Help the Open Siddur Project attribute this kavanah

OSPOne of the organizers of the wonderful open-source Open Siddur Project and a regular reader of this blog Aharon Varady, sent out an inquiry to the OSP email list today that caught my eye:

I’m looking to the list for more information on the source for saying a Kavanah (self-focused intentional meditation), to take upon oneself the obligatory mitzvah of loving your fellow as yourself. …I only began to hear this in Renewal circles. There, I was told that the origin of the kavvanah was the Ari z”l. It also appears just before Psukei D’zimra in Reb Zalman’s Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yedaber Pi:

I accept upon myself
the command
to love my neighbor as myself.

In Hebrew sources, it appears as such:

הריני מקבל עלי מצוות עשה של ואהבת לרעך כמוך

Aharon goes on to explain that he has heard a variant of it that goes like this:

הריני מקבל עלי את מצוות הבורא ואהבת לרעך כמוך | Hareini mekabel alai et mitzvat haborei, veahavta lereiacha kamocha

After a few emails back and forth, Aharon said:

Does anyone know the source for calling this mitzvah the “mitzvah haboreh.” (Aren’t all the mitzvot, “mitzvot haboreh”?)

If we could find the original source, we could attribute this custom and determine which was the original and which the variation.

I’m familiar with the “haborei” version of the kavanah from Kirtan Rabbi’s “Love Thy Neighbor ואהבת לרעך כמוך” track on his “Kirtan Rabbi Live!” CD.

Another person (attribution on request) on the list said:

This kavanah is also in sim shalom prior to early morning torah study.

(P. 63 of the Shabbat slim shalom.)

In Kol Haneshamah, (p. 151) we use alternative language: leshem yichud kudshabrich hu…)

However, I’m doubting that this “kudshabrich hu” phrasing is Reconstructionist in origin because it appears in the “L’shem Yichud” track on the album “Shuva” by Raz Hartman, who I believe is Orthodox.

Efraim Feinstein, another OSP leader, added:

 It appears (with the variant מצות עשה) in a Chabad siddur (as something that is “proper to say” before מה טובו) as early as 1896. Probably earlier, I just haven’t searched through all of them. :-)

If you do want to find the history of the phrase, tracing back Chassidic siddurim is probably the way to go.

So. Anyone know anything about the origins of any of these?

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3 Responses to Help the Open Siddur Project attribute this kavanah

  1. Ariann April 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    I was under the impression that it’s originally kabbalistic, based on the language that the Recon siddur includes (who else is interested in united the kadosh brikh hu with sh’chinato?) and general kabbalistic love of kavvanot.

  2. Aharon Varady April 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for posting this David. Just an update from the conversation on opensiddur-talk list: we’ve gotten as far as sourcing the original reference in the works of the Ari z”l. (Thanks to Eric Friedland, Shmueli Gonzales, and Andrew Shaw.) Andrew Shaw cites The Ari Hakodesh, Minhagei ha-Arizal–Petura d’Abba (p.3b) and Yosher
    Divrei Emet, #3 — both of which are referenced in Yitzchak Buxbaum’s Jewish Spiritual Practices.

    While folks are double checking those references now, we’re still looking for where the variation “mitzvat haborei” came from. If it came by way of the Reconstructionists or Conservative Movement, whose siddur adopted the innovation first?

    This specific question raises a larger one for me which is, can we identify more particular traditions from the Nusach Ha-Ari z”l in the siddurim of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionst movements. I’ve seen one of Rebbe Nachman’s prayers (unattributed, alas) under the heading “Meditation” in Gates of Prayer: The New Union of Prayer, p.376 (CCAR 1975) by Chaim Stern. This seems important at least in tracing the path of the neo-hasidic revival in American heterodox movements.

  3. Jeffrey Spitzer May 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    The source for the text is found in the Sefer haKavvanot of Isaac Luria (the AR”I), which was published in 1620 in Venice. The book can be found at http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=44522.
    The version there is mitzvat aseh, not mitzvat haborei.