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Uniformity: The Key to Uniqueness

Uniformity: The Key to Uniqueness

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The Biblical commandment of prayer is worded as an enjoinder to serve G‑d with "all our hearts"--which the Sages understood to be a commandment to pray. Originally, everyone offered personalized prayers, employing words which expressed their unique feelings. And as feelings fluctuate, so did every individual's personal prayers fluctuate on a daily basis. Eventually, the Men of the Great Assembly instituted uniform prayer for all Jews, creating the basic text of the prayer book which is used to this very day.

But can a person's relationship with his Creator be scripted? Is it possible to dictate the feelings one should be expressing to G‑d?

Can a person's relationship with his Creator be scripted?In the teachings of Chassidut, words are considered to be "vessels"—vessels for the feelings and thoughts which generate them. Two people can say the exact same words, words which seemingly express the same sentiment, but only the "vessel" is the same, the emotions behind the words can be worlds apart. Two people can tell their spouses, "I love you"; does that mean that their love is the same, in either quantity or quality? Obviously not.

We live in a world largely obsessed with external trappings. Everything is judged by its most revealed dimension, while the essence goes unnoticed. Uniqueness is expressed through a nose-ring or sports car, not through emphasizing character and wisdom. Sometimes it is necessary to have two items which are externally alike in order to appreciate the profound difference which actually exists between the two.

The challenge we have is to create a personal prayer filled with personal feelings and sentiments -- while using the same words as the person sitting next to us in the synagogue. This means truly immersing oneself in the prayer, for if the vessels are empty, if the words lack a backing of feelings and concentration, then the prayer which is being offered is actually no different than the prayer of every other John Doe.

And G‑d loves unique prayers…

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Virginia M. Mitchell Farmington Hills, MI August 8, 2009

Parshah To me a key to our prayer lies in our response to God speaking to us. He tells us His love and mercy for us is greater than a mother's love for her children
In another passage He says With the afflicted I am afflicted"
With this we can more easily realize the great depths of His suffering and His love. Reply

Naftali Silberberg (author) August 20, 2008

Re: Prayer For more articles on prayer, see our knowledgebases's prayer keyword. Reply

Anonymous August 20, 2008

prayer liked this. would like to see more articles on prayer. thank you. Reply

Patricia via chabadpasadena.com July 31, 2007

With all your heart Be careful what you pray for. You just might end up doing it yourself. Reply

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