The Amidah "on one foot":
The Amidah is a prayer which makes up the core of every Jewish service. It has 3 standard blessings at the beginning and 3 more standard blessings at the end, and the middle changes depending on whether it's a weekday service vs. a morning / afternoon / evening service on a Shabbat / Festival / High Holiday. The nusach (chanting) is also different, helping to delineate the occasion.
Context: This is the “Avot” blessing, focused on how our ancestors had such a connection with G-d (and therefore G-d should be gracious to us, hint hint, G-d). Some include only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because that’s a direct Biblical quote (Exodus 3:6) and this paragraph is made up of Biblical quotes, while others include Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah as well because they each had a relationship with G-d also.
Ramban explains that the reason the Torah says “G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac, and G-d of Jacob” instead of “G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is because each of them had their own relationship with G-d, just like siblings have their own relationship with the same parent. How is your relationship with G-d, or your way of doing Judaism, different from the generations before you?
Context: This is the “G’vurot” blessing, focused on G-d’s powers (like we’re buttering G-d up). The line about “You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall” is said between Shmini Atzeret and the first day of Pesach because that’s when the rainy season is in Israel.
The idea of “You give life to the dead” has been understood in many ways, including resurrection of the dead at the time of the Messiah, the trees coming back to life after winter, and people living on after death through memories of them as well as the impact of their actions. Which understanding of this phrase works for you?
Context: The third blessing of the Amidah is the “Kedusha”, focused on G-d’s holiness. Its form is different depending on whether one has a minyan or not, it is weekday or a more noteworthy occasion, and whether it is a Shabbat/Festival morning before the Torah Service or after it.
According to the Biblical Book of Leviticus (19:2), we should be holy because G-d is holy. The chapter then goes on to describe ways of interacting with others that would bring more holiness into the world. What are some holy ways that you can interact with others or with the world?
The Middle Blessing(s) of the Amidah
The Amidah now turns to a set of 13 blessings of request (“bakashot”) on weekdays, or an extended blessing of multiple paragraphs regarding the nature of the day (“Kedushat HaYom”) on Shabbat and holidays. This source sheet is only focused on the 3 blessings at the beginning and 3 blessings at the end which are common to all Amidot.
Context: This blessing is about G-d accepting our prayers and/or service of G-d (“Avodah”)
In what way(s) do you serve G-d?
Context: This is the blessing of gratitude to G-d (“Hoda’ah"). Practicing our “attitude of gratitude” with G-d strengthens our ability to express appreciation to others in our lives.
When have you experienced one of the following: “Our lives are in Your hands, our souls are under Your care, Your miracles accompany us each day, and Your wonders and gifts are with us each moment”?
Context: This is the last blessing of the Amidah, and it focuses on peace (“Birkat Shalom”). There are 2 versions: “Sim Shalom”, which is used in the morning (plus fast day afternoons), and “Shalom Rav”, which is used in the afternoon and evening. The Sephardic (and Nusach Ari) tradition is to use “Sim Shalom” all the time, and the tradition in Avignon, France, is to use “Shalom Rav” all the time. Evidence for the the different usages of these prayers dates back to the 1100s. The reason for these two prayers for peace may be that one was written in the Land of Israel (“Shalom Rav”, which was found in the Cairo Geniza), while the other (“Sim Shalom”) was written in Babylonia. Later on in Europe, as members of these two communities mingled, they assigned the two versions to different services in order to respect each community’s customs - fitting for a prayer about peace. “Sim Shalom” was assigned to services when the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Cohanim) was said.
What’s an aspect of your personal, local, national, or global world that could use peace?
Context: This is the spot for personal prayers. The text here is the personal prayer of Mar ben Ravina, as found in the Talmud among other examples (Brachot 17a:4).
If you were to come up with a personal prayer to G-d at this moment in your life, what would it be?
Not Mere Words
Context: This is from the Babylonian Talmud, Masechet (Tractate) Brachot, which is about blessings and prayer. It is a source text for the custom of “shuckling”, of swaying back and forth as your body gets lost in the flow of your personal prayers. Even though the Talmud also says that one should similar to Ezekiel’s 1-legged angels (Ezekiel 1:7) with our legs together during the Amidah (Brachot 10b:28), nonetheless we can still sway. (Kippah tip to Miron Hirsch).
Context: This video, written and narrated by Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, and produced by BimBam, gives a good overview of the Amidah.
Musical Versions - Shalom Rav, Sim Shalom, and Oseh Shalom
How do these musical versions make you feel?
Context: This version of “Shalom Rav” was composed by Cantor Jeff Klepper and Rabbi Daniel Freedlander, known together as “Kol B’Seder”, in 1973.
Context: This version of “Sim Shalom” was written by Six13 around 2017.
Context: This is Nurit Hirsch’s version of “Oseh Shalom”. She composed it in 1969 for the first Chassidic Song Festival (which she won). Nurit Hirsch is also the composer of “BaShana HaBa’a”.
Context: This is from the Israeli group “Nava Tehila”, written in 2008.
Context: This is Debbie Friedman’s version of “Oseh Shalom”, written in 1981. The song was first introduced at a CAJE (Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education) conference.
Context: This version of “Oseh Shalom” was written by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach in 1968.
Context: This version of “Oseh Shalom” was written by Cantor Jeff Klepper and Rabbi Dan Freedlander, known together as “Kol B’Seder”, in 1981. This video shows not only the song (start at 1:23) but also an interview with Klepper and Freedlander, talking about the story of the song. The song was first introduced at a CAJE (Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education) conference.