In the beginning of the assembly, there should be an agenda. Everyone should speak of the importance of the society as much as he can, describing the profits that society will give him and the important things he hopes society will bring him, which he cannot obtain by himself, and how he appreciates the society accordingly.
It is as our sages wrote (Berachot 32), “Rabbi Shamlai said, ‘One should always praise the Creator, and then pray.’ Where did we get that? From Moses, as it is written, ‘And I besought the Lord at that time.’ It is also written, ‘O Lord God, Thou hast begun,’ and it is written, ‘Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land.’”
And the reason we need to begin with praising the Creator is that it is natural that there are two conditions when one asks for something of another:
- That he has what I ask of him, such as wealth, power, and repute as being wealthy and affluent.
- That he will have a kind heart, meaning a desire to do good to others.
From such a person you can ask for a favor. This is why they said, “One should always praise the Creator, and then pray.” This means that after one believes in the greatness of the Creator, that He has all sorts of pleasures to give to the creatures and He wishes to do good, then it is pertinent to say that he is praying to the Creator, who will certainly help him, since He wishes to bestow. And then the Creator can give him what he wishes. Then, also, the prayer can be with confidence that the Creator will grant it.
Similarly, with love of friends, at the very beginning of the assembly, when gathering, we should praise the friends, the importance of each of the friends. To the extent that we assume the greatness of the society, one can appreciate the society.
“And then pray,” meaning that everyone should examine himself and see how much effort he is giving to the society. Then, when they see that you are powerless to do anything for the society, there is room for prayer to the Creator to help him, and give him strength and desire to engage in love of others.
And afterwards, everyone should behave the same as in the last three of the “Eighteen Prayer.” In other words, after having pleaded before the Creator, the Holy Zohar says that in the last three of the “Eighteen Prayer,” one should think as though the Creator has already granted his request, and he has departed.
In love of friends we should behave the same: After examining ourselves and following the known advice of praying, we should think as though our prayer has been answered and rejoice with our friends, as though all the friends are one body. And as the body wishes for all its organs to enjoy, we, too, want all our friends to enjoy themselves now.
Hence, after all the calculations comes the time of joy and love of friends. At that time, everyone should feel that he is happy, as though he had just sealed a very good deal that will earn him lots of money. And it is customary that at such a time he gives drinks to the friends.
Similarly, here everyone needs his friends to drink and eat cakes, etc. Because now he is happy, he wishes his friends to feel good, too. Hence, the dispersion of the assembly should be in a state of joy and elation.
This follows the way of “a time of Torah” and “a time of prayer.” “A time of Torah” means wholeness, when there are no deficiencies. This is called “right,” as it is written, “at His right hand was a fiery law.”
But “a time of prayer” is called “left,” since a place of deficiency is a place that needs correction. This is called “the correction of the Kelim (vessels).” But in the state of Torah, called “right,” there is no room for correction, and this is why Torah is called a “gift.”
It is customary to give presents to a person you love. And it is also customary to not love one who is deficient. Hence, at a “time of Torah,” there is no room for thoughts of correction. Thus, when leaving the assembly, it should be as in the last three of the “Eighteen Prayer.” And for this reason, everyone will feel wholeness.