Service of the Heart

[Be-Ahavah U-BeEmunah – Vayeshev 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

The Talmud comments, "'And to serve him with all your heart' (Devarim 11:13): What is 'service of the heart'? It is prayer" (Taanit 2a). This means serving G-d with one's emotions. We serve G-d many ways. We serve him with our intellect - through Torah learning. We use our intellect to serve G-d, and we process our intellect according to G-d's word. We serve G-d with our deeds – the mitzvot. We serve G-d with our wealth, i.e. Tzedakah and integrity in business dealings. And, we serve G-d with the heart, with our emotions.
A man is not just his intellect. He is also emotion. Both have to be balanced. Otherwise, the person limps. Certainly, intellect is higher than emotion, but emotion is closer to man, to life.
We therefore need both, internal service and external service. (see Orot Ha-Kodesh 3:88). Action is external, the fear of G-d is internal. Wisdom is external. Will is internal. The intellect is external, while emotion is internal.
Torah learning is external, while prayer is internal, for even Torah learning can be external to man's personality. As our Sages said that the First Temple was destroyed because the Jews did not recite the required daily blessing before commencing Torah learning. As the Maharal explained, while they did study Torah, they forgot the Master of the Universe, the Giver of the Torah. One might think that Torah learning is an intellectual challenge, and that in Torah learning one does not stand before G-d. One therefore needs both external service and internal service, and then all is complete.
In prayer we stand before G-d. There can be two things missing in the synagogue: 1) If we view the prayers and the accompanying songs as a musical experience, then we are not serving G-d! 2) Another problem is when people chatter incessantly, having no control over their mouths during prayers. That is not what our Sages had in mind. Rather, they said, if someone talks between Yishtabach and Yotzer, he is committing a sin, and he must repeat his earlier prayers. (Hagahot Maimoniyot, Tefila 7:12, quoting the Jerusalem Talmud). Rather, one must prayer with concentration, i.e., thinking about the content of every word. Obviously, we are not on the level of that chazzan who recited "Akdamut Milin" on Shavuot with such great concentration that his soul flew out of him on High, or of Rabbi Nachum of Riminov, who would invest such a great effort in prayer that after the Shemoneh Esrei that he would faint.
Still, we must strive to concentrate on every word. And even that is not on the level of the Tosafot, quoting the Jerusalem Talmud, who said that we must be grateful to our head, which bows of its own accord when we reach "Modim". All the same, we make an effort. Just as we do not deign to boast that we know Torah, but instead say that we "try to learn". And – not to confuse the holy with the profane – Socrates said, "I am not a sophist, i.e., a wise man, but a philosopher, i.e., a lover of wisdom." Similarly, a rabbi is not called a Chacham - wise man, but a Talmid Chacham - the student of a wise man, a person who learns all his life. That is, likewise, how we must strive to pray.
Towards that end we prepare for prayer. The early pious ones would prepare for an hour (Berachot 30b). Some people, in preparation, would put on nice clothing (Shabbat 10a), and we prepare that way. "Be cautious when you go to the house of G-d" (Kohelet 4:17).
How fortunate we are to have merited a "miniature Temple" (Megilla 29a).
May it be G-d's will that we should merit the rebuilding of the Temple, speedily in our day. In the meantime, we serve G-d with our heart and emotions in that miniature Temple.