Kabbalah and Healing: The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 16 – The Power of Prayer

Modern, scientific research has verified what was long known to mankind: prayer to God is potent; it possesses the power to heal, or, expressed in words of faith, heartfelt prayer draws down healing power from Above.

In Kabbalah and Chassidut we are taught that there are five levels of prayer for the sick, which correspond to the four letters of God’s essential Name Havayah and the fifth, transcendent level alluded to by the tip of the yud. We shall describe these levels in ascending order:

The sages teach that “a sick person’s prayer for himself is more potent than that of others for him.” Who more than the sick person himself can experience and identify with his suffering and trepidation? His own prayer issues from the depths of his heart. With all of his soul, he turns to God as his only hope for recovery.

In Kabbalah we are taught that the suffering, afflicted soul–the soul in a spiritual state of existential exile–corresponds to the sefirah of malchut, which in turn corresponds to the final heiof God’s Name Havayah. The more identified a person is with the attribute of malchut–identifying his own personal suffering with that of the Divine Presence and the “congregation of Israel” as a whole (both of which are appellations of malchut)–the more potent is his prayer for himself.

Elsewhere, our sages teach that “if there is a sick person in one’s home, he should go to a sage and ask him to beseech [God] to have mercy on him.” Here we see that the prayer of a true sage possesses the power to arouse God’s mercy for the sick more than that of another (including the sick person himself and those closest to him–his immediate family).

The ability to arouse mercy depends upon one’s connection to the sefirah of tiferet, whose inner experience is one of mercy and compassion on the other. The sefirah of tiferetcorresponds to the vav of God’s Name Havayah. The archetypal soul who corresponds in Kabbalah to the sefirah of tiferet is that of our forefather Jacob. He is the one that arouses mercy on “the congregation of Israel” (as represented by his wife Rachel). Jacob represents as well the archetype of a Torah-sage.

From the perspective of tiferet, the suffering of malchut is seen in a different, deeper light, and thus the ability of tiferet to arouse mercy on malchut more than it can arouse mercy on itself. Nonetheless, even this higher perspective on reality and the prayer it inspires are considered part of the “revealed” levels of Divinity–the letters vav and final hei of God’s NameHavayah–in contrast to the “concealed” levels of Divinity–the letters yud and first hei of Havayah, to which we shall now turn.

It is taught in Chassidut that a true tzadik, by the power of his thought alone–without necessity to verbally express his thoughts and emotions in prayer–can, miraculously, by Divine grace, heal the sick and free the imprisoned.

In his concentrated thought on another, suffering soul, the true tzadik connects his own soul to that of the other, extends his hand to him, and lifts him out of–redeems him from–his illness.

This redemptive power derives from the sefirah of binah, which corresponds to the first hei of God’s Name Havayah. In the Zoharbinah is referred to as “the world of freedom,” the epitome of spiritual redemption (the secret of the Jubilee year, the fiftieth year–corresponding to the fiftieth gate of understanding–when slaves are freed and lands return to their original owners).

In general, thought, in contrast to speech, corresponds to the “concealed world” of binah, the first hei of the Name Havayah. And so the tzadik‘s power of thought is at this concealed level.

As every Jew has the inner potential to become a tzadik–of the future, it is said that “Your people are all righteous [tzadikim]”–in a certain sense this level pertains to each and every Jew, in relation to his fellow Jew, or even in relation to himself. Especially important is the teaching of Chassidut with regard to the power of thought in relation to oneself (or in relation to those for whom he is deeply concerned): “think good and it will be good.”

Above this level is the power of the priestly blessing. Here, the explicit will of God–the priestly blessing is a commandment of the Torah–together with the intention and verbalization of the priests, draw down Divine energy and healing power from an even higher level than that inherent in the tzadik‘s thought.

God’s will, as expressed in the Torah’s precepts, derives from the level of chochmah, the yud of the Name Havayah. In the Zohar we find the statement, “the Torah issues fromchochmah.” The inner experience of chochmah is one of true and absolute selflessness. This state of selflessness is indeed the seminal essence of the love of Israel, total identification with one’s fellow Jew, with which the priest blesses the people.

The priestly blessing begins with the letter yud. It possesses fifteen words. Each one of the first thirteen of its words possesses the letter yud. These thirteen yuds of the priestly blessing are understood in Kabbalah to correspond to the thirteen attributes of Divine mercy, whose origin is in keter but which are revealed to the world by the power of chochmah, the yud–the first letter–of the Name Havayah.

In the Temple, the priests, when blessing the people, would utter God’s Name Havayah as it is written (in any other place and context this is strictly forbidden). The Divine power thus elicited derives from the level of chochmah, the level of the world of Atzilut–God’s “private domain” (the Holy Temple above)–referred to in Kabbalah as “the secret of the Name.”

Even above the two concealed levels and the two revealed levels described above, there exists a fifth, transcendent level. This is the level of “infinite, Divine patience,” corresponding to the supernal crown (keter) and the tip of the yud of God’s Name Havayah.

Here, one simply waits, with the power of infinite patience, for God’s salvation. One neither prays with audible words nor thinks conscious thoughts. Complete faith in Divine providence–all of God’s ways are good–transforms one’s general state of consciousness into one of joy–“joyful in suffering.” In complete silence, one is drawn upward to reach the level of “My thought, which is not your thought.” Paradoxically, though at this level there is no end to one’s patience and perseverance, when reaching this level of perfect faith in God–at one with the Eternal–“the salvation of God is as the batting of an eye.”


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