Basic Background: Who Created The Amidah?
The Amidah was written in the 4th century BCE when Bnei Yisroel first returned to Israel after the Babylonian Exile and had struggled to re-build the Beit Hamikdash that Nevuchatnetzer had previously destroyed. The Amidah was composed by the אנשי קנסת הגדולה (Men of the Great Assembly), with the intention of helping people speak directly to G-d and have a personal connection with Him. It is said 3 times a day.
Shemonah Esrei is divided into 3 sections: praises, requests, and thanksgiving; we are going to focus on the general ideas of each section
Part One: Praise
Q: Why do you think we praise Hashem in the first 3 brachot of Shemonah Esrei?
Q: How does the example relate to our understanding of the first 3 brachot? Are they meant to 'butter Hashem up', or perhaps, for us to know who we're talking to? What are other possible answers?
Why do you think we are invoking the names of our patriarch's while beginning to bless Hashem in the Amidah? What is the function of this?
Shemonah Esrei is a direct link to talking to Hashem, one may question whether or not we merit this opportunity. The answer is in the very first bracha of the Amidah, because we are descendants from Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaacov. It is therefore our ancestral merit as Jews to talk to the Creator of the world.
Part 2: Requests
Once we acknowledged that G-d loves us, is all-knowing, and that there is so much we do not know about Hashem, we are ready for part two. The next 16 brachot are requests, some of which include the request for knowledge, teshuva, rebuilding of Jerusalem, and mashiach.
Q: Why do you think our first request to Hashem is for knowledge?
Q: According to this prayer, what sparks feelings of gratitude for the person reciting it? At what points in your life do you feel the most grateful?
After having just asked for a multitude of requests, we now get a nice dose of humility. Rav Kook explains that we bow in order to stand humbly in Hashem's presence. However, we only bow a limited number of times throughout Shemona Esrei so as not to damage our healthy sense of self. Bowing at this point will hopefully prevent us from acquiring an ego.
Q: What do you think the concluding prayer of the Amidah is saying? What is the message and how does it relate to the general idea of Shemonah Esrei?