is Hashem, and Hashem is the essence of emes. Hashem’s primary yearning is for nothing but the emes……See it that words leave your mouth in emes, and then, from Above, Hashem will long to dwell with you. And when he dwells with you, He will shine for you.” (9:3)
So often I rush through the words of the siddur because in the back of my mind something tells me that I have to finish this piece or that piece – and that finishing these pieces is more important than the real attention I devote to the words of the prayer. How many times do I really direct my words directly to Hashem when saying the word אתה (“You”) or reflect on the fact that I was talking directly to Hashem and when I see words ending with ךָ (remembering who is the “Your”)?
Based on the words from lesson Likutey Moharan I:9 quoted above, I understood that in order for words to leave my mouth with emes, I would need to slow down and override the inclination which tells me saying more is better. As Rabbi Chaim Kramer succinctly wrote in Rebbe Nachman and You,
“Simplicity means clarity. ‘I do one thing at a time. I am not under pressure to be a superman.'”
In his collection Likutey Eitzos Ivri Teitch (translated into Hebrew as Eitzos Mevu’aros and also included in the excellent new Bechukosai Teileichu series), Rabbi Shimshon Barski of Uman, a descendant of the Rebbe, reminded me that in order for words to leave my mouth with emes, I had to make sure I first understood the meaning of the words and be careful not to skip over any of them (Eitzos Mevu’aros, Emes v’Emuna #6). In discussing this advice with a good friend who is an American-born chassid, he told me that when he was newly married, he spent 15 minutes a day on better understanding the words in the siddur. Continuing this practice for a few years, he ultimately found it to be very helpful and suggested that I determine whether I could find a time in my daily schedule for this. I spoke to my rabbi about this suggestion and he also concurred that it would certainly be worth my while to do so.
Once I had resolved to spend time each day to better understanding the words of the siddur, I recalled that the last time I had done this in earnest was one summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. Why had it taken me 20 years to revisit getting a better understanding of a book I had used three times a day since then? I had spent time with all kinds of other books, but not this most fundamental of books!
Picking up a siddur, I was confronted with the obvious first question of where to start. Knowing myself too well, I realized that if I started at the beginning I would quickly lose steam once I started trudging through the Korbanos section which I continuously struggle to find meaningful. Since the Likutey Moharan I:9 mentions Yaakov and connects him to prayer and emes (truth) dispelling darkness, it seemed most appropriate to begin with Maariv. I also thought beginning with Maariv was appropriate since it is the prayer I always found it most difficult to daven since I am usually so tired by that time (especially in the summer months when it is even later!). However, this was just my hunch and I was concerned that my starting point might be based on my own assumptions and not something that could really be derived from the Rebbe’s lesson in Likutey Moharan.
So, I opened up Likutey Halachos to a section that was connected to this lesson in Likutey Moharan and was relieved to see that Reb Noson also made the same connection that I had. In Likutey Halachos, Hilchos Geneiva 5:16 he taught that Yaakov instituted the prayer of Maariv because in the midst of darkness a person needs to attach himself to the emes. With this reassurance that I was on the right track, I decided that I would delve into Maariv; a page or so a day using both a siddur with an English translation for the simple meaning of the words and Siddur Avodas HaLev for insights from Breslov literature (I would have used BRI’s Breslov Siddur, however the section on Maariv was not yet ready).
Next week I will let you know how it went.