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As Divided for a Regular Year
Tanya for 30 Cheshvan
However, the difference between Torah and prayer without intention is self-evident.
For in the study of Torah [without proper intent] one understands and knows what he is learning, for otherwise it is not called study at all.
It is only that he is studying neutrally, without the intention of lishmah "[for its own sake]" out of a manifest love of G-d in his heart, but only out of the latent natural love [for G-d that every Jew harbors in his heart.]
On the other hand, he is not studying with an actual negative motivation, such as for self-aggrandizement or the like, "for this [manner of Torah study] does not ascend higher than the sun," as stated in [the Zohar,] Parshat Vayechi, p. 223b.
[The Zohar states there that the verse,  "What profit is there for man from all the toil that he toils under the sun," does not refer to one's toil in Torah study, for Torah is "loftier than the sun"; however, if this toil is undertaken "for self-aggrandizement," it is also considered to be "under the sun," for it does not ascend aloft.
That is because one's thought and intent are clothed within the letters [of Torah] that he utters, and prevent them from ascending.
[The ulterior motive that derives from the kelipot thus encumbers his words of Torah.]
So, too, in prayer without intent,  meaning, that one entertains alien thoughts.
 (But since his intention is addressed to G-d, [he is, after all, in a state of prayer, except that alien thoughts interpose], it is therefore easily corrected, so that [his prayer] may once again rise to the state from which it was originally repelled, when he prays with proper intention even one [full] prayer gathered piecemeal from the prayers of the entire year.
[When on one day one passage of the prayers was read with proper intent and on another day another passage, and so on, and then all these passages are gathered together, thus constituting one complete prayer from the prayers of a whole year, then all one's prayers throughout the year are elevated. 
Thus it is written in Mikdash Melech on Parshat Pekudei.)
[We thus see that in one sense Torah without proper intent is superior to prayer without proper intent, for such Torah study creates angels in the World of Yetzirah, while prayer without proper intent is repulsed.
On the other hand, when the lack of proper intent in Torah study is such, that it prevents it from ascending, as in the case of studying for the sake of self-aggrandizement, then this is lower than prayer without proper intent.
For one proper prayer, or even a compilation of different prayers that add up to one prayer with proper intent, elevates all the other prayers of that year.
With regard to Torah study, by contrast, even if one later studies with proper intent, this does not elevate his previous study; actual repentance is required.
Until such time one's Torah study is in exile within the kelipah which spawned his ulterior motive.
Nevertheless, since all Jews will eventually repent, for  "No one of them will be rejected," our Sages advise that  "one should always study Torah and perform mitzvot even when they are not done for their own sake" - and, indeed, even if they involve an ulterior motive - for eventually he will achieve the state of lishmah, when he repents.
This is explained by the Alter Rebbe at the end of chapter 39 of Tanya.]
- (Back to text) Kohelet 1:3.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "The specific intent that is lacking here, is keeping in mind the meaning of the words.
This, however, does not make for an `invalid prayer', - inasmuch as the worshiper has the pervasive intent of praying to G-d.
And this is what the Alter Rebbe goes on to specify: `meaning that he entertains alien thoughts.'
For these thoughts - thoughts other than those of one's prayer - vest themselves in his speech and cause the prayers to be drawn downward."
- (Back to text) Parentheses are in the original text.
- (Back to text) Note of the Rebbe Shlita: "The wording of the Zohar would appear to indicate that one would need to pray `one other [complete] prayer with pure intent,' and when that ascends it elevates with it (since prayers can be gathered piecemeal together) all the previous prayers that were repelled.
The commentary of the Mikdash Melech, however, states that `the master' wrote that it is not necessary for all eighteen benedictions to be recited with proper intent, [as long as one full prayer with proper intent can be put together from the successful components of one's various imperfect prayers throughout the year].
The wording of Mikdash Melech thus requires at least some examination. It would be worthwhile to compare the early editions, for there seems to be a printer's error."
- (Back to text) II Shmuel 14:14.
- (Back to text) Pesachim 50b.
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