Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The relation between Torah and prayer.”

In traditional terms, the combination of intellect and emotion is expressed in the relation between Torah and prayer.

Prayer is, basically, an expression of religious emotion, in all the many ways that it is manifested, in songs of praise, in petitions, in requests for pardon, or in feelings of awe.

All these are meant not only for ceremonial utterance, but for the inwardly directed experience that should be above and beyond the words arranged in the prayer book.

On the other hand, the study of the Torah is fundamentally a totally rational study as expressed to a greater degree in the deeper and more demanding Talmudic scholarship.

In every generation, of course, some people have tended more toward the emotional side, and have engaged in prayer and in haggadic lore.

By contrast, there have also been those who engaged more in Torah study and halachic rulings.

But these divisions were not meant to be total and absolute divisions between those who dealt with only one aspect of Judaism or another.

There was no Jewish view that only one aspect was sufficient for maintaining a Jewish life.

In fact, the rule was that everyone had to be present—and as much as possible steeped—in both these worlds.

Naturally, both of them could not be engaged in at the same time, but they could exist compatibly in the same person.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz