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The Amidah (Hebrew: תפילת העמידה, Tefilat HaAmidah, "The Standing Prayer"), also called the Shemoneh Esreh (שמנה עשרה 'eighteen'), is the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy. This prayer, among others, is found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. Due to its importance, it is simply called hatefila (התפילה, "the prayer") in rabbinic literature.
Observant Jews recite the Amidah at each of three prayer services in a typical weekday: morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Mincha), and evening (Ma'ariv).
A fourth Amidah (called Mussaf) is recited on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Jewish festivals, after the morning Torah reading. A fifth (called Ne'ilah) is recited only once per year, at sunset on Yom Kippur.
The typical weekday Amidah actually consists of nineteen blessings, though it originally had eighteen (hence the alternative name Shemoneh Esreh, meaning "Eighteen"). When the Amidah is modified for specific prayers or occasions, the first three blessings and the last three remain constant, framing the Amidah used in each service, while the middle thirteen blessings are replaced by blessings (usually just one) specific to the occasion.
The prayer is recited standing with feet firmly together, and preferably while facing Jerusalem. In Orthodox public worship, the Amidah is usually first prayed quietly by the congregation and is then repeated aloud by the chazzan (reader); it is not repeated in the Maariv prayer. The repetition's original purpose was to give illiterate members of the congregation a chance to participate in the collective prayer by answering "Amen." Conservative and Reform congregations sometimes abbreviate the public recitation of the Amidah according to their customs.
To recite the Amidah is a mitzvah de-rabbanan for, according to legend, it was first composed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah. The rules governing the composition and recital of the Amidah are discussed primarily in the Talmud, in Chapters 4–5 of Berakhot; in the Mishneh Torah, in chapters 4–5 of Hilkhot Tefilah; and in the Shulchan Aruch, Laws 89–127.
The language of the Amidah most likely comes from the mishnaic period, both before and after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). In the time of the Mishnah, it was considered unnecessary to prescribe its text and content. This may have been simply because the language was well known to the Mishnah's authors. The Mishnah may also not have recorded a specific text because of an aversion to making prayer a matter of rigor and fixed formula.
According to the Talmud, R. Gamaliel II undertook to codify uniformly the public service, directing Simeon HaPakoli to edit the blessings (probably in the order they had already acquired) and made it a duty, incumbent on every one, to recite the prayer three times daily. But this does not imply that the blessings were unknown before that date; in other passages the Amidah is traced to the "first wise men", or to the Great Assembly. In order to reconcile the various assertions of editorship, the Talmud concludes that the prayers had fallen into disuse, and that Gamaliel reinstituted them.
The historical kernel in these conflicting reports seems to be that the benedictions date from the earliest days of the Pharisaic Synagogue. They were at first spontaneous outgrowths of the efforts to establish the Pharisaic Synagogue in opposition to, or at least in correspondence with, the Sadducean Temple service. This is apparent from the aggadic endeavor to connect the stated times of prayer (morning and afternoon) with the Temple sacrifices at the same times (for the evening prayer, recourse was had to artificial comparison with the sacrificial portions consumed on the altar during the night).
The Talmud indicates that when Rabbi Gamaliel II undertook to uniformly codify the public service and to regulate private devotion, he directed Samuel ha-Katan to write another paragraph inveighing against informers and heretics, which was inserted as the twelfth prayer in modern sequence, making the number of blessings nineteen. Other Talmudic sources indicate, however, that this prayer was part of the original 18; and that 19 prayers came about when the 15th prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem and of the throne of David (coming of the Messiah) was split into two.
When the Amidah is recited
On regular weekdays, the Amidah is prayed three times, once each during the morning, afternoon, and evening services that are known respectively as Shacharit, Mincha, and Ma'ariv.
One opinion in the Talmud claims, with support from Biblical verses, that the concept for each of the three services was founded respectively by each of the three biblical patriarchs. The prescribed times for reciting the Amidah thus may come from the times of the public tamid ("eternal") sacrifices that took place in the Temples in Jerusalem. After the Second Temple's destruction in 70 CE, the Council of Jamnia determined that the Amidah would substitute for the sacrifices, directly applying Hosea's dictate, "So we will render for bullocks the offering of our lips." For this reason, the Amidah should be recited during the time period in which the tamid would have been offered. Accordingly, since the Ma'ariv service was originally optional, as it replaces the overnight burning of ashes on the Temple altar rather than a specific sacrifice, Maariv's Amidah is not repeated by the hazzan (reader), while all other Amidot are repeated.
On Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and other Jewish holidays there is a Musaf ("Additional") Amidah to replace the additional communal sacrifices of these days. On Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a fifth public recitation, Ne'ilah, is added to replace a special sacrifice offered on that day.
Structure of the weekday Amidah
The weekday Amidah contains nineteen blessings. Each blessing ends with the signature "Blessed are you, O Lord..." and the opening blessing begins with this signature as well. The first three blessings as a section are known as the shevach ("praise"), and serve to inspire the worshipper and invoke God's mercy. The middle thirteen blessings compose the bakashah ("request"), with six personal requests, six communal requests, and a final request that God accept the prayers. The final three blessings, known as the hoda'ah ("gratitude"), thank God for the opportunity to serve the Lord. The shevach and hoda'ah are standard for every Amidah, with some changes on certain occasions.
The nineteen blessings
The nineteen blessings are as follows:
- Avot ("Ancestors") - praises of God as the God of the Biblical patriarchs, "God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob."
- Gevurot ("powers") - praises God for His power and might. This prayer includes a mention of God's healing of the sick and resurrection of the dead. It is called also Tehiyyat ha-Metim = "the resurrection of the dead."
- Rain is considered as great a manifestation of power as the resurrection of the dead; hence in winter a line recognizing God's bestowal of rain is inserted in this benediction. Except for many Ashkenazim, most communities also insert a line recognizing dew in the summer.
- Kedushat ha-Shem ("the sanctification of the Name") - praises God's holiness.
- During the chazzan's repetition, a longer version of the blessing called Kedusha is chanted responsively. The Kedusha is further expanded on Shabbat and Festivals.
- Binah ("understanding") - asks God to grant wisdom and understanding.
- Teshuvah ("return", "repentance") - asks God to help Jews to return to a life based on the Torah, and praises God as a God of repentance.
- Selichah - asks for forgiveness for all sins, and praises God as being a God of forgiveness.
- Geulah ("redemption") - asks God to rescue the people Israel.
- On fast days, the chazzan adds in the blessing Aneinu during his repetition after concluding the Geulah blessing.
- Refuah ("healing")) - a prayer to heal the sick.
- An addition can ask for the healing of a specific person or more than one name. The phrasing uses the person's Jewish name and the name of their Jewish mother (or Sara immeinu).
- Birkat HaShanim ("blessing for years [of good]") - asks God to bless the produce of the earth.
- A prayer for rain is included in this blessing during the rainy season.
- Galuyot ("diasporas") - asks God to allow the ingathering of the Jewish exiles back to the land of Israel.
- Birkat HaDin ("Justice") - asks God to restore righteous judges as in the days of old.
- Birkat HaMinim ("the sectarians, heretics") - asks God to destroy those in heretical sects (Minuth), who slander Jews and who act as informers against Jews.
- Tzadikim ("righteous") - asks God to have mercy on all who trust in Him, and asks for support for the righteous.
- Boneh Yerushalayim ("Builder of Jerusalem") - asks God to rebuild Jerusalem and to restore the Kingdom of David.
- Birkat David ("Blessing of David") - asks God to bring the descendant of King David, who will be the messiah.
- Tefillah ("prayer") - asks God to accept our prayers, to have mercy and be compassionate.
- On fast days, Ashkenazic Jews insert Aneinu into this blessing during Mincha. Sephardic Jews recite it during Shacharit as well.
- Avodah ("service") - asks God to restore the Temple services and sacrificial services.
- Hoda'ah ("thanksgiving") - thanks God for our lives, for our souls, and for God's miracles that are with us every day.
- When the chazzan reaches this blessing during the repetition, the congregation recites a prayer called Modim deRabbanan ("the thanksgiving of the Rabbis").
- Sim Shalom ("Grant Peace") - asks God for peace, goodness, blessings, kindness and compassion. Ashkenazim generally say a shorter version of this blessing at Minchah and Maariv, called Shalom Rav.
Prior to the final blessing for peace, the following is said:
We acknowledge to You, O Lord, that You are our God, as You were the God of our ancestors, forever and ever. Rock of our life, Shield of our help, You are immutable from age to age. We thank You and utter Your praise, for our lives that are delivered into Your hands, and for our souls that are entrusted to You; and for Your miracles that are with us every day and for your marvelously kind deeds that are of every time; evening and morning and noon-tide. Thou art good, for Thy mercies are endless: Thou art merciful, for Thy kindnesses never are complete: from everlasting we have hoped in You. And for all these things may Thy name be blessed and exalted always and forevermore. And all the living will give thanks unto Thee and praise Thy great name in truth, God, our salvation and help. Selah. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, Thy name is good, and to Thee it is meet to give thanks.
The priestly blessing is said in the reader's repetition of the Shacharit Amidah, and at the Mussaf Amidah on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays. On public fast days it is also said at Mincha; and on Yom Kippur, at Ne'ilah. It is not said in a House of Mourning. In Orthodox and some Conservative congregations, this blessing is chanted by kohanim (direct descendants of the Aaronic priestly clan) on certain occasions. In Ashkenazic practice, the priestly blessing is chanted by kohanim on Jewish Holidays in the Diaspora, and daily in the Land of Israel. In Yemenite Jewish synagogues and some Sephardi synagogues, kohanim chant the priestly blessing daily, even outside Israel.
The custom has gradually developed of reciting, at the conclusion of the latter, the supplication with which Mar son of Ravina used to conclude his prayer:
My God, keep my tongue and my lips from speaking deceit, and to them that curse me let my soul be silent, and like dust to all. Open my heart in Your Torah, and after [in] Thy commandments let me [my soul] pursue. As for those that think evil of [against] me speedily thwart their counsel and destroy their plots. Do [this] for Thy name's sake, do this for Thy right hand's sake, do this for the sake of Thy holiness, do this for the sake of Thy Torah. That Thy beloved ones may rejoice, let Thy right hand bring on help [salvation] and answer me...
At this point, some say a Biblical verse related to their name(s). For example, someone named Leah might say Psalms 3:9, since both Leah and this verse begin with the letter Lamed and end with Hay. This practice is first recorded in the 16th century, and was popularized by the Shelah.
Three steps back are followed by a followup prayer:
- Mainstream Ashkenazi Orthodox Judaism also adds the following prayer to the conclusion of every Amidah:
May it be your will, O my God and God of my fathers, that the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days, and give us our portion in your Torah, and there we will worship you with reverence as in ancient days and former years. And may the Mincha offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasing to God, as in ancient days and former years.
- Many Sephardic prayer books correspondingly add:
Many also customary add individual personal prayers as part of quiet recitation of the Amidah. Rabbi Shimon discourages praying by rote: "But rather make your prayer a request for mercy and compassion before the Ominipresent." Some authorities encourage the worshipper to say something new in his prayer every time.
Mode of prayer
The many laws concerning the Amidah's mode of prayer are designed to focus one's concentration as one beseeches God.
Prayer in Judaism is called avodah shebalev ("service of the heart"). Thus, prayer is only meaningful if one focuses one's emotion and intention, kavanah, to the words of the prayers. The Shulchan Aruch thus advises that one pray using a translation one can understand, though learning the meaning of the Hebrew liturgy is ideal.
Halakhah requires that the first blessing of the Amidah be said with intention; if said by rote alone, it must be repeated with intention. Rema (16th century) wrote that this is no longer necessary, because "nowadays... even in the repetition it is likely he will not have intention". The second to last blessing of Hoda'ah also has high priority for kavanah.
When the Amidah is said to oneself in the presence of others, many Jews who wear a tallit (prayer shawl) will drape their tallit over their heads, allowing their field of vision to be focused only on their siddur and their personal prayer.
Interrupting the Amidah is forbidden. The only exceptions are in cases of danger or for one who needs to relieve oneself, though this rule may depend on the movement of Judaism. There are also halakhot to prevent interrupting the Amidah of others; for example, it is forbidden to sit next to someone praying or to walk within four amot (cubits) of someone praying.
The guideline of quiet prayer comes from Hannah's behavior during prayer, when she prayed in the Temple to bear a child. She prayed "speaking upon her heart," so that no one else could hear, yet her lips were moving. Therefore, when saying the Amidah one's voice should be audible to oneself, but not loud enough for others to hear.
The name "Amidah," which literally is the Hebrew gerund of "standing," comes from the fact that the worshipper recites the prayer while standing with feet firmly together. This is done to imitate the angels, whom Ezekiel perceived as having "one straight leg." As worshippers address the Divine Presence, they must remove all material thoughts from their minds, just as angels are purely spiritual beings. In a similar vein, the Tiferet Yisrael explains in his commentary, Boaz, that the Amidah is so-called because it helps a person focus his or her thoughts. By nature, a person's brain is active and wandering. The Amidah brings everything into focus.
The Talmud says that one who is riding an animal or sitting in a boat (or by modern extension, flying in an airplane) may recite the Amidah while seated, as the precarity of standing would disturb one's focus.
The Amidah is preferably said facing Jerusalem, as the patriarch Jacob proclaimed, "And this [place] is the gateway to Heaven," where prayers may ascend. The Talmud records the following Baraita on this topic:
A blind man, or one who cannot orient himself, should direct his heart toward his Father in Heaven, as it is said, "They shall pray to the Lord" (I Kings 8). One who stands in the diaspora should face the Land of Israel, as it is said, "They shall pray to You by way of their Land" (ibid). One who stands in the Land of Israel should face Jerusalem, as it is said, "They shall pray to the Lord by way of the city" (ibid). One who stands in Jerusalem should face the Temple. ... One who stands in the Temple should face the Holy of Holies. ... One who stands in the Holy of Holies should face the Cover of the Ark. ... It is therefore found that the entire nation of Israel directs their prayers toward a single location.
There is a dispute regarding how one measures direction for this purpose. Some say one should face the direction which would be the shortest distance to Jerusalem, i.e. the arc of a great circle, as defined in elliptic geometry. Thus in New York one would face north-northeast. Others say one should face the direction along a rhumb line path to Jerusalem, which would not require an alteration of compass direction. This would be represented by a straight line on a Mercator projection, which would be east-southeast from New York. In practice, many individuals in the Western Hemisphere simply face due east, regardless of location.
There are varying customs related to taking three steps backwards (and then forwards) before reciting the Amidah, and likewise after the Amidah.
Before reciting the Amidah, it is customary for Ashkenazim to take three steps back and then three steps forward. The steps backward at the beginning represent withdrawing one's attention from the material world, and then stepping forward to symbolically approach the King of Kings. The Mekhilta notes that the significance of the three steps is based on the three barriers that Moses had to pass through at Sinai before entering God's realm. The Mishnah Berurah wrote that only the steps forward are required, while the backward steps beforehand are a prevalent custom. It is not the custom of the Sephardim to step backward or forward prior to reciting the Amidah.
Mention of taking three steps back, upon finishing the final meditation after the Amidah, is found in both Ashkenaz and Sephardi/עדות המזרח siddurim.
One takes three steps back upon finishing the final meditation after the Amidah, and then says, while bowing left, right, and forward, "He who makes peace in the heavens, may He make peace for us and all Israel, and let us say, Amen." Many have the custom to remain standing in place until immediately before the chazzan reaches the Kedusha, and then take three steps forward. The Talmud understands this as a reminder of the practice in the Temple in Jerusalem, when those offering the daily sacrifices would walk backward from the altar after finishing. It also compares the practice to a student's respectfully backs away from his teacher.
The worshipper bows at four points in the Amidah: at the beginning and end of two blessings, Avot and Hoda'ah. It is the custom of the Ashkenazim that one bends the knees when saying "Blessed," then bows at "are You," and straightens while saying "O Lord." (At the beginning of Hoda'ah, one instead bows while saying the opening words "We are grateful to You" without bending the knees.) The reason for this procedure is that the Hebrew word for "blessed" (baruch) is related to "knee" (berech); while the verse in Psalms states, "The Lord straightens the bent." At each of these bows, one must bend over until the vertebrae protrude from one's back; one physically unable to do so suffices by nodding the head. It is not the custom of the Sephardim to bend the knees during the Amidah.
During certain parts of the Amidah said on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally go down to the floor upon their knees and make their upper body bowed over like an arch, similar to the Muslim practice of sujud. There are some variations in Ashkenazi customs as to how long one remains in this position. Some members of the Dor Daim movement also bow in this manner in their daily Amidah prayer.
In Orthodox and Conservative (Masorti) public worship, the Amidah is first prayed quietly by the congregation; it is then repeated aloud by the chazzan (reader), except for the evening Amidah or when a minyan is not present. The congregation responds "Amen" to each blessing, and "Baruch Hu Uvaruch Shemo" ("blessed is He and blessed is His Name") when the chazzan invokes God's name in the signature "Blessed are You, O Lord..." If there are not six members of the minyan responding "Amen," the chazzan's blessing is considered in vain.
The repetition's original purpose was to give illiterate members of the congregation a chance to be included in the chazzan's Amidah by answering "Amen."
The public recitation of the Amidah is sometimes abbreviated, with the first three blessings (including Kedushah) said out loud and the remainder quietly. The individual's quiet repetition of the Amidah is said afterwards, not before. This practice is commonly referred to as heikha kedusha (Yiddish: הויכע קדושה, lit. "high (loud) kedushah"), and sometimes as bekol ram (Hebrew בקול רם, lit. "in a high voice"). It is occasionally performed in Orthodox prayers (in some communities it is customary for mincha to be recited in this way), and more common in Conservative and Reform congregations. A variety of customs exist for how exactly this practice is performed.
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Amidot for Shabbat
On Shabbat, the middle 13 benedictions of the Amidah are replaced by one, known as Kedushat haYom ("sanctity of the day"), so that each Shabbat Amidah is composed of seven benedictions. The Kedushat haYom has an introductory portion, which on Sabbath is varied for each of the four services, and short concluding portion, which is constant:
Our God and God of our Ancestors! Be pleased with our rest; sanctify us with Your commandments, give us a share in Your Torah, satiate us with Your bounty, and gladden us in Your salvation. Cleanse our hearts to serve You in truth: let us inherit, O Lord our God, in love and favor, Your holy Sabbath, and may Israel, who loves Your name, rest thereon. Praised are You, O Lord, who sanctifies the Sabbath.
On Sabbath eve, after the congregation has read the Amidah quietly, the reader repeats aloud the Me'En Sheva', or summary of the seven blessings. The congregation then continues:
Shield of the fathers by His word, reviving the dead by His command, the holy God to whom none is like; who causeth His people to rest on His holy Sabbath-day, for in them He took delight to cause them to rest. Before Him we shall worship in reverence and fear. We shall render thanks to His name on every day constantly in the manner of the benedictions. God of the 'acknowledgments,' Lord of 'Peace,' who sanctifieth the Sabbath and blesseth the seventh [day] and causeth the people who are filled with Sabbath delight to rest as a memorial of the work in the beginning of Creation.
Amidah for festivals
On festivals, like on Shabbat, the intermediate 13 blessings are replaced by a single blessing concerning "Sanctification of the Day" prayer. However, the text of this blessing differs from on Shabbat. The first section is constant on all holidays:
You have chosen us from all the nations, You have loved us and was pleased with us; You lifted us above all tongues, and sanctified us with Your commandments, and brought us, O our King, to Your service, and pronounced over us Your great and holy name.
A paragraph naming the festival and its special character follow.
If the Sabbath coincides with a festival, the festival blessing is recited, but with special additions relating to Shabbat.
On the Shabbat, festivals (i.e., on Yom Tov and on Chol HaMoed), and on Rosh Chodesh, a fourth Amidah prayer is recited, entitled Mussaf ("additional"). Like the Shacharit and Mincha Amidah, it is recited both quietly and repeated by the Reader.
The Mussaf Amidah begins with the same first three and concludes with the same last three blessings as the regular Amidah. In place of the 13 intermediate blessings of the daily service, a single blessing is added, relating to the holiday. (The Mussaf Amidah on Rosh Hashanah is unique in that apart from the first and last 3 blessings, it contains 3 central blessings making a total of 9.)
Historically (and currently in Orthodox services), the middle blessing focuses on the special Mussaf korban (sacrifice) that was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, and contains a plea for the building of a Third Temple and the restoration of sacrificial worship. The biblical passage referring to the Mussaf sacrifice of the day is recited.
The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism has devised two forms for the Mussaf Amidah with varying degrees of difference from the Orthodox form. One version refers to the prescribed sacrifices, but in the past tense ("there our ancestors offered" rather than "there we shall offer"). A newer version omits references to sacrifices entirely.
On Yom Kippur, a fifth Amidah (in addition to the Ma'ariv (Evening), Shacharit (Morning), Mussaf (Additional), and Mincha (Afternoon) Amidah is recited and repeated at the closing of Yom Kippur. The congregation traditionally stands during the entire repetition of this prayer, which contains a variety of confessional and supplicatory additions. In the Ashkenazi custom, it is also the only time that the Avinu Malkeinu prayer is said on Shabbat, should Yom Kippur fall on Shabbat, though by this point Shabbat is celestially over.
Truncated Amidah (Havineinu)
The Mishnah (Brachot 4:3) and Talmud (Brachot 29a) mention the option of saying a truncated version of the Amidah (see Havineinu), if one is in a rush or under pressure. It consists of only seven blessings - the usual first three and last three, and a middle blessing named after its first word, Havineinu.
Seasonal changes to the Amidah
Prayers for rain in winter and dew in summer
"Mentioning the power of [providing] rain" (הזכרת גבורות גשמים)
The phrase "משיב הרוח ומוריד הגשם" ("He [God] causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall") is inserted in the second blessing of the Amidah (Gevurot), throughout the rainy season in Israel (fall and winter). The most prominent of God's powers mentioned in this blessing is the resurrection of the dead. Rain is mentioned here because God's provision of rain is considered to be as great a manifestation of His power as the resurrection. Rain is not mentioned in spring and summer, when rain does not fall in Israel. Nevertheless, given the importance of moisture during the dry summer of Israel, many versions of the liturgy insert the phrase "מוריד הטל," "He causes the dew to fall," during every Amidah of the dry half of the year.
The "mention" of rain (or dew) starts and ends on major festivals (Shemini Atzeret and Passover respectively) On these holidays, special extended prayers for rain or dew (known as Tefillat Geshem and Tefillat Tal respectively). In the Ashkenazic tradition, both prayers are recited by the Reader during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah. Sephardic tradition, which prohibits such additions, places them before the Mussaf Amidah. The change is made on these holidays because they are days of great joy, and because they are days of heavy attendance at public prayers. Therefore, the seasonal change in the language of the prayers is immediately and widely disseminated.
Requesting (praying for) rain (שאלת גשמים)
In the ninth blessing of the weekday Amidah, the words "may You grant dew and rain" are inserted during the winter season in the Land of Israel. Outside Israel, this season is defined as beginning on the 60th day after the autumnal equinox (usually 4 December) and ending on Passover. In Israel, the season begins on the 7th of Cheshvan. The Sephardi and Yemenite Jewish rituals, as opposed to just adding the words "dew and rain" during the winter, have two distinct versions of the ninth blessing. During the dry season, the blessing has this form:
Bless us, our Father, in all the work of our hands, and bless our year with gracious, blessed, and kindly dews: be its outcome life, plenty, and peace as in the good years, for Thou, O Eternal, are good and does good and blesses the years. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who blesses the years.
In the rainy season, the text is changed to read:
Bless upon us, O Eternal our God, this year and all kinds of its produce for goodness, and bestow dew and rain for blessing on all the face of the earth; and make abundant the face of the world and fulfil the whole of Thy goodness. Fill our hands with Thy blessings and the richness of the gifts of Thy hands. Preserve and save this year from all evil and from all kinds of destroyers and from all sorts of punishments: and establish for it good hope and as its outcome peace. Spare it and have mercy upon it and all of its harvest and its fruits, and bless it with rains of favor, blessing, and generosity; and let its issue be life, plenty, and peace as in the blessed good years; for Thou, O Eternal, are good and does good and blesses the years. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who blesses the years.
Conclusion of Shabbat and Festivals
At the Maariv Amidah following the conclusion of a Shabbat or Yom Tov, a paragraph beginning Atah Chonantanu ("You have granted us...") is inserted into the weekday Amidah's fourth blessing of Binah. The paragraph thanks God for the ability to separate between the holy and mundane, paraphrasing the concepts found in the Havdalah ceremony. In fact, the Talmud teaches that if this paragraph is forgotten, the Amidah need not be repeated, because Havdalah will be said later over wine. Once Atah Chonantanu is said, work prohibited on the holy day becomes permitted because the separation from the holy day has been established.
The Ten Days of Repentance
During the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, additional lines are inserted in the first, second, second to last, and last blessings of all Amidot. These lines invoke God's mercy and pray for inscription in the Book of Life. In many communities, when the chazzan reaches these lines during his repetition, he pauses and the congregation recites the lines before him. During the final recitation of the Amidah on Yom Kippur the prayer is slightly modified to read "seal us" in the book of life, rather than "write us".
Moreover, the signatures of two blessings are changed to reflect the days' heightened recognition of God's sovereignty. In the third blessing, the signature "Blessed are You, O Lord, the Holy God" is replaced with "Blessed are You, O Lord, the Holy King." On weekdays, the signature of the eleventh blessing is changed from "Blessed are You, O Lord, King who loves justice and judgement" to "Blessed are You, O Lord, the King of judgement."
On public fast days, special prayers for mercy are added to the Amidah. At Shacharit, no changes are made in the quiet Amidah, but the chazzan adds an additional blessing in his repetition right after the blessing of Geulah, known by its first word Aneinu ("Answer us"). The blessing concludes with the signature "Blessed are You, O Lord, Who responds (some say: to His nation Israel) in time of trouble."
At Minchah, the chazzan adds Aneinu in his repetition again, as at Shacharit. In addition, during the quiet Amidah, all fasting congregatants recite the text of Aneinu without its signature in the blessing of Tefillah. In addition, communities that say the shortened version of the Shalom blessing at Minchah and Maariv say the complete version at this Minchah. The chazzan also says the priestly blessing before Shalom as he would at Shacharit, unlike the usual weekday Minchah when the priestly blessing is not said.
On Tisha B'Av at Minchah, Ashkenazim add a prayer that begins Nachem ("Console...") to the conclusion of the blessing Binyan Yerushalayim, elaborating on the mournful state of the Temple in Jerusalem. The concluding signature of the blessing is also extended to say "Blessed are You, O Lord, Who consoles Zion and builds Jerusalem." In other traditions, it is said in all the Amidot of Tisha B'av, or not included at all.
On Chol HaMoed and Rosh Chodesh, the prayer Ya'aleh Veyavo ("May [our remembrance] rise and be seen...") is inserted in the blessing of Avodah. Ya'aleh Veyavo is also said in the Kedushat HaYom blessing of the Festival Amidah, and at Birkat HaMazon. One phrase of the prayer varies according to the day's holiday, mentioning it by name. Often, the first line is uttered aloud so that others will be reminded of the change.
On Hanukkah and Purim, the weekday Amidot are recited, but a special paragraph is inserted into the blessing of Hoda'ah. Each holiday's paragraph recounts the historical background of that holiday, thanking God for his salvation. Both paragraphs are prefaced by the same opening line, "[We thank You] for the miraculous deeds (Al HaNissim) and for the redemption and for the mighty deeds and the saving acts wrought by You, as well as for the wars which You waged for our ancestors in ancient days at this season."
The most recent known change to the text of the standard daily Amidah by an authority accepted by Orthodox Judaism was done by Isaac Luria in the 16th century. He formulated a text of the Amidah which seems to be a fusion of the Ashkenazi and Sepharadi texts in accordance with his understanding of Kabbalah.
Following the establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem, some Orthodox authorities proposed changes to the special Nachem "Console..." prayer commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem added to the Amidah on Tisha B'Av in light of these events.
Conservative and Reform Judaism have altered the text to varying degrees to bring it into alignment with their view of modern needs and sensibilities. Conservative Judaism retains the traditional number and time periods during which the Amidah must be said, while omitting explicit supplications for restoration of the sacrifices. Reconstructionist and Reform Judaism, consistent with their views that the rhythm of the ancient sacrifices should no longer drive modern Jewish prayer, often omit some of the Amidah prayers, such as the Mussaf, omit temporal requirements and references to the Temple and its sacrifices.
Reform Judaism has changed the first benediction, traditionally invoking the phrase "God of our Fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob," one of the Biblical names of God. New editions of the Reform siddur explicitly say avoteinu v'imoteinu "our fathers and our mothers", and Reform and some Conservative congregations amend the second invocation to "God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob; God of Sarah, God of Rebekah, God of Leah, and God of Rachel." The new reform prayer book, Mishkan T'filah, reverses Leah's and Rachel's names. Some feminist Jews have added the names of Bilhah and Zilpah, since they were mothers to four tribes of Israel.
Liberal branches of Judaism make some additional changes to the opening benedictions. the phrase umeivi go'eil ("and brings a redeemer") is changed in Reform Judaism to umeivi ge'ulah ("who brings redemption"), replacing the personal messiah with a Messianic Age. The phrase m'chayei hameitim ("who causes the dead to come to life") is replaced in the Reform and Reconstructionist siddurim with m'chayei hakol ("who gives life to all") and m'chayei kol chai ("who gives life to all life"), respectively. This represents a turn away from the traditional article of faith that God will resurrect the dead.
Prayer 17, Avodah. asks God to restore the Temple services, build a Third Temple, and restore sacrificial worship. The concluding meditation ends with an additional prayer for the restoration of Temple worship. Both prayers have been modified within the siddur of Conservative Judaism, so that although they still ask for the restoration of the Temple, they remove the explicit plea for the resumption of sacrifices. (Some Conservative congregations remove the concluding quiet prayer for the Temple entirely.) The Reform siddur also modifies this prayer, eliminating all reference to the Temple service and replacing the request for the restoration of the Temple with "God who is near to all who call upon you, turn to your servants and be gracious to us; pour your spirit upon us."
Many Reform congregations will often conclude with either Sim Shalom or Shalom Rav. Once either of those prayers are chanted or sung, many congregations proceed to a variation on the Mi Shebeirach (typically the version popularized by Debbie Friedman), the traditional prayer for healing, followed by silent prayer, and then a resumption of the service.
Conservative Judaism is divided on the role of the Mussaf Amidah. More traditional Conservative congregations recite a prayer similar to the Mussaf prayer in Orthodox services, except they refer to Temple sacrifices only in the past tense and do not include a prayer for the restoration of the sacrifices. More liberal Conservative congregations omit references to the Temple sacrifices entirely. Reconstructionist and Reform congregations generally do not do the Mussaf Amidah at all, but if they do, they omit all references to Temple worship.
Within the early Christian Church
New Testament scholar Paul Barnett has identified 2 Corinthians 1:3–7 as a modified version of the first blessing (Avot). This has also been identified by Paul Martin Hengel in his book The Pre-Christian Paul, arguing that Saul/Paul was a teacher in the Hellenistic synagogues of Jerusalem prior to his conversion to Christianity.
- "The Shmoneh-Esrai Benedictions of the Silent Prayer". Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
- Abramowitz, Jack (9 December 2015). "Shemoneh Esrei #1 – Avos (Fathers)". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- Adler, Cyrus; Hirsch, Emil G. "SHEMONEH 'ESREH". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia.
- Maimonides on Men. iv. 1b, quoted by Elbogen, "Gesch. des Achtzehngebetes".
- This aversion that continued at least to some extent throughout the Talmudic period, as evidenced by the opinions of R. Eliezer (Talmud Berachot 29b) and R. Simeon ben Yohai (Avot 2:13). R. Jose held that one should include something new in one's prayer every day (Talmud Yerushalmi Berachot 8b), a principle said to have been carried into practice by R. Eleazar and R. Abbahu (ib.). Prayer was not to be read as one would read a letter (ib.).
- Berachot 28b
- Sifre, Deut. 343
- Berachot 33a, Megillah 17b
- Meg. 18a
- Ehrlich, Uri and Hanoch Avenary. "Amidah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 2. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 72–76. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. 17 November 2009, p. 73
- Berachot 26b; Genesis Rabbah 68
- Berachot 4:3; see Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., iv. 30 et seq..
- Donin, Rabbi Hayim Halevy, To Pray as a Jew, p. 92, citing Yerushalmi Berakhot 2:4 and Eliezer Levy, Yesodot Hatefilah
- Donin, pp. 95–96
- Berakhot 26b
- Hosea 14:3
- God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3.15)
- a great God, a mighty, and a terrible (Deuteronomy 10:17)
- The LORD upholdeth all that fall (Psalms 145)
- Consider mine affliction (Psalms 119.153)
- "Shemoneh Esrei #8 – Refuah (Healing)". OU.org (Orthodox Union). 22 February 2016.
- Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise (Jeremiah 17.14)
- Names, Verses, and Flaming Hot Rods
- Talmud Berachot 17a
- Pirkei Avot 2:17
- Orach Chayim 101
- Orach Chayim 101:1
- Samuel I 2; Berakhot 31b
- Ezekiel 1:7
- "Standing or Sitting". 6 February 2012.
- Genesis 28:17
- Berakhot 30a
- Mekhilta, Shemos 20:18
- Mishnah Berurah 95
- Babylonian Talmud Yoma 53b
- Psalms 146, Mishnah Berurah 113
- Talmud Berakhot 28b
- They understand the Mishneh Torah and the Talmudic statements concerning bowing in the Amidah to mean that one must always prostrate, lying flat on the ground, throughout the year during the four bows of the Amidah.
- Heicha Kedusha
- כיצד ניתן לקצר את חזרת הש”ץ?
- Hazanut of Shaar Hashamayim, London
- The Short שמונה עשרה of מנחה
- Repeating the Amidah “Be-Kol Ram”
- Berachot 29, 57b; Pesachim 104a
- Student, Gil (12 August 2011). "Innovation in Jewish Law: A Case Study of Chiddush in Havineinu". Orthodox Union. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- Machon Shilo; Bar-Hayim, David. "The Havinenu Prayer: Lost in the Shuffle?". Machon Shilo. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
- See, e.g., Ta'an. 2b; Ber. 33a.
- However, the custom of Jews in Djerba was to begin saying on the 7th of Chesvan, like in Israel. Source (section 19)
- Barnett, P.W., The Second Letter to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament), 1997, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, p.67
- Elbogen, Ismar; Scheindlin, Raymond P (1993), Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History, JPS
- Feuer, Avrohom Chaim (1990), Shemoneh Esrei, New York: Mesorah.
- Finkelstein, Louis (1925–26), "The Amidah", Jewish Quarterly Review, new, 16: 1–43, doi:10.2307/1451747, JSTOR 1451747.
- Harlow, Jules (Winter 1997), "Feminist Linguistics and Jewish Liturgy", Conservative Judaism, XLIX (2): 3–25.
- Joseph Heinemann "Prayer in the Talmud", Gruyter, New York, 1977
- ——— (1981), 'Iyyunei Tefilla" Magnes, Jerusalem.
- Kaunfer, Alvan (Winter 1995), "Who knows four? The Imahot in rabbinic Judaism", Judaism, 44: 94–103.
- Reuven Kimelman "The Messiah of the Amidah: A Study in Comparative Messianism." Journal of Biblical Literature 116 (1997) 313–320.
- Zev Leff Shemoneh Esrei: The Depth and Beauty of Our Daily Prayer, Targum Press, Jerusalem, 2008.
- Paula Reimers, "Feminism, Judaism and God the Mother" Conservative Judaism Volume XLVI, Number I, Fall, 1993
- Joel Rembaum "Regarding the Inclusion of the names of the Matriarchs in the First Blessing of the Amidah" Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards 1986–1990 pp. 485–490
- The Amidah at Jewish Virtual Library
- The Amidah at My Jewish Learning.com
- The Jewish Morning Service, according to the text of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (in Hebrew, from the Open Siddur Project)
- A Weekday Siddur ~ As I Can Say It, for Praying in the Vernacular Various versions of the Amidah (p. 31, 33, 34) translated and adapted in English by reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, from the Open Siddur Project