On Rosh Hashana one of the readings we have is of the very invention of prayer as a Jewish form. This is the story of the childless Hannah who sits outside the Tabernacle at Shiloh (the temporary forerunner of the Temple later built on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem) and prays to G-d to let her have a child of her own. She vows to return him to the Tabernacle at age three to serve G-d, if only she could bear a child. Hannah not only invented prayer but the sages learn the rules of prayer from this first chapter of the book of Samuel.
Without the development of prayer as a means of coming before G-d and establishing a communicative relationship God, Judaism would have been at a loss to replace the sacrifices in the Temple as a unifying expression of devotion to G-d after the destruction of the Temple. While the Torah gives us very specific instructions for bringing sacrifices in the Temple it was left to Hannah and after her the sages who applied her model to define and refine the act of praying.
This evening I attended a presentation by three very talented women using the model of mothers' prayers to inspire us to a more meaningful experience during these days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Rabbanit Pnina Neuwirth gave an inspiring talk about the prayers we encounter in the bible including Hannah and Rachel's prayers for fertility and the various views of what constitutes prayer and why G-d needs to hear our prayers. The amazing singer Hagit Kfir accompanied by her daughter Hila on the guitar sang which emphasized and illustrated (can you say that about a song?) the points that Neuwirth made.
The clip below is of Hagit Kfir singing with another woman Adi Arad singing Ana Bekoach. The melody is by Ovadia Hamama .
The words in transliteration and English translation can be found here. The prayer is recited just before the L'cha Dodi prayer which welcomes the Sabbath on Friday night and on the high holidays. It's theme is beseeching G-d to hear our prayers and help us. The prayer is very old and written with a great deal of mystical allusion.
Here is a short clip showing Hagit Kfir and Rabbanit Neuwirth in a similar presentation.
Gmar Chatima Tova גמר חתימה טובה
May we all be inscribed in the book of life.