From Rabbi Tal Zwecker’s work-in-progress, Sefer HaHisbodedus, a collection of essays and translations on what the author describes as “the forgotten path of self-perfection and character development through seclusion and meditation.” Rabbi Zwecker is seeking sponsors for this important project. He may be reached through his website. We thank Rabbi Zwecker for permitting us to post several of his translations here.
Directing the Heart
Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, author of the classic “Arba’ah Turim/Four Rows.”
(also quoted by Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch/Code of Jewish Law, which is based on the Tur.)
He who prays must direct his heart to the meaning of the words that his lips speak; he should think that the Divine Presence (Shechinah) is opposite him, and he should divest himself of all distracting thoughts until his thoughts and intentions are pure and refined towards prayer. He should think that if he were standing before a flesh and blood king he would organize and prepare his words and concentrate on them well, so that he not stumble, heaven forbid. How much more so before the King of all kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, who investigates all thoughts.
This is what the Chassidim and men of great deeds would do: they would meditate in seclusion and concentrate in their prayers until they divested themselves of their physical form, strengthening their mental faculty, or the power of the mind, until they reached a level close to prophecy (Orach Chaim 98:1).