Rabbi Sacks on One Prayer

JInsider (March 2010)

There is an extraordinary prayer. We say it right at the beginning of this service, every single morning. Ribbono shel olam [Master of the Universe]. What are we? We’re nothing. What is our life? What is our righteousness? What is our kindness? We’re nothing. Umottar ha’adam min ha’beheimah eyin ki hakol havel. We are nothing. Gornisht [Yiddish for ‘nothing’]. And then it says aval anachu amchah bnei veriteicha. We are your people, the children of your covenant. Individually, we may be nothing. But collectively, we are part of something great.

And whenever I read that prayer, I think of a wonderful sentence written after the Six Day War by the late Milton Himmelfarb. He said, “Just think about it. Jews are a tiny people. The sum total of world Jewry is smaller than the statistical error in the Chinese census. And yet great things happen to us and around us.” And it is that privilege, of not being individually great, but part of a people to whom great things happen. That is a tingle moment for me every morning when I say that prayer.