11 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
 
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HomeFoundations of JudaismHitbodedut (Personal Prayer)The Price Tag
 
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The Price Tag    

The Price Tag



A person goes shopping and sees all these great items that he wants on sale at bargain prices, but he only has sixty dollars in his pocket…

 



Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

 
In Forest Fields, Part 59
 
When a person yearns to attain something through prayer, he must in effect pay a spiritual price, in other words, a certain number of prayers. Spiritual entities, like material entities, each have a price tag that demands a certain spiritual payment. Once a person completes the payment, he will attain that which he has prayed for. The principle of the prayer quota as a spiritual price tag for both material and spiritual needs is an established spiritual law in Hashem’s kingdom.
 
This principle is learned through the words of our holy sages of blessed memory who expound upon the Moses’s prayers to enter the Land of Israel. Moshe prayed 515 prayers and then Hashem asked him not to continue. Why was Moshe asked to stop praying? Why could he not continue praying? Hashem would anyway prevent him from entering the Land of Israel, since that was His express will. We learn from this that if Moshe had added just one more prayer, he would have attained the amount of required prayers to enter The Land of Israel. According to His own laws, Hashem would have had to allow Moshe to enter the Land of Israel.
 
Rebbe Nachman explains the inner dimension of prayer in Likutei Moharan I:2. Prayers build an entire spiritual level, or “storey”. Once a person has prayed enough prayers to complete the spiritual construction of the entire storey of that which he has prayed for, he will receive what he prayed for.
 
Until the price is paid, in other words, before fulfilling the prayer quota for a particular request, a person won’t yet attain that which he yearns and prays for. There are those who will witness absolutely no result from their prayers until the last required prayer is prayed. And there are those who will be given glimpses of light so as not to fall into despair and will see that prayers do work. And there are those who see the gradual fulfillment of their wishes. Many variables come into play according to the nature of the request and Heavenly considerations. One thing is surely very clear - that in order to "purchase" one’s wish in its entirety, one must complete the full amount of prayers required to attain what he wants.
 
An empty-handed shopping spree – an allegory about insufficient prayer
 
Imagine that a person enters a huge department store (allegorical for the place of prayer) with sixty dollars in his wallet (sixty minutes of hitbodedut). Many items on sale catch his eye (all the many things one yearns for in material and spiritual goods, all the many blessings one longs to ask Hashem for). He can’t afford them all (he doesn't have the "prayer time" to obtain what he wants). Some things cost $100 (two hours of prayer, for example) yet in the jewelry department, things cost $1000 and up (a minimum of twenty hours of prayer). He only has $60 in his wallet (only one hour of hitbodedut). What can he do? He puts a $6 down payment for ten different items (he prays six minutes for ten requests). He’s spent all his money (prayer privileges), yet leaves the store empty-handed. But, if he keeps coming back day after day with his day’s earnings of sixty dollars in his wallet (sixty minutes of hitbodedut), he’ll add an additional sum to the money he has already put down on the items he wants. With perseverance, in a matter of weeks or months – depending on the item – he will attain all his heart’s wishes.
 
Yet, on most days, our allegorical shopper is lazy. He either doesn’t go to work, or works less hours and doesn’t earn his sixty dollars, so ultimately, he never completes a purchase. In other words he never completes the amount of prayers required to acquire true rectified character traits and spiritual salvations. He continually leaves the “department store” empty-handed. Oftentimes, he puts tiny down payments on new items without having paid for the old ones, spreading his daily wages thinly over many "products". 
 
Our above allegory tells the unfortunate tale of a person that has already accumulated tens of thousands of prayer minutes, which are in effect thousands of spiritual dollars, yet has not "purchased" anything!
 
One would be much better off by concentrating on one issue and "paying" its price - his hour of hitbodedut - or at least thirty of his daily sixty minutes, until he “completes the purchase” and acquires what he has been seeking. Afterward, he can concentrate on another matter, and pay for it with all his thirty or sixty daily personal prayer dollars, until he has made full payment, and so on. In time, such a person will attain a full soul correction.
 
Our above allegory brings the point home, but in all fairness, it’s not completely accurate. Material and spiritual requests have different price tags. Not only that, but in the spiritual realm, when one has acquired a particular good character trait, or nullified a particular physical desire, he can easily conquer his other bad traits and earthly desires. That’s like getting a coupon on your previous purchase that’s good for your next purchase, for by attaining even one thing through prayers, it’s so much easier to acquire more. Also, the improvement of even one small negative trait or bad habit has a profound positive influence on all other aspects of a person’s life. 
 
To be continued.




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