Hasidic literature contains no systematic manual of contemplative prayer. The texts below appear in a collection of passages culled from the records of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Maggid Dov Baer of Miedzyrzec, and their immediate disciples in the latter part of the eighteenth century. They have been meticulously and sensitively translated into English by two prominent scholars, one a specialist in Kabbalah and the other a scholar of Jewish literature and Jewish education. Excerpted from Your Word Is Fire by Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz (Jewish Lights Publishing).
We Do More Than Pray to God
People think that they pray to God.
But this is not the case.
For prayer itself is of the very essence of God.
–Rabbi Pinhas Of Korzec
The Power of Your Prayer
It is possible to be so humble
that your very humility
keeps you far from God.
A humble person may not believe that his own prayer
can cause the Presence
to flow through all the worlds.
But how then can you believe
that even angels are nourished
by your words?
Know the power of your prayer
And serve your God in fullness.
–Ya’akov Yosef of Polnoye, Toledot Ya’akov Yosef 172c
Preparing the Way
A person of spirit may begin his prayer
in awe and trembling,
saying to himself:
"Who are I, a poor clod of earth,
to stand before the King of Kings in prayer?"
He speaks only a partial truth.
He does not yet know the higher truth, however—
the truth that all things,
even the material world,
are filled with God’s presence.
Indeed he cannot speak the words of prayer—
better that he remain silent before the Lord.
Thus scripture says:
"God is in heaven and you are upon the earth;
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