Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A connection with God.”

The required intent in prayer is not what many believe it to be, that a person must understand its grammar and syntactic constructs, or be able to provide some clever explanation of the language used in the prayer.

In fact, this is not the case, as evidenced by the following anecdote.

There was once a simple Jew who was praying on Rosh HaShana from the prayer book.

At some point, he began screaming on the top of his lungs a rather complex Hebrew expression of praise of God from the hymn entitled “God Is the King.”

The surprised congregants asked him: “Do you know the meaning of the words you were shouting?”

He responded: “Of course I know!

The words mean ‘Master of the world, give me a good livelihood!’”

This simple Jew succeeded in penetrating the essence of prayer.

A prayer accompanied by that kind of intent is certainly more meaningful than that of a person who, while praying, considers how the name of the author appears in the hymn, when he lived, or if the hymn is composed in a single or double acrostic.

Granted, knowing the meaning of the words in a prayer is important, but that knowledge is meaningful provided that it engenders a loving and awe-inspired connection with the Divine.

Yet should this knowledge not cause a connection with God, it is completely unrelated to the prayer and serves only as a distraction.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz