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At the risk of being a guessing-game, I thought I had read that before starting prayers (the beginning? The Amida?), one should take a minute to think about the mitzvah to have love for fellow Jews.

Any source for this?

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    I'm pretty sure I saw this in the book Praying with Fire, which documents its sources in footnotes. I'll check when I'm home if someone else doesn't do so first. – Isaac Moses Oct 12 '12 at 15:38
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    ... or actually, it may have been a card/pamphlet with something like "seven strategies to improve your davening" that I once received. I don't remember who made it. I may still have it somewhere. If I can find it, I'll update here. – Isaac Moses Oct 12 '12 at 15:46
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According to this collection of notes on the siddur arranged by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi -- http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=30450&st=&pgnum=122 -- the source is Pri Eitz Hayyim, Sha'ar Olam Ha-Assiyah, end of perek alef, which was then mentioned by the Magen Avraham, beginning of siman mem vav.

Pri Eitz Hayyim is a book by Rabbi Hayyim Vital that presents Rabbi Isaac Luria's system of 'kavvanot', i.e., intentions, to be performed in the mind as one prays. The Magen Avraham is a commentary on the Shulhan Arukh who often takes note of Kabbalistic practices. So, the source is in the Kabbalah of the Ari.

One therefore often sees a statement "I hereby take upon myself the positive mitzvah of 'love thy neighbour as thyself'", meant to be recited aloud, pre-pended to the beginning of Shaharit, in prayer books that have been influenced by Kabbalah.

  • it is of interest to note that it is also cited in the nefesh hachayim – user1668 Oct 12 '12 at 15:30
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Apart from the sources in paquda's answer, the Chayei Adam (1:6) also says that you should accept upon yourself to love every Jew in order to be included as part of the group of all of Israel.

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Ben Ish Hai,Shana Rishona, Miqes 5. And it's before the entire prayer.

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