Erev Shabbat - Pesach
Rabbi Yehudah Richter brings the following ideas which he encountered in Rabbi Avraham Biderman's Haggadah, "Be'er HaChayim", pages 36-37:
The three-hour period during which chametz is burned on Erev Pesach is spiritually very high. While Klal Yisrael is burning the chametz, Hashem is burning all the evil in the world. As a result, a very high level of purity descends to the world.
During the Hoshanot [save us] prayers on Sukkot, we pray to be saved during "the three hours." What are these three hours that we are worried about? According to many sages, this is alluding to the three-hour Gog uMagog world war that will take place during the three-hour period allotted to burn the chametz on Erev Pesach.
This three-hour time period is also a sha'at ratzon [a time of favor] during which it is advantageous to pray for Mashiach and geulah, as well as any personal requests. Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk wrote a "Tefillah Lifney HaTefillah" [A Prayer Before the Prayer] which is appropriate to say during this time.
A Prayer Before a Prayer
Noam Elimelech - Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk
May it please You, our Lord, God of our fathers, who hears the outcry of pleas and listens to the voice of the prayers of His people, Israel, with mercy, to prepare our hearts, establish our thoughts, and send our prayers in our mouths. Do lend Your ear to the voice of the prayer of Your servants, who pray to You with an outcry and a broken spirit.
You, merciful God, with Thy great mercy and graciousness, pardon, forgive, and atone for us and for the whole of Your people, House of Israel, all that we have sinned, perverted, condemned, and transgressed before You.
It is known to You that it is not at all with rebellion and deceit that we have defied You and the words of Your Law and Your Commandments. Rather, it is for the perpetual, unyielding, burning inclination within us, which brings us to the lusts of this lowly world and its vanities. It consistently baffles our minds, even when we wish to pray before You and beg for our souls. Time and time again, it confounds our thoughts with its ploys. And we cannot prevail over it, for our minds and reasons have grown so weak that the strength to endure has withered, from the troubles, the hardships, and the length of time.
Hence, You, Oh Merciful and Gracious God, do to us as You have promised us through Your trusted one: “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Our sages said, “Although he is not seemly and is not worthy,” for this is Your way: to be good to the bad and to the good. Our sighs, our sorrow, and our conversations of our inability to bring ourselves closer to Your work, to truly cleave unto You are all known to You. Woe unto our souls; indeed, woe unto us.
Our Father in Heaven, now do awaken Your great and gracious mercy upon us, banish and root out our evil inclination from within us, and scold it so it will depart us and will not stray us from Your Work. Let no evil thought rise in our hearts, when we are awake and in the night’s dream, too, and especially when we stand in prayer before You or when we study Your law. And while we engage in Your Commandments, let our thoughts be truly clear, lucid, sound, and as strong as Your good will for us.
Do awaken our hearts and the hearts of all of Israel, Your people, to unite with You in earnest truth and with love, to sincerely serve You, as it pleases Your Throne. And do fix Your Faith in our hearts forever and ever, and let Your Faith be tied to our hearts as a stake that will not fall, and remove all the screens that separate between us and You.
Our Father in Heaven, save us from all the failures and the errors; do not leave us, do not abandon us, and do not shame us. Be with our mouths when we speak, with our hands when we work, and with our hearts when we think. Grant us, our Father in Heaven, Merciful God, with devoting our hearts, our thoughts, our words, and our actions and all our movements and feelings, those that are known and those that are not known to us, the revealed and the concealed, to You alone, sincerely, without any ill thought.
Purify our hearts and sanctify us; throw upon us pure water and purify us with Your love and compassion, and plant Your love and fear in our hearts forever, with no end, at all times and at all places: when we walk, when we lay, and when we rise. And let the spirit of Your Holiness always burn within us.
We always rely on You, Your greatness, Your love, the fear of You, and Your law, written and oral, revealed and concealed, and Your Commandments, to unite with Your Mighty and Aweful Name. And guard us from prejudice, pride, anger, and pedantry, sadness, gossip, and other vices, and from anything that lessens Your Holy and Pure Work, which we so care for.
Impart the spirit of Your Holiness upon us so we may cleave unto You and crave You always, more and more. And raise us from degree to degree so we may come to the merit of our holy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May their virtue help us, and You will hear the voice of our prayers, so we will always be answered when we pray unto You, for us or for any one of Your people, Israel, one or many.
Rejoice and be proud of us, and we will bear fruit Above and root below. And remember not our sins, and especially the sins of our youth, as King David said, “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” Do turn our transgressions and sins to merits, and always impart upon us—from the world of repentance—thoughts of wholeheartedly returning unto You, to correct that which we have blemished in Your Holy and Pure Names.
Do save us from envy of one another, and let no envy for others come into our hearts, nor our envy of others. Rather, let our hearts see the virtues of our friends, and not their faults. And let us speak to each other in a way that is seemly and worthy before You, and let no hatred rise in one towards another, God forbid.
Brace our ties of love to You, as it is known to You, that all will be for bringing contentment unto You. This is our foremost aim. And should we not have the wit to aim our hearts to You, You will teach us, so we may truly know the aim of Your good will.
And for all that, Merciful and Gracious God, we pray before You to accept our prayers with mercy and good will. Amen, would that be so.