Monday, September 6, 2010

A Deeper Prayer

The holy Baal Shem Tov had appointed a close disciple to blow shofar for his community Rosh Hashana morning. In preparation for this holy assignment, the disciple carefully studied the meditations from the holy Ari z'l designed to accompany blowing the shofar and studiously committed them to memory.

These meditations include visualizing combinations of various divine names at certain key moments during the sounding of the shofar.

The intensely awaited moment finally arrived. The disciple was standing before the holy congregation on that holy day, in that holy moment. As he raised the shofar to his quivering lips, he reached into his memory bank to retrieve the meditations, but to his own surprise his mind did not cooperate and blanked out on him.

Now he was forced to sound the shofar without the "crown jewel" he had so carefully crafted to accompany this precious moment. The imperfection of his performance was too personally glaring to ignore. So broken, so crushed, so humiliated, he blew the shofar in a deeply saddened state.

At the conclusion of the prayer services, after his last sounds vibrated across the sanctuary, the Baal Shem Tov approached him with very warm congratulations. Surprised and taken aback, he explained to the Baal Shem Tov how he broken hearted he was for not remembering even a single meditation. He doubted that his performance was really proportionally equal to the congratulations he had just received.

Strangely, the Baal Shem Tov's smile grew ever more radiant as his disciple bemoaned his "poor" performance. Finally, when the Baal Shem Tov's joy had brimmed over he replied, "That's exactly the way one is supposed to blow shofar, with a humbled heart! Praying with a humbled heart opens up far more gates in the heavens above than any mystical meditation can."

Lesson: The mystical meditations are certainly very important. However, they are not substitutes for the basics that prayer is supposed to contain - like a feeling heart. In this particular case, the disciple was so busy with the meditations that he would have been distracted from mustering up the level of heart needed as a very basic ingredient for his prayer. As we approach Rosh Hashanah remember, "Pray out of the depths of your heart".


  1. A father and son always blow shofar(s) at our Rosh Hashana services. This reminds me three years ago, the son who usually plays beautifully, dreadfully messed up. He was completely embarrassed. Two years ago, he humbled himself again and did wonderfully. This year he did too. He never has quite as much wind as his dad, but he didn't let the mess-up stop him!