A chassid decided to visit his rebbe. It was a long trip to the town where his rebbe lived, and he had to spend a night at an inn. Fortunately many guesthouses in Eastern Europe were run by Jews, so Jewish travelers could always get kosher food and hear the latest news.

The chassid arrived early at the inn, and he ate his supper with the other travelers. They discussed matters of Torah, and they were happy that such a learned chassid had joined them. They also talked about what was going on in the towns they came from; they spoke about trade and about their families, as travelers love to do.

The next morning the chassid got up and prayed the morning prayers together with the other guests. But to the chassid’s ear their prayers sounded mumbled, unclear and incomprehensible, like water rushing over pebbles in a very swift brook. So after the prayers were finished, he went over to one of the guests and said very quickly in a soft, murmuring voice: “Werurygoigtdy?”

“Excuse me, what did you just ask?” answered the puzzled man. The chassid repeated: “Wurarygongtdayisd?” The man looked at him. “I am sorry, but I still do not understand your question!” “Of course you don’t!” retorted the chassid. “I said, ‘Where are you going today?’ but I said it just as quickly and as garbled as you mumbled the words of your prayers . . .

“Yesterday,” the chassid continued his admonishment, “when we all sat around the table talking about what’s going on in the world, I was able to understand every word of the conversation. But this morning, all I heard were incomprehensible sounds. Is this how you talk to the King of Kings, to G‑d, the Ruler of the World?”

The man understood what the chassid meant to say; he hung his head and he apologized. All the travelers stood in a circle around the chassid, they heard his words, and they promised from then on to pray in a different way, to pay attention, and to pronounce the words clearly and with the right intentions, even if they didn’t always understand all the Hebrew words, because not everybody is a scholar. They assured the chassid that they would do their best, and they thanked him for his simple but profound lesson. Then they ate breakfast and left the inn, each to his destination.

The chassid made a meaningful visit with his rebbe. On his way home his heart was light. He was happy because he would soon see his dear wife and his little son, whom he had missed.

When he opened the door of his house, he greeted his wife warmly and went straight to the crib of his son. The baby stretched out his pudgy little arms and gurgled: “Gooaaghhgoogoo.” “Ah, my little boy,” said the chassid’s wife, “you want some milk! Come!” And she took him on her arm and went to the kitchen.

The chassid was amazed. “How did you know what he wanted? Those ‘goohgahgooh’ sounds are all the same to me!” “But not to me,” said the mother of the little boy with a smile. “I am with him day and night, so I know exactly what he means with his different goohs and gaahs and what he wants . . .”

“You know,” she continued to muse aloud, “I thought about this when I was praying. G‑d knows what we, His children, want from Him, even if our speech is not perfect, or we do not know Hebrew well enough, or we do not always understand what we pray, as long as we pray sincerely . . .”