Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Why must a person pray so often?”


Every Jew is supposed to pray three times a day, and it is difficult to maintain intentional focus each time.

There have been people, however, rare individuals in each generation, who were able to pray each prayer to the exhaustion of the soul.

They prayed each morning as if it were the first time they had ever prayed, and as if there would never be another prayer.

Regarding the holy Rabbi Uri (the “Angel”) from Strelisk, the story is told that before each prayer, he would instruct his household as if he were not returning, since each of his prayers was a deep experience from which he was uncertain he would return.

However, in general, out of a person’s hundreds and thousands of prayers, there is perhaps one prayer, or one blessing,  even just one word, that he said with intention.

Many have wondered: If this is so, why must a person pray so often?

One answer given is that the very act of standing in prayer, where a person sets aside time and orients himself to a state of  preparation toward divine revelation, develops the vessel, the possibility, that this will open a doorway to God.

Another answer is the one brought here, that when a person prays, even if he does so without intent, it is still a prayer.

Therefore, when he finally does pray once with intention, he elevates the prayers of that entire past year.

A person can recite the blessing “Heal us” a thousand times without thinking, but one time that prayer becomes personally relevant to him (may God protect us), and he recites that blessing with complete intention and a broken heart.

At that moment, all his previous recitations of “Heal us” ascend together with it.

At that time, all those prayers are rectified.

Every prayer leaves an imprint, and sometimes what remains is illegible script, yet it remains writing which one can return to and rewrite.

When a person recites one prayer for its own sake, even if that happens once a year or once in a lifetime, that prayer rewrites all the previous prayers and blends them into a single entity that ascends.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz