Our dreams, hopes and deeply felt needs are directed privately and quietly throughout the day to the Creator as we communicate with Him -sharing our joys and travails, our hopes and disappointments – often without uttering a word. Instinctively we believe that some of those thoughts and feelings are best left unspoken. Yet, we are taught that our formal tefillos-prayers should be said at least loudly enough to be audible to our own ears. This halachic guideline directs us to verbally express the outpourings of our heartfelt prayers and suggests that we should be attentive to what we say. What is achieved through our audible prayer?
The author of the sefer Noam Magidim asks why the halacha requires us to utter our tefillos audibly, when the Ari zal informed us that it is sincere inner intention of the mind and the yearnings of the heart that actually empower prayer? If in fact vocalizations are required in order to awaken awe and fear of G-d (Hashem) in the heart of the supplicant then surely, at least, the tzaddik, who always is properly focused, should not be required to utter his prayers aloud. The Noam Magidim explains that audible tefillah is a Divine decree (chok) hinted at in Torah reading (Parshas Chukas -19-1) where we are taught the procedure of sprinkling the waters of the Parah Adumah: ”Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon saying: This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, and they shall take…” That is to say even tzaddikim like Moshe and Aaron are commanded to speak – ie. – make their tefillos audible. The connection between tefillah and the halachas of the Parah Adumah possibly further suggests that even as the sprinkling of the waters of the Parah Adumah purifies the impure, so also does davening audibly “sprinkle”/anoint this world with the purifying holiness contained within our sincere words and expressions. We all appreciate how fresh flowers and spices have the power to fill their surroundings with their fragrant aroma and how revitalized and inspired we feel upon hearing joyous news or a sweet melody; even more so do our tefillos and brachos have the power to purify and enhance our surrounding as well as ourselves.
In our efforts to understand the value of verbal prayer, it behooves us to look at another sphere of human endeavor that is credited with elevating the human spirit and that is music. Tefillah shares with music the quality that both were designed to bring joy and inspiration to the world through the means of sound. Of course music that remains in the mind of the composer is not accessible and can have no effect upon another, while prayer that remains unspoken can still have its intended benefits since the Hashem knows well what is within our hearts. Nonetheless, a comparison between these two powerful forms of expression can be profitable.
Musicians who wish to bring to the listener’s ear those sound sequences that had previously been kept in the privacy of their minds and hearts must evoke the ideal sound that resides within their thoughts and feelings through the vibrations of key and string creating notes and cords. It is only when the music is played aloud that the musicians can determine whether the music they have intended and hoped to express was actually what emerged. They can then endeavor to refine the performance so that it comes as close as possible to the perfect synthesis of rhythm, melody and harmonic sound.
How much more so, when we audibly express our prayers, we gain an additional ability to assess and then enhance our efforts through now hearing our inner expression from a vantage point outside of ourselves. Our heartfelt, audible words of prayer and praise then resonant with the rest of creation adding its special uniqueness and value that each of us has been blessed with. May all our tefillos be accepted on High as a fragrant offering (rei’ach necho’ach) for Hashem.
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