We are keenly aware of many levels of communication and connection with others. Broadly speaking, the closest level of connection, of course, is when we converse face-to-face. But we can also communicate via video, on the phone, and through the written word. I’m not sure where carrier pigeons and smoke signals used to fit within that spectrum.
When we converse with G-d, there are also various levels of communication, and we would presume that prophecy offers the deepest of those connections. What about conversation through prayer?
The Torah portion this week is called “Vayera” – and He appeared. That is to say, G-d appeared to Abraham when he was recovering from his circumcision at 99 years old. The portion continues with the story of Abraham’s hospitality with his three visitors, and the messages they relayed to Abraham and Sarah. As the guests depart and the narrative segues into Abraham’s appeal on behalf of Sodom, the story refers back to G-d’s revelation to Abraham: “And Abraham was still standing in front of G-d. And Abraham approached and said… (Genesis 18:22-23)” In the midst of his prophecy with G-d, Abraham approached still further. He moved closer to G-d to pray for Sodom.
This is curious, for if Abraham was already in the midst of a prophecy with G-d, why did he need to move closer for prayer? From this we can learn that although prayer is an entirely different type of communication with G-d, it is an even closer, more intimate form of communication than even prophecy. Prophecy is reserved for those uniquely righteous individuals that grew to the heights of spirituality to merit a personal message from G-d. Yet the deepest level of connection and communication with The Divine is prayer, something to which we all have access. (Based on Sefer Tiferes Shimshon, Rabbi Shimshon Pincus ztl, quoting Rabbi Aaron Leib Shteinman ztl)
One of my son’s Hebrew teachers was teaching his second grade class about prayer and in the middle of his lesson he pulled out his cellphone and dialed the White House. “Good morning,” he said, “Can I please speak to the President of the United States?” The receptionist responded, “I’m sorry, but the president is not available now. Please hold to leave him a message.” The teacher said “That’s ok, thank you,” and hung up the phone. He then said to his class, “When I call to speak to the president, he’s not available, but when you call for G-d, He’s always available to speak to.”
Speaking to G-d in prayer is an honor we always have, but that should not undervalue its significance. May we all seize this special opportunity to deepen our relationship with Him, and may He respond with blessing, success, and good health for all of us.