"Hitlahavut means 'rapture,' 'enthusiasm,' or 'ecstasy.' It generally refers to a state reached within prayer, though Hasidic masters sometimes report that it can happen outside prayer as well.

"The root XXX/l-h-v means 'flame.' Hitlahavut means that the soul catches fire and is itself turned into flame. In such moments all obstacles to perceiving God everywhere are consumed in an instant; consciousness and the ecstatic flame are one.

"Nowhere in Jewish spiritual literature is hitlahavut proclaimed as the goal of devotional life. It is a rare and precious moment that happens in the life of those who give themselves wholly to prayer. Usually it comes and goes almost in a flash. But no matter: The real impact of hitlahavut is in the memory of such moments. They are stored in the contemplative's mind and become important steps on the road toward the much cooler but longer lasting goal of devekut, an attachment to God in which one may live and act.

"The great masters of Jewish prayer within Hasidism debated the value of ecstasy, and especially of its display in public worship. In circles where religious devotion was taught to be the highest good, it was natural for novices (especially young boys) to 'show off' the intensity of their worship and the 'heights' of loud and passionate prayer they could reach. Many older and more sophisticated worshippers found such behavior annoying and disturbing to the community at prayer. Others, however, felt a distinction should be made between such childish excesses and true expressions of hitlahavut, which should always be welcomed in the community and never be deemed a cause of embarrassment."