by Jacob Yuroh Teshima, Doctor of Hebrew Literature
an extract from “Zen Buddhism and Hasidism, a comparative study”
Indeed, prayer is the high point in Hasidic life. Noticing the concentration of the divine emanation at the time of prayer, the founding masters of Hasidism formulated a system to achieve annihilation of selfhood at that time. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak explained the process of prayer as follows: “When a man stands to pray by pouring out his soul and body, he is stripped of his sensation and clings to the life of the Infinite One, blessed be He. Then the light of the Infinite One effuses over him.”
That is to say, prayer ideally follows four basic stages:
1. Devotion : to pour one’s whole heart before God with one’s whole strength and sincerity;
2. Entrancement : to lose one’s sensation of the external world;
3. Unio mystica : to cling to God and to be incorporated in Him;
4. Result : to absorb the divine essence and consequently to reflect its effect on the practical aspects of human life for the benefit of of creation.
The first three stages are main part of prayer itself. The last stage is its aftermath.
THE GRANDEUR AND MAJESTY OF GOD
The concept of God without the notion of His grandeur and majesty was simply unthinkable to the traditional Jews. The Great Maggid said, None of creation can bear His greatness. The Bible is rich with the idea of God’s greatness: For Thou art great and doest wondrous things, Thou alone art God (Psalms 86:10). Judaism grasps God’s greatness not as a matter of mere conception but as a matter of reality through historical, social and natural events. The Jewish approach to God’s greatness has found its best expression in the formula of the Kaddish, which begins with the phrase Magnified and sanctified be His great Name in the world…. For the Jews, to think of God means to think about His greatness, which consequently reminds them of the triviality of human beings. This chain reaction of thought is Hasidism’s method of annihilating selfhood. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak formulated it as follows: The annihilation of beingness in the midst of reality and the lack of feeling of selfhood because of the grandeur and mightiness of the Creator, blessed be He.