Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Seder Hayom (3): First Thoughts

Previously, we learned that immediately upon awaking in the morning one should be mekadesh, (consecrate) the three garments of the soul. Of course this applies to all three facets of human expression including action and speech, but the seforim place a greater emphasis on thought. In this post, let's take a look at some of the specific thought processes that the seforim mention.

As an aside, we are about to explore some potentially challenging sources, mainly from the Cherkasser and the Rebbe Reb Motele. There are streams of ideas and concepts that they weave together and often one leads to the next in a way that brings the reader off the original topic. This is because in Chassidus, everything is connected to everything. A minuscule change in conduct in one area will immediately have a ripple effect on another part of one's life. There are some main themes that frequently appear in Emek Tefilah and Pele Yoetz that are part of a mehalech of avodas Hashem. I hope to delve into each of them independently but until then I will try to explain just what is necessary to continue the matter at hand. I hope that the comments start flowing in with explanations and questions to help understand this all better.

First edition of Shoshanas Ha'amakim (Emek Tefilah)
To begin with, the Rebbe, shlit"a, pointed out what the Cherkasser says in Emek Tefilah (Parshas Bo):
 וזלה"ק: העצה לזה שלא יפול ח"ו לבחי' תאוה, הנה על זה בא הקרא קדש לי כל בכור (שמות יג, ב), היינו לקדש ראשית המחשבה על ידי שמתבונן תכף בעמדו ממטתו איך שהקב"ה מחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, ובכל עת ובכל רגע נעשה בריה חדשה, ובהתעורר משנתו שהיה מקודם בבחי' פגרים מתים הוא להיות נשלם על ידו כבודו ית', ולתקן כל הפגמים מימות אדם הראשון, ועי"ז נזהר בכל היום להיות מעשיו רק למען כבודו ית' עד שבבחינת באדם ובבהמה לי הוא (שם), שבכל ענין יהיה התגלות כבודו ית'. ובזה שיתעורר אדם באיתערותא דלתתא תכף בקומו ממטתו לקבל עול מלכות שמים שלימה כזו, תכף מתעורר עליו בחי' איתערותא דלעילא, ויוכל לדבר דיבורים בלתי לה' לבדו בלי שום מחשבת פסול ח"ו. וזהו משאחז"ל (ברכות ה ע"ב) שיהיה תפלתו סמוך למטתו, היינו שיהיה סמוך ונראה על מה שקיבל על עצמו תכף בקומו ממטתו ובזה יזכה לבחי' תפלה זכה. ע"כ
Free translation of the above:

"In order not to fall prey to desire [during the course of the day], one must fulfill the pasuk (Shemos 13:2), 'kadesh li kol bechor', namely to consecrate the beginning of one's thoughts by contemplating, immediately upon awakening, how Hashem renews creation every day in His goodness; in every moment one is created anew. [Man] was like a dead body in his slumber, and he was awakened in order that the honor of Hashem be completed through him, and to rectify all the blemishes from the days of Adam Harishon. By [thinking this immediately upon awakening], one will be mindful the entire day that his actions be only for the sake of Hashem's honor, to the point that he will fulfill the remainder of the verse (ibid.), 'of animal and of man shall be Mine', [even when one is engaged in those things that appear to be 'of animal' he will be able to bring them under the banner of G-dly service] and in everything will be the revelation of Hashem's honor.
"[Since] he aroused [an energy] from below (אתערותא דלתתא) immediately upon arising from his bed, and completely accepted the yoke of Heaven as mentioned, so too will be awakened from Above (אתערותא דלעילא), and he will be able to speak words solely for (to) Hashem alone without any unfit thought, chas v'shalom. This is what Chazal meant when they said (Berachos 8b), 'that his tefillah should be adjacent to his bed', namely that [his tefillah] should be reliant on and connected to that which he accepted upon himself immediately upon arising from his bed. Through this will he merit to a 'pure tefillah'."

There are two main points over here. One is that if a person starts the day off with the understanding that he was "brought back to life" for the sole purpose of engaging in the world in a manner that will "complete Hashem's Glory", this will bolster his consciousness throughout the day when he is engaged in physical things, (since the day is drawn after its beginning moments,) and he won't be drawn after excess and pleasure. (This is a common theme in the seforim, sanctifying earthly actions by engaging in them l'shem shomayim and not getting caught up in the chitzoniyus and physicality of the thing.)
The Cherkasser also points out that by our avodah in the morning of consecrating our first thoughts in general, and in specific by accepting the aforementioned Divine mission, that causes an awakening from Above as well and we will be influenced and have extra Heavenly help in order to daven בלתי לה' לבדו (for the sole sake of Hashem).  (This too is a central theme and the goal of many aspects of avodah in Chernobyler Chassidus and specifically in the Hornosteipeler seforim and will be elaborated on, bs"d, in later posts.)

The Rebbe Reb Motele, zy"a, explains the above in greater detail in Pele Yoetz (Parshas Sh'lach):
וזלה"ק: הזמן הזה מסוגל להעוררות רחמים, להתבונן ברוממות וגדלות הבורא ב"ה ובשפלות עצמו, ולעורר רחמים רבים על נפשו על העבר, ולקבל מחדש מעתה עול מלכות שמים שלימה, כי הבורא ב"ה מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, וכוונת הבריאה הוא כמו שאמרו (אבות ו, יד): "כל מה שברא הקב"ה לא ברא אלא לכבודו", ו"ישראל עלו במחשבה", בראשית בשביל ישראל, שעל ידם יגיע הכבוד לו יתברך שמו מכל הענינים. ויצרף מחשבתו למחשבה הקדומה לקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים על זה האופן, שיהיה מגיע הכבוד לו יתברך שמו מכל מעשיו, שזהו עיקר הקבלת עול מלכות שמים, ועל ידי זה יזכה בתפלה להגיע לבחי' דביקות, ואזי יהיה כחו יפה אחר התפלה להכניע החמידו דלבא. ועל זה אמרו בגמרא (ברכות ה ע"ב) על אבא בנימין שהיה מצטער על זה שתהא תפלתו סמוך למטתו, כי ענין התפלה תלוי בזה, לטהר המחשבה הראשונה תיכף בהקמה מהמטה. ע"כ
Free translation:
"[The morning] is propitious for arousing mercy [upon oneself]. [One day so by] contemplating the exalted greatness of the Creator, Blessed is He, and the lowliness of the self. [In addition,] to arouse abundant mercy on oneself regarding his past [deeds], and to accept  the yoke of Heaven anew and completely, as Hashem is constantly recreating the entire world..
Since Hashem created the world for His honor, and Klal Yisroel was the first entity He considered, that through [Klal Yisroel] all matters should bring about Hashem's glory.
Man should connect his thoughts to this first Thought of Hashem's (so to speak), and accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven in this manner, that Hashem should be honored through all of his actions and dealings, for this is the main idea of accepting the yoke of Heaven.
And by doing so he will merit to reach dveikus in his davening and thereby will he have the ability to subjugate the desires of the heart.

One must connect his own first thoughts with Hashem's first thoughts. Hashem thought of Klal Yisroel and created the world with the intention that we would reveal G-dliness in everything that we do. Reb Motele is saying to accept this mission on yourself as soon as you wake up and don't do anything before you've spread Hashem's banner out over the day.
From here in Pele Yoetz it sounds like the first thoughts directly effect the quality of the davening. We know from numerous other places in Pele Yoetz and Emek Tefilah that to the extent one davens properly (the exact mehalech in this will have to be elaborated on later) will he be able to refrain from following his appetites blindly during the rest of the day. So, accepting the mission of connecting to Hashem in everything we do helps the davening which in turn helps keep our awareness level up enough to fulfill the mission that "ba'adam uvabeheimah li hu".
Reb Motele finishes off by quoting the same Gemara as the Cherkasser about Abba Binyamin and says that "the davening is dependent upon purifying the first thoughts immediately upon rising from bed."

In a general sense, the first thoughts effect the day in the same way as do the first words and actions. Everything is heavily influenced by its beginnings; it is a rule of metaphysical nature, to put it bluntly. But the tzadikim are saying that the intended outcome is more specific. It is a person's davening that is dependent specifically on these first thoughts, and not on the other two garments of the soul. By concentrating on the point of creation, and accepting that mission upon himself immediately, he will be able to daven in an authentic way, and ultimately to complete this mission.
Obviously, this alone will not obviate the animals soul's urgings but as the Rebbe Gadalya of Linitz says in T'shuos Chein, it will [drawn a chiyus on the whole day. Because holiness is not dependent upon the person alone for it is not in his hands, as Chazal say that if not for Hashem's helping him, he would not be able to combat the yetzer hara. Rather, the person must just begin the matter."
And as the Cherkasser said above, his consecrating the first thoughts does exactly that. His awakening himself from below causes an awakening of "chiyus" from above and "he will merit a pure tefillah."

Please comment. This series will gain tremendously from your questions and criticisms. Its a bit convoluted, I know, but as we continue it should become more clear. I am looking forward to hearing from all of you either in the comments below or in an email (

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