Tales : Praying Clearly

There was, once upon a time, a certain rabbi who, although of humble appearance, was known to have considerable learning. He lived very simply in a little village with his wife and baby daughter, but from time to time visitors would come to consult him on one point of the law or another.

One day, a group of students of the Talmud came to see him, and they spent the whole day in a deep conversation that enlightened many matters for the students. Then, before they took their leave, they prayed together, and the rabbi noticed something in their manner of prayer that troubled him. When the prayers were concluded, he turned to one of the students and said, “Mmfwyusidllo?”

The student frowned in confusion. “I beg your pardon, Rabbi?”

Turning to another student, the Rabbi said, “Ffyullwdlikmn?”

This student also looked puzzled. “Forgive me, Rabbi. I don’t understand you.”

“Of course not!” said the Rabbi. “Because I am mumbling! How can you address your prayers to the Almighty in such a confused and indistinct way? It sounds like a load of coal sliding into the cellar. If you want the King of Heaven to understand you, speak clearly!”

The students, suitably chastened, thanked the rabbi for the lesson, and said they would certainly say their prayers with clarity in the future.

When the students had departed, the rabbi, feeling pleased that he had been able to give a good lesson and correct an error, went to sit with his wife and baby. Before he could tell her about the students, though, the baby, lying in her cradle, started to coo and gurgle. At once his wife got up and went to her, saying, “Oh, she wants some milk.”

“She wants some milk?” said the rabbi in astonishment. “How do you know? She only said, ‘Mmwa-wa-wao-wa’.”

“How could I not know?” said his wife. “I am with her all day, I know everything about her, all her needs. Don’t you think,” she added innocently, as she began to feed her daughter, “that it is the same with the Lord? He is always with us, and He knows what we need, whether we say it clearly or not.”

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