“Mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice, is something a Jew does every hour of every day… In Midrash HaNe’elam (Zohar I, 124b) we find that [prayer] is the concept of ‘For Your sake we are slain all day long'” (Tehillim 44:23) (Likutei Moharan II: 46:1).
Mesirat nefesh, literally meaning, “soul-sacrifice,” refers to when we sacrifice, usually physically of financially, on behalf of another person, cause, or for the sake of Hashem.
The first example Rebbe Nachman gives in this lesson (LM II: 46) is giving tzedaka, charity. While many people like to say, “Time is money,” the money we earn is actually a part of our soul, for “he gives his soul for it” (Deuteronomy 24:15). To earn money, most of us have to sacrifice our soul through overcoming the struggles and dangers of work. In our time, just leaving our homes to travel to work can be dangerous enough, G-d forbid.
Afterwards, we take part of our money and we give it away for the sake of Hashem. “Should there be a pauper among you … you shall surely open your hand to him …” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). As the Rebbe points out, giving tzedaka is a form of sacrificing one’s soul for Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman next discusses prayer as another form of self-sacrifice. The Rebbe cites the Midrash HaNe’elam‘s teaching that when we recite with concentration the verse from the Shema, “And you shall love Hashem your G-d” — intending to sacrifice our very soul for the sake of Hashem — it is as if we are actually being slain daily for Him, as in, “For Your sake we are slain all day long.”
Mesirat nefesh, self-sacrifice, is something everyone experiences in serving Hashem. As discussed here by the Rebbe, simply giving tzedaka, charity, is one way we sacrifice ourselves for Hashem. Another way is through the many obstacles we experience and must overcome before and during our prayers. In the future, bsd, we will take a closer look at some of these obstacles we experience before and during prayer…
Based on Likutei Moharan II, Volume IV, Breslov Research Institute