Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “A sign that the preparation was good.”


Among the followers of the Kotzker Rebbe was Rabbi Leibele Eiger, who himself later became a rebbe.

Once, when he was about to return home, Rabbi Leibele asked the Rebbe what he should say to his illustrious grandfather, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, when he asked about the prayer customs of the hasidim.

The Kotzker Rebbe replied, “Tell him that there is an explicit halakha: A laborer who was hired to cut down trees and spent most of the day sharpening his ax must receive his wages in full as one who worked all day cutting down trees.”

For a person’s prayer to be worthy, he must clean, sharpen, and prepare the tools, and this may take time, but it too is considered part of the prayer.

A cannon is fired in an instant, but for the shot to be precise, it must be aimed accurately, and this requires time.

In a sense, the core of divine service is preparation, for if done properly, it positions the person and the prayer or mitzva in such a way that everything else falls into place.

This is in keeping with Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa’s statement: “If my prayer is fluent in my mouth, I know that it is accepted” (Mishna Berakhot 5:5).

When prayer is not a painful process, when Torah study no longer involves a painful struggle, this is a sign that the preparation was good and that everything else is developing naturally.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz