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"Strange Thoughts" During Prayer

Early Hasidism developed a doctrine called "strange thoughts," or "lascivious thoughts during prayer." According to this teaching, one sure sign that we have attained a high level in prayer is that invariably we will be assailed by embarrassingly wicked thoughts. Our first inclination is to reject them at once, but, as everyone knows, this only gives them even greater power over our prayers. We must, counsels the Baal Shem, realize that such thoughts are in reality only rejected parts of ourselves that sense this time of great closeness to God and come out of our unconscious, yearning for redemption.

- Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader (Jewish Lights, 1998).
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