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by torahgirl & tzadikguy

Prayer has been defined as “the service of the heart” or “in the heart,” as opposed to the service that was performed in the Temple, which consisted basically of the offering of sacrifices. The service of prayer is many faceted. In it we address ourselves to G-d. We may turn to Him in petition, addressing our needs to Him, and needs can be of many sorts. To pray for peace is to ask for our needs as much as is asking for food, rain, or prosperity.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

We begin the morning Shacharit service with the Morning Blessings. The most famous of them is Modeh Ani: “I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – abundant is your faithfulness!” These blessings are designed to be recited when you first wake up and get out of bed.

The second part of Shacharit is called Pesukei d’Zimrah, which means Verses of Praise. The Siddur explains “the sages taught that one should set forth the praises of G-d before making requests of Him… by focusing on G-d’s glory all around us, we prepare ourselves for the Shema and Shemoneh Esrei,, when we accept Him as our King and pray for the needs of the Jewish people.” The Pesukei d’Zimrah starts with the beautiful blessing “Blessed is He Who spoke…” It is made up of Psalms and other Scripture passages which prepare our hearts for the reverent worship of Shemoneh Esrei.

The third part of Shacharit is the Blessings of the Shema and the Shema itself. These blessings “express G-d’s mastery over nature, pray for intellectual and moral attainment through the study of Torah, and describe G-d’s role in the flow of history.” Traditionally the Shema is recited twice a day, morning and evening.

Finally, we’re ready for the Shemoneh Esrei, the “eighteen benedictions.” The Talmud calls Shemoneh Esrei “The Prayer,” because this is where we express our needs and ask Hashem to fulfill them. Tradition says the Shemoneh Esrei was instituted by the Patriarchs. It is one of the most important prayers in the Siddur. It’s also called the Amidah or Standing Prayer, because we rise and take three steps forward to recognize that we are approaching the King. The Siddur instructs us to “recite it with quiet devotion and without any interruption, verbal or otherwise.” The Shemoneh Esrei illustrates yirah HaShem (fear of G-d) and ahavat HaShem (love of G-d). We show fear for HaShem by physical actions during the prayer such as stepping forward to symbolize entering His presence and bending the knees while bowing to acknowledge His sovereignty. We do these things to concentrate intently on what is being read and to physically demonstrate our reverence for Him. We show love for HaShem by humbly praying the words and blessings in this beautiful prayer with the intent to honor Him with our obedience.

Learning about prayer – understanding the liturgy, the history of the Siddur (daily prayerbook), the structure of the service, and its themes – is a way of helping us to enter the world of Jewish tradition. The Siddur is the best possible introduction into that world. It brings us face to face with Judaism’s struggle for an understanding of G-d, humanity, and the world. Mastery of the Siddur is the key both to the ability to worship as a Jew and to the understanding of the meaning of Judaism. Once we possess it, new vistas open before us.

Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service by Reuven Hammer

Our purpose here on earth is to draw closer to HaShem and if prayer is the first thing we do each day, then the rest of the day is more centered around our purpose. When is the last time you began your day with prayer?
Challenge yourself to pray Shacharit every morning for one week. This challenge will express the physical and mental change that comes from starting your day with the right attitude toward HaShem and others. We recommend starting with the Modeh Ani, thanking HaShem for the gift of a new day, then prepare your heart by reading a few Psalms from the Pesukei d’Zimrah, and finish by standing to enter HaShem’s presence and recite the Shemoneh Esrei. Try it for a week! If you’re already familiar with weekday Shacharit prayers but don’t do them every day, make a special effort for 7 days in a row and see how it goes.

Resources:

Artscroll Complete Siddur page numbers
Morning Blessings: page 3
Blessings of the Shema: page 85
Shemoneh Esrei: page 99

Follow-up Questions
Have you had more of an awareness of HaShem?
Have you learned more about HaShem and His Torah?
Have you referred to Torah in conversation more often than usual this week?
Have you prayed more throughout the day?
Have other people noticed a change in your attitude/behavior?

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