In our previous chapter, we have referred to the five ascending levels of “prayer.” However, only the first two levels (which correspond to the two revealed levels of the Name Havayah) are indeed explicit prayer to God in the usual sense. In a broader sense, though, any spiritual state that arouses Divine mercy to heal the sick (or fill any other human lack) is regarded as a form of prayer.
In particular, while the first two levels are explicit prayer to God, the third is thought, the fourth, blessing, and the fifth, silence. In Chassidut, we are taught that the general difference between prayer (the first two levels) and blessing (the fourth level) is that prayer is an “ascending” service whereas blessing is a “descending” service.
Standing in prayer before God, one feels himself situated “below,” striving to reach upward to heaven. At the first level–the prayer of the sick person himself–one’s eyes and heart turn upward to God, beseeching His salvation. At the second level–the prayer of the sage for the sick person–the prayer ascends to God while, simultaneously, the sage, situated “above” the sick person, intends to draw down from above healing power. Thus, relative to the first level–ascent alone–the second level is “ascent for the sake of descent.” (At the first level, one prays to God that He effect the descent; the sick person himself is only able to humbly beseech, not to “pull the strings.” At the second level, the sage joins together with God, in his heartfelt prayer to Him, to draw down the healing power.)
The spiritual act of blessing, in contrast to prayer, obeys a dynamic of “descent” from on high. Here, one “stands,” so to speak, at the spiritual origin from whence the blessing’s Divine energy derives. The blesser “commands,” as it were, the blessing to descend from on high to the soul that he blesses. When blessing the people, the priests actually stand above them, on the dais.
The power of thought can now be understood to be an intermediate state between explicit prayer from below and blessing from above. It is the “telepathic” linking of souls as equals–“all Israel are friends.”
Silence is yet a higher state of “equality.” In silence, one neither ascends nor descends. One has reached the level of “I, God, do not change.” This, paradoxically, is the ultimate origin of all blessing and healing power. For this reason, God’s essential Name Havayah–of which it is said, “I, God [Havayah] do not change,” is referred to as “the Name of Mercy.”
We further observe, in contemplation of these five ascending levels of prayer for the sick, a definite order of self-other-self-other-self. As we noted above, the level of thought (of thetzadik) pertains to oneself as well (for, as noted above, at this level, all are equal–one relates to the other as to oneself and to oneself as to the other)–“think good and it will be good.” The first and fifth levels explicitly pertain to one’s own spiritual service to elicit Divine mercy. The second and fourth levels come from the power of another, empathizing soul, “above” oneself (the sage and the priest).
The Name Havayah
Level of Prayer
÷åöå ùì é
point of theyud
thought of the tzadik
prayer of the sage
ascent for the sake of descent
prayer of the sick person
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