In Parshat Va’etchanan, Moshe tells the people, “But if you search there, you will find the Lord, your God, if only you seek Him with all your heart and soul” (Devarim 4:29). It is interesting to note that in Hebrew, the first part of Moshe’s statement (if you search) is in the plural, whereas the second part of the statement (you will find) is in the singular. Why does the Torah switch its use of language from plural to singular in the very same verse? Also, what is the significance of that switch when discussing how one can access God?
According to Rebbeinu Bachya, “Had Moshe continued in plural…it would have sounded as if God responds only to communal prayer, communal requests and not to those of the individual” (Commentary on Devarim). Indeed, prayer is most effective when conducted within the community, as the Talmud says, “When is a time of favor? It is at the time when the congregation is praying. It is therefore beneficial to pray together with the congregation, because God does not fail to respond to the entreaties of the congregation” (B. Talmud, Berachot 8a). Nevertheless, one should not think that God only responds to communal prayer. Rather, God hears and responds to all of our prayers, at all times, in all places in all circumstances. Thus, the significance of the switch from plural to singular is that that if we seek God, whether in a communal setting or in a private, individual setting, we will find Him.
Developing a healthy relationship with tefillah (prayer) is essential for every Jew. Working on our communal prayer skills is so important to our spiritual health – attending minyan, surrounding ourselves with others in spiritual moments, growing in our davening abilities and siddur skills – these are all indispensable, for in these ways, we can ensure that our voices will be heard by God, and that His presence can be felt in our midst. However, we must also work on developing a healthy relationship with our own tefillah – prayers that come from our hearts, with our own words, believing that the meditations of our minds and souls will certainly be heard. Working on both – our communal and personal prayers, is truly how we should seek God, and it is through both our communal and our personal prayers, that God will be found.