Spiritual Tools

Injecting Action Into Our Prayers

One of the strongest memories I have of my father Rav Berg is from during the Third Meal of Shabbat, when we would sing Yedid Nefesh. It is a song that speaks about the yearning of our soul for the Light of the Creator, and the last part of it speaks about the Final Redemption. And I noticed that the Rav would always move his hands in a way that seemed to be like a sort of calling during the last part. And the question, of course, is why?

To answer this, I want to share a tremendous secret from the Ramban, Nachmanides. The secret he revealed has to do with everything that happens in the portion Va’era, and the following portion, Bo: actions. Moses does all kinds of actions. With every plague that he brings, he does an action to call it. And we find this often with other prophets too; not only do they speak a prophecy, they also do an action.

So, the Ramban writes, on the portion of Lech Lecha, that there are two types of revelations. One is the revelation when a prophet or a righteous person speaks, asks for something, or gives a blessing.  When that occurs, the Ramban says, the blessing might not happen. The other type of revelation is when a prophet or a righteous person also does something of a physical nature that is similar to the blessing he is trying to awaken, as is the case with Moses in the portion Va’era. He does not just say to Pharaoh or to the Creator to bring the plate of blood, for example; rather, he does an action in the river that is similar to the action he is trying to awaken. When that occurs, the Ramban says, when a prophet or righteous person says the words and then does an action that is similar, then no matter what happens, that decree, awakening, or prophecy has to happen.  And that is why we very often find that prophets not only prophesy, not only bless, not only speak, but also do an action as well.  

So, we can now understand why the Rav would do an action with his hands during the section of the Yedid Nefesh that asks for the Light of the Creator to be revealed. It is because, as the Ramban tells us, whenever we are praying or asking for something, if we are able even to do a small action, then we are guaranteed that it will occur.  If we receive a blessing and it does not have an action attached to it, then it might not happen. But if there was an action attached to it, like the Rav was doing, then it has to.  

There are many other instances and stories where we find this, when even small actions that an individual does awaken the blessing or prophecy. We are not, obviously, at the level that these prophets and righteous people were, but all of us, in small ways, can do these actions. We can, as the Rav did, as Moses did, do some action of calling the Light, because that is what we are doing with our words, that is what we are trying to do when we are praying. And if our prayers and requests – for ourselves, others, and the world –become infused with this consciousness, then all of our prayers can become much more powerful.


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