What is the Amidah? The Jewish Standing Prayer

Posted By on October 16, 2019


The heart of Jewish worship is a prayer
referred to as the Amidah or standing prayer. In fact reciting the Amidah
was synonymous with prayer itself to the ancient rabbis and is sometimes referred
to in the Talmud simply as Tefillah the Amidah is the main course of Jewish
prayer everything else is an appetizer or a side dish The Amidah is a chain of short blessings that are recited together while standing
quietly at every occasion of formal Jewish worship although the Amidah is a
prayer recited silently while standing in place were citing the Amidah is
hardly a stationary experience and many worshipers develop unique ways to move
their bodies while reciting the words of the Amidah some rush through the words
at only a few minutes while others stand and quiet dialogue with God oblivious to
the clock steadily marking the passage of time The Talmudic rabbis provided
guidance for the basic structure of the Amidah The first three blessings should
be occasions for praise of God the final three blessings comprise our expressions
of gratitude as we take a leave of God’s presence and the blessings in the middle
are a chance to make specific requests the blessings in-between the first three
and the final three blessings change according to the season during the week day 13 specific requests comprise the bulk of the Amidah these requests focus
on practical needs of health and the ability to make wise choices as well as
more lofty yearnings for redemption and a world transformed by justice On Shabbat and holidays when we pause to rest those 13 requests are replaced by
one blessing that focuses on the sacred nature of the day Historically the
prayer leader prayed out loud on behalf of the community today individuals have
a chance to personalize their silent Amidah while joining the congregation in
the communal Amidah although there are many different
versions of the Amidah in use among contemporary Jewish communities they all
share this overall structure and they share most words in common too. Once printed in a prayer book, the words of the Amidah cannot change but it is
appropriate to add one’s own personal words of prayer at the end of the Amidah
or even in the middle of the Amidah when our own personalized prayers correspond
to a theme of one of the standardized blessings, Each Amidah is a unique
opportunity to disconnect from the world around us and its distractions and to
use the words of the Amidah to remind us what is truly important. Each Amidah is a
unique opportunity to cultivate a relationship with God Each Amidah is
unique opportunity to serve God with our hearts

Posted by Lewis Heart

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