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How the order of the Amidah (Silent Standing Prayer) was established

Updated: Dec 30, 2021



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§ The baraita cited previously taught that the halakha against reciting a text out of order applies to the Amida prayer as well. The Gemara asks: From where do we derive this? As it is taught in a baraita: Shimon HaPakuli arranged the eighteen blessings of the Amida prayer before Rabban Gamliel in their fixed order in Yavne, which indicates that there is a specific order to these blessings that must not be changed. Rabbi Yoḥanan said, and some say that it was taught in a baraita: A hundred and twenty Elders, i.e., the Men of the Great Assembly, and among them several prophets, established the eighteen blessings of the Amida in their fixed order, which also shows that the order of these blessings may not be changed.


The Gemara proceeds to explain this order: The Sages taught in a baraita: From where is it derived that one says the blessing of the Patriarchs, the first blessing of the Amida? As it is stated: “Ascribe to the Lord, mighty ones” (Psalms 29:1), which means that one should mention before the Lord the mighty ones of the world, i.e., the Patriarchs. And from where is it derived that one then says the blessing of mighty deeds? As it is stated in the continuation of that verse: “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalms 29:1). And from where is it derived that one then says the blessing of holiness? As it is stated in the next verse: “Give to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2).


The Gemara continues: And why did they see fit to institute to say the blessing of understanding after the blessing of holiness? As it is stated: “They shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall revere the God of Israel” (Isaiah 29:23), and adjacent to that verse it is written: “They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding” (Isaiah 29:24). This shows that it is proper for the theme of understanding to follow the theme of God’s holiness. And why did they see fit to institute to say the blessing of repentance after the blessing of understanding? As it is written: “And they will understand with their heart, repent, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10), showing that the theme of repentance properly follows the theme of understanding.


The Gemara asks: If so, that the sequence of blessings is based on this verse, let us say that the blessing of healing should be said after the blessing of repentance. Why, then, is the next blessing in the Amida the blessing of forgiveness and not the blessing of healing? The Gemara explains: This cannot enter your mind, as it is written: “And let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7), which shows that the theme of repentance should be followed by that of forgiveness.


The Gemara poses a question: But what did you see to rely on this verse? Rely on the other verse, which juxtaposes repentance to healing. The Gemara answers: Another verse, in which it is written: “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit” (Psalms 103:3–4), proves that the theme of healing should follow that of forgiveness. The Gemara asks: Is that verse coming to say that the blessings of redemption and healing should be placed following the blessing of forgiveness? But isn’t it written: “Repent, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10), which suggests that repentance should be followed by healing? The Gemara answers: That verse is referring not to the literal healing from illness, but rather to the figurative healing of forgiveness, and therefore this verse too supports the sequence of forgiveness following repentance.


The Gemara continues: And why did they see fit to institute to say the blessing of redemption as the seventh blessing? Rava said: Since there is a tradition that the Jewish people are destined to be redeemed in the seventh year of the Sabbatical cycle, consequently, they fixed redemption as the seventh blessing. But didn’t the Master say in a baraita: In the sixth year of the Sabbatical cycle in the days of the arrival of the Messiah, heavenly sounds will be heard; in the seventh year there will be wars; and upon the conclusion of the seventh year, in the eighth year, the son of David, the Messiah, will come? The redemption will take place not during the seventh year but after it. The Gemara answers: Nevertheless, the war that takes place during the seventh year is also the beginning of the redemption process, and it is therefore correct to say that Israel will be redeemed in the seventh year.


The Gemara continues: And why did they see fit to institute that one says the blessing of healing as the eighth blessing? Rabbi Aḥa said: Since circumcision was assigned to the eighth day of life, and circumcision requires healing, consequently, they established healing as the eighth blessing.


And why did they see fit to institute that one says the blessing of bountiful years as the ninth blessing? Rabbi Alexandri said: This blessing was instituted in reference to those who raise the prices of food. We pray for rain so that the price of produce will not rise as a result of shortages, as it is written: “Break the arm of the wicked” (Psalms 10:15), referring to the wicked, who practice deception and extort the poor. And when David expressed this request, he expressed it in the ninth psalm. Although today it is considered the tenth psalm, the first and second psalms are actually counted as one, and therefore this is the ninth psalm. Therefore, the blessing of the years was fixed as the ninth blessing.


The Gemara asks: And why did they see fit to institute that one says the blessing of the ingathering of the exiles after the blessing of the years? As it is written: “And you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel; for they will soon be coming” (Ezekiel 36:8), which indicates that the ingathering of the exiles will follow after Eretz Yisrael is blessed with bountiful produce. And once the exiles have been gathered, judgment will be meted out to the wicked, as it is stated: “And I will turn my hand against you and purge away your dross as with lye” (Isaiah 1:25), and immediately after it is written: “And I will restore your judges as at first” (Isaiah 1:26). For this reason the blessing of the restoration of judges comes after the blessing of the ingathering of the exiles.


And once judgment is meted out to the wicked, the transgressors, i.e., the heretics and sectarians, will cease to be. Consequently, the next blessing is that of the heretics, and one includes evildoers with them, as it is stated: “And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall cease to be” (Isaiah 1:28). The “transgressors and sinners” are the evildoers, and “they that forsake the Lord” are the heretics.


And once the heretics cease to be, the horn, i.e., the glory, of the righteous will be exalted, as it is written: “All the horns of the wicked will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (Psalms 75:11). Therefore, after the blessing of the heretics, one says the blessing about the righteous. And he includes the righteous converts along with the righteous, as it is stated: “You shall rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the elder” (Leviticus 19:32), and adjacent to this it is stated: “And if a stranger sojourns with you” (Leviticus 19:33). An “elder” is one with Torah wisdom and a “stranger” is one who has converted to Judaism.


And where will the horns of the righteous be exalted? In Jerusalem, as it is stated: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they who love you shall prosper” (Psalms 122:6). “They who love you” are the righteous. Therefore, the blessing of the rebuilding of Jerusalem is placed after the blessing of the righteous. And once Jerusalem is rebuilt, the Messiah, scion of the house of David, will come, as it is stated:


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“Afterward the children of Israel shall return, and seek the Lord their God and David their king” (Hosea 3:5), and consequently, the blessing of the kingdom of David follows the blessing of the building of Jerusalem. And once the scion of David comes, the time for prayer will come, as it is stated: “I will bring them to My sacred mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). Therefore, the blessing of hearing prayer is recited after the blessing of the kingdom of David.


And after prayer comes, the Temple service will arrive, as it is stated in the continuation of that verse: “Their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on My altar” (Isaiah 56:7). The blessing of restoration of the Temple service follows the blessing of hearing prayer. And when the Temple service comes, with it will also come thanksgiving, as it is stated: “Whoever sacrifices a thanks-offering honors Me” (Psalms 50:23), which teaches that thanksgiving follows sacrifice. Therefore, the blessing of thanksgiving follows the blessing of restoration of the Temple service.


And why did they see fit to institute that one says the Priestly Benediction after the blessing of thanksgiving? As it is written: “And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from sacrificing the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings” (Leviticus 9:22), teaching that the Priestly Benediction follows the sacrificial service, which includes the thanks-offering.


The Gemara asks: But the cited verse indicates that Aaron blessed the people and then sacrificed the offerings. Should we not then say the Priestly Benediction before the blessing of the Temple service? The Gemara answers: It should not enter your mind to say this, as it is written: “And he came down from sacrificing the sin-offering.” Is it written that he came down to sacrifice the offerings, implying that after blessing the people Aaron came down and sacrificed the offerings? No, it is written, “from sacrificing,” indicating that the offerings had already been sacrificed.


The Gemara asks: If, as derived from this verse, the Priestly Benediction follows the sacrificial service, the Priestly Benediction should be said immediately after the blessing of restoration of the Temple service, without the interruption of the blessing of thanksgiving. The Gemara rejects this argument: It should not enter your mind to say this, as it is written: “Whoever sacrifices a thanks-offering honors Me,” from which we learn that thanksgiving follows sacrifice, as already explained.


The Gemara asks: What did you see to rely on this verse and juxtapose thanksgiving with sacrifice? Rely rather on the other verse, which indicates that it is the Priestly Benediction that should be juxtaposed with the sacrificial service. The Gemara answers: It stands to reason to have the blessing of thanksgiving immediately following the blessing of the sacrificial service, since the sacrificial service and thanksgiving, which are closely related conceptually, are one matter.


And why did they see fit to institute that one says the blessing beginning with the words: Grant peace, after the Priestly Benediction? As it is written immediately following the Priestly Benediction: “And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). The Priestly Benediction is followed by God’s blessing, and the blessing of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is peace, as it is stated: “The Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psalms 29:11).


The Gemara returns to the baraita cited at the beginning of the discussion: Now, since the baraita teaches that a hundred and twenty Elders, including many prophets, established the Amida prayer in its fixed order, what is it that Shimon HaPakuli arranged in a much later period of time, as related by Rabbi Yoḥanan? The Gemara answers: Indeed, the blessings of the Amida prayer were originally arranged by the hundred and twenty members of the Great Assembly, but over the course of time the people forgot them, and Shimon HaPakuli then arranged them again.


The Gemara comments: These nineteen blessings are a fixed number, and beyond this it is prohibited for one to declare the praises of the Holy One, Blessed be He, by adding additional blessings to the Amida. As Rabbi Elazar said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise?” (Psalms 106:2)? It means: For whom is it fitting to utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Only for one who can declare all His praise. And since no one is capable of declaring all of God’s praises, we must suffice with the set formula established by the Sages.

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