Notes On Ashrei: Part IV

Posted November 20, 2016 by jacobspilman
Categories: Talmud and Consciousness, Talmud and Prayer, Talmud and Sleep

Eleazar b Abina says: Whoever recites [the psalm] Praise of David three times daily, is sure to inherit the world to come. What is the reason? Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement? Then let him recite, Happy are they that are upright in the way, which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement. Again, is it because it contains [the verse], Thou openest Thy hand [and satisfies every living thing with favor? Then let him recite the great Hallel, where it is written: Who giveth food to all flesh! – Rather, [the reason is] because it contains both. R. Johanan says: Why is there no nun in Ashre? Because of the fall of Israel’s enemies begins with it. For it is written: Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise. (In the West this verse is thus interpreted: She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel). R. Nachman b. Isaac says: Even so, David refers to it by inspiration and promises them an uplifting. For it is written: The Lord upholdeth all that fall. 

The verse: “Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise.” is a quote from the prophet Amos. Rabbi Nachman ben Issac makes the point that King David, through prophecy, foresaw the fall of the nation of Israel because he writes in Psalm 145: The Lord upholdeth all that fall. As we mentioned in a previous post, David occupied the light house while Saul occupied the dark house. David maintained a constant conscious connection with HaShem while Saul lost the ability for prophecy. David was able to maintain his connection with HaShem because despite his grave sins, he never lost faith in God’s acceptance of the truly repentant. David is able to see past the sins of Israel to the times of redemption. Even though we sin, David is certain that he and the Jewish people will be forgiven.

Let’s also pause to examine how the notions of falling is expressed in a few different contexts. The notion falling is often associated with various states of consciousness. For instance, we think of ourselves as falling asleep. Indeed, during Stage 2 Sleep, the person may be aware of their environment, but as they are falling deeper asleep, the muscles of their body will relax and discharge energy, often resulting in an involuntary jolt of the musculature where the individual will experience the feeling of falling. Falling can also be thought of as a loss of spiritual state as in the Fall of Adam. Death or destruction is also referred to as a form of falling, as in a fallen soldier. Likewise, sinking or descending is another metaphor for Death. For instance, take Psalm 69 verse 2-3:

Save me God, because the waters have come until (the level) of my soul.

I have sunk into the mud of the depths of the water and the current has swept me away.

And again in verses 15-16 of Psalm 69:

Save me from that mud so that I don’t sink, so that I will be saved from my enemies and from the depths of the water.

Don’t let me be swept away by the current of water and don’t let the shadowy depths swallow me.

So then, these two phrases from our passage could not only relate to the destruction of Israel as a Nation by the Romans, but it could also allude to death of the individual.

Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise and She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel.

David refers to it by inspiration and promises them an uplifting. For it is written: The Lord upholdeth all that fall.

In other words, there is no nun is Ashrei. If we integrate all the ways of relating to HaShem in the Ashrei on both the level of body and soul, the nun drops out. There is no fall, there is no death because “The Lord upholdeth all that fall”!

Notes on Ashrei: Part III

Posted October 27, 2014 by jacobspilman
Categories: Talmud, Talmud and Consciousness, Talmud and Prayer

Tags: , , , , ,

R. Eleazar b Abina says: Whoever recites [the psalm] Praise of David three times daily, is sure to inherit the world to come.  What is the reason?  Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement?  Then let him recite, Happy are they that are upright in the way, which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement.  Again, is it because it contains [the verse], Thou openest Thy hand [and satisfies every living thing with favor?  Then let him recite the great Hallel, where it is written:  Who giveth food to all flesh! – Rather, [the reason is]  because it contains both.  R. Johanan says:  Why is there no nun in Ashre?  Because of the fall of Israel’s enemies begins with it.  For it is written: Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise.  (In the West this verse is thus interpreted: She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel).  R. Nahum b. Isaac says:  Even so, David refers to it by inspiration and promises them an uplifting.  For it is written:  The Lord upholdeth all that fall. 

The acrostic form of Ashre lacks the Hebrew letter nun.  The teaching of Rabbi Johanan is that the nun was dropped out of the acrostic because it stands for the fall (Hebrew: nophel) of Israel.  Interestingly, this is the same word that is the root of Achitophel we discussed in a previous post: (Hebrew: My brother will fall.)  (See The Heart of The Father, Notes on Talmud Blog Post Feb 2011)

‘Ahitofel’, this was the counselor.  And so it is said:  Now the counsel of Ahitofel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man inquired of the word of God.

As we mentioned in a previous post,

There are also two Achitophels. Achitophel and Mephiboseth.  There is Achitophel the advisor. Who is supposedly wise. But notice the passage says, Now the counsel of Achitofel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man inquired of the word of God.  The passage doesn’t say that Achitophel was correct in his counsel.  It simply says: “as if a man inquired of the work of God. Achitophel has the ability to inspire awe in his counselees; however, this doesn’t vouch for the helpfulness of his counsel.  The word Achitophel could be interpreted from Hebrew as Achi (my brother) tophel (will fall).  He prods others into action because he lacks faith.  The highest level of consciousness Achitophel has reached is a development of the mind.  He is the one that is so brilliant, he can embarrass David in the Hallacha.  However, the mind cannot provide faith or a clear connection with HaShem.  G-d and G-d’s will are beyond the grasp of mind.  The mind can only hold what is finite, it cannot hold the infinite.  The mind can only provide a shadow or a metaphor of reality.  If the mind is relied upon to be the sole judge of reality, my brother will fall.  (Notes on Talmud Blog Feb 2011)

In a similar vein, Hirsch, in The Nineteen Letters of Ben Uziel, provides us with an enlightening exposition about a related word nophelim:

…the necessity of providing for the satisfying of physical cravings, which demand an increasingly large portion of the good things of the world, exalts again the animal in man; he sees himself only an animal, and deems his mind only a means of procuring the gratification of physical desires; the human in man sinks (niphilim).  That which could lift him up, the acknowledgement of God as the only Ruler and Father, and, therefore, of everything else as creature and servant, and consequently of himself, as well as servant and child, this acknowledgment has grown dim.  For as soon as man ceases to look upon himself as the empowered guardian and administrator of the earth-world, as soon as he endeavors to carry out, not the will of God, but his own will, and ceases to be servant of God; he sees no longer in the strength-endowed beings around him the servitors of Deity, but independent forces which seek possession, lust, and power, he has no eye any more for the law of the All-One whom they all serve, and the world divides itself for him into as many gods as he sees forces in operation…. He, therefore, desiring only possession and lust, becomes a slave of the beings from which he hopes to obtain that which he desires… until finally, recognizing the omnipotence of his passions, he deifies them; and furthermore… he soon ceases to look upon the pursuit of power and lust as bestial and unworthy of man, but deems it divine, man’s most worthy goal.

(N.D.) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. The Nineteen Letters of Ben Uziel, BN Publishing, NY. pp 50-52.

From this perspective, Ashrei does not need a nun because when the individual lives in the light house and experiences the Unity, there is no fall.  However, as we mentioned in our first posting on Ashrei, the Ashrei is compared to Psalm 119, another psalm with an acrostic structure that guides our steps when we occupy the dark house and do not experience the Unity.  Psalm 119 does possess the letter nun.  Here is the passage for the letter nun in Psalm 119.

A lamp [Hebrew: ner] for my feet is Your word and a light for my path.  I have sworn and I will fulfill to keep Your ordinances that are righteous.  Afflicted am I exceedingly; O HaShem, preserve me in accordance with Your word.  The offerings of my mouth accept with favor, please O HaShem; and Your ordinances teach me.  My life [soul] is in my hand constantly, but Your Torah I did not forget.  The wicked laid for me a snare but from Your precepts I did not stray.  I have taken as my heritage Your testimonies, forever, for the joy of my heart they are.  I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes, forever, to the end.

Again, as we have discussed, unlike the Ashrei which outlines all the ways we can have a direct relationship with HaShem, Psalm 119 talks about how the study and practice of Torah leads to our protection and growth while we are not directly experiencing the presence of God in our lives.  Here, the verses of Psalm 119 discuss how to manage being faithful to HaShem in order to reenter the light house when we experience ourselves as “fallen”.

Notes on Ashrei: Part II

Posted October 21, 2014 by jacobspilman
Categories: Talmud, Talmud and Consciousness, Talmud and Prayer

Tags: , , ,

R. Eleazar b Abina says: Whoever recites [the psalm] Praise of David three times daily, is sure to inherit the world to come.  What is the reason?  Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement?  Then let him recite, Happy are they that are upright in the way, which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement.  Again, is it because it contains [the verse], Thou openest Thy hand [and satisfies every living thing with favor?  Then let him recite the great Hallel, where it is written:  Who giveth food to all flesh! – Rather, [the reason is]  because it contains both.  R. Johanan says:  Why is there no nun in Ashre?  Because of the fall of Israel’s enemies begins with it.  For it is written: Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise.  (In the West this verse is thus interpreted: She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel).  R. Nahum b. Isaac says:  Even so, David refers to it by inspiration and promises them an uplifting.  For it is written:  The Lord upholdeth all that fall.

The Rabbis propose and then rule out two rather odd reasons for the promise of the World to Come through the merit of reciting Ashrei.  First they offer that the Ashrei is written using an acrostic.  But, they point out that Psalm 119 has an acrostic where each paragraph starts with the letter of the alphabetical acrostic and begins each of 8 sentences with that letter.  Why would this be important?  Chazal obliquely invites us to compare the two psalms.  If we contrast the content of the Ashrei with the content of Psalm 119, we notice that unlike the Ashrei which outlines all the ways we can have a direct relationship with HaShem, Psalm 119 talks about how the study and practice of Torah study leads to our protection and growth while we are not directly experiencing the presence of God in our lives.  Let’s just look at the first paragraph of Psalm 119:

Happy are those who are pure in their way, those who walk with the Torah of HaShem. Happy are those who guard His testimonies with full heart they seek Him.  Also they have not done iniquity for in His ways they have walked.  You have commanded Your precepts to be kept diligently…

I will leave it up to the reader to examine the rest of Psalm 119 to verify that indeed, the entire Psalm talks about staying connected to HaShem in times of distress through the study and implementation of Torah.  In essence, if we use the metaphor of living in the light house as being in HaShem’s presence and the dark house when we do not experience God’s presence, the Ashrei describes the potential for our relationship with HaShem when we are living in the light house and Psalm 119 governs our relationship to HaShem when we are living in the dark house.

The next verse Chazal refers to is from Psalm 136.

Thou openest Thy hand and satisfies every living thing with favor?  Then let him recite the great Hallel, where it is written:  Who giveth food to all flesh!

When living in the dark house, one can perceive that it is HaShem who provides food to all flesh.  Humans do this for their pets.  But, this is a very different relationship than to one who lives in the light house where God opens His hand and satisfies everything with favor. Life in the dark house is experienced as arbitrary.  Ashrei teaches that when we are in the dark house, HaShem is directly involved with us in an intimate and loving fashion.

Notes on Ashrei: Part I

Posted August 7, 2014 by jacobspilman
Categories: Talmud, Talmud and Consciousness, Talmud and Prayer

Tags:
For the merit of Shaul ben BatSheva.

R. Eleazar b Abina says: Whoever recites [the psalm] Praise of David three times daily, is sure to inherit the world to come.  What is the reason?  Shall I say it is because it has an alphabetical arrangement?  Then let him recite, Happy are they that are upright in the way, which has an eightfold alphabetical arrangement.  Again, is it because it contains [the verse], Thou openest Thy hand [and satisfies every living thing with favor?  Then let him recite the great Hallel, where it is written:  Who giveth food to all flesh! – Rather, [the reason is]  because it contains both.  R. Johanan says:  Why is there no nun in Ashre?  Because of the fall of Israel’s enemies begins with it.  For it is written: Fallen is the virgin of Israel, she shall no more rise.  (In the West this verse is thus interpreted: She is fallen, but she shall no more fall. Rise, O virgin of Israel).  R. Nahum b. Isaac says:  Even so, David refers to it by inspiration and promises them an uplifting.  For it is written:  The Lord upholdeth all that fall.

Someone who recites the Ashre three times a day will inherit the world to come.  Does Ashre deserve such hyperbole?

 Ashre consists of sections from three Psalms:  The prayer begins with a single of line Psalm 84:5 and the last line of Psalm 144:15: “Happy are those who dwell in Your house; may they always praise you, Selah!  Happy is the people for whom this is so, happy is the people whose God is HaShem.”  Obviously the reference here is to the Beit HaMikdash.  But this is also the “light house” that we mentioned at the beginning of our examination of Berachot.  Remember that the light house refers to the individual who directly experiences the Unity directly.  Luzzato states in Derech HaShem that Olam Habah is the place where the soul has unfettered connection with God.  We will see that each line of Ashrei describes aspect of the possible relationship and a person can have with God.

The prayer continues on with all of Psalm 145 that has an alphabetic acrostic structure where the beginning of each sentence begins with a letter from the Hebrew Alphabet.  The second thing that is curious about Psalm 145 is that almost all of the sentences except one consist of two phrases joined by the conjunction “and”.  So for instance:

I will exalt You, My God the King, and I will bless Your Name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless You, and I will laud your Name forever and ever. …

It seems that this bifurcated structure indicates that we live a bifurcated existence.  Our souls inhabit animal bodies.  And so, all too often, our animal selves pull us away from the direction our souls wish to take.  Imagine attempting to pray while you held the leash of a large insistent angry and fearful dog.  Your ability to concentrate and keep a single focus on your prayer would at the very least be compromised.  More often than not our bodies distract from our ability to connect directly with HaShem.  If we are talking about a person attempting to connect with HaShem through Psalm 145, then we could read this Psalm one of two ways.  The first way would be where a single narrator is praying.  Then each stanza would be interpreted from the perspective that this is what we as God’s people should do.   However, what if we look at the Ashre prayer from the point of view of the bifurcated existence I mentioned earlier?  From this perspective, one could interpret each phrase joined by a conjunction as the soul and body having a “duet”, working in concert where the soul calls and the body responds.  From this perspective, each line expresses the awareness and direct results of the body and soul aligned together.

Let’s examine the Ashre in more detail and go through it line by line.

I will exalt You, My God the King,

And I will bless Your Name forever and ever.

The body speaks in the first line and the soul responds in the second line.  The body cannot bless eternally.  Only the soul can do this.

Every day I will bless You,

And I will laud your Name forever and ever.

Again, in the first line the body is bless HaShem in time and the soul laud’s HaShem eternally.  There is an important idea to understand here.  The body must initiate an action.  The soul then amplifies the action on the spiritual plane.

HaShem is great and exceedingly lauded,

And his greatness is beyond investigation.

Notice the narrative voice changes to third person.  According to Luzzato in Daat Tvunot, the soul is capable of understanding levels of holiness that the soul is incapable of understanding.  In the first line the body acknowledges HaShem’s greatness.  In the second line the soul recognizes the infinite and unknowable mysteries of HaShem greatness.

Each generation will praise Your deeds to the next

And of Your mighty deeds they will tell;

In the first line the body speaks of generations that are born into bodies in time.

In the second line, the generations of souls who are not encumbered by time, talks about HaShem’s mighty deeds.  Each Jewish soul is connected to other Jewish souls of their generation.  Likewise, our souls connect with the root souls of previous generations.  These root souls extend to HaShem’s foot stool.  The process of praise and recounting God’s deeds allow the soul to “re-member” itself, integrating higher and higher realms of the soul.

The splendorous glory of Your power

And Your wondrous deeds I shall discuss.

And of your awesome power they will speak.

And Your greatness I shall relate.

The individual soul relates to HaShem’s power.  However, the individual soul needs to attach itself to the souls of other Jews and the souls of previous generations of Jews to relate the scope, power and grandeur of HaShem’s deeds.

A recollection of Your abundant goodness they will utter

And of Your righteousness they will sing exultantly.

Notice that the narrative changes to third person.  As the Jewish soul combines with other Jewish souls the individual reclaims larger and larger aspects of their soul and is no longer identified with an individual.

Gracious and merciful is HaShem, Slow to anger,

and great in [bestowing] kindness.

 

HaShem is good to all;

and His mercies are on all of His works.

Coming from the perspective of the body, or even the individual soul, HaShem’s goodness and mercy is not necessarily evident.  But, the perspective of multiple generations of souls can see the workings of Divine Providence and Divine Justice in action.

All Your works shall thank You, HaShem,

And Your devout ones will bless You.

Again, curiously, the narrative shifts to second person.  This stanza makes little sense unless one sees consciousness on a continuum.  Those who form an intimate relationship with HaShem will do more than thank God.  They will bless HaShem.  Those souls who are devout to HaShem will be the vessels for HaShem to intensify his presence in the world.

Of the glory of Your Kingdom they will speak,

And of Your power they will tell;

To inform human beings of His mighty deeds,

And the glorious splendor of His kingdom.

Your kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternities,

And your dominion is throughout every generation.

The body can perceive of the wonder’s of HaShem’s actions in the world.  Yet, it takes the eternal generations of souls to testify to God’s influence beyond this world.

HaShem supports all of the fallen ones

and straightens all the bent.

 

The eyes of all look to You with hope

And you give them their food in its proper time;

 

You open Your hand

and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The body and soul that are sufficiently connected can perceive these events while the soul dwells in the flesh on earth.  The body and soul that are not sufficiently connected do not perceive these the Soul of all Creation’s hand in these events.  A Hasidic spiritual practice consisted of writing a “Personal Torah” which detailed the individual’s perceptions of God’s hand in their life.  The more one observes these events, the more one grows to perceive the actions of HaShem in the world.

Righteous is HaShem in all His ways

And magnanimous in all His deeds.

While one can sometimes fathom God’s righteousness in the body, one can only understand how every event that occurred to us in this lifetime (both good and evil) was magnanimous when we totally disassociate with the body and fully identify with the soul.

HaShem is close to all those who call upon Him –

To all who call upon Him sincerely.

Notice, that the only line that doesn’t have the structure we mentioned before where there are two phrases joined by a conjunction is: “HaShem is close to all who call upon Him – to all who call upon him sincerely.”  In this state, when both body and soul call upon HaShem sincerely, God is close and there is no need to for a conjunction in the sentence because the bifurcation is healed.

The will of those who fear Him He will do;

And their cry He will hear, and save them.

 

HaShem protects all who love Him;

and all the wicked he will destroy.

Once the bifurcation is complete, Heaven responds to the individual.

May my mouth declare the praise of HaShem

And may all flesh bless his Holy Name forever and ever.

From this perspective the last line of Ashre becomes clearer.  The Ashre ends with the last line of 115:18 where the narration abruptly switches to a plural voice.  Both body and soul are united and they both sing together: “We will bless God from this time and forever, Halleluyah!”

How Odd That God Should Choose Moshe: Some Reflections on Shavuot

Posted May 23, 2013 by jacobspilman
Categories: Shavuot

I believe it was the Seer of Lublin that said: “God loves to play hide and seek with his creation.” In the last few months, I’ve been struggling with the notion of why and how this is the case.

 

Shavuot is the commemoration of God’s revelation on Mt. Sinai. This year it struck me odd that God needed to go through all this drama. Certainly, HaShem did not need the Jewish People or Moshe or Aaron to make his presence known to the world. God could have simply appeared, destroyed the Egyptians, freed the Israelites, paused the whole proceeding and said to everyone in the world. I’m God. You’re my creation. Here’s the plan. Do as I say. Jews do this… Italians do this… French do this… etc.

 

It makes sense to me that this was the approach God took in order to preserve his mask, to hide behind nature, to preserve humanities free will. Instead, God demonstrated restraint and humility to allow his message to flow through Moshe.

 

Viewed from this perspective, HaShem restrained himself to allow Moshe to speak for him. Moshe, noted for his humility, restrained himself so as not to interfere with God’s message and allowed Aaron to speak for him. It is said of Moshe that when the spirit of prophecy descended upon him, there was nothing left of his ego. So much so, that Aaron spoke for him.

 

We see an interesting parallel in the Garden of Eden. Adam hides from God after he eats from the Tree. God asks Adam: “Where are you?” As if God doesn’t know? Here God plays hide and seek with Adam. It is as if God were saying: “If you hide, I’ll hide too.” Likewise, it is as if Moshe says to God: “I see you. If you restrain your will and allow my being to exist, I’ll restrain myself and allow you to manifest your message through me.”

 

How Odd That God Should Choose Moshe: Some Reflections on Shavuo

The Ge’uallah & The Tefillah — Part II

Posted May 6, 2013 by jacobspilman
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mar b. Rabina raised an objection.  In the evening, two benedictions precede and two benedictions follow the Shema’.  Now, if you say that one has to join Ge’ullah with Tefillah, behold, he does not do so, for he has to say [in between, the benediction], ‘let us rest’? – I reply: Since the Rabbis ordained the benediction, “Let us rest”, it is as if it were a long Ge’ullah.  For, if you do not admit that, how can he join [Ge’ullah with Tefillah] in the morning, seeing that R. Jochanan says: In the beginning [of the Tefillah] one has to say:  “O Lord, open my Lips  [so that my mouth can declare your praises”.], and at the end one has to say: “Let the words of my mouth be acceptable”?  [The only explanation] there [is that] since the Rabbis ordained that “O Lord, open my lips” should be said, it is like a long Tefillah. Here, too, since the Rabbis ordained that ‘Let us rest’ should be said, it is like a long Ge’ullah. 

The beginning of the Amidah starts with an odd phrase: “Lord, open my lips so that my mouth can declare your praises.”  Why do I need HaShem to open my lips, if I am the one who is choosing to speak?  Indeed, this statement recognizes that all created things are in a constant state of formation by God, including the person who is praying!  If HaShem is creating all things at all times and I am aware of my place in the Unity, then even my thoughts are not my own!  If one can recognize this during the prayer, the person davening is reciting the prayers as a long Geulah.  The Amidah ends with: “May it be Your Will that the words of my mouth and the expression of my heart be acceptable to You God, my Rock and My Redeemer.   Here the person in prayer is reciting the verse outside of the Unity, and perceives their thoughts and speech as their own.  Here the prayer is one long Tefillah.

 

The Ge’uallah & The Tefillah

Posted September 27, 2011 by jacobspilman
Categories: Talmud, Talmud and Consciousness, Talmud and Prayer, Talmud and Sleep

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Master said:  ‘Let him recite Shema‘ and say the Tefillah’.  This accords with the view of R. Johanan.  For R. Johanan says: Who inherits the world to come?  The one who follows the Ge’ullah immediately with the evening Tefillah.  R. Joshua b. Levi says:  The Tefilloth were arranged to be said in the middle.  What is the ground of their difference?– If you like, I can say it is [the interpretation of]  a verse, and if you like, I can say that they reason differently.  For R. Johanan argues:  Though the complete deliverance from Egypt took place in the morning time only, there was also some kind of deliverance in the evening; whereas R. Joshua b. Levi argues that since the real deliverance happened in the morning [that of the evening] was no proper deliverance.  Or if you like, I can say it is [the interpretation of] a verse’.  And both interpret one and the same verse, [viz.,] When thou liest down and when thou risest up.  R.Johanan argues: There is here an analogy between lying down and rising.  Just as [at the time of] rising, recital of the Shema’ precedes Tefillah, so also [at the time of] lying down, recital of Shema precedes Tefillah.  R. Joshua b. Levi argues [differently]: There is here an analogy here between lying down and rising.  Just as [at the time of] rising, the recital of the Shema’ is next to [rising from] bed, so also [at the time of ] lying down, recital of Shema’ must be next to [getting into] bed.

 Let’s begin exploring this passage by understanding some of the terms being used.  First, the Ge’ullah are the prayers that come before and after the Shema.  The word Ge’uallah is sometimes translated as redemption.  In the context of the liturgy and this passage of Talmud, we might be tempted to believe that the Ge’uallah refers only to the freedom of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.  However, this Hebrew term would indicate a good deal more.  Some synonyms for redemption are deliverance, release, rescue, and salvation.  The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mizraim or the narrow or constricted place. 

The Tefillah refers to the Amidah prayer, or the Standing Prayer.  It is during the Amidah that we are to see ourselves as standing before HaShem.  Once we reach the Amidah in our prayer, we are no longer in the Unity, but standing as a separate individual from HaShem.  So, on a deeper level, Ge’uallah refers to being delivered or taken out of the constrictions of the body and earthly restrictions.  Certainly, if we experience the Shema as being part of the Unity, all restrictions of the body would fall away.  And so, the Rabbis are indicating we must bring our experience of Ge’uallah into the Tefillah. Once we do this, we merit the world to come.

Let’s now look at the following passage:

“Rabbi Johanan argues: Though the complete deliverance from Egypt took place in the morning time only, there was also some kind of deliverance in the evening.”

 

Here Rabbi Johanan seems to be saying that while the Children of Israel left Mizraim in the morning, the whole process started at midnight.  However, what is the purpose of following the discussion of the importance of reciting the Tefillah after the Ge’uallah with a discussion of when the actual time of deliverance from Egypt took place?  As we have noted before, sleep is considered by the Rabbis as one sixtieth of death.  If this is the case, then awakening would be considered a form of Ge’uallah.  If this is true, then the process of awakening would actually start at the midpoint of the night and only culminate in a “proper Ge’uallah” or a proper awakening by the morning.  In essence, at the beginning of the deepest part of sleep, a seed of consciousness or awakening or Ge’uallah is planted.

In simple terms, during sleep, we are at our most passive, receptive and vulnerable.  During the day, we are the most active in will and most powerful in our direct effect on the material world.  Rabbi Johanan is indicating that at the beginning of the process that leads to the deepest part of sleep, there is a seed of consciousness. 

When thou liest down and when thou risest up.  R.Johanan argues: There is here an analogy between lying down and rising.  Just as [at the time of] rising, recital of the Shema’ precedes Tefillah, so also [at the time of] lying down, recital of Shema precedes Tefillah.  R. Joshua b. Levi argues [differently]: There is here an analogy here between lying down and rising.  Just as [at the time of] rising, the recital of the Shema’ is next to [rising from] bed, so also [at the time of ] lying down, recital of Shema’ must be next to [getting into] bed.

Chazal reveals that the structure of the prayers have a correspondence to our diurnal cycles.

As Rabbi Dr. Elie Munk writes in his introduction to The World of Prayer:

…The morning prayer in its entirety, bears the imprint of gratitude for liberation from the grasp of the night.  In its first part we offer the blessings for the rejuvenation of the body and soul (Birchat HaShachar); then follow the jubilating chants glorifying the splendor of nature (P’sukay d’Zimrah); finally in the Shema and its Brachot culminating in the historical reflections of (Emet V’yetziv) the thankfulness for the redemption of Israel from the dark Golus nights.  Especially in this last portion the difference in character between the morning and evening prayers show up very clearly. (Munk. The World of Prayer.  p 6)

 However, as we have pointed out, the Talmud passage we are examining appears to be pointing to an understanding of the Ge’uallah as more than a simple historical event.  There appears to be some counterpart to sleep that is being hinted at.  Indeed, Cordovero explicitly talks about a technique to maintain d’vekut during sleep.  Cordovero, referring to the Zohar, explains that in order to maintain d’vekut, one must conduct one’s self according to time and the corresponding Sephirot related to the hour of the day.

 

He begins with the night, the time when man sleeps on his bed. The ruling force then is Night, the quality of Sovereignty (Malchut) and when he continues to sleep, sleep is like death and the tree of death rules. What should he do? He should anticipate, by preparing to bind himself according to the secret holiness, namely, the secret of the quality of Sovereignty in the aspect of its holiness (Malchut Bibchinat Kedushata). With this he should go to his bed, accepting upon himself the complete yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven (Ol Malchut Shamaim) with concentration of his heart. (Cordevero, Tomer Devorah, Chapter 10)