"Abba, I am so excited! This is the moment that we have been waiting for - the beginning of the Amida prayer."
"I am equally excited, Avi. Let us first take a moment to look into the sources and structure of these nineteen blessings that we call the weekday Amida. This will enable us to understand and concentrate on this prayer to the best of our abilities. The Tur (Orach Chaim 112) cites the Gemora (Megillah 17b) which recounts the composition of the Amida. 'One hundred and twenty elders, amongst them prophets, fixed the eighteen blessings in the proper order.' The Tur continues, 'Rebbe Chanina said that the first three are similar to a servant who sets out praises before his master. The middle blessings are compared to his requests for a reward from the master. The final blessings are praises to the master for the rewards that he has received. The servant then leaves his master's presence.'
"Avi, we are about to begin the first bracha which is called 'Avos'. What is the source (in Tanach) for this blessing? The verse (Tehillim 29:1) states, 'Ascribe to Hashem, you sons of the mighty.' The mighty ones were our Avos HaKedoshim (Holy Forefathers), who were powerful in their righteousness. The Beis Yosef's commentary on the Tur cites the Shibolei Leket who relates that when Avraham Avinu was saved from Or Kasdim, the heavenly angels said (the blessing of) Magen Avraham." "Every word of prayer comes from a holy source."
"Abba, why do we begin the Amida by speaking about the Avos?"
"Excellent question Avi! We are coming to praise the Creator of the universe. We recount the relationship that He had with the Avos. Specifically, we speak about how He guided their lives, and they revealed His magnificence to the world. We then mention three aspects of Hashem's greatness that He bestows upon the world. Finally, we sum up with the covenant that He made with our forefathers to bring redemption to the worldii see Kuzari Maamar 3, paragraph 17. This blessing is the means that our Sages gave us to conceive of the Almighty. In doing so, we focus in on the One to Whom we are praying, so that we can properly relate to Him.
"Keeping this in mind Avi, let us begin our explanation of the bracha, phrase by phrase. The first words are, 'Boruch Atto Hashem.' Although we have already discussed this phrase in depth,iii "Kinder Torah" parashas Korach 2010 we will add a new explanation from Rav Dessler.iiii Michtav Mi'Eliyahu volume 3, pp. 81-82 'Boruch' - Hashem is the source of all blessing. This strengthens our emunah. Emunah is the realization that everything is from the Almighty. Mentioning Hashem as the source of all blessing awakens that emunah. For every benefit we receive and every event we experience, we make a bracha, expressing our emunah in Him - He is the source of it all!
"We continue with the words, 'Atto Hashem.' We turn to You Hashem. We address the King of kings, Creator of the universe directly in the second person. In tefillah, we speak directly to the Holy One, Blessed Be He. In this sense, prayer is on higher spiritual level than any worldly experience."
"That is mind-boggling, Abba."
"It certainly is, Avi. What a privilege we have to communicate with the Almighty - an experience that stands at the very pinnacle of the universe!iiv Gemora Brachos 6b We now continue with the words, 'Elokeinu Velokei Avoseinu' - our G-d and the G-d of our Forefathers."
"Abba, I have two questions for you. Firstly, why do we need to address Hashem with two titles, our G-d, and the G-d of our Forefathers? Secondly, we should mention our holy forefathers first - they were the spiritual giants who founded our nation."
"I see that you are really thinking deeply into these words of prayer, Avi. The Siddur Otzer HaTefillos cites a peirush called Iyun Tefillah, which asks your question. 'Elokeinu' is essentially an expression of our recognition of Hashem as the Master of the world. We begin with our own personal awareness of Hashem in our own lives, as the Novi states, 'I see Hashem from my flesh.'vv Iyov 19:26 'Raise your eyes up high and see Who created this.'vvi Yishaya 40:26 Each and every person must come to his own personal perception of the Almighty's supervision of the world in general, and his own private life in particular. He must then totally submit himself to perform the Will of the Creator. This is the cornerstone of emunah, and it comes first. Only after that, we can come to appreciate the emunah of our forefathers; each one with his unique way that he recognized Hashem and revealed His Presence in this world. They blazed the path for us, and we must learn from their ways. 'Elokei Avraham,' who dedicated his life to demonstrating Hashem's chessed (loving- kindness) in the world, enabled the Almighty to form a bris (covenant) with him. 'Elokei Yitzchak,' who dedicated his life to demonstrating Hashem's gevurah (might) in the world, enabled the Creator to form a bris with him. 'Velokei Yaakov,' who dedicated his life to demonstrating Hashem's emmes (truth) in the world, enabled the Holy One to form a bris with him."vvii Kuntras Avodas HaTefillah p. 20 "We have inherited so much from our forefathers."
"Nothing less than spiritual treasure houses Avi. We continue the bracha by describing those three middos (character traits) that the Avos revealed. They are bracketed by His Name, 'Kel,' which identifies His Almighty Mercy. 'HaGadol' - all of the kindness is His. Every act of loving-kindness that takes place in this world has its source in Him. 'HaGibor' - all of the might is His. The source of every act of din (judgment) in the world is the Almighty. 'ViHaNorah' - the Awesome One. When one perceives the absolute emmes, he experiences feelings of awe. He sees how small he is in comparison to Hashem's master plan. This is what happened to Yaakov Avinu when he dreamed of the ladder that was set on the earth with its top reaching up to heaven. He said, 'How awesome is this place!' (Bereshis 28:17)vviii Siddur Kavannas HaLev p.98, footnote 5."
"I am in awe of the emmes of these words of tefillah Abba."
"So am I, Avi. The blessing now describes how Hashem sends His Goodness down to the world. 'He bestows beneficial kindness.' All of His acts of kindness are totally good, fulfilling their purpose. Man's kindness may be beneficial, or it may not. There is no way to know. However, Hashem's kindness is totally good.iix Abudarham 'And possesses everything' - He renews the acts of creation every day.xx Malbim on Bereshis 14:19 'He recalls the kindness of the Avos' - Hashem preserves the acts of kindness of the Avos, as if they were performed today, in order that we can benefit from them."
"In what way Abba?"
"'He brings a redeemer to their children's children for the sake of His Name, with love.' Two reasons for the coming of Moshiach are mentioned here. Firstly, he will come to us because we are the descendants of the Avos HaKedoshim. Although the zechus (merits of the) Avos may finish, we will still be redeemed, as He promised them.xxi Tur Orach Chaim 113 Secondly, Moshiach's coming will be the ultimate revelation of Hashem's kindness in this world. Then the entire world will see what we already know, that he is our 'King, Helper, Deliverer, and Shield.' He helps our efforts succeed, He delivers us even without any effort on our part, and He shields us from future troubles. 'Blessed are You Hashem, Shield of Avraham.' Avraham Avinu and all of his descendants wear the honor of the Shechina (Divine Presence). This shields us by raising us to an exalted level and placing fear of Am Yisrael in the hearts of the nations throughout the generations. Therefore, we need not close this bracha with anything other than 'Magen Avraham', for once he received the Shechina, it is ours forever."
Kinderlach . . .
Avos is the first and most important bracha of the Amida. It contains the foundations of emunah, Hashem's middos, and His beneficence to the world. It concludes with His promise to redeem us, for the sake of the Avos, and for His sake. His shielding of Avraham continues to protect us to this very day. Kinderlach, concentrate very well on this bracha. May Hashem accept it and all of your tefillos!
i see Kuzari Maamar 3, paragraph 17
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