Prayer Skills-Parah-Passion to Death
The Talmud states that he who wants to live should kill himself (Tammid 32a). It also states that the words of Torah exist only for one who kills himself for them (Shabbat 83b), as it is written in Parshat Parah, “This is the Torah when a man dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14).” It is important to understand what the pertinence of death is here.
The matter can be understood by an analogy to a teacher instructing his pupil. When the pupil does not understand what his master is teaching him, then he relates to his master’s words. “Back to back,” for he finds no satisfaction in these words, as they do not penetrate his heart. the teacher, too, is as if his face were turned away, for he understands well that his words are not being grasped by his listener. Afterwards, however, when the student applies all his heart and mind to his teacher’s words, and he understands them very well, joy and love and fraternity are created between them, and they relate “face to face.”
But one must first try to understand from where it comes about that in the inning he did not know what his master said, and later he did grasp the content and intention of the teaching.
The explanation is that at first he did not approach it with intellectual depth, but learned superficially, with little understanding. Later, however, he grasped the contents of the subject by diverting his attention from everything else, and concentrating on it with great intellectual profundity, to the limit of his wisdom and theoretical ability, so much so, that were a person to call him, he would not answer, almost not seeing even what is before his very eyes, so completely distracted is he on this subject. And if so he arrives at the ultimate true meaning of the teachings.
Now, this extreme diverting of attention from all else is almost a form of death, or sleep, which is considered one 60th of death (Berachot 57b), for all one’s life force rises upwards and he thereby receives new “Seeds of Intellectual Perception.” This is the secret of the verse, “They [the Lord’s mercies] are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).”
This too is the secret of the chilling of the thighs before birth; for he is then on the lowest level, as if he does not exist and understand anything, for his mind has ascended all the way up, so that his mind gave birth and he now understands the truth of the master’s words. Thus, in the beginning, the teachings appeared very constricted, for he did not understand them in breadth; he was only on the level of Abba. Afterwards, by his intense and elevated distraction, the content of the words, appear to him in all their breadth, he understands them thoroughly, and he relates to them “face to face.”
The same holds true for words of prayer. When one begins to pray, he is still in a state of smallness of mind, and he cannot pray with attachment. He is then on the level of Abba. However, when he then diverged his attention from anything and everything else, and is mindful of Him before Whom he stands, and of the substance and permutations and Names and Lights in the words of prayer, and he attaches himself to them in most wondrous attachment, then he relates to these words “face to face,” and they are seen in all their breadth. And what was narrow before is now greatly expanded, and he feels separated from his physical existence. (Maggid Devarav l’Yaakov, 205)