Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Prayer Treks have been a central part of Emuna Builders. People in our group have experienced incredible salvations and good fortune in sponsoring a Prayer Trek. But, what are Prayer Treks all about? And what exactly are you accomplishing when you sponsor one of them?
There’s one central Jewish idea, which is crucial in order to understand all these questions. And that is the figure of the Tzaddik.
Sadly, in our generation, many people have come to see Tzaddikim simply as a “smart person” to whom we can ask questions on Halacha. “If you have a question”, they reason, “instead of Googling it, just ask the Tzaddik so you have a little more authority in deciding”. And here we are only talking about those Tzaddikim that are alive, because they simply dismiss the importance of those that have already passed away to our present generation.
What to expect from a real Tzaddik
The Tzaddik lives in another plane of existence and has no other desire but to serve Hashem. Any desires we might have for something else, anything really, they have already eliminated. Because of that, they have freed their minds from the shackles of physicality and can easily tap into a world of wisdom where everything is united harmoniously. They often gain the ability to channel Shefa (sustenance) to the lower worlds as they are connected to the higher levels of Creation. Sometimes they even receive holy names of Hashem to use at their will.
If you’ve ever gone to a real Tzaddik, and you are an honest and good person, you will immediately feel peace in his presence, as if you are talking to a grandfather who loves you dearly. He will say what you need to hear and answer everything as truthfully as possible, without any requests. He will also give you his full undivided attention as if you are the most important thing in the world right now. This is because he also already let go of the will to make himself heard and the need to make himself happy, because there’s in fact no sadness. Whatever happens is excellent, because it’s ultimately Hashem’s will.
As such, Tzaddikim have a clear path of access to Heaven. Our sages have taught us in many places, there’s always one Tzaddik that rules over each of the generations since the Creation of the world. After Moshe Rabbenu, it was Yehoshua’s time, then the Judges, going to King Shaul, King David and King Shlomo. In the time of the later prophets it was Daniel whom Rebbi said was a potential Mashiach. During the generation Tannaim, it was Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi himself, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Obviously many leaders were in between the ones just mentioned, we just can’t mention all of them.
In the later generations, we find the Arizal, Rabbi Chaim Vital and the Orach Chaim (whom the Ba’al Shem Tov testified was the leader, until his passing). Through the leader, all Torah and blessings flowed to the rest of the people, as we find in many of the Chassidic texts. Rebbe Nachman said it was the task of the leader to assemble all prayers of the generation to form a Tabernacle, very much like all the people brought their offerings to Moshe at his time.
Prayer is Emuna
Remember that every act of prayer is an aspect of Emuna. In directing your desires to Hashem, you are expressing the Truth that only he is in control to give you what you want. Going to Tzaddikim and asking them to pray on our behalf (which is something 100% kosher according to halacha), demonstrates also humility and knowledge of our shortcomings.
Sometimes we don’t get something because we lack the merit to receive it. A person’s many sins can block the request or tear it up in front of Hashem by the kategorim (accusing angels created from sins). Nevertheless, the Tzaddikim can intervene on our behalf and change that. We shouldn’t understimate how much effort these holy individuals have put in their Avodah because none of them have gotten to their level without being tested extensively.
Having a connection with Tzaddikim is therefore incredibly valuable.
The Lesser Tzaddikim
But we also have 36 Hidden Tzaddikim who “justify” Creation to Hashem. They are also incredibly holy, but are not at the level of the leader. These are usually difficult to find, and the sages also tell us that, were it not for them, the world could not endure a single moment. There’s yet another 18.000 Tzaddikim the Zohar mentions which are also very important for the functioning of the world. In the later generations, it became increasingly difficult to pinpoint who’s the leader, who’s a hidden Tzaddik and who’s one of the 18.000.
While on one hand the Tzaddik has to keep himself from impurifying influences, on the other, he’s open to help people, even after his passing. This is because the way a person leaves this world, is the way he will be in the afterlife.
In any case, Rabbi Meir was wont to say all his greatness in Torah was because he attended Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi’s classes while looking at his teacher’s back. The Gemara wonders “If this is the effect these classes had while looking at Rebbi’s back, how much more so if he had seen him from the front!”.
This just goes to show how important it is to be around Tzaddikim. One who has the priviledge of serving a Tzaddik can reach unimaginable levels in his Avodah as he can absorb the Surrounding Lights (Makifim) emanating from his soul.
Bringing blessing through Tzaddikim
Therefore, when you are sponsoring a Prayer Trek, you are carving for yourself a connection with a Tzaddik. If you can study his works and follow his customs, it’s even better, because in the higher worlds, proximity actually means similarity. If you want to be close to someone in the world to come, be sure to follow his customs and deeds.
As we spoke in many articles before, the Tzaddik opens up a tunnel through which the prayers pass from his grave and most of the times only need to hear a name to pray on his behalf.
The fact that the Tzaddik already passed away might even be an advantage as he’s not limited by physicality. It doesn’t matter if someone is doing it on your behalf, especially if it’s someone looking out for your good and with whom you have a relationship, like yours truly.
If you are interested in opening up the channels of blessing, be sure to sponsor a Prayer Trek from a Tzaddik of your choice. You never know how much it might help you in your life, until you experience it!
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!