The Ariza”l’s advice for us today


יום ה’ מנחם אב, תשפ”ג

Dear Members of Tal Orot

Today, the fifth of Menachem Av, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, z”l, whose spirit is strong here in Tzfat. Among the treasure trove of his teachings recorded by his students is a book called Sha’ar haKavanot – the Gate of Intentions, his detailed, focused intentions for all aspects of the daily, Shabbat and Yom Tov prayer services, collected by Rabbi Hayyim Vital. Many of these intentions are highly technical and arcane, but there is one, right at the beginning, that is fundamental:

קודם שהאדם יסדר תפילתו בבית הכנסת מפרשת העקידה ואילך צריך שיקבל עליו מצות “ואהבת לרעך כמוך” ויכוין לאהוב כל אחד מבני ישראל כנפשו, כי עי”ז תעלה תפילתו כלולה מכל תפילות ישראל ותוכל לעלות למעלה ולעשות פרי… וכן בכל תפילותיו וצרכיו ודבריו ישתף את חברו עמו. (דרושי ברכת השחר)

Before a person prays one’s order of prayer in the synagogue, one should accept upon oneself the Mitzvah “you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18),” and intend to love every single person of Israel as your own soul. For in this way one’s prayer ascends comprising all the prayers of Israel and can ascend Above and be fruitful… And similarly, in all one’s prayers and needs and words one should include one’s neighbor.

Rabbi Yitzhak Luria takes literally the Mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself” –  to realize that your neighbor really is yourself, we share consciousness together such that each of us is an aspect of the collective consciousness of Israel. With this profound sense of solidarity, we can pray, speak and act fruitfully in the world.

A related intention is recommended by Rabbi Yitzhak of Acco in his Otzar haHayyim – Treasury of Life. On the key verse and mitzvah of this week’s parashah, “Listen Israel, HaShem our God, HaShem is One (Dt. 6:4),” he suggests that when we say “Listen Israel,” we really take a moment in our heart to call every person of Israel to listen. The unity of Israel is rooted in the Unity of God, and we actualize awareness of this Unity when we listen to each other.

In these challenging times of needless and heedless polarization and conflict, let’s try to bring healing to our nation and our world, listening to each other, opening our hearts to each other, realizing we are really one soul, together in the Oneness of God.


Meir and Anne

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