Project Genesis

What is the Service of the Heart?

Question: The Talmud in Ta’anit 2a teaches that the service of the heart is prayer. But how does one knows its prayer? When I think of service of the heart for example I think of all my whole being acting, according to what HaShem told according to His Torah; not only because He told so, but because my inner most being wants to serve Him out of the love, respect etc. I have for Him. For me it’s the outward actions that show the inner part that I would like to call service of the heart.

Could someone explain to me why this teaching chose prayer as the outward part true which man can express this inner part? I know words can do this.. but can they do this more than actions? Or is there another explanation. 

Answer:  Thank you for asking this great question. The service of the heart was once the acts that showed our love for G-d, which was at one time – sacrifices, as commanded by G-d. Today, our sages teach us that prayer replaced sacrifices, which is why prayer is called the “service of the heart.

With that said, your question is very good. The truth is that prayer, meditation, deep thought are all powerful tools to reach out to The Creator, but I understand your difficulty in understanding how this is the service of the heart. If one could actually understand the potential of meditation and prayer then they would have a better grasp of how that method of communication is so powerful. Prayer doesn’t just mean to go to synagogue and pray with other people. It also means having a deep, meaningful, personal connection that is only attained through hard work. Real prayer doesn’t come easy. It takes tremendous work and then, if you really work at it – it truly is the “service of the heart. If it is just a series of words then the potential of prayer ever really being a spiritual exercise is slim.

One of the best books on this subject is “Jewish meditation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. I hope this helps you.

Be Well
Rabbi Litt

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