The Amidah

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

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The second concluding prayer of thanksgiving is called Hoda'ah, or thanks. This prayer thanks God for the gift of our lives and for the daily miracles which God bestows upon the world each day. The beginning and end of this prayer are marked by a bow at the hips, once again symbolizing the depth of our gratitude to God.

At this point during the reader’s repetition of the Amidah, the reader recites the three-fold priestly blessing, with the congregation responding, “So may it be God’s will” after each line:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord cause His favor to shine upon you and be gracious unto you
May the Lord lift His favor unto you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Although customs vary, traditional synagogues outside of Israel have the congregants who are kohanim (of the priestly family) ascend and invoke God’s blessing upon the congregation by reciting this blessing on the holidays; in Israel, this is done every Shabbat, and in Jerusalem, every day.

The final prayer of thanksgiving to God is actually a final petition to bestow justice, mercy, and peace on the world. Called Shalom, or peace, the community asks that God grant peace, goodness, blessing, and compassion upon everyone; the themes and language are clearly derived from the priestly blessing that precedes it. A different but parallel version of this prayer is recited in the afternoon and evening Amidah prayers. 

Although the official structure of the Amidah concludes with the prayer for peace, the Rabbis of antiquity added on private, personal meditations. The fairly standard version, which appears in most siddurim (prayer books) is the concluding meditation of Mar bar Ravina from the time of the Talmud (Berachot 17a).

However, it is appropriate for individuals to recite their own prayers as well as this point. The Amidah then formally concludes with the recitation of the line, "May God who brings peace to the universe, bring peace to us and all of the people, Israel. Amen." This is recited while taking three steps backward, bowing to both sides, and taking three steps forward again, formally retreating from God's symbolic presence.

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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.