Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
I believe it is worth reviewing and examining the single-most recited prayer in our daily liturgy line-up, the prayer by which a prayer service is even defined. I am referring to the Amidah, the “standing prayer.”
The notion that the Amidah is known by its most specific definition: the standing prayer is an overly-simplified definition of the prayer’s name. Clearly there are many prayers in our Siddur’s prayer repository during which we are required to stand. It is therefore NOT simply because we properly recited the Amidah in a standing posture that the name bears that identification. Rather, during our private recitation of the Amidah, we are taking advantage of the unique opportunity within our faith to thrice daily stand before the Creator of All things in a personal and potentially-intense audience one-on-one with our Heavenly Father.
The Amidah is to be recited with our own personal motivation, pace, meditation, and intention, recognizing the exceptional opportunity to personally address the Master of the Universe who makes possible the positive experience of our coming before our Creator in the most intimate and meaningful manner. It is the one prayer that is said as we “shut out” the rest of the world and pay no mind to the speed or progress of the recitation of the Amidah being said by others standing near or around us.
In fact, during our private oration of the Amidah, we do our best to shut out ALL other events, activities, conversations, and external stimuli surrounding us as we intensify the solemn offering of our personal prayer petition.
As we observe several different types of the Amidah (i.e., weekday, Shabbat, Yom Tov, Musaf, High Holidays), we will notice that the first three and the last three blessings of each Amidah are the same. It is the middle blessings that distinguish one version of the Amidah from the next.
The first of the Amidah’s blessings is called the “Avot” (the forefathers) and is appropriately-named since we invoke the names of our Biblical patriarchs, recognizing that we offer our prayers not only in our OWN merit but borrowing from the generationally-shared merits of the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The second of the Amidah’s blessings is call “Gevurah,” depicting G-d’s might, strength, and heroic role in the functioning of our daily lives.
The third of the three Amidah’s blessings is called “Kedushah” the holiness of G-d’s name, illustrated by the recitation of the “Kedushah” prayer, said during the repetition of the Amidah by the chazzan.
The seventeenth blessing of the weekday Amidah is the same blessing as the third to last blessing in every version of the Amidah. It begins with the Hebrew word: “Retzay” and deals with our desire and request for a return to the sacrifice services lovingly and previously conducted in the Holy Temple before the destruction of the Temple.
The eighteenth blessing of the weekday Amidah is the same blessing as the second to last blessing in every version of the Amidah. It begins with the familiar expression: “Modim Anachnu Lach” and is focused on our declarations of appreciation and gratitude to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the Holy One Blessed Be He, for His never-failing presence and guardianship.
The final blessing of EVERY version of the Amidah is predicated on the theme of “peace” and is a heartfelt request to Hashem for G-d’s granting of peace to our people, Klal Yisrael, the Nation of Israel and G-d’s providing us with the best of his blessings at all times.
Chazal, our Holy Sages, chose THIS theme in order to conclude the Amidah, wisely choosing the principle of peace as the pedestal on which to base ALL OTHER blessings and requests. Their clear logic was that no other blessings’ fulfillment could be complete or meaningful if our lives are not blessed fully and completely with the lofty value of peace.
It is my hope that with this overview of the Amidah, when one comes to this central and vital portion of the thrice-recited daily services, that there will be greater understanding leading to a heightened sense of reverence and devotion. And of course, this is meant to enhance our approach to, and relationship with, Avinu Malkeinu, our Heavenly Father and King in our personal audience with Hashem.
With Torah Blessings always,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin