Machshavos Zaros-Foreign thoughts

Machshavos Zaros:

A. Cause of Machshavos Zaros:

Unfit to be in Heichal Hashem:[1] When one is involved in Torah learning or prayer, he is found in the Heichal/chamber of Hashem, in a chamber of spiritual revelation of G-dliness. At times, one is not befitting to be inside Hashem’s personal chamber and this causes foreign thoughts [of worldly pleasures[2]] to fall into one’s mind while he is learning and Davening, thus distracting him from the spiritual experience and removing him from the chamber. This is based on the Zohar which states that one is judged in every Heichal he enters of spiritual experience to see if he is fit to receive it, and if not he is banished. The banishment is accomplished through challenging him with foreign thoughts.

One is responsible for his own Machshavos Zaros:[3] In general Machshavos Zaros during Torah and prayer come as result of concealment from one’s body and animal soul, especially after the sin of Adam and during the times of exile. Nevertheless, even these thoughts would not be of such great disturbance and concealment if not for the fact the person himself aggravates the situation. Majority of disturbing thoughts during Torah and prayer are instigated by the person himself. For example, if thoughts of Parnasa trouble a person during his Torah and Avoda, it is due to his own negligence, as if he would contemplate that the blessing for Parnasa comes from Hashem, he would not at all be troubled by this.

Purpose of thoughts is to subdue them:[4] Thoughts of evil are drawn to a person from the Heichalos of Kelipa. They are brought in order to be subdued and pushed away from the person’s mind. Through doing so one removes the concealment of these Heichalos of Kelipos, hence breaking them and causing G-d’s infinite light to be Istaleik in all worlds. This subduing of evil thoughts is accomplished by one removing his mind from the evil and focusing on holy matters.

B. How to banish Machshavos Zaros:[5]

Its possible-When you sleep, you don’t have worries:[6] Just as when one drifts to sleep he has no worries or foreign thoughts troubling him, so too, when one is Davening, it is possible to rid oneself of all foreign thoughts and internal disturbances. [The fact that one can fall asleep sleep without being troubled by foreigne thoughts proves that in truth they are not so important, and it is certainly possible to rid oneself of them throughout his prayer]. If one can get rid of foreign thoughts for a physical matter, then certainly one can do so for prayer which is for the benefit of their soul.]

External disturbance-Contemplate its purpose is to disturb you so you have greater Kavana: In Tanya[7], the Alter Rebbe explains that at times a disturbance is purposely brought onto a person in order so he strengthen his concentration. He explains as follows: When a gentile is disturbing one’s prayer, it is a spark of the Shechina in exile. The reason why Hashem is permitting and even assisting the gentile to disturb one’s prayer is in order so one strengthen his concentration on his prayer to such intensity that he becomes unaware of the Gentile. Through doing so, not only does one have a greater prayer, but he also redeems the spark of the Shechina found in exile in the gentile. Nonetheless, the Rebbe emphasizes that this only applies to external disturbances caused by a gentile and the like, and not towards one’s personal foreign thoughts.

Midas Hanetzach:[8] In order to overpower one’s foreign thoughts which come like a river one needs to arouse within his soul the Mida of Netzach, stubborn determination, to banish the thoughts. [The Mida of Netzach when aroused allows one to accomplish things that seemed completely out of reach prior. Often, failure of achievement comes from a lack of motivation and push to reach one’s goal. The Mida of Netzach activates an inner soul power of determination to meet one’s goal no matter what.]

Ignoring thoughts pushes them off forever:[9] When one ignores the Machshava Zara that comes to him during Torah and prayer, and pushes it away telling himself that it is only coming to interfere with his Avoda, then not only does he end up not entertaining the foreign thoughts, but even stop initially coming to him.  

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[1] Or Torah [Maggid] Vayeishev in name of Baal Shem Tov, in name of Zohar; See also Keser Shem Tov 395 [taken from Magid Devarav Leyaakov 118] for a smilar teaching on the verse “Tzena Uriena” that one when a Jew approaches Hashem in prayer a hevanely voice comes out and states that one who is not befitting is to leave and one who is befitting is to stay. When the Kelipos hear this voice, they run to disturb the person through foreign thoughts involving the pleasures of the times.

[2] Keser Shem Tov ibid

[3] Mamar Basi Legani Yud Shevat 5730 15 [Mugah, printed in Melukat 4 p. 148]

[4] Likkutei Torah Chukas “Al kein yomru Hamoshlim”

[5] Basi Legani 1970, printed in Melukat Daled p. 149-151

[6] Kuntrus Havoda11 p. 23, brought in Melukat ibid p. 149

[7] Tanya Igeres Hakodesh 25

[8] Basi Legani of Rebbe Rayazt 20; Melukat ibid

[9] Mamar Basi Legani Yud Shevat 5730 15 [Mugah, printed in Melukat 4 p. 148]

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