Where Our Speaking… Meets God’s Listening

Preparing for Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

 In 2011, in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur 5772, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks recorded a series of ten short videos, each reflecting on a particular theme or prayer pertinent to this special and spiritual period in the Jewish calendar.

These timeless messages are equally applicable as we enter any new year.

Bilvavi Mishkan evneh. A lovely poem about prayer itself, written by Rabbi Eliezer Azikri, one of the mystics in Tzfat in the late sixteenth century. “In my heart I will build a temple to God’s glory. In it, I’ll built an altar, lit by the fire of Abraham’s love, and as a sacrifice, I offer to God my one and only soul.”

Prayer is the language of faith, and the prayerbook is the map of the Jewish mind. The song we sing to God is the music of the Jewish soul, and somehow in time beyond time and space beyond space, our finitude meets God’s infinity and we are brushed by the wings of  the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.

Don’t expect it to happen every time, or all at once, for there is no human understanding without time and study. Yet it is there in our prayers, written by our ancestors as they strove to find the words that would reach out toward the unsayable, like a message transmitted to some distant star.

And there you will find the mystery of Jewish spirituality that turned our ancestors, a tiny and otherwise undistinguished people, into a nation that defied the laws of history and out-lasted all the world’s great empires. Prayer is the place where speaking meets God’s listening, and in ways we will never understand, we are transformed.

Shanah Tovah.