The question was raised as to why there are different
customs regarding the order of prayer [such as Ashkenaz and Sephard], and how
each individual should pray.
I replied that it is impossible to adequately explain
these things in writing. But the following can be revealed:
Our sages teach
us that [a person entering and leaving] the Holy Temple would have to bow 13 times,
paralleling the 13 gates [of the Temple]. These are also alluded to in the Book
of Ezekiel, where each tribe will have its own gate when the holiness of Jerusalem
is restored to the status it had in the time of the Temple.
It is known
that the Temple here on earth paralleled the Temple on high. The Holy Temple on
high therefore also has a gate for each tribe, as explained in the writings of
Paralleling these gates were the 13 times that a person had to
bow. These kneelings involved the transmission [of the spiritual sustenance that
flows through these gates] as is known to those who delve into the writings of
The concept of prayer is therefore [the key with which] each individual
enters through his own gate. We are thus taught that prayer is "the ladder
standing on earth, with its head reaching the heavens" (Genesis 28:12). Each
gate has its own combination, and it is for this reason that there are different
orders of prayer. [Each of the twelve tribes has its own liturgy.]
gate, however, is for the individual who does not know from which of the twelve
tribes he originates. Since he does not know which tate to use, [he can use this
one] to enter the King's courtyard.
This thirteenth gate also parallels
the thirteenth Attribute of Mercy, which is "and cleanses." This includes
the other twelve Attributes, as is known to those who comprehend.
the paths of heaven as he did, the godly Ari taught a way for those who do not
know from which tribe they originate. For this reason, he arranged a special order
of prayer based on all the others, (The thirteen Attributes of Mercy), as known
to those who are well versed.
It may then be asked why the other twelve
gates were needed, since they are all included in the thirteenth. Why is the thirteenth
gate not enough?
The answer is, however, that each tribe originally knew
its own particular order of prayer, and it was certainly best for each one to
enter through its own gate
Now that people do not know the tribe of
their origin, and we also do not know which customs apply to which tribes, it
is best to follow the order arranged by the Ari, which is universal.
prophet Ezekiel predicted that in the Ultimate Future there would only be twelve
gates in Jerusalem [one for each tribe]. The reason for this is that everyone
will then know his own tribe.
(Magid Devarav Le Yaakov 141)