19 Tamuz 5779 / Monday, July 22, 2019 | Torah Reading: mattot
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Pesky Thoughts

Rav Kivak elaborates on Likutei Moharan II:122 and gives us Rebbe Nachman's advice for getting rid of those bothersome thoughts that are a nuisance during prayer...


Translated by Aaron Yoseph
The Rebbe never finishes with us, so let’s not finish with him. You never finish learning Likutei Moharan. Perhaps this lesson will help us to wake up.
Extraneous thoughts during davening – this is our daily life. Is there any hope for us? People suggested to R' Nosson that praying quickly might be a good way to avoid extraneous thoughts, because they wouldn’t have time to get in. There is something to this idea, sometimes it helps, sometimes not. R' Nosson said that when we pray quickly, our entire Tefillah can be caught up in one big extraneous thought. When we pray slowly, they’ll be a few extraneous thoughts, but there’ll be gaps in between them. At least that way we may notice when we’re caught up in one!
Every thought is an entire floor – which floor is this? The ground floor, the second floor? This is Kaballah.
The Rebbe tells us to pay no attention to extraneous thoughts that come during our prayers. Start again, don’t make a big deal of what you’ve been through. Focus on remembering Hashem, remember that you are standing before Him, and put all your energy into speaking and praying before Him with concentration – connect your mind and heart to what you’re saying.
The Rebbe comes to help us so that whatever downs we experience in this area don’t bring us to give up – “I fell, so I’m going home.” Rather we learn to keep trying, to put more effort into cleaving to Emunah and joy. People think that this is hard work, but the truth is that the greatest delight in the world is to truly say a few words before Hashem. This is what a person truly wants, what his soul longs for – this is really living.
What we need to do is what the Rebbe tells us here – to pray and to pay no attention to whatever extraneous thoughts that come to mind. There are Tsadikkim with pure hearts and minds who can elevate thoughts, but that’s not for us. The main thing is that the average person should never give up hope of praying with kavono. The Rebbe takes us in hand – “You do what you can, I’ll raise it all up.” Whatever we can manage – sometimes it’s a few words without any extraneous thoughts, sometimes a whole section of the prayers. Most often, it’s nothing more than a few threads – but the Rebbe collects these together and creates a beautiful garment. It’s worth being close to the Rebbe just for this – who else is there who does this?
When the first Likutei Moharan’s were printed, they started with Torah 2, where we see that the Rebbe’s ‘whole thing’ was prayer. The Rebbe speaks there about how prayer has to go up to the highest levels to arouse Hashem’s mercy; how each person brings what he can to the Mishkan, and how Moshe, the Tsaddik, puts up the Mishkan – he takes our contributions and makes them into a splendid building. This is what the Rebbe does for us. We merit that our normal weekday Tuesday and Wednesday prayers build all the worlds, bring great delight to Hashem and draw down mercy and blessings on all Israel.
The main piece of advice here is to pay no attention to your falls – don’t look at them. Instead, rejoice that, Baruch Hashem you’re in shul, Baruch Hashem you have good points, you’re standing before Hashem. Start again and don’t look back. The Rebbe told us to be happy when we pray, even if we can’t do a thing, don’t pay attention to it. Even if extraneous thoughts are spinning around your head – you dreamt about them, you woke up with them, and they came with you to shul. Ignore them. Entirely. Just keep going and don’t look back. Eventually, they will go.
This is a blessing from the Rebbe. The more we accept and believe in the Rebbe’s advice and promise – the quicker they go away.
The Rebbe says that when we keep strong and keep going forward in our prayers, we destroy the extraneous thoughts – we cut the hands off this one, the legs off this one. He compares it to a mighty warrior entering into the thick of the battle, chopping people down all around as he goes. Each extraneous thought is a being, with a body, a head, arms, legs, etc. By ignoring them and focusing on our prayers, we kill them.
I can see that readers here are squeamish, but friends, we need to get lebeidig, enthusiastic, and start chopping...

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