Rav Kook on the Net

Psalm 10  Print

You Prepare Their Heart

Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel

Psalm 10: You Prepare Their Heart

"God, You have heard the request of the lowly. You prepare their heart; may Your ear be attentive." [Ps. 10:17]

The Psalm speaks of God hearing the prayer of the downtrodden. Yet the expression "You prepare their heart" is peculiar. Is it not the supplicant who collects his thoughts and directs his mind before beginning to pray? Why does the verse appear to assign the task of preparing the heart - to God?

The Sages taught: "One who prays needs to direct his heart to heaven.[Berachot 31] They based the requirement for directing the heart on this phrase, "You prepare their heart". Again, it is not clear: who exactly is preparing the heart and mind?

There are in fact two levels of kavana - intention or focus - in prayer. The first level is cognizance of the meaning of the words and overall idea. This is the basic and primary form of kavana.

A more advanced kavana is an awareness of God's infinite greatness. The Talmudic advice to "direct one's heart to heaven"  refers to this second level. We should contemplate upwards to the heavens, elevating our thoughts to reflect on the sublimity of God's Name.

This is how the Sages interpreted the psalm: You - consciousness of You and Your boundless grandeur - "will prepare their heart" - will serve to direct their hearts and minds.

This explanation fits in nicely with the end of the verse. The soul is uplifted through meditation on God's Name, thus achieving the goal of prayer. Such a successful prayer is more likely to be accepted. You - focusing on Your Name - "will prepare their heart", and this will result in "Your ear will be attentive", to answer their prayers.

[Ayn Aya I:131]