The Besh”t on Knowing What You’re Davening
I just wanted to share this beautiful quote from Toledos Yaaqov Yoseif, (Parashas VaEschanan, p. 176c, via Baal Shem Tov al ha-Torah, Amud ha-Tefilla 76).
You think the Baal Shem Tov would be discussing kavvanh during davening in terms of unifying names, uniting the worlds etc.. But here is a quote about the importance of the most fundamental kind of kavvanah — just thinking about what the words mean:
שמעתי ממורי זלה”ה הן בסדר הלימוד הן בתפילה אם הוא מבין פירוש המלות בתפילה ומבין פשט ההלכה בלימודו אז מקשר מלכות שהוא דיבור אל הבינה שהוא מחשבה, ודברי פי חכם חן:
I heard from my teacher, [the Besh”t] zlh”h, that whether learning Torah or praying, if one understands the simple meaning of the words in prayer, or the plain meaning of the halakha under study, then he connects the aspect of royalty, Malkhus, which is speech, to understanding, Binah,which is thought. And the words of the wise are glorious!
In the Baal Shem Tov’s worldview, there is a bit of world-unifying going on here. Binah is Ima, the feminine aspect of the unity which generates the World to Come, and Malkhus is the Shechinah, the feminine aspect of the unity this world aspires to achieve. But that’s not what the person davening is told to be thinking about. This unification happens simply because your mouth and your mind are engaged in unity.