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As Divided for a Leap Year
Tanya for 24 Tishrei
For this reason our Sages, of blessed memory, ordained that with prayer one should [conduct himself]  "as if he is standing before the king."
[Now if he is standing before the King of kings, why do our Sages say "as if"? This means]:
At least he should make himself appear as if he is standing [before the king] in the sight of all who look with physical eyes at his actions and words, even though a fool has no thought - [although he does not have even an intellectual realization that while standing in prayer he truly is standing before the King].
It was concerning this matter - [the realization that one is standing before the King at the time that He appointed to reveal His glory to those who seek Him] - that all the prayers were instituted,  [as is evident] to whoever meditates deeply upon them.
But he that does not show this [realization] is guilty of a capital offense, and of him it was said in the sacred Zohar  that "he brings disgrace into the Supernal Order, and shows that he is separate [from holiness], and has no share in the G-d of Israel," heaven forfend.
Therefore, [declares the Alter Rebbe], I am hereby acting as an agent of our Sages, of blessed memory, to enact a decree  to apply equally to everyone: No idle talk is to be spoken from the moment the Reader begins to recite the prayers until the end of the last Kaddish, at Shacharit, Minchah  and Maariv. 
And he who disobeys intentionally shall sit on the ground and beg of three people to release him from the supernal excommunication [that results from disobeying a Rabbinic decree].
"He should repent, [resolving to change his ways], and he will be healed,"  and retroactively, no excommunication whatever will have applied to him.
For from the very outset it applied only to those who rebel and are willfully sinful, and who do not care at all to seek atonement (as they ought) from heaven and from man for this grievous sin.
Also, [this excommunication applies] only when people speak deliberately and brazenly, but not to a person who forgets, or unwittingly uttered a few words, for he does not require a release [from the excommunication] at all.
"And G-d Who is righteous examines the heart and the kidneys":  [He probes a man's inner integrity, and is able to discern a deliberate offense from an unwitting one.
The Alter Rebbe concludes with a prayer:  "Be benevolent, O G-d, unto the good," [i.e., to those who refrain utterly from idle speech], "and unto those who are upright in their hearts"; [i.e., also to those whose hearts meant well, but from whose lips a few words inadvertently escaped].
- (Back to text) Berachot 33a.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "The singular form of the verb "nitukan" [i.e., the Hebrew original of `instituted'] should be checked against other [earlier] editions."
- (Back to text) I, 131b.
- (Back to text) See Semak, conclusion of sec. 11.
- (Back to text) Minchah has been listed here before Maariv, in accordance with the Table of Glosses and Emendations compiled by the Rebbe Shlita.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "It could be suggested that [Minchah was originally listed last] in order to show that the Alter Rebbe's message applies to Shacharit and Arvit, and (even) to Minchah. That is to say, that even with regard to Minchah - which is a prayer that comes as a continuation of Shacharit (for which reason the Shema need not be recited again) - the same stringency applies, with regard to speaking during prayers. (This is the case even though it is obvious that there are interr uptions between the Shema of Shacharit, which is also connected to Minchah, and the Minchah prayer itself.)"
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 6:10.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 7:10.
- (Back to text) Ibid. 125:4.
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