Question: How does a Kabbalistic prayer differ from a religious one?
Answer: Kabbalah fundamentally differs from all other methods and from everything there is in our world. In short, Kabbalah is one thing, and everything else another.
What is the difference then? It is in the fact that Kabbalah is based on changing a person himself rather than something outside of him, his surroundings; neither is it built on asking some “dear God” to start treating me better or to change other people’s attitude toward me. I do not ask Him to change my state of health or fate, nothing of the sort. I ask Him to transform my egoism, only that!
The entire method of Kabbalah is arranged so that a person can transform himself. On the other hand, all other methods and religions are founded on the idea that the Creator should change His attitude to a person: I ask Him to be more merciful and kind to me while I bribe Him.
Kabbalah doesn’t allow anything of the sort. In connection to the Creator, I am like man that changes in the face of the Absolute. And this Absolute is unchangeable. If the Creator is a primordial cause, the beginning of all, and if He is absolutely good, absolute, eternal, and perfect, then He cannot change. Only that which is imperfect can change. He cannot change.
Therefore, all changes occur solely in man. In other words, depending on my strengths, internal states, and properties, I feel more or less comfortable. But it is just me because I can change. The Creator never changes; He is a constant, omnipotent force of Nature.
Accordingly, all the prayers Kabbalah describes constitute man’s plea to be transformed. Who does one address these to, a wall? If the Creator is constant, eternal, and complete, then He doesn’t react to you in any way.
However, when you appeal to Him, you become different and receive a different response because you increase your sensitivity while doing so. You are still present in the same constant field regarded as the “Creator,” in the same constant force. Yet you are praying while wishing to change, and as a result, this field affects you with greater intensity. This is what we call a “prayer.”
The word “to pray” in Hebrew (Lehitpalel) means self-imposed judgment. “To pray” means to judge, evaluate, and rebuke oneself. It isn’t an appeal to someone, in order to be shown mercy or favored. No, it is self re-evaluation. This is what a prayer is.
Hence, although religions use the same word, in Kabbalah it has an opposite meaning, much like everything else.
From Lesson 2 in Moscow 1/16/2011, “A Prayer of Many”