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Rav Dessler: Prayer

The 24th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (1892-1953). His father, Rav Reuven Dov Dessler, was a  talmid muvhak of Rav Simcha Zissel of Kelm, and his mother was a grand-daughter of Rav Yisrael Salanter and a niece of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. After learning at Kelm, he married a grand-daughter of Rav Simcha Zissel. During the Bolshevik revolution, he moved to London in 1927. In 1941, he founded the Gateshead Yeshiva and kollel. In 1948, he was asked by Rav Yosef Kahaneman to join the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnai Brak. Many of his thoughts and discourses are collected in Michtav M’Eliyahu.

Rav Dessler, following the Vilna Gaon, learns the opening words of ya’aleh ve’yavo as descriptive of a process of ascent that brings our neshama ever closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. The seven terms of ascent – ve’yipakeid v’yizacheir are considered one term — parallel the seven heavens that divide us from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

According to this scheme, the terms ve’yipakeid v’yizacheir, correspond to the highest degree of closeness to Hashem, when our neshamah stands in His immediate presence. And what precisely is the zichroneinu u’fikdoneinu that we call upon Hashem to remember at that moment of greatest intimacy?

Remembrance, when used in reference to Hashem, refers to His focus on the essence of the thing, on its name at the moment of Creation (Ramban to Bereishis 8:1; Maharal, Gevuros Hashem chap. 64). What we call upon Hashem to remember at that moment of greatest intimacy is the unique mission with which He charged us at the moment of our Creation.

Each of us has some mission in life that is ours and ours alone. No two human beings are born with the same talents or the same challenges; no two are born into the same familial situation or the identical time and place in human history. These unique aspects of each of us constitute the raw material within which our mission in life will unfold.
Targum Onekolos translates the words “a living being” in the verse “. . . and [Hashem] blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being, as “l’ruach m’mal’la” – a speaking being. The ability to speak is thus intimately connected with the Divine soul that Hashem breathed into Adam HaRishon. Each of us was brought into the world to “speak,” to proclaim some aspect of Hashem that no one else could. That proclamation is our mission in life

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