Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “When a person prays, he should see himself as though he is standing in a forest.”


The nation of Israel that we mention in our prayers and blessings is not an abstract, barren concept, nor is it the sum total of a list of names; rather, it is first and foremost “myself,” and then everyone connected to me, by varying degrees of closeness.

When a Jew mentions in his prayers “the One who chooses His people Israel with love,” he should not mean that God chooses a particular rabbi, nor any other individual; he should be referring primarily to himself.

When he recites, “to observe, to do, and to fulfill all the words of Your Torah,” he should not mean the entire Jewish people, nor a particular institution; once again, he should be referring to himself.

One of the tzaddikim expressed it thus:

When a person prays, he should see himself as though he is standing in a forest.

In the forest, he does not ask himself whether the trees around him are praying too; he is not bothered by this, and he does not rely on their praying.

In the forest, he stands alone before God, and alone he must conduct an accounting of himself.

This is how every person should view matters when praying with a congregation as well: There is a tree standing in front of him, another beside him, and several behind him, and he is the only one who is praying.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz