In the beracha before, we asked Hashem to "show favor" our tefillos. What are we adding here by asking Hashem to be "retzei", pleased with our tefillos?

The answer is that this is a particular request to Hashem to answer our tefillos because we have said them at an auspicious time - while ravening with a minyan. The word "retzei" alludes to davening with a minyan, based on the Gemara in Berachos which says:

אֲמַר לֵיהּ דְּאָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן מִשּׁוּם רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן יוֹחַי:

As Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai:

(א) רְצֵה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ בְּעַמְּ֒ךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבִתְפִלָּתָם.

וְהָשֵׁב אֶת אֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶֽךָ


...וְאִשֵּׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּתְפִלָּתָם בְּאַהֲבָה מהרה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן


,וְאִשֵּׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּתְפִלָּתָם בְּאַהֲבָה מהרה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן

וּתְהִי לְרָצוֹן תָּמִיד עֲבוֹדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמֶּֽךָ:

(ה) וְתֶחֱזֶֽינָה עֵינֵֽינוּ בְּשׁוּבְ֒ךָ לְצִיּוֹן בְּרַחֲמִים:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן:

Be pleased, Adonoy, our God, with Your people, Israel, and their prayer.

And restore the service to the Holy of Holies in Your abode, and the fire-offerings of Israel; and accept their prayer, lovingly and willingly. And may You always find pleasure with the service of Your people, Israel.

And may our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion. Blessed are You, Adonoy, Who returns His Divine Presence to Zion.

מַאי דִּכְתִיב ״וַאֲנִי תְפִלָּתִי לְךָ ה׳ עֵת רָצוֹן״. אֵימָתַי עֵת רָצוֹןבְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהַצִּבּוּר מִתְפַּלְּלִין. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא אָמַר מֵהָכָא: ״כֹּה אָמַר ה׳ בְּעֵת רָצוֹן עֲנִיתִיךָ״.

What is the meaning of that which is written: “But as for me, let my prayer be unto You, Lord, in a time of favor; O God, in the abundance of Your mercy, answer me with the truth of Your salvation” (Psalms 69:14)? It appears that the individual is praying that his prayers will coincide with a special time of Divine favor. When is a time of favor? It is at the time when the congregation is praying. It is beneficial to pray together with the congregation, for God does not fail to respond to the entreaties of the congregation. Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said that the unique quality of communal prayer is derived from here: “Thus said the Lord, in a time of acceptance I have answered you and on a day of salvation I have aided you” (Isaiah 49:8).

Perhaps the following words "amcha yisrael" also express this idea that we are focusing on the advantage of tefilla b'tzbbur. The term "Am" refers to those on a lower madreiga while the term "Yisrael" refers to those who are on a higher madreiga.

Perhaps the reason we mention the different levels of Klal Yisrael in connection with tefillas tzibbur relates is because the different levels of Jews is a focal point in the idea of tzibbur.

The Megaleh Amukos says that the word for “tzibbur” should be understood as an acronym: Tzaddik: Tzaddikim (Righteous), Beis: Beinoni (Intermediary) Reish: Rasha (Wicked).

וְהָשֵׁב אֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶֽךָ

Although Chazal say that the three tefillos we say are in place of the Korbanos, it doesn't compare to the closeness and efficacy we could experience by doing the actual sacrificial services in the Beis HaMikdash.

(Etz Yosef brings two places in Chazal where this idea that our davening is in place of the Korbanos is found. The Gemara in Taanis says:

דְּתַנְיָא: ״לְאַהֲבָה אֶת ה׳ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וּלְעׇבְדוֹ בְּכׇל לְבַבְכֶם״, אֵיזוֹ הִיא עֲבוֹדָה שֶׁהִיא בַּלֵּב — הֱוֵי אוֹמֵר: זוֹ תְּפִלָּה.

As it was taught in a baraita with regard to the verse: “To love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 11:13). Which is the service of God that is performed in the heart? You must say that this is referring to prayer.

The second place Etz Yosef points to where see this concept is in a Gemara in Berachos:

אִיתְּמַר, רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בְּרַבִּי חֲנִינָא אָמַר: תְּפִלּוֹת אָבוֹת תִּקְּנוּם. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי אָמַר: תְּפִלּוֹת כְּנֶגֶד תְּמִידִין תִּקְּנוּם.

It was stated: Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: The practice of praying three times daily is ancient, albeit not in its present form; prayers were instituted by the Patriarchs. However, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said that the prayers were instituted based on the daily offerings sacrificed in the Holy Temple, and the prayers parallel the offerings, in terms of both time and characteristics.

I'm not entirely sure where Etz Yosef sees in the first Gemara in Taanis a proof that tefilla is a substitute for Avoda? A: Perhaps we can suggest an answer based on an explanation of a Rambam by R' Yisrael Reisman in his Forward to Praying With Fire (p. xix.) Rav Reisman writes that there are two elements to prayer;

1) Asking Hashem for our needs (bakashas tzrachim)

2) Recognizing that Hashem is the active Ruler of the Universe and serving Him (Avoda)

He says that these two aspects are represented by the two opinions in the Gemara in Berachos quoted above; the one who holds that the tefillos parallel the Avos represents the aspect of prayer where we beseech Hashem, and competing view that prayer parallels the Korbanos is focusing on the aspect of prayer where we are doing service before Hashem.

He goes on to prove that these two aspects are expressed in a machlokes Rishonim as to the passuk in the Torah which is the source to pray. The Rambam writes:

(א) מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לְהִתְפַּלֵּל בְּכָל יוֹם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג כה) ״וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֵת ה׳‎ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם״. מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ שֶׁעֲבוֹדָה זוֹ הִיא תְּפִלָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יא יג) ״וּלְעָבְדוֹ בְּכָל לְבַבְכֶם״ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אֵי זוֹ הִיא עֲבוֹדָה שֶׁבַּלֵּב זוֹ תְּפִלָּה.

(1) It is a positive Torah commandment to pray every day, as [Exodus 23:25] states: "You shall serve God, your Lord." Tradition teaches us that this service is prayer, as [Deuteronomy 11:13] states: "And serve Him with all your heart" and our Sages said: Which is the service of the heart? This is prayer.

We see that the Rambam focuses on the Avodah aspect of prayer.

Ramban brings a different source to the mitzvah to daven every day:

שמכלל העבודה שנלמוד תורתו ושנתפלל אליו בעת הצרות ותהיינה עינינו ולבנו אליו כעיני עבדים אל יד אדוניהם וזה כענין שכתוב "וכי תבאו מלחמה בארצכם על הצר הצורר אתכם והרעותם בחצוצרות ונזכרתם לפני ה' אלהיכם" והיא מצוה על צרה שתבא על הצבור לזעוק לפניו בתפלה ובתרועה

Included in the service of Hashem is to learn His Torah and to pray to Him when one experiences difficult times, that our hearts are directed towards him like a servant to his master. And this is the idea expressed in the passuk "When you go out to war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets..." (Bamidbar 10:9)

And it is incumbent on the congregation to cry out to Hashem in prayer and sounding the shofar.

We see from here that Rav Reisman connects the Gemara about Tefilla kneged Avoda with the Rambam's source to daven, which is the Gemara in Taanis, and therefore Etz Yosef brings both Gemaros to prove that our tefillos are in place of the Avoda (in one respect, as we explained)


Therefore, we ask Hashem to bring back the Temple so that we can serve Him in actuality instead of merely mirroring the services.

Derech Hashem says that the idea of the tefillos being in place of the Korbanos isn't merely an "ode" to the Korbanos we are missing, but rather our tefillos are filling the void of closeness that we would have been experiencing by having the actual Temple service.

(ה) והנה כל זה שביארנו עד הנה בק״ש ובתפלה הוא לפי ענין המצות האלה כפי מה שהם אמנם עוד סידרו לנו מסדרי התפלה הסדר הראוי להשלים גם בעד עבודת הקרבנות החסרה ממנו עתה. והוא מה שמצטרך לפי חידוש כל יום מהימים כפי חוקות הזמן בכל חלקיו ויבואר בפ׳‎ הבא לפנינו בס״ד:


(5) But behold that which we explained until now about the recitation of Shema and about prayer is only according to the function of these commandments in terms of what they are [in themselves]. However, they additionally set up an arrangement of prayer for us that is also fit to fill in for the sacrifices now missing. And that is what is necessary with the arrival of every day according to the axioms of time in all of its parts. But this will be explained below in the next chapter with God's help.



The next part of the beracha discusses a request from Hashem to accept the "fires of Israel" and "their prayers." There is a dispute in the meforshim as to what these ambiguous phrases refer to. The ramifications of this machlokes is unique because based on the explanation you go with, the punctuation of the beracha changes.

Therefore, we have presented two "versions" of the punctuation of the beracha according to each explanation.

...וְאִשֵּׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּתְפִלָּתָם בְּאַהֲבָה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן

According to one explanation, the term "v'ishei Yisrael" is connected to the first clause where we are asking Hashem to return these "ishei Yisrael" along with returning the Avodah to the Dvir (Beis HaMikdash).

In other words, Ishei Yisrael is connected to our earlier request to "bring back" ("v'hasheiv") something that which we currently don't have.

This is the position of Tosfos brought in Beis Yosef.

וי"מ אותו על מה שלמעלה ממנו ג"ז מדברי התוספות שם וז"ל י"א דקאי אדלעיל והשב העבודה לדביר ביתך ואשי ישראל

,וְאִשֵּׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּתְפִלָּתָם בְּאַהֲבָה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן

Two other explanations are offered by the Meforshim. Both of the explanations, although very different in nature as we will see, both understand the the term "v'ishei Yisrael"as part of the latter clause where we are asking Hashem to accept our prayers with favor.

In other words, Ishei Yisrael is connected to the following request to "accept" ("tekabel") that which we currently do have.

One explanation is that we are praying that Hashem accept our prayers which are in place of the "fires" that were brought in the times of the Beis HaMikdash.

The alternate explanation is that we are praying that Hashem accept the "people (ishei from the word ish, man) of Israel" whom are sacrificed in Heaven by the Angel Michael every day.

The third explanation here is a concept that is beyond the scope of this work and of this author. See Zohar HaChadash who discusses this idea in detail.

These two explanations are also brought in Beis Yosef.

(א) ואשי ישראל וכו' ואע"פ שאין עתה עבודה מתפללים על התפלה וכו' הוקשה לו היכי אמרינן ואשי ישראל דהיינו הקרבנות תקבל ברצון שהרי עכשיו אין לנו קרבן לכך כתב שאע"פ שאין עתה עבודה מתפללין על התפלה שהיא במקום הקרבן ולפ"ז ה"פ ואשי ישראל ותפלתם תפלת ישראל שהוא במקום האישים שהם הקרבנות תקבל ברצון:

(א) ובמדרש יש מיכאל שר הגדול מקריב נשמתן של צדיקים וכו' כן כתבו התוס' בסוף מסכת מנחות (קי.) ולפ"ז ה"פ ואשי ישראל כלומר אנשי ישראל הנקרבים על יד מיכאל או יהיה מלשון אשה ריח ניחוח כלומר קרבנות ישראל דהיינו נפשותיהן שהן עצמן נקרבות על ידי מיכאל גם תפלתם של ישראל הכל תקבל ברצון:

(א) ומ"ש רבינו ותפלתם תקבל ברצון תחלת דבר הוא היינו לומר דלשני הפירושים הראשונים ואשי ישראל דבוק עם ותפלתם הבא אחריו ולפירוש זה ואשי ישראל דבוק עם והשב העבודה לדביר ביתך כלומר השב העבודה ואשי ישראל דהיינו קרבנותיהם לדביר ביתך ואח"כ מתחיל ואומר ותפלתם של ישראל מהרה באהבה תקבל ברצון. ונ"ל שאותם שלא היו מתחילים במנחה אלא מואשי ישראל היו מפרשים כאחד מן הפירושים הראשונים דאילו לפירוש זה לא יתכן להתחיל מואשי ישראל שאינו תחלת דבר:

(מהרה) (speedily)

Besides for the above dispute being a determining factor in the punctuation of the beracha, this machlokes also plays a role in the very text of the beracha, as to whether a certain word some editions of the Siddur have should be said or omitted.

Some editions include the word מהרה ,"speedily" between the words

וּתְפִלָּתָם בְּאַהֲבָה and תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצוֹן. The beracha according to this edition reads, "...And their prayers speedily accept with love."

Now, if we go with the first version (of Tosfos) that the "Ishei Yisrael" is a reference to the korbanos which we are missing, it is befitting to ask Hashem to speedily return our ability to do the korbanos, as we are always awaiting and praying for the hastening of the redemption.

But according to the third explanation that we are asking Hashem to accept the tzaddikim who are being sacrificed by the Angel Michael, we don't want Hashem to speedily take away the tzaddikim from amongst us!

Although Etz Yosef concludes that the third explanation cannot contain the word "speedily", Elya Rabbah argues and holds that the third explanation can nevertheless contain the word "speedily" for three reasons.

1. The text does support the first explanation as well, so there is not a reason to erase it just because there is also a conflicting opinion.

2. We aren't davening that Hashem take away the tzaddikim speedily, rather, when they reach their time to ascend to Haven, their "sacrifice" should be accepted speedily.

3. The entire sacrifice process of Michael isn't in reference to tzaddikim who are still alive, rather it is a "rite" done with the tzaddikim who were already deceased.

(א) [א] רצה וכו'. כתב מטה משה יש ספרים דלא אמרינן במהרה, וכן ר"י מגרמייזא, כי מיכאל מקרב נפשות הצדיקים אין לומר במהרה...

ולעניות דעתי לקיים נוסחותינו במהרה, חדא דהא יש עוד שני פירושים בטור כדאמרן...

[יש אומרים] הוה ליה אין צריך לומר דזה ודאי קצב היא שמיכאל מקריב ואין אנו מתפללין אלא על הקבלה שיקבלו הקב"ה מהרה, ולא הוי כלל כמתפלל חס ושלום על מיתת צדיקים.

גם קרוב שמקריבין נשמת צדיקים שכבר מתו שנים רבות ועוד הא בתוס' דיש מפרשים דמקריב כבשים של אש:

A byproduct of whether one should say"meheira" or not makes yet another ramification in the text of the beracha. Part of the multi-layered part of the Shemoneh Esrei text is that each beracha was composed with great precision and symbolism from the text itself all the way to the amount of words in each beracha.

In this beracha, the Anshei Kneses HaGedola were particular to have 34 words in order to correspond to the 34 Kohanim who were needed in the Beis HaMikdash.* Therefore, if the text is missing the word "meheira" how will third explanation get to the 34 word count?

The answer is, if the word "אֶת" is put in between the words

וְהָשֵׁב and הָעֲבוֹדָה.

* The source for this numerical significance comes from a Kol Bo. There is a dispute as to what services the Kol Bo is counting to arrive at the tally of 34 Kohanim doing the service daily.

וּתְהִי לְרָצוֹן תָּמִיד עֲבוֹדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמֶּֽךָ:

Here we ask Hashem, "Please continue to accept our "service of the heart" (Avoda Shebeleiv) as a pleasing offering before You as though we performed the actual sacrificial service before You.

One can ask, why can't the words "Avodas Yisrael" be taken at face value to mean that Hashem should accept the actual Avodah ( sacrificial service) that Klal Yisrael brought in the past or what they will bring in the future?

The answer lies in the insertion of the word תָּמִיד, "continuously." By asking Hashem to constantly be pleased by our "Avodah" it is clear we are asking Him to accept the Avoda that is ongoing even in exile, in which the term "Avodah" is referring to the Avoda we have available today, which is the Avodah Shebeleiv, the service of the heart (i.e. our tefillos).

We make more explicit reference to this concept that Hashem accept our tefillos like the actual Temple sacrifices in the Mussaf Davening for Yom Tov.

וְתֵעָרֵב עָלֶיךָ [נ"א: לפניך] עֲתִירָתֵנוּ כְּעולָה וּכְקָרְבָּן...

And may our supplications be pleasant before you like a burnt-offering and a sacrifice...

וְתֶחֱזֶֽינָה עֵינֵֽינוּ בְּשׁוּבְ֒ךָ לְצִיּוֹן בְּרַחֲמִים

This clause meshes together not two, but three different pesukim scattered throughout Tanach to form a single request from Hashem to return the glory of Zion to its grandeur.

We will dissect the context of each passuk to gain a deeper understanding of the usage in this beracha.

The first passuk that is laced into the beracha is a passuk from Micha gives allusion to the words "v'sechezena einenu... l'Tzion"

(יא) וְעַתָּ֛ה נֶאֶסְפ֥וּ עָלַ֖יִךְ גּוֹיִ֣ם רַבִּ֑ים הָאֹמְרִ֣ים תֶּחֱנָ֔ף וְתַ֥חַז בְּצִיּ֖וֹן עֵינֵֽינוּ׃

(11) Indeed, many nations have assembled against you who think, “Let our eyes (obscenely) gaze on Zion.”

The context of the passuk is the Navi Micha relating to Klal Yisrael that at the time of the war of Gog U'Magog, the conquerers will gather together to gaze at the degradation of Tzion, and taunt her about their victory.

(The pesukim there go on to say that their victory celebration will be short lived because the reason Hashem will have all of the nations gather together to gloat over Tzion's degradation will be to annihilate all of them in one fell swoop, as the next passuk says:

(יב) וְהֵ֗מָּה לֹ֤א יָֽדְעוּ֙ מַחְשְׁב֣וֹת יְהֹוָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א הֵבִ֖ינוּ עֲצָת֑וֹ כִּ֥י קִבְּצָ֖ם כֶּעָמִ֥יר גֹּֽרְנָה׃


(12) But they do not know the design of the LORD, they do not divine His intent: He has gathered them like cut grain to the threshing floor.


The beracha here employs the passuk not in the context of a boastful remark, but rather as a heartfelt plea that we, Klal Yisrael, merit to see Hashem's return to Tzion.


The second passuk meshed into this clause is a passuk in Yeshayahu adding a Scriptural allusion to the word "b'shuvcha" in the beracha, (along with "einenu" and "L'Tzion").

(ח) ק֥וֹל צֹפַ֛יִךְ נָ֥שְׂאוּ ק֖וֹל יַחְדָּ֣ו יְרַנֵּ֑נוּ

כִּ֣י עַ֤יִן בְּעַ֙יִן֙ יִרְא֔וּ בְּשׁ֥וּב יְהֹוָ֖ה צִיּֽוֹן׃

(8) Pay close attention! Your watchmen raise their voices, as one they shout for joy; for every eye shall behold the LORD’s return to Zion.

The Navi comforts Klal Yisrael in this nevuah by telling them that the final redemption will be forevermore, and the enemies of the world will never again torment us, and we will see this wondrous occurrence of Hashem's return to Tzion with our own eyes.


A third passuk is also enmeshed into this passuk contributes provides allusion to the word "v'richamecha" (and "b'shuvcha")

(ג) וְשָׁ֨ב יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ אֶת־שְׁבוּתְךָ֖ וְרִחֲמֶ֑ךָ וְשָׁ֗ב וְקִבֶּצְךָ֙ מִכׇּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֱפִֽיצְךָ֛ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ שָֽׁמָּה׃

(3) Then your God יהוה will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. [God] will bring you together again from all the peoples where your God יהוה has scattered you.

The pessukim recount Moshe Rabbeinu's final exhortations to Klal Yisrael before he was to pass away.

In this passuk, he prophesizes their future exile, but with the assurance and comfort that in the End of Days, they will ultimately do teshuva from their sins and Hashem will have mercy on them and release them from their spiritual and physical captivity. (See Ramban and Ohr HaChaim, ibid)


וְתֶחֱזֶֽינָה עֵינֵֽינוּ

Until this point we have interpreted the intention of the beracha in its most basic form, as a pleas for Hashem to return the Avodah and to bring the final redemption to usher in the ultimate national spiritual experience.

Yaaros Devash sees another allusion in this passuk that relates to Hashem helping us in our personal spiritual lives, as follows.

In the Torah we find that Lot's wife turned into salt because she looked behind to see the destruction of Sodom. The reason she met that ill fate was because she wasn't worthy on her own to be saved, and in order to witness Divine judgement against another person, one needs to personally be worthy.

So too here, we ask Hashem that He help us keep ourselves in check in our performance of mitzvos and the Torah so that we will be able to witness His return to Tzion with our own eyes.