In Numbers/Bamidbar 2:1, Moses and Aaron are addressed equally by God: “va-y’daber HASHEM el-moshe v’el-aharon….” They are so addressed 18 times in the Torah. Israel would not have been redeemed without the prayers of both — according to Numbers Rabbah* — which is why the Amidah [standing prayer] (AKA Shemoneh Esrei [“the Eighteen”]) contains 18 blessings. (It’s actually 19 now, with the 19th added later than this commentary.)
There are other explanations for the Eighteen: 18 times in the Torah something is done “as HASHEM has commanded Moses.” God’s name — YHVH — appears 18 times total in the three paragraphs of the Shema. The Rabbis counted 18 vertebrae (all of which should be bent in bowing in the Amidah, BTW). But I’m partial to the “Moses and Aaron addressed equally” explanation.
I believe both personal prayer/meditation and communal prayer are crucial. The Amidah often includes both a silent/private prayer and some portion repeated aloud as a group. (This is less common in Reform congregations.) Most interesting and ultimately most powerful for me is the “hybrid” experience of the (often mumbled) “silent” prayer…
…each person focused on her/his own individual prayer but surrounded by barely audible snatches of fellow pray-ers’ words, or maybe just by the prayer-vibes of others…
Alone/Together in prayer — not unlike Aaron with Moses, I imagine — equally in God’s presence but individuals nonetheless.
* I found this reference in the Plaut commentary. See Source Materials for full citations and more information.
The “Opening the Book” series of notes on the weekly Torah portions began in May 2009 (Parashah Bamidbar 5769) and concluded in early May 2010 (Behar/Bechukotai). This is the first in a new series focusing on prayer links within the weekly portion.
Here, for subscriber convenience are links to some previous portion notes:
Language and Translation
More notes are available by clicking on the portion name in the Tag Cloud (right). More “Prayer Link” notes will be found under the PrayerLink tag.