The Amidah

Moving from praise to petition to thanksgiving, the Amidah inculcates a sense of connection to God.

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The following eight blessings are focused more explicitly on the communal and national needs of the Jewish people. There is a request for rain or dew in the proper season to ensure agricultural bounty, a plea to end the dispersion of the Jewish people, and prayers to restore true judges and establish justice in the world; to humble the arrogant and those who seek to malign and injure the Jewish community; to sustain the righteous of the house of Israel; rebuild Jerusalem; reestablish a Davidic leadership; and a final petition to hear and answer the prayers of the Jewish people.

On Shabbat and holidays, instead of requests that might distract us by reminding us of our physical and national wants and needs, the Rabbis established the middle section as an opportunity to celebrate the holiness of the Sabbath day and/or the festival. On Shabbat morning, the entire middle section of the Amidah describes Moses receiving the Ten Commandments followed by the verses from the book of Exodus (31:16-17) that describe the observance of Shabbat as a sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Furthermore, Shabbat is summarized as a gift given only to the Jews out of God's love for His people. It concludes with a blessing thanking God for sanctifying the Shabbat. 

On festivals, particularly the pilgrimage holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, the middle portion of the Amidah similarly describes how God has given these holidays as a gift to the Jewish people for joy and celebration. There are also references to the biblical patriarchs, King David, and Jerusalem to be remembered in glory. Despite the official absence of requests, the holiday prayers of the Amidah do in fact ask that God enable us to enjoy and celebrate the holiday with gladness of heart and conclude with a blessing thanking God for sanctifying the people of Israel and the holiday.

The Final Section

The final section of every Amidah concludes with blessings of thanksgiving to God; like the first three blessings, these are identical for weekday, Shabbat, and holiday versions of the Amidah. The first of these is called Avodah, which means service, referring to the service of animal sacrifices in the days of the Temple. This prayer asks that God accept our prayers as were the animal sacrifices of old and concludes by thanking God for (ultimately) restoring God's presence to Zion, referring to both the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

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Rabbi Daniel Kohn

Rabbi Daniel Kohn, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, was ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1991. He is the author of several books on Jewish education and spirituality who currently writes and teaches throughout the San Francisco Bay area.