By Rabbi Noson Sternhartz
Likkutei Tefillos I, 142
Translated by Dovid Sears
Our G-d and G-d of our fathers: have mercy upon us, and confer merit upon us, and speedily send us our righteous Moshiach. He will fix this broken world, as well as all of the worlds from the highest to the lowest, for they all depend upon this lowest World of Action ('Olam ha-'Asiyah). Have pity on him and on us, and send him speedily and in peace, that he may bring everything to perfection, with the most awesome and wondrous tikkun (spiritual rectification).
Enlighten us with true perception, and open our eyes and hearts to Your Torah. Thus, may we be privileged to understand all the words of the Torah lucidly, according to their truth, so that no question or doubt will remain in our minds concerning any law or path among the laws and paths of the Torah. Rather, may everything be clarified beyond any shadow of a doubt, even those questions and doubts about which the great tzaddikim of former times declared "teiku."1 The Moshiach will straighten out them all, untangle them and make them understandable to us, and rectify the paradigm of "teiku" that includes all of the uncertainties in the world - both those that perplexed the great sages of Israel concerning the laws and paths of the Torah, and those that have perplexed everyone, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small.
So many of us yearn with all of our hearts to return to You! However, the paths of return and the paths of Torah are hidden from us, and our hearts are torn by doubts and deep uncertainties about which course of action to take. This is especially true of me, as I stand before You today. You know all that I have been through, and how many doubts and conflicts have bothered me about so many things. These confusions are greater than ever today, in so many areas of my life and in so many ways. My soul is so disturbed that sometimes it seems more than I can bear.
Master of the Universe, Master of the Universe! Almighty G-d of truth, "great in advice, and mighty in deed!"2 Have compassion on the Jewish people and upon me, and send a wondrous illumination from the World of Rectification ('Olam ha-Tikkun), for which our righteous Moshiach will serve as the spiritual channel. Then "teiku" will be transformed to the most wondrous tikkun,3 and all questions will be resolved and all doubts clarified, even the subtlest "doubts of doubts" - and we will constantly receive perfect, good, and true advice about everything in the world.
In Your compassion, teach us the proper way to mourn and lament over the destruction of the Holy Temple at all times, particularly every night at the exact moment of chatzos,4 and during the three summer weeks known as "between the straits (bein ha-metzarim)." On the Ninth of Av, the bitter day when both Holy Temples were destroyed, may we recite the Book of Lamentations and kinnos (elegies) sincerely, with a broken and humble spirit, and pour out our hearts like water before You. Let us "put our mouths to the dust - perhaps there is hope,"5 and strike our heads against the walls of our hearts,6 due to our suffering and travail, as a nation and as individuals. How many years have passed since the devastation of our holy city and Holy Temple! How has the glory of the "House of Our Life" been removed! The trouble of each day is worse than the day before,7 especially now, when harsh and cruel decrees have been issued against our people, beyond our ability to endure. Our lives hang in the balance; our hearts are filled with dread at the thought of the harsh decrees that those that hate us wish to carry out against us, G-d forbid.8
G-d of mercy, give us the emotional strength to empathize with the plight of the Jewish people, as well as to face our own spiritual dilemma. Give us the courage to break our hearts before You, and pour forth our supplication like water before You in complete sincerity, admitting the greatness of our sins and transgressions, and the stiff-necked behavior that has prolonged our exile and caused all of our grief.9
"Let us raise our hearts to our hands unto G-d in heaven."10 Let us resort to the art of our holy ancestors, and cry and wail bitterly; let us wander the streets and alleys and market places, supplicating the One Above "until He looks down upon us from heaven,"11 until He awakens His mercy upon us, and speedily consoles us, and delivers us from our afflictions and sufferings, collectively and individually.
May G-d enlighten us, even now, with a ray of the light of our righteous Moshiach, thus to mitigate all harsh decrees, and end all of our grief and travail. May He constantly shine upon us the light of truth, and constantly heal us with new and wondrous tikkunim, and answer and elucidate for us all doubts and questions and quandaries. May we constantly receive the right advice, according to the highest truth, so that we will return to You in truth, speedily and with a whole heart, thus to engage in Torah and prayer and the performance of commandments and good deeds, all the days of our lives. Guard us and save us from all sin and transgression, so that we never veer aside from Your will, neither to the right nor the left.12 May Your compassion be aroused on behalf of Your children, and may You speedily bring us our righteous Moshiach, and redeem us completely, with the final and eternal redemption.
Then the paradigm of "teiku" will be transformed to "tikkun" to the ultimate degree of perfection; that is, the letter nun from the word kinnos (elegies) will be transferred to the end of the word teiku, thus to convert "teiku" to "tikkun." All lamentations will cease throughout the world, and be remade into vessels of divine perception.13
O Merciful One, Master of Deliverance, Master of Consolation! We beg You, console us from all of our afflictions, and help us to accomplish our work in this world. Spread forth upon us Your "Tent of Peace"; prepare for us good advice, and save us speedily for the sake of Your Name. Grant us the knowledge of absolute truth. Save us from the many doubts and confusions and uncertainties that interfere with our ability to serve You. Confer upon us perfect and true advice at all times, so that we may return to You in truth, and become the people You want us to be, now and forever, amen selah.
1."Teiku" is the Gemara's acronym for "[Elijah] the Tishbite will answer all difficulties and questions." That is, when Elijah comes to announce the arrival of the Moshiach, he will answer the seemingly irresolvable questions in Torah law that the Talmudic sages could not answer.
2. Jeremiah 32:19.
3. See below, note 13.
4. According to Rabbi Nachman, midnight (chatzos) is always six sixty-minute hours after the appearance of three starts (tzes ha-kokhavim); see Likkutei Moharan I, 149; ibid. II, 67, 101; Sichos ha-Ran 301. For earlier sources, cf. Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 1:4, citing Zohar, Vayakhel; ibid. Orach Chaim 233:1; Machatzis ha-Shekel on Magen Avraham, ad loc.; Rabbi Chaim Vital, Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar Tikkun Chatzos, 4; Mishnas Chassidim, Masechtas Chatzos, 1:1; Rabbi Noson Hanover, Sha'arei Tzion, Sha'ar 1, citing Eitz Chaim, Drush 6, Drushei ha-Laylah; Siddur ARI Kol Yaakov, 4a; Tzava'as ha-Rivash 16, concerning the Baal Shem Tov; Siddur ARI Rav Shabsai, 5a; Siddur ARI Rav Asher, 9a; similarly, Bekhor Shor, Berakhos, 3a; Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, no. 199; et al.
5. Lamentation 3:29.
6. See Sichos ha-Ran 39.
7. Reb Noson alludes to the beraisa of Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya'ir (Sota 9:15), which lists this as one of the signs of the dark days that precede the advent of the Moshiach.
8. Historically, Reb Noson seems to have written this prayer during the period in which forced conscription to the Russian army was imposed upon the Jewish community, as well as other edicts to suppress the study and practice of Judaism. However, Reb Noson's words apply equally to the plight of the Jewish people and religion in various parts of the world, as well as our struggles to resist assimilation, even in countries that do not persecute us or suppress our religion.
9. Paraphrase of Exodus 32:9, et al.
10. Lamentations 3:41. Jeremiah's phrase is a euphemism for heartfelt prayer.
11. Paraphrase of Lamentations 3:50.
12. Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 5:29.
13. Rabbi Nachman taught that by reciting kinnos, i.e. by sincerely mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple and our loss of prophecy and divine wisdom, we actually rebuild the Holy Temple and accomplish the restoration of prophecy and divine wisdom. Thus, in his drush, the bent letter nun in the word kinnos, which represents Malkhus / kingship in its fallen state, is raised up and added to the word "teiku," which represents our state of spiritual exile and confusion. The bent nun becomes a straight final nun (in Hebrew, certain letters have different forms when placed at the end of a word, among them the letter nun). This spells the word "tikkun," meaning the rectification of Malkhus and the restoration of all that we have lost.