Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks on how to daven

On Wednesday, October 26th the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks spoke in Chicago at Congregation K.I.N.S.  A link to the audio and a transcript can be found here.


Here’s an amazing story he told over (from the transcript): 


I don’t know if you know this, the Rebbe before he became the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ran the publishing house of Chabad, Kehot. He always used to typography and use signals that would tell the apprentice how to make a change.  Somebody had written him a letter, “I need the Rebbe’s help. I’m depressed, I’m miserable, I find life has no meaning.  I pray and it doesn’t affect me, I do mitzvos and I don’t feel change – I need the Rebbe’s help.”   And the Rebbe gave him the most brilliant reply and he did not use a single word.  You know what he did?  He just ringed the first word in every sentence.  What was the first word?  I.  If all that matters to you is the “I,” you will never find happiness.  And that, I discovered, is the secret of Kohelet’s unhappiness.  Remember what he says?  Asiti, kaniti, baniti li, asafti li.  Everything – I built for myself, I bought for myself, I gathered for myself.  There is no book in the whole of Tanach which uses the first person singular that often.  And if you use the first person singular, if all that matters is I, you will never be happy.  And what happened in our generation?  I really intend no disrespect to the memory of a wonderful man, Steve Jobs.  He was a wonderful man.  Be we are the 1—generation.  We have the iPad, the iPhone, the iTunes, the iPlayer, ich veis nisht, everything is I I I.  No  wonder  we’re miserable.   And the result is that we have to use davening, to thank Gd for what we have and to be aware of something bigger than ourselves.


This hit me hard.  Just this morning during “Shema Koleinu” I know that I threw in some “I’s” like, “I want to be closer to you, Hashem.”  Instead I should have said, “Please Hashem, let me be closer to you.”

For a personal post from someone who attended the event, see this.




7 thoughts on “Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks on how to daven

  1. yaak

    Instead I should have said, “Please Hashem, let me be closer to you.”

    Or, perhaps, as the entire Shemoneh Esrei is in the first person plural, “Please Hashem, let us be closer to you.”

    Reply
  2. aitlaasot

    Absolutely wonderful message.
    But it states “We have the iPad, the iPhone, the iTunes, the iPlayer, ich veis nisht, everything is I I I.”
    Who said this?? Rabbi Sachs or was he quoting the Rebbe. If he was quoting the Rebbe, ipods, etc, were not around then.

    Reply
  3. Shmuel

    Wonderful!

    Rabbi Sacks did a terrific job translating some of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s sichot several years ago. The book is called Torah Studies, and was reprinted recently.

    A very worthwhile addition to the library.

    Reply
  4. Bob Miller

    There’s a big difference between “I want to have my way” and “I ask You, HaShem, to help me improve”

    Reply

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