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Rav Hirsch: Prayer

The Hebrew word hith-palel, meaning prayer, is actually the reflexive form of a verb meaning “to judge.” Therefore, it denotes judging oneself, or coming to a correct opinion of oneself, or at least, an inner attempt to accomplish this. In other words, prayer is an attempts to gain true judgment of oneself.

Therefore, prayer denotes a step out of active life, so as to gain a true judgment about oneself. It is an attempt to gain true knowledge about one’s ego, about his relationship to God and the world, and of the relationship that God and the world have to him.

It strives to infuse the mind and heart to live an active life that is purified, strengthened and made more sublime.

The process of arousing such self-judgment is called Tefillah. In the vernacular, we speak of this as prayer, but the vernacular word is an incomplete expression of the concept. “Prayer” denotes asking for something, but this is only a minor aspect of Tefillah. (Horeb 618)

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