“It was that power of words, the gift of language, that was the greatest gift of all that G-d gave to Adam and Adam alone.
This then becomes the “Gesher tzar me’od”– the very narrow bridge – that crosses the abyss between finite humanity and the infinity of God.
In short, Judaism is an ongoing conversation between that once-and-once-only divine voice that sounded at Sinai and the human interpretation of those words that has continued in every generation since. It is a great conversation that never ended.
The whole of Judaism is that ongoing “conversation” between Israel and God as to how we understand God’s word for all time to make it God’s word for our time.”
(Rabbi Jonathon Sacks’ speech on the inauguration of the National Library of Israel, May 2014).
The Torah is revered as G-d’s communication with humanity, while prayer represents humanity’s attempt to communicate with G-d. The Torah and the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book, are foundational texts shaping Jewish culture and civilization.
Within the pages of Genesis, the Torah vividly documents divine “conversations” with individuals. From Adam in the Garden to Abraham and Rebecca, these dialogues exemplify the dynamic relationship between humanity and G-d. Even in moments of struggle, such as Rebecca’s inquiry about the twins in her womb, G-d provides guidance and insight.
And the children struggled within her, and she said, “If [it be] so, why do I live?” And she went to inquire of the Lord.
And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from your innards, and one kingdom will become mightier than the other kingdom, and the elder will serve the younger.” (Toldot verses 22-23)
Communication with G-d takes various forms, from supplicating prayers, as seen in Isaac’s plea for Rebecca’s fertility, to divine revelations in dreams, as experienced by Jacob and Joseph. Some argue that the Book of Genesis conveys the accessibility of God to each individual amid personal struggles and familial endeavours.
And Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca, his wife, conceived. (Toldot verse 21)
Yael Zoldan, discussing her children’s book on prayer, “When I Daven,” suggests that even young children can grasp the fundamentals of worship. By instilling basic concepts such as gratitude, mindfulness, and awareness of the world around them, preschoolers can develop an appreciation for the essence of prayer.
At its core, prayer encapsulates an ongoing conversation and communication with the Divine. The Cantor, serving as the messenger of the people, articulates their thoughts and emotions in the communal space, embodying the essence of this sacred dialogue.