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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 23 Tishrei
He spoke of how even those who engage in the avodah of prayer sometimes spend the time before and after prayers in idle chatter. Indeed, the Mishnah calls such a group "a company of scoffers," since they are not studying Torah.
The Alter Rebbe therefore urged that regular times be set aside between Minchah and Maariv for the group study of Ein Yaakov and of laws of practical application in the Shulchan Aruch.
In the present letter the Alter Rebbe goes on to condemn those who during prayer services engage in mundane conversation - not only on idle matters, but even on matters that are necessary for their livelihood.
Such conversation at any other time would of course be permitted.
During prayer services, however, it demonstrates that the speaker has no desire to behold the G-dliness that is revealed specifically during that time.
This insensitivity is depicted by a parable drawn from the Zohar.
For years on end, a terrestial king hides his majestic splendor behind locked doors; those of his subjects who have the discernment to value that splendor, eagerly wait there for years on end until they are granted a glimpse of it; others are so foolish and so brazen that they show no interest.
For the time of prayer is a precious time below, echoing a propitious time Above.
Above, as the Alter Rebbe states in chapter 12 of Tanya, it is a time of Mochin deGadlut, a time of sublime illumination in the upper worlds; below, therefore, it is the time when every individual can respond to the call which the King issues to His subjects.
If one is to receive the revelation which becomes possible at the time of prayer, that time needs to be utilized for meditation on the greatness of G-d.
But if this meditation is to be fertile, and give birth to the spiritual emotions of love and awe, it still needs to find its way into the worshiper's heart.
This is the message of the following brief teaching of the Alter Rebbe.
There is an expression of our Sages:  "If one had the proper intention (kiven libo), he has fulfilled his obligation."
Now kiven shares a root with the Aramaic (kavin), meaning "windows".  Accordingly, in the above-quoted teaching of the Sages, the Alter Rebbe read the following message:
A man fulfills his obligation during prayer only if he has made a window in his heart, so that the revelation that illuminates his mind during prayer will radiate its warmth into his heart].
My beloved ones, my brethren:
I beg of you, friends who are beloved unto their Maker and hateful unto their evil inclination: Do no wrong! [Surely one should respect the wishes of his Beloved, and not of his enemy].
Let no one make himself wicked before G-d during that one hour [i.e., the hour of prayer] that He has chosen of all day, so that [people] can congregate and stand  before Him during that hour.
For this is an auspicious time for Him to be revealed and to come into the "miniature sanctuary," [as a synagogue is called],  to visit the Shechinah of His Glory,  "that dwells with [the Jewish people] in the midst of their impurity," and to be accessible to those who seek Him and entreat Him and yearn for Him.
[Even in the impurity of exile, the Divine Presence abides among the Jewish people. And at the auspicious hour of prayer the Almighty Himself comes, as it were, to visit the Shechinah that resides constantly among His people.
At this auspicious time of prayer], he who speaks of his needs, demonstrates that he has no desire to contemplate and to behold the manifestation of [G-d's] majestic glory.
Thus he becomes an impure chariot [i.e., a subservient vehicle] to the "Supernal Fool" [i.e., to the kelipah], of whom it is said,  "The fool does not desire understanding...," as stated in the Zohar  and by R. Isaac Luria, of blessed memory. 
This means, he has no desire to contemplate and to behold the glorious splendor of the greatness of the King of kings - the Holy One, blessed be He - which becomes revealed at this hour above, [for the hour of prayer is a propitious time above].
It is also [revealed] below, to those who earnestly desire to gaze upon His glory and greatness, which garbs and vests itself in the words of the liturgy which is known to all, and which becomes revealed to every individual, according to his intellect and according to the root of his soul; as it is written,  "A man is praised (yehulal) according to [the measure of] his intellect."
As spelled, [the word could be pronounced] yehalel.
[The verse would thus mean, "A man praises (i.e., prays) according to the measure of his intellect," i.e., in proportion to his comprehension of G-d's greatness].
Now the kingdom of heaven is similar to a kingdom on earth. 
It is customary for a king to have his might concealed  in [his] innermost chambers, with many guards at the doors, (so)  that many people wait for days and years [hoping] to behold his might and glory.
Now when he wishes to be seen by all, and proclaims throughout his kingdom [that his subjects] should assemble and stand before him, so that he can show them his majestic glory and the exalted splendor of his greatness, whoever will stand before him and not care to see him, busying himself [at that time] with his own needs, - how lowly, foolish and senseless is he; he resembles an animal in the eyes of all.
Moreover, it is a dishonor to the king, when he demonstrates before him that to have pleasure and delight from gazing upon his glory and beauty is of no more esteem in his eyes than busying himself with his own needs.
Moreover, it is a capital offense towards the king, to exhibit how he disgraces and dishonors the king in the eyes of the public.
Of this it is written,  "And fools raise the insult."
This means to say, that though he is a fool, he should not "raise the insult," making [it] apparent to all, for this not only dishonors the king, but also constitutes a capital offense.
- (Back to text) Berachot 13a.
- (Back to text) Daniel 6:11.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Cf. the expression of the Sages, that `standing refers to prayer'(Berachot 6b)."
- (Back to text) Megillah 29a, commenting on Yechezkel 11:16.
- (Back to text) Vayikra 16:16; see also Tanya, ch. 45.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 18:2.
- (Back to text) See Zohar I, 179a.
- (Back to text) See Ramaz to Zohar, loc. cit.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 12:8.
- (Back to text) Berachot 58a.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "Likkutei Torah (Discourses on Yom Kippur, at the conclusion of the discourse entitled Shabbat Shabbaton) explains the level of Divinity called `concealed might.' This allows us to understand, as it were, its mortal analog."
- (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original.
- (Back to text) Mishlei 3:35.
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