Introduction to Jewish Meditation – Part 25

Prayer — The Seventh Commandment

 We have now constructed a meditative space in which one is to experience himself moving at all times, i.e., a consciousness of Divine space-time. By defining one’s consciousness in terms of the Torah’s six continuous commandments, as outlined above, one’s mind will be able to assimilate all the stimuli that impinge upon his senses in the way most optimal and conducive to productive, holy living. There is, however, a seventh commandment, which, although not defined in the Torah as continuous, “strives” to be so: prayer.

How Often to Pray

The Torah has specific guidelines as to how often to pray. It is interesting to note the development of these guidelines. According to many halachic authorities, prayer is not counted as one of the 613 commandments of the written Torah. In contrast, other authorities contend that indeed, one of the Torah’s 613 commandments is that we pray to God, but that this obligation applies only when we find ourselves in need or trouble. Yet others maintain that the written Torah requires us to pray on a daily basis.

The oral Torah and Jewish custom, however, expand the obligation of prayer to three times daily for men and twice for women. And finally, the sages of the Talmud voice their sentiment that: “Would that one would pray the whole day, continuously.”

In this statement, the sages express the ideal state of continuous prayer. Thus, we see that the service of prayer progresses, as an explicit commandment, from a zero-to-infinity state: it is in the “suspended state” of “becoming” a continuous mitzvah, a full-time component of Jewish consciousness. (In mathematical terms, it is a “limit process,” approaching a state of continuum.) The service of prayer thus “aspires,” so to speak, to be one of the Torah’s continuous commandments.

Transcending Self-Awareness
The meaning of this is as follows: Even the consciousness produced by living in the meditative space described above, refined and ideal though it may be, is still self-consciousness. We are still aware of ourselves as we walk through our Divinely-defined space. The ultimate state of being, however, is for us to be so aware of the absolute dependence of all reality on the Divinity pulsating through it that we lose our awareness of self altogether, being instead only aware of “things” (including ourselves) as being various manifestations of Divinity. As long as we have not reached this level of consciousness–as long as we are still “separate” beings–we remain aware of our own existential lowliness (shiflut), and must “pray”–offer to God–the consciousness we have been able to create out of our meditative space. According to the Talmud, prayer corresponds to (and is the inner dimension of) the sacrificial Temple service. In prayer, we offer our “self,” our “I.” King David states:”…and I am prayer.”

This can be read “and my ‘I’ is my offering [in prayer].”

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