Video 6 – Understanding Prayer: Heart, Mind and Soul

In this video, Rabbi Sacks describes how Judaism sees us all as fallible; we all make mistakes and it is how we learn from them that counts.

As we approached Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 2017, Rabbi Sacks created a series of ten short videos to delve into what prayer really is, and how it can change your life.

Each video includes subtitles in: English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Spanish (click on the 'Settings' icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the video-player to select your preferred language).

I have a book on my shelves whose title reads: Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. Which sums up in one brief sentence what goes wrong so often in our lives.

We make mistakes. We all do. In Judaism, we believe no one is or ever was infallible. Not Abraham, not Sarah, not Moses, not Miriam. None of the heroes and heroines of the Hebrew Bible are portrayed as saints. We’re all human, all too human. And God knew that before He ever made us. Which means that He created forgiveness before Homo sapiens ever set foot on earth. But with one condition.

It sounds so simple. But it turns out to be one of the things we find hardest of all. Before we can be forgiven we have to admit, acknowledge, that we made mistakes. We can’t take refuge in blaming other people, the politicians, the media, our neighbours, even our enemies. We can’t say, “mistakes were made, but not by me.”

Because until we accept responsibility for the wrong we did, we can’t grow, we can’t learn, we can’t even really understand why we haven’t yet reached our full potential.

Look at the best sportspeople, the real champions, the ones written in the Hall of Fame. Do you think that when they get to be champions, they say: “mistakes were made, but not by me”? No. They do exactly the opposite. They hire coaches. And what they want from their coaches is to watch them practice and perform and then tell them what they did wrong, however small.

That’s what makes them champions. They want to know their mistakes. They want to understand how and why they made them. They want to learn how to perform better in future. And they do this daily, endlessly. The real champions are the ones who say: mistakes were made by me.

Which is what makes Judaism an ongoing seminar in how to be an outstanding human being. God is to us what a coach is to a champion tennis player. He is the one who, when we listen in deep silence of the soul, tells us what we’re doing wrong and how we can put it right.

Avinu Malkeinu, shema koleinu. Our Father, our King, hear our voice. Avinu Malkeinu, chatanu lefanecha, Our Father, our King, we have sinned before You. We made mistakes. Help us put them right.

This video was generously sponsored by Marion & Guy Naggar, in memory of their sisters Jacqueline Samuel, Rosemary Naggar, and Ariel Naggar.

We are grateful to our generous sponsors who helped enable us to produce this video series.