Personally Connecting to the Amidah

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.

(א) אֲדנָי שפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ:

(ב) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ. אֱלהֵי אַבְרָהָם. אֱלהֵי יִצְחָק. וֵאלהֵי יַעֲקב. הָאֵל הַגָּדול הַגִּבּור וְהַנּורָא אֵל עֶלְיון. גּומֵל חֲסָדִים טובִים. וְקונֵה הַכּל. וְזוכֵר חַסְדֵּי אָבות. וּמֵבִיא גואֵל לִבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם לְמַעַן שְׁמו בְּאַהֲבָה:

(ד) מֶלֶךְ עוזֵר וּמושִׁיעַ וּמָגֵן: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מָגֵן אַבְרָהָם:

Praised are You, God, our God and God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Rachel, and God of Leah, great, mighty, awe-inspiring, transcendent God, who acts with kindness and love, and creates all, who remembers the loving deeds of our ancestors, and who will lovingly bring a redeemer to their children’s children for the sake of Divine honor.

You are the sovereign who helps and saves and shields. Praised are You, God, Shield of Abraham and Guardian of Sarah.

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.

The phrase “Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak, Vaylokei Ya’akov” hyperlinks us back to the Burning Bush, when G-d uses that as a self-introduction to Moses. It allows us to think about how Moses was called upon for his life’s mission, even though he was reluctant to undertake it, and to think about what our life mission might be. (Kippa tip to Rabbi Elie Kaunfer)

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?

(א) אַתָּה גִּבּור לְעולָם אֲדנָי. מְחַיֵּה מֵתִים אַתָּה רַב לְהושִׁיעַ:

(ב) בחורף: מַשִּׁיב הָרוּחַ וּמורִיד הַגָּשֶּׁם:

(ג) מְכַלְכֵּל חַיִּים בְּחֶסֶד. מְחַיֶּה מֵתִים בְּרַחֲמִים רַבִּים. סומֵךְ נופְלִים. וְרופֵא חולִים וּמַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים. וּמְקַיֵּם אֱמוּנָתו לִישֵׁנֵי עָפָר. מִי כָמוךָ בַּעַל גְּבוּרות וּמִי דומֶה לָּךְ. מֶלֶךְ מֵמִית וּמְחַיֶּה וּמַצְמִיחַ יְשׁוּעָה:

(ה) וְנֶאֱמָן אַתָּה לְהַחֲיות מֵתִים: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', מְחַיֵּה הַמֵּתִים:

You are ever mighty, Adonai— You give life to the dead— great is Your saving power:
From Sh’mini Atzeret until Pesah:

You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.

You sustain the living through kindness and love, and with great mercy give life to the dead, You support the falling, heal the sick,
loosen the chains of the bound, and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust. Who is like You, Almighty, and who can be compared to You? The sovereign who brings death and life and causes redemption to flourish.
You are faithful in bringing life to the dead. Praised are You, God, who gives life to the dead.

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?

(ב) נְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בָּעוֹלָם כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמַּקְדִּישִׁים אוֹתוֹ בִּשְׁמֵי מָרוֹם. כַּכָּתוּב עַל יַד נְבִיאֶֽךָ. וְקָרָא זֶה אֶל זֶה וְאָמַר:

קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת מְלֹא כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ:

אָז בְּקוֹל רַֽעַשׁ גָּדוֹל אַדִּיר וְחָזָק מַשְׁמִיעִים קוֹל מִתְנַשְּׂאִים לְעֻמַּת שְׂרָפִים. לְעֻמָּתָם בָּרוּךְ יֹאמֵֽרוּ: בָּרוּךְ כְּבוֹד יְהֹוָה מִמְּקוֹמוֹ:

מִמְּקוֹמְךָ מַלְכֵּֽנוּ תוֹפִֽיעַ וְתִמְלוֹךְ עָלֵֽינוּ כִּי מְחַכִּים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ מָתַי תִּמְלוֹךְ בְּצִיּוֹן בְּקָרוֹב בְּיָמֵֽינוּ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד תִּשְׁכּוֹן: תִּתְגַּדַּל וְתִתְקַדַּשׁ בְּתוֹךְ יְרוּשָׁלַֽיִם עִירְךָ לְדוֹר וָדוֹר וּלְנֵֽצַח נְצָחִים: וְעֵינֵֽינוּ תִרְאֶֽינָה מַלְכוּתֶֽךָ כַּדָּבָר הָאָמוּר בְּשִׁירֵי עֻזֶּֽךָ עַל יְדֵי דָוִד מְשִֽׁיחַ צִדְקֶֽךָ:

יִמְלֹךְ יְהֹוָה לְעוֹלָם אֱלֹהַֽיִךְ צִיּוֹן לְדֹר וָדֹר הַלְלוּיָהּ:

(ג) לְדוֹר וָדוֹר נַגִּיד גָּדְלֶֽךָ וּלְנֵֽצַח נְצָחִים קְדֻשָּׁתְךָ נַקְדִּישׁ וְשִׁבְחֲךָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מִפִּֽינוּ לֹא יָמוּשׁ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד כִּי אֵל מֶֽלֶךְ גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ אָֽתָּה: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הָאֵל הַקָּדושׁ:

(ד) אַתָּה קָדושׁ וְשִׁמְךָ קָדושׁ וּקְדושִׁים בְּכָל יום יְהַלְּלוּךָ סֶּלָה: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הָאֵל הַקָּדושׁ:

On Shabbat and Festival mornings (Shacharit):

We hallow Your name in this world as it is hallowed in the high heavens, as Your prophet Isaiah described:

Each called out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy is Adonai Tzvaot, the whole world is filled with God’s glory!”

Then in thunderous voice, rising above the chorus of seraphim, other heavenly beings call out words of blessing:

“Praised is Adonai’s glory wherever God dwells!”

Our sovereign, manifest Yourself wherever You dwell, and rule over us, for we await You. When shall You rule in Zion? Let it be soon, in our day, and throughout all time. May You be exalted and sanctified in Jerusalem, Your city, from one generation to another, forever and ever. May our eyes behold Your dominion, as described in the songs of praised offered to You by David, rightfully anointed:

“Adonai will reign forever, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation. Halleluyah!”

From generation to generation we will declare Your greatness, and forever sanctify You with words of holiness. Your praise will never leave our lips, for You are God and Sovereign, great and holy. Praised are You, God, the Holy God.

In the evening or when praying without a minyan:

Holy are You and holy is Your name; holy ones praise You each day. Praised are You, God, the Holy God.

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.

(א) רְצֵה ה' אֱלהֵינוּ בְּעַמְּךָ יִשרָאֵל וּבִתְפִלָּתָם וְהָשֵׁב אֶת הָעֲבודָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ. וְאִשֵּׁי יִשרָאֵל וּתְפִלָּתָם. בְּאַהֲבָה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצון. וּתְהִי לְרָצון תָּמִיד עֲבודַת יִשרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ:

וְתֶחֱזֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ בְּשׁוּבְךָ לְצִיּון בְּרַחֲמִים: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתו לְצִיּון:

Adonai our God, embrace Your people Israel and their prayer. Restore worship to Your sanctuary. May the prayers of the people Israel be lovingly accepted by You, and may our service always be pleasing.

May our eyes behold Your compassionate return to Zion. Praised are You, God, who restores Your Divine Presence to Zion.

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?

(א) מודִים אֲנַחְנוּ לָךְ. שָׁאַתָּה הוּא ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ לְעולָם וָעֶד. צוּר חַיֵּינוּ. מָגֵן יִשְׁעֵנוּ אַתָּה הוּא לְדור וָדור: נודֶה לְּךָ וּנְסַפֵּר תְּהִלָּתֶךָ עַל חַיֵּינוּ הַמְּסוּרִים בְּיָדֶךָ. וְעַל נִשְׁמותֵינוּ הַפְּקוּדות לָךְ. וְעַל נִסֶּיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל יום עִמָּנוּ. וְעַל נִפְלְאותֶיךָ וְטובותֶיךָ שֶׁבְּכָל עֵת. עֶרֶב וָבקֶר וְצָהֳרָיִם: הַטּוב כִּי לא כָלוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ. וְהַמְרַחֵם כִּי לא תַמּוּ חֲסָדֶיךָ. מֵעולָם קִוִּינוּ לָךְ:

(ה) וְעַל כֻּלָּם יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִתְרומַם שִׁמְךָ מַלְכֵּנוּ תָּמִיד לְעולָם וָעֶד:

וְכל הַחַיִּים יודוּךָ סֶּלָה.

(ז) וִיהַלְלוּ אֶת שִׁמְךָ בֶּאֱמֶת. הָאֵל יְשׁוּעָתֵנוּ וְעֶזְרָתֵנוּ סֶלָה. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַטּוב שִׁמְךָ וּלְךָ נָאֶה לְהודות:

We thank You, for You are ever our God
and the God of our ancestors; You are the bedrock of our lives, the shield that
protects us in every generation. We thank You and sing Your praises—for our lives that are in Your hands, for our souls that are under Your care, for Your miracles that accompany us each day, and for Your wonders and Your gifts that are with us each moment—evening, morning, and noon. You are the one who is good, whose mercy is never-ending; the one who is compassionate, whose love is unceasing. We have always placed our hope in You.

For all these blessings may Your name be praised and exalted, our sovereign, always and forever.

May all that lives thank You always, and faithfully praise Your name forever, God of our deliverance and help. Praised are You, God, Your name is goodness and praise of You is fitting.

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”?

(א) שלום רָב עַל יִשרָאֵל עַמְּךָ תָּשים לְעולָם כִּי אַתָּה הוּא מֶלֶךְ אָדון לְכָל הַשּלום וְטוב יִהְיֶה בְּעֵינֶיךָ לְבָרְכֵנוּ וּלְבָרֵךְ אֶת כָּל עַמְּךָ יִשרָאֵל בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שעָה בִּשלומֶךָ:

(ג) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה'. הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּו יִשרָאֵל בַּשּלום:

In the afternoon and evening:

Grant abundant and lasting peace to Your people Israel and all who dwell on earth, for You are the sovereign master of all the ways of peace. May it please You to bless Your people Israel at all times with Your gift of peace.

Praised are You, God, who blesses Your people Israel with peace.

(א) שים שָׁלום טובָה וּבְרָכָה. חֵן וָחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ. בָּרְכֵנוּ אָבִינוּ כֻּלָּנוּ כְּאֶחָד בְּאור פָּנֶיךָ. כִּי בְאור פָּנֶיךָ נָתַתָּ לָּנוּ ה' אֱלהֵינוּ תּורַת חַיִּים וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד. וּצְדָקָה וּבְרָכָה וְרַחֲמִים וְחַיִּים וְשָׁלום. וְטוב בְּעֵינֶיךָ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת כָּל עַמְּךָ יִשרָאֵל בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שָׁעָה בִּשְׁלומֶךָ:

(ב) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּו יִשרָאֵל בַּשָּׁלום:

In the morning:

Grant peace to the world, goodness and blessing, grace, love, and compassion, for us and for all the people Israel. Bless us, our creator, united as one with the light of Your presence; by that light, Adonai our God, You have given us a guide to life, the love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, love, and peace. May it please You to bless Your people Israel at every season and at all times with Your gift of peace.

Praised are You, God, who blesses Your people Israel with peace.

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?

(א) יִהְיוּ לְרָצון אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיון לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ. ה' צוּרִי וְגואֲלִי: אֱלהַי. נְצר לְשׁונִי מֵרָע וּשפָתַי מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה. וְלִמְקַלְלַי נַפְשִׁי תִדּם. וְנַפְשִׁי כֶּעָפָר לַכּל תִּהְיֶה. פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּתורָתֶךָ. וּבְמִצְותֶיךָ תִּרְדּף נַפְשִׁי. וְכָל הַחושְׁבִים עָלַי רָעָה. מְהֵרָה הָפֵר עֲצָתָם וְקַלְקֵל מַחֲשַׁבְתָּם: עֲשה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן יְמִינֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן קְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן תּורָתֶךָ. לְמַעַן יֵחָלְצוּן יְדִידֶיךָ הושִׁיעָה יְמִינְךָ וַעֲנֵנִי: יִהְיוּ לְרָצון אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיון לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ. ה' צוּרִי וְגואֲלִי: עשה שָׁלום בִּמְרומָיו. הוּא יַעֲשה שָׁלום עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן:

My God, keep my tongue from evil, my lips from deceit. Help me ignore those who would slander me. Let me be humble before all. Open my heart to Your Torah, that I may pursue Your mitzvot. Frustrate the designs of those who plot evil against me; nullify their schemes. Act for the sake of Your name; act for the sake of Your triumph; act for the sake of Your holiness; act for the sake of Your Torah. Answer my prayer for the deliverance of Your people. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, Adonai, my rock and my redeemer. May the one who creates peace on high bring peace to us and to all Israel [and to all who dwell on earth]. And we say: Amen.

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

תַּנְיָא אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה: כָּךְ הָיָה מִנְהָגוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא, כְּשֶׁהָיָה מִתְפַּלֵּל עִם הַצִּיבּוּר — הָיָה מְקַצֵּר וְעוֹלֶה, מִפְּנֵי טוֹרַח צִבּוּר. וּכְשֶׁהָיָה מִתְפַּלֵּל בֵּינוֹ לְבֵין עַצְמוֹ — אָדָם מַנִּיחוֹ בְּזָוִית זוֹ, וּמוֹצְאוֹ בְּזָוִית אַחֶרֶת. וְכׇל כָּךְ לָמָּה? מִפְּנֵי כְּרִיעוֹת וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוָיוֹת.
With regard to one’s intent during prayer, it was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yehuda said: This was the custom of Rabbi Akiva, when he would pray with the congregation he would shorten his prayer and go up, due to his desire to avoid being an encumbrance on the congregation by making them wait for him to finish his prayer. But when he prayed by himself he would extend his prayers to an extent that a person would leave Rabbi Akiva alone in one corner of the study hall and later find him still praying in another corner. And why would Rabbi Akiva move about so much? Because of his bows and prostrations. Rabbi Akiva’s enthusiasm in prayer was so great, that as a result of his bows and prostrations, he would unwittingly move from one corner to the other (Rav Hai Gaon).

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.

​​​​​​​Musical Versions of "L'Dor VaDor"

How do these versions make you feel about the idea of "From generation to generation"?

Context: This is Cantor Meir Finkelstein's (1951- ) setting of L'Dor VaDor, sung by Cantor Azi Schwartz of Park Avenue Synagogue

Context: This is from Nefesh Mountain's (Jewish bluegrass) 2018 album "Beneath the Open Sky". Lyrics are here:

Context: This is Josh Nelson's 2007ish take on L'dor VaDor. Lyrics are here:

Context: This is Cantor Brian Shamash singing Cantor Sol Zim's (1939 - ) version of L'Dor VaDor. There is usually a call-and-response with the congregation repeating the words "L'Dor VaDor" after the leader. There are also many ways that this tune is done nowadays in terms of what notes go with what words and what gets repeated.

Note that the video uses Tefillah Trainer, published by Kinnor Software and notated by Cantor Neil Schwartz.

​​​​​​​Context: This is from Craig Taubman's 2005 album "Inscribed"