One who is familiar with Hebrew and English will
often find striking similarities in vocabulary. Consider the Hebrew word
"sherus." Its translation is "service." The two words,
"sherus" and "service" match each other perfectly,
almost letter for letter.
Service of the Heart
The Talmud in Berachos explains the verse ‘To serve
with all your heart.’ Which is the service of the heart? Tefilah (prayer).
The Yismach Moshe deals with many pressing questions
regarding tefilah -- prayer.
What is the ‘service?’ How can we serve Hashem? Tefilah,
prayer, is usually associated with asking for one’s needs; how can this
be reconciled with ‘serving Hashem?’ Finally, tefilah -- prayer -- was
called the ‘service of the heart,’ but it is recited by word of mouth --
what does this have to do with service of the heart?
Initially, two contrasting categories emerge: 1.
The service -- purely with the heart -- binds our diversity into one path.
This is the ‘unification’ of the heart, and the ‘service,’ but has nothing
to do with personal requests. 2. The oral prayers -- raising personal needs
-- are focused directly to the One above. However, these requests would
not be called ‘service.’
The Formation of the Siddur
What an amazing thing the Men of the Great Assembly
did, in establishing our formal prayers -- they were able to compose requests
for personal needs that exemplify service of Hashem! To understand this
by analogy, it is similar to one who makes a great many requests from the
king -- in such a way as to give great pleasure to the king. (The Yismach
Moshe doesn’t explain this statement. We might imagine that the man standing
before the king praises and extols the king, relates how the populace depends
exclusively upon him, etc. A request made with sensitivity can actually
bring cheer and delight -- especially if the request shows great loyalty
to the ruler.)
According to the Yismach Moshe’s hints, the prayers
involve a synthesis of intentions of the heart and words of the mouth.
The words are directed solely to Hashem; the thoughts of the heart, however,
take the diverse elements of the world (‘hasefiros’) and mold, fuse them
together. This is the service. The singularity of Hashem produced the diversity
of our world; it is a ‘help’ to Hashem when man is able to forge unity
from the diversity, and make a common front out of all the different elements
in his personal struggles.
"A request which serves to delight the king
-- is extremely beneficial in obtaining the king’s favor."
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156