Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Wrestling with prayer.”

“When I come to a prayer or a blessing, and I don’t find any affinity with it, I can still say it.

But to have any emotion or deep involvement, there comes wrestling with it.

I’m trying to see how much do I feel it?

In prayer, one thing is important: the point of personal involvement.

I can study – and that’s a matter of intelligence – so I can say I understand a prayer text better.

But when it comes to involvement, it’s a matter of personal connection.

Sometimes, my wrestling is not with the meaning of the words but where do I stand vis-à-vis the text.

So, I have to find, inside myself, those things I can have a connection with.

Yesterday, I was basically aligned with a text.

But today, I don’t feel it.

People are very changeable.

Every day, we are different.

So, prayer becomes very different on a daily basis or even three times a day.

Because of the changes in me, those things that sometimes, in the morning, make sense or are an expression of what I feel, need to be revived or they may not connect in the afternoon.

That’s wrestling with prayer.

If I am not open in the moment I pray, I am just repeating words.

It’s the same thing if you have a phone conversation with someone you love and finish by saying ‘I love you.’

If it is a girl you are engaged to, the ‘I love you’ may be a strong emotion.

Twenty years into a relationship, it carries a different impact.

My prayers reflect and express what I feel, if I am aware of what I’m saying.

Sometimes, I may not even be sure I should say the words of the prayer because that’s not how I personally feel.

If you are praying, prayer is not just an exercise in pronouncing words.

It’s an intellectual and emotional connection.

I’m not living in an ivory tower.

I notice that for many people, who do their daily prayers, they have an obligation, and so they say the words.

I want to tell people these things can be done formally.

But if you identify internally with at least a quarter of what you say in prayer, you will be a different person.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz