SHEMONEH 'ESREH:(Redirected from BIRKAT HA-MINIM.)
- The Three Groups.
- The Intermediate Blessings.
- The Birkat ha-Minim.
- Concluding Benedictions.
- Variations on Festivals.
- Mode of Prayer.
- The Concluding Section.
- Variants in the Rituals.
- In the Intermediate Blessings.
- Biblical Sources.
- Mishnaic Phraseology.
- Preserved by Memory.
- Choice of the Number Eighteen.
- History of the Prayer.
- Edited by Gamaliel II.
- The Abstracts.
- The Fifteenth Benediction.
- Haggadic Explanation of Sequence.
- The Age of the Concluding Benedictions.
- The "Psalms of the Poor."
- Analogies in Sirach.
- Petition Against Enemies.
- Modifications in "Birkat ha-Minim."
- Method of Recital.
Collection of benedictions forming the second—the Shema' being the first—important section of the daily prayers at the morning ("Shaḥarit"), afternoon ("Minḥah"), and evening ("'Arbit") services, as well as of the additional (Musaf) service on Sabbaths and holy days. Literally, the name means "eighteen"; and its wide use shows that at the time it came into vogue the benedictions ("berakot") comprised in the prayer must have numbered eighteen, though in reality as fixed in the versions recited in the synagogues they number nineteen. As the prayer par excellence, it is designated as the "Tefillah" (prayer), while among the Sephardic Jews it is known as the "'Amidah," i.e., the prayer which the worshiper is commanded to recite standing (see also Zohar, i. 105). The eighteen—now nineteen—benedictions, according to their content and character, are readily grouped as follows: (1) three blessings of praise ("Shebaḥim," Nos. i., ii., iii.); (2) twelve (now thirteen) petitions ("Baḳḳashot," Nos. iv.-xv. [xvi.]), and (3) three concluding ones of thanks ("Hoda'ot," Nos. xvi. [xvii.], xviii., and xix.). The first three and the last three constitute, so to speak, the permanent stock, used at every service; while the middle group varies on Sabbath, New Moons, and holy days from the formula for week-days. The construction of the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" complies with the rabbinical injunction that in every prayer the praises of God must precede private petitions ('Ab. Zarah 6), as the following comment shows: "In the first three [
No. i. of the first group is designated (R. H. iv. 5) as "Abot" = "patriarchs," because the Patriarchs are mentioned, and the love of (or for) them is expressly emphasized therein. Translated, it reads as follows:
"Blessed be Thou, O Lord, our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, the great, the mighty, and the fearful God—God Most High—who bestowest goodly kindnesses, and art the Creator ["Ḳoneh," which signifies primarily "Creator" and then "Owner"] of all, and rememberest the love of [or for] the Fathers and bringest a redeemer for their children's children for the sake of [His] Thy name in love. King, Helper, Savior, and Shield; blessed be Thou, Shield of Abraham"
No. ii. has the name "Geburot" (R. H. iv. 5) = "powers," because it addresses God as the "Ba'al Geburot" and recites His powers, i.e., the resurrection of the dead and the sustentation of the living (comp. Gen. R. xiii.). It is called also "Teḥiyyat ha-Metim" = "the resurrection of the dead." Rain is considered as great a manifestation of power as the resurrection of the dead (Ta'an. 2a); hence in winter a line referring to the descent of rain (Ber. 33a) is inserted in this benediction. The eulogy runs as follows:
"Thou art mighty forever, O Lord ["Adonai," not the Tetragrammaton]: Thou resurrectest the dead; art great to save. Sustaining the living in loving-kindness, resurrecting the dead in abundant mercies, Thou supportest the falling, and healest the sick, and settest free the captives, and keepest [fulfillest] Thy [His] faith to them that sleep in the dust. Who is like Thee, master of mighty deeds [= owner of the powers over life and death], and who may be compared unto Thee? King sending death and reviving again and causing salvation to sprout forth. Thou art surely believed to resurrect the dead. Blessed be Thou, 0 Lord, who revivest the dead."
No. iii. is known as "Ḳedushshat ha-Shem" = "the sanctification of the Name." It is very short, though the variants are numerous (see below). It reads as follows:
"Thou art holy and Thy name is holy, and the holy ones praise Thee every day. Selah. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, the holy God."
At public worship, when the precentor, or, as he is known in Hebrew, the Sheliaḥ Ẓibbur (messenger or deputy of the congregation) , repeats the prayer aloud, the preceding benediction (No. iii.), with the exception of the concluding sentence, "Blessed be Thou," etc., is replaced by the Ḳedushshah.The Intermediate Blessings.
In work-day services the Shemoneh 'Esreh continues with Group 2 ("Baḳḳashot"), supplications referring to the needs of Israel (Sifre, Wezot ha-Berakah, ed. Friedmann, p. 142b).
No. iv., known, from its opening words, as "Attah Ḥonen," or, with reference to its content—a petition for understanding—as."Binah" (Meg. 17b), sometimes also as "BirkatḤokmah" (on account of the word "ḥokmah," now omitted, which occurred in the first phrase) and as "Birkat ha-Ḥol" = "work-day benediction" (Ber. 33a), reads as follows:
"Thou graciously vouchsafest knowledge to man and teachest mortals understanding: vouchsafe unto us from Thee knowledge, understanding, and intelligence. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who vouchsafest knowledge."
No. v. is known as "Teshubah" = "return" (Meg. 17b):
"Lead us back, our Father, to Thy Torah; bring us near, our King, to Thy service, and cause us to return in perfect repentance before Thee. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who acceptest repentance."
No. vi. is the "Seliḥah," the prayer for forgiveness (Meg. 17b):
"Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed: for Thou pardonest and forgivest. Blessed be Thou, O Gracious One, who multipliest forgiveness."
No. vii. is styled "Birkat ha-Ge'ullah," the benediction ending with "Go'el" = "Redeemer" (Meg. 17b):
"Look but upon our affliction and fight our fight and redeem us speedily for the sake of Thy name: for Thou art a strong redeemer. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Redeemer of Israel."
No. viii. is the "Birkat ha-Ḥolim" ('Ab. Zarah 8a), or "Refu'ah" (Meg. 17b), the prayer for the sick or for recovery:
"Heal us and we shall be healed; help us and we shall be helped: for Thou art our joy. Cause Thou to rise up full healings for all our wounds: for Thou, God King, art a true and merciful physician: blessed be Thou, O Lord, who healest the sick of His people Israel."
No. ix. is the "Birkat ha-Shanim" (Meg. 17b), the petition that the year may be fruitful:
"Bless for us, O Lord our God, this year and all kinds of its yield for [our] good; and shower down [in winter, "dew and rain for"] a blessing upon the face of the earth: fulfill us of Thy bounty and bless this our year that it be as the good years. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who blessest the years."
No. x. is the benediction in regard to the "Ḳibbuẓ Galuyot," the gathering of the Jews of the Diaspora (Meg. 17b):
"Blow the great trumpet [see Shofar] for our liberation, and lift a banner to gather our exiles, and gather us into one body from the four corners of the earth; blessed be Thou, O Lord, who gatherest the dispersed of Thy [His] people Israel."
No. xi. is the "Birkat ha-Din," the petition for justice (Meg. 17b):
The Birkat ha-Minim.
"Restore our judges as of yore, and our counselors as in the beginning, and remove from us grief and sighing. Reign Thou over us, O Lord, alone in loving-kindness and mercy, and establish our innocence by the judgment. Blessed be Thou, O Lord the King, who lovest righteousness and justice."
No. xii. is the "Birkat ha-Minim" or "ha-Ẓadduḳim" (Ber. 28b; Meg. 17b; Yer. Ber. iv.), the prayer against heretics and Sadducees (and traducers, informers, and traitors):
"May no hope be left to the slanderers; but may wickedness perish as in a moment; may all Thine enemies be soon cut off, and do Thou speedily uproot the haughty and shatter and humble them speedily in our days. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who strikest down enemies and humblest the haughty"
No. xiii. is a prayer in behalf of the "Ẓaddiḳim" = "pious" (Meg. 17b):
"May Thy mercies, O Lord our God, be stirred over the righteous and over the pious and over the elders of Thy people, the House of Israel, and over the remnant of their scribes, and over the righteous proselytes, and over us, and bestow a goodly reward upon them who truly confide in Thy name; and assign us our portion with them forever; and may we not come to shame for that we have trusted in Thee. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, support and reliance for the righteous."
No. xiv. is a prayer in behalf of Jerusalem:
"To Jerusalem Thy city return Thou in mercy and dwell in her midst as Thou hast spoken, and build her speedily in our days as an everlasting structure and soon establish there the throne of David. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, the builder of Jerusalem."
No. xv. begins with "Et Ẓemaḥ Dawid" (Meg. 18a), and is so entitled. It is a prayer for the rise of David's sprout, i.e., the Messianic king. At one time it must have formed part of the preceding benediction (see below). It reads:
"The sprout of David Thy servant speedily cause Thou to sprout up; and his horn do Thou uplift through Thy victorious salvation; for Thy salvation we are hoping every day. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who causest the horn of salvation to sprout forth."
No. xvi. is denominated simply "Tefillah"= "prayer" (Meg. 18a). It is a supplication that the preceding prayers may be answered:
"Hear our voice, O Lord our God, spare and have mercy on us, and accept in mercy and favor our prayer. For a God that heareth prayers and supplications art Thou. From before Thee, O our King, do not turn us away empty-handed. For Thou hearest the prayer of Thy people Israel in mercy. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who hearest prayer."
No. xvii. is termed the "'Abodah" = "sacrificial service" (Ber. 29b; Shab. 24a; R. H. 12a; Meg. 18a; Soṭah 38b; Tamid 32b):
"Be pleased, O Lord our God, with Thy people Israel and their prayer, and return [i.e., reestablish] the sacrificial service to the altar of Thy House, and the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer [offered] in love accept Thou with favor, and may the sacrificial service of Israel Thy people be ever acceptable to Thee. And may our eyes behold Thy merciful return to Zion. Blessed be Thou who restorest Thy [His] Shekinah to Zion."
No. xviii. is the "Hoda'ah" = a "confession" or "thanksgiving" (Meg. 18a; Ber. 29a, 34a; Shab. 24a; Soṭah 68b; see also Articles of Faith):Concluding Benedictions.
"We acknowledge to Thee, O Lord, that Thou art our God as Thou wast the God of our fathers, forever and ever. Rock of our life, Shield of our help, Thou art immutable from age to age. We thank Thee and utter Thy praise, for our lives that are [delivered over] into Thy hands and for our souls that are entrusted to Thee; and for Thy miracles that are [wrought] with us every day and for Thy marvelously [marvels and] kind deeds that are of every time; evening and morning and noon-tide. Thou art [the] good, for Thy mercies are endless: Thou art [the] merciful, for Thy kindnesses never are complete: from everlasting we have hoped in Thee. And for all these things may Thy name be blessed and exalted always and forevermore. And all the living will give thanks unto Thee and praise Thy great name in truth, God, our salvation and help. Selah. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, Thy name is good, and to Thee it is meet to give thanks."
After this at public prayer in the morning the priestly blessing is added.
No. xix., however, is a résumé of this blessing. The benediction exists in various forms, the fuller one being used (in the German ritual) in the morning service alone (Meg. 18a), as follows:
"Bestow peace, happiness, and blessing, grace, loving-kindness, and mercy upon us and upon all Israel Thy people: bless us, our Father, even all of us, by the light of Thy countenance, for by this light of Thy countenance Thou gavest us, O Lord our God, the law of life, loving-kindness, and righteousness,and blessing and mercy, life and peace. May it be good in Thine eyes to bless Thy people Israel in every time and at every hour with Thy peace. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who blessest Thy [His] people Israel with peace."
The shorter form reads thus:
"Mayest Thou bestow much peace upon Thy people Israel forever. For Thou art the immutable King, the Master unto all peace. May it be good in Thine eyes to bless" (and so forth as in the preceding form).
For the Sabbath, the middle supplications are replaced by one, so that the Sabbath "Tefillah" is composed of seven benedictions. This one speaks of the sanctity of the day (Ber. 29a; Yer. Ber. iv. 3). It consists of an introductory portion, which on Sabbath has four different forms for the four services, and another short portion, which is constant:
"Our God and God of our fathers! be pleased with our rest; sanctify us by Thy commandments, give us a share in Thy law, satiate us of Thy bounty, and gladden us in Thy salvation; and cleanse our hearts to serve Thee in truth: let us inherit, O Lord our God, in love and favor, Thy holy Sabbath, and may Israel, who hallows [loves] Thy name, rest thereon. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who sanctifiest the Sabbath."
On Sabbath-eve after the congregation has read the "Tefillah" silently, the reader repeats aloud the so-called "Me-'En Sheba'," or summary (Ber. 29, 57b; Pes. 104a) of the seven blessings (Shab. 24b; Rashi ad loc.). The reason given for this is the fear lest by tarrying too long or alone in the synagogue on the eve of the Sabbath the worshiper may come to harm at the hands of evil spirits. This abstract opens like No. i., using, however, the words "Creator [Owner] of heaven and earth" where No. i. has "Creator of all," and omitting those immediately preceding "bestowest goodly kindnesses." The congregation then continues:
"Shield of the fathers by His word, reviving the dead by His command, the holy God to whom none is like; who causeth His people to rest on His holy Sabbath-day, for in them He took delight to cause them to rest. Before Him we shall worship in reverence and fear. We shall render thanks to His name on every day constantly in the manner of the benedictions. God of the 'acknowledgments,' Lord of 'Peace,' who sanctifleth the Sabbath and blesseth the seventh [day] and causeth the people who are filled with Sabbath delight to rest as a memorial of the work in the beginning [Creation]."
Then the reader concludes with the "Reẓeh," the middle Sabbath eulogy.
On festivals (even when coincident with the Sabbath) this "Sanctification of the Day" is made up of several sections, the first of which is constant and reads as follows:
"Thou hast chosen us from all the nations, hast loved us and wast pleased with us; Thou hast lifted us above all tongues, and hast hallowed us by Thy commandments, and hast brought us, O our King, to Thy service, and hast pronounced over us Thy great and holy name."
Then follows a paragraph naming the special festival and its special character, and, if the Sabbath coincides therewith, it is mentioned before the feast. For Passover the wording is as follows:Variations on Festivals.
"And Thou hast given us, O Lord our God, in love [Sabbaths for rest,] set times and seasons for joy, [this Sabbath-day, the day of our rest, and] this day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the season of our deliverance, a holy convocation, a memorial of the exodus from Egypt."
For the other festivals the respective changes in the phrase printed above in italics are the following:
"this day of the Feast of Weeks—the day when our Torah was given"; "this day of the Feast of Booths—the day of our gladness"; "this eighth day, the concluding day of the feast—the day of our gladness"; "this Day of Memorial, a day of alarm-sound [shofar-blowing; i.e., on Rosh ha-Shanah]"; "this Day of Atonement for forgiveness and atonement, and to pardon thereon all our iniquities."
On New Moons and on the middle days of Pesaḥ or Sukkot, as well as on the holy days, the "Ya'aleh we-yabo" (= "Rise and come") is inserted in the "'Abodah," the name of the day appearing in each case in its proper place. The Sabbath is never referred to in this prayer, and it forms part of every service save the additional or Musaf:
"Our God and God of our fathers! may the remembrance of ourselves and our fathers, and of Thy anointed servant the son of David, and of Thy holy city Jerusalem, and of all Israel Thy people, rise and come [hence the name of the prayer], be seen, heard, etc., before Thee on this day . . . for deliverance, happiness, life, and peace; remember us thereon, O Lord our God, for happiness, visit us for blessings, save us unto life, and with words of help and mercy spare and favor us, show us mercy! Save us, for to Thee our eyes are turned. Thou art the gracious and merciful God and King."
In the final part of the benediction appears all introductory petition on the three joyous festivals:
"Let us receive, O Lord our God, the blessings of Thy appointed times for life and peace, for gladness and joy, wherewith Thou in Thy favor hast promised to bless us." (Then follows the "Reẓeh" [see above], with such variations from the Sabbath formula as: "in gladness and joy" for "in love and favor"; "rejoice" for "rest"; and "Israel and Thy" or "the holy seasons" for "the Sabbath.")
On Rosh ha-Shanah a prayer for the coming of the kingdom of heaven is added at the close of this benediction (for its text see the prayer-books and Dembitz, l.c. p. 145). On the Day of Atonement the petition solicits pardon for sins (Dembitz, l.c. p. 146). A Habdalah is inserted on Saturday night in the "Sanctification of the Day" when a festival—and this can never happen with the Day of Atonement—falls on a Sunday. The form in use is somewhat longer than that given in the Talmud, where it is called "a pearl" on account of its sentiment (Ber. 33b; Beẓah 17a). Insertions are made in the six constant benedictions on certain occasions, as follows: During the ten days of Teshubah, i.e., the first ten days of Tishri, in No. i., after "in love" is inserted "Remember us for life, O King who delightest in life, and inscribe us into the book of life; for Thy sake, O God of life"; in No. ii., after "salvation to sprout forth," "Who is like Thee, Father of mercies, who rememberest His [Thy] creatures unto life in mercy?"; in No. iii., "holy King," in place of "holy God" at the close; in No. xviii., before the concluding paragraph, "O inscribe for a happy life all the sons of Thy covenant"; in No. xix., before the end, "May we be remembered and inscribed in the book of life, of blessing, of peace, and of good sustenance, we and all Thy people, the whole house of Israel, yea, for happy life and for peace"; and the close (in the German ritual) is changed to "Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who makest peace." In the "Ne'ilah" (concluding) service for the Day of Atonement, "inscribe" is changed to "seal." On the two "solemn days" ("Yamim Nora'im") a petition for the kingdom of heaven is inserted in No. iii. (see the translation in Dembitz, l.c. p. 122), and the concludingphrase of this eulogy also is changed: "Thou art holy, and Thy name is fearful, and there is no God besides Thee, as it is written [Isa. v. 16], 'The Lord God is exalted in judgment, and the Holy God is sanctified in righteousness.' Blessed be Thou, O Lord, the Holy King." In fall and winter, in No. ii., after the words "Thou resurrectest the dead and art great to save" is inserted the words: "Thou causest the wind to blow and the rain to descend." On New Moons and middle days, except in the Musaf, the "Ya'aleh we-yabo" (see above) is inserted in the "'Abodah" before "bring back." On Ḥanukkah and Purim special thanks are inserted in No. xviii. after the words "from everlasting we have hoped in Thee." These narrate the wonderful occurrences which the day recalls. On fast-days, after No. vi. a special supplication is recited, beginning with "Answer us, O Lord, answer us"; and in No. vii., the prayer for the sick, one desirous of remembering a sick person interpolates a brief "Yehi Raẓon" (= "May it be Thy will") to that effect. On the Ninth of Ab in the Minḥah service a supplication is introduced into No. xv. for the consolation of those that mourn for Zion. In No. xvi., as well as in the Minḥah and the silent prayer, the fast-day appeal might be inserted.
The "Hoda'ah" (No. xviii.) has a second version, styled the "Modim de-Rabbanan" and reading as follows:
"We confess this before Thee that Thou art immutable, God our God and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh. Our Creator, the Creator of all in the beginning: [we offer] benedictions and thanksgivings unto Thy name, the great and holy One, because Thou hast kept us alive and preserved us. Even so do Thou keep us alive and preserve us, and gather together our exiles to Thy holy courts to keep thy statutes and to do Thy will and to serve Thee with a fully devoted heart, for which we render thanks unto Thee. Blessed be the God of the thanksgivings."
As the title suggests, this is an anthology of various thanksgiving prayers composed by the Rabbis (Soṭah 9a). The close is not found in the Talmudical passage cited, nor does it appear in the "Siddur" of Rab Amram or in the formula given by Maimonides and others; but it is taken from Yer. Ber. i. 7. A somewhat different opening, "We confess and bow down and kneel," is preserved in the Roman Maḥzor.
Before the priestly blessing (originally in the morning service, but now in the additional service, and in the Minḥah service on the Ninth of Ab or on any other public fast-day), whenever "the priests" ("kohanim") are expected to recite the priestly blessing (see Dukan), the leader reads in the "'Abodah":
"May our supplication be pleasing in Thy sight like burnt offering and sacrifice. O Thou Merciful Being, in Thy great mercy restore Thy Shekinah to Zion and the order of service to Jerusalem. May our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy, and there we shall serve Thee in awe, as in the days of old and in former years"
He then ends the benediction as usual and reads the "Modim" as well as the introduction to the priestly blessing (see Blessing, Priestly):
"Our God and God of our fathers, bless us with the blessing which, tripartite in the Torah, was written by the hands of Moses, Thy servant, and was spoken by Aaron and his sons the priests, Thy holy people, as follows [at this point the priests say aloud]: "Blessed be Thou, O Eternal our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us with the sacredness of Aaron and hast commanded us in love to bless Thy (His) people Israel."
Thereupon they intone the blessing after the leader, word for word:
"'May the Eternal bless thee and keep thee.
'May the Eternal let His countenance shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee.
'May the Eternal lift up His countenance toward thee and give thee peace.'"
After each section the people usually answer, "Ken yehi raẓon!" (= "May such be [Thy] will!"); but when the kohanim perform this function (on the holy days) those present answer, "Amen." On the morning of the Ninth of Ab the kohanim may not pronounce the blessing, nor may the precentor read it.Mode of Prayer.
The "Shemoneh 'Esreh" is first prayed silently by the congregation and then repeated by the reader aloud. In attitude of body and in the holding of the hands devotion is to be expressed (see Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 95 et seq.). Interruptions are to be strictly avoided (ib. 104). In places and situations where there is grave danger of interruptions, a shorter form is permissible comprising the first three and the last three benedictions and between them only the "Attah Ḥonen," the petition for understanding (No. iv.; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 110).
The "Shemoneh 'Esreh" is prefaced by the verse "O Eternal, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Thy praise" (Ps. li. 17; see Ber. 4b). At one time two other Biblical passages (Ps. lxv. 3 and Deut. xxxii. 3) were recited, one before and the other after the verse now retained. But this was considered to break the connection between the "Ge'ullah" (the preceding eulogy, the last in the "Shema'" ending with "Ga'al Yisrael") and the "Tefillah"; and such an interruption was deemed inadmissible, as even an "Amen" was not to be spoken before the words "O Eternal, open my lips," in order that this verse might be considered to belong to the preceding "Ge'ullah" and to form with it a "long Ge'ullah" (
"My God, keep my tongue and my lips from speaking deceit, and to them that curse me let me [Hebr. "my soul"] be silent, and me [my soul] be like dust to all. Open my heart in Thy Torah, and after [in] Thy commandments let me [my soul] pursue. As for those that think evil of [against] me speedily thwart their counsel and destroy their plots. Do [this] for Thy name's sake, do this for Thy right hand's sake, do this for the sake of Thy holiness, do this for the sake of Thy Torah. That Thy beloved ones may rejoice, let Thy right hand bring on help [salvation] and answer me. [For the formula here given beginning with "Do this," another one was used expressive of the wish that the Temple might be rebuilt, that the Messiah might come, that God's people might be ransomed, and that His congregation might be gladdened. The angels also were invoked; and the appeal was summed up: "Do it for Thy sake, if not forours."] May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Eternal, my rock and my redeemer."
At these words, three steps backward were taken (see Oraḥ Ḥayyim, l.c. 123), and then this was recited:
The Concluding Section.
"He who maketh peace in the heights, He will establish peace upon us and upon all Israel, and thereupon say ye 'Amen.'"
Then followed a final phrase praying for the rebuilding of the Temple so that Israel might sacrifice again, to the sweet gratification of God as of yore. The worshiper was bidden to remain at the place whither his three backward steps had brought him for the space of time which would be required for traversing a space of four ells, or, if at public prayer-service, until the precentor, in the loud repetition, intoned the "Ḳedushshah."
In the "Tefillah" for the additional service the constant parts are always retained. On Rosh ha-Shanah there are three middle benedictions (according to R. H. iv. 5; comp. Ta'an. ii. 3 for fast-days): (1) "Fathers"; (2) "Powers"; (3) "Holiness of the Name" with addition of the "Kingdoms"; (4) "Sanctifications of the Day," the shofar being blown; (5) "Remembrances" (with shofar); (6) "Shofarot" (the shofar is blown); (7) "'Abodah"; (8) "Hoda'ot"; (9) Blessings of the kohanim. According to R. Akiba, "Kingdoms," i.e., verses recognizing God as king, must always go with "Blowings"; therefore he rearranges the benedictions as follows: (1), (2), (3) "Holiness"; (4) "Sanctifications" and "Kingdoms" (with blasts of the shofar); (5) "Remembrances," i.e., verses in which God is shown to be mindful of mankind and of Israel (with blasts); (6) "Shofarot," i.e., verses in which the shofar is named literally or figuratively; (7), (8), and (9). On Sabbaths and holy days there is only one middle benediction, an enlarged "Sanctification of the Day." The last part is modified on New Moon. If New Moon falls on a week-day, there is, of course, no "Sanctification of the Day"; but there is a special benediction, the introduction consisting of regrets for the cessation of the sacrifices, and the principal part of it being a petition for the blessing of the New Moon:
"Our God and God of our fathers, renew for us this month for happiness and blessing [Amen], for joy and gladness [Amen], for salvation and comfort [Amen], for provision and sustenance [Amen], for life and peace [Amen], for pardon of sin and forgiveness of transgression [Amen]."
According to the German ritual, when Sabbath and New Moon coincide, the "Sanctification of the Day" is omitted; but a somewhat more impressive prayer is recited, referring to God's creation of the world, His completion thereof on the seventh day, His choice of Israel, and His appointment of Sabbaths for rest and New Moons for atonement; declaring that exile is the punishment for sins of the fathers; and supplicating for the restoration of Israel.
On an ordinary Sabbath the middle benediction, in a labored acrostic composition in the inverted order of the alphabet, recalls the sacrifices ordained for the Sabbath, and petitions for restoration in order that Israel may once more offer the sacrifices as prescribed, the prayer concluding with an exaltation of the Sabbath. In the festival liturgy the request for the restoring of the sacrificial service emphasizes still more the idea that the Exile was caused by "our sins" ("umi-pene ḥaṭa'enu"):
"On account of our sins have we been exiled from our country and removed from our land, and we are no longer able [to go up and appear and] to worship and perform our duty before Thee in the House of Thy choice," etc.
On the three pilgrim festivals another supplication for the rebuilding of the Temple is added to the foregoing, with quotation of the Pentateuchal injunction (Deut. xvi. 16, 17) regarding appearance before God on those days.
The additional for the middle days (the workdays) of Pesaḥ and Sukkot is the same as that for the feasts proper, and is read even on the Sabbath.
The following are some of the more important variants in the different rituals:Variants in the Rituals.
In No. v. ("Lead us back, our Father," etc.) Saadia, Maimonides, and the Italian Maḥzor read "Lead us back, our Father, to Thy Torah, through our clinging to Thy commandments, and bring us near," etc.
The Sephardim shorten the last benediction in the evening and morning services of the Ninth of Ab to this brief phrasing:
"Thou who makest peace, bless Thy people Israel with much strength and peace, for Thou art the Lord of peace. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, maker of peace."
In No. ix. (the benediction for the year) the words "dew and rain" are inserted during the term from the sixtieth day after the autumnal equinox to Passover. The Sephardic ritual has two distinct versions: one for the season when dew is asked for, and the other when rain is expected. The former has this form:
"Bless us, O our Father, in all the work of our hands, and bless our year with gracious, blessed, and kindly dews: be its outcome life, plenty, and peace as in the good years, for Thou, O Eternal, art good and doest good and blessest the years. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who blessest the years."
In the rainy season (in winter) the phraseology is changed to read:
"Bless upon us, O Eternal our God, this year and all kinds of its produce for goodness, and bestow dew and rain for blessing on all the face of the earth; and make abundant the face of the world and fulfil the whole of Thy goodness. Fill our hands with Thy blessings and the richness of the gifts of Thy hands. Preserve and save this year from all evil and from all kinds of destroyers and from all sorts of punishments: and establish for it good hope and as its outcome peace. Spare it and have mercy upon it and all of its harvest and its fruits, and bless it with rains of favor, blessing, and generosity; and let its issue be life, plenty, and peace as in the blessed good years; for Thou, O Eternal" (etc., as in the form given above for the season of the dew).
In No. xiii. the Sephardic ritual introduces before "the elders" the phrase "and on the remnant of Thy people, the house of Israel," while in some editions these words are entirely omitted, and before the conclusion this sentence is inserted: "on Thy great loving-kindness in truth do we rely for support."
No. xiv. among the Sephardim reads:
"[Thou wilt] dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, Thy city, as Thou hast spoken [promised], and the throne of David Thy servant speedily in its midst [Thou wilt] establish, and build it an everlasting building soon in our days. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who buildest Jerusalem."
This reading is that of Maimonides, while the Ashkenazim adopted that of Rab Amram.
In No. xvi. God is addressed as "Ab ha-Raḥman" = "the Merciful Father." Before the conclusion is inserted "Be gracious unto us and answer us and hear our prayer, for Thou hearest the prayer of every mouth" (the "'Aruk," under
Verbal changes, not materially affecting the meaning, occur also in the "Ya'aleh we-Yabo" (for New Moons, etc.). But before "May our eyes behold" the Sephardim insert "and Thou in Thy great mercy ["wilt" or "dost"] take delight in us and show us favor," while Saadia Gaon adds before the conclusion ("Blessed be," etc.): "and Thou wilt take delight in us as of yore."
Slight verbal modifications are found also in the Sephardic "Hoda'ah"; e.g., "and they [the living] shall praise and bless Thy great name in truth forever; for good [is] the God, our help and our aid, Selah, the God, the Good." Abudarham quotes, "and Thy name be exalted constantly and forever and aye"; while Saadia's version reads: "on account of all, be Thou blessed and exalted; for Thou art the Only One in the universe, and there is none besides Thee." The Roman Maḥzor inserts before "and for all these" the following: "Thou hast not put us to shame, O Eternal our God, and Thou hast not hidden Thy face from us." And so in the final benediction—for which the Sephardim always use the formula beginning with "Sim shalom," never that with "Shalom rab"—among the blessings asked for is included that for "much strength," one not found in the German ritual. Maimonides and Amram likewise do not use the formula beginning with the words "Shalom rab." Following Amram, Saadia, and Maimonides, the Sephardim read: "Torah and life, love and kindness" where the German ritual presents the construct case: "Torah of life and love of kindness."In the Intermediate Blessings.
Moreover, in the Sephardic ritual a number of individual petitions are admitted in various benedictions, which is not the case in the Ashkenazic. In the introduction to the "Sanctification of the Day" (benediction No. iv.) for the Sabbath the Sephardim add on Friday evening lines which the Ashkenazim include only in the additional service (see Dembitz, l.c. p. 141). For the middle benediction of the Musaf the Sephardim have a simpler form (ib. p. 149). While the Germans quote in the prayer the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the sacrifices, the Sephardim omit it. In praying for the new month the Portuguese ritual adds: "May this month be the last of all our troubles, a beginning of our redemption." (For differences in the Musaf for Sabbath and New Moon see Dembitz, l.c. p. 153.)
In the Vitry Maḥzor's reading the conjunction "waw" is frequently dropped, much to the improvement of the diction. In benediction No. ii. God is addressed as "Maẓmiaḥ Lanu Yeshu'ah," "causing salvation to sprout forth 'for us'"; while in No. iii. the prefixing of the definite article to the adjective gives the context a new significance, viz., not "Thy name is holy," but "Thy name is 'the Holy One.'" In No. iv. the word "ḥokmah" is presented in addition to "binah" and "de'ah," i.e., "understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and reason." In No. vi. the Vitry, Maḥzor has "a God good and forgiving art Thou" instead of "pardoning and forgiving," thus conforming with the readings of Amram, Maimonides, and the Roman Maḥzor.
In No. viii. after "our wounds" follows "our sicknesses." In No. x. for "Blow the great shofar" this version reads "Gather us from the four corners of all the earth into our land," which is found also in the Sephardic ritual and in Amram and Maimonides.
No. xv. is presented as in the Sephardic form (see above), but with the addition:
"And may our prayers be sweet before Thee like the burnt offering and like the sacrifice. O be merciful, in Thy great mercies bring back Thy Shekinah to Zion and rearrange the sacrificial service for Jerusalem, and do Thou in mercy have yearnings for us and be pleased with us. And may our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy as of yore."
So, also, Saadia: "and Thou wilt be pleased with us as of yore." The "Modim" is given in an abbreviated form; and in the last benediction the words "on every day" are inserted before "at all times."
A great variety of readings is preserved in the case of benediction No. iii. In the Roman Maḥzor the phraseology is: "From generation to generation we shall proclaim God King, for He alone is exalted and holy; and Thy praise, O our God, shall not depart from our mouth forever and aye, for a God great and holy art Thou. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, the holy God." This is also Amram's language; but in Saadia's ritual is presented: "Thou art holy and Thy name is holy, and Thy memorial ["zeker"] is holy, and Thy throne is holy, and the holy ones every day will praise Thee, Selah. Blessed be Thou, God, the Holy One." Maimonides confirms this version, though he omits the words "Thy memorial is holy . . . and Thy throne is holy." In Sifre, Deut. 343 this benediction is quoted as "Holy art Thou and awe-inspiring Thy name," which is the Ashkenazic reading for Rosh ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement.
No. vii., "Tefillat Ta'anit," the prayer for fast-days (Ta'an. 11b, 13b), has come down in various recensions. In the "'Aruk," under
"Answer us, our Father, answer us in this time and distress of ours, for we are in great trouble. O do not hide Thyself from our supplication, for Thou answerest in time of trouble and tribulation, as it is written, 'and they cried unto
Yhwhin their need and from their tribulations did He save them.' Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who answerest in time of trouble."
The formula given by Maimonides differs from this, as it does from those in vogue among the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim respectively, which in turn disagree with each other. Maimonides has this reading:
"Answer us, O our Father, answer us on the fast-day of our affliction, for we are in great distress. Do not hide Thy facefrom us, and do not shut Thine ear from hearing our petition, and be near unto our cry. Before we call, do Thou answer; we speak, do Thou hear like the word in which it is spoken: 'and it shall be before they will call I shall answer; while still they are speaking I shall hear.' For Thou dost hear the prayer of every mouth. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who hearest prayer."
When, however, the reader repeated the prayer aloud, between vii. and viii., on reaching "for Thou dost hear," etc., he substituted "Thou art a God answering in time of trouble, ransoming and saving in all time of trouble and tribulation. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who answerest in time of trouble." The Sephardic recension has the following:
"Answer us, O our Father, answer us on this fast-day of affliction; for we are in great distress. Do not turn to our wickedness, and do not hide, O our King, from our supplication. Be, O be, near to our cry before we call unto Thee. Thou, yea Thou, wilt answer; we shall speak, Thou, yea Thou, wilt hear, according to the word which was spoken: 'It shall be before they will call I shall answer; while still they are speaking I shall hear.' For Thou art a God ransoming and helping and answering and showing mercy in all time of trouble and distress."
The German ritual adds: "do not hide Thy face from us"; and again: "May Thy loving-kindness be [shown] to console us."
The petition for healing (No. viii.) appears with altered expressions in the Sephardic ritual, the words for "healing" being the unusual "arukah" and "marpe." Again, "our sicknesses" takes the place of "our sores or wounds." So, also, in Maimonides' ritual, which moreover after the added "and all our pains" has "for a God [omitting "King"] healing, merciful, and trustworthy art Thou."
On the whole the language of the eighteen (nineteen) benedictions is Biblical, and in phraseology is more especially similar to that of the Psalms. The following analysis may indicate the Biblical passages underlying the "Tefillah":Biblical Sources.
- Benediction No. i.: "Blessed be Thou, our God and the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" recalls Ex. iii. 15 (comp. Mek., Bo, 16). "The high God," Gen. xiv. 19. God "great, mighty, and awe-inspiring," Deut. x. 17 (comp. Ber. 33b; Soṭah 69b). "Creator of all," Gen. xiv. 19. "Bringing a redeemer," Isa. lix. 20. "Shield of Abraham," Ps. vii. 11; xviii. 3, 36; lxxxiv. 10; Gen. xv. 1.
- No. ii.: "Supportest the falling," Ps. cxlv. 14. "Healest the sick," Ex. xv. 26. "Settest free the captives," Ps. cxlvi. 7. "Keepest his faith" = "keepeth truth forever," ib. cxlvi. 6 (comp. Dan. xii. 2). "Killing and reviving," I Sam. ii. 6.
- No. iii.: "Thou art holy," Ps. xxii. 4. "The holy ones," ib. xvi. 3. "[They shall] praise Thee" = sing the "Hallel" phrase, which is a technical Psalm term and hence followed by Selah.
- No. iv.: "Thou graciously vouchsafest" is a typical Psalm idiom, the corresponding verb occurring perhaps more than 100 times in the psalter. "Understanding," Isa. xxix. 23; Jer. iii. 15; Ps. xciv. 10.
- No. v.: "Repentance," Isa. vi. 10, 13; lv. 7.
- No. vi.: "Pardon," ib. lv. 7.
- No. vii.: "Behold our distress," Ps. ix. 14, xxv. 18, cix. 153. "Fight our fight," ib. xxxv. 1, xliii. 1, lxxiv. 22. "And redeem us," ib. cix. 154 (comp. Lam. iii. 58).
- No. viii.: "Heal," Jer. xvii. 14 (comp. ib. xxx. 17). Maimonides' reading, "all of our sicknesses," is based on Ps. ciii. 3.
- No. ix.: Compare ib. lxv. 5, 12; ciii. 5; Jer. xxxi. 14.
- No. x.: "Gather our exiles," Isa. xi. 12, xxvii. 13, xliii. 5, xlv. 20, lx. 9; Jer. li. 27; Deut. xxx. 4; Mic. iv. 6; Ps. cxlvii. 2.
- No. xi.: "Reestablish our judges," Isa. i. 26. "In loving-kindness and mercy," Hos. ii. 21. "King who lovest righteousness and justice," Ps. xxxiii. 5, xcix. 4; Isa. lxi. 8 (comp. also Isa. xxxv. 10, li. 11; Ps. cxlvi. 10).
- No. xii.: The expression "zedim" is a very familiar one of almost technical significance in the "Psalms of the poor" (for other expressions compare Ps. lxxxi. 15; Isa. xxv. 5).
- No. xiii.: For some of the words of this benediction compare Jer. xxxi. 20; Isa. lxiii. 15; Ps. xxii. 6, xxv. 2, lxxi. 5, cxliii. 8; Eccl. vi. 9.
- No. xiv.: Zech. viii. 3; Ps. cxlvii. 2, lxxxix. 36-37, cxxii. 5.
- No. xv.: Hos. iii. 5; Isa. lvi. 7; Ps. l. 23, cxii. 9; Gen. xlix. 18; Ps. lxxxix. 4, 18, 21, 26; xxv. 5; Ezek. xxix. 21, xxxiv. 23; Ps. cxxxii. 17; Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii. 15; Ps. cxxxii. 10.
- No. xvi.: Ps. lxv. 3.
- No. xvii.: Mic. iv. 11.
- No. xviii.: I Chron. xxix. 13; II Sam. xxii. 36; Ps. lxxix. 13; Lam. iii. 22; Ps. xxxviii. 6 (on the strength of which was printed the emendation "Ha-Mufḳadot" for the "Ha-Peḳudot"); Jer. x. 6.
- No. xix.: Ps. xxix. 10; Num. vi. 27; Mic. vi. 8; Ps. cix. 165, cxxv. 5.
While in the main the language is Biblical, yet some use is made of mishnaic words; for example, "teshubah," as denoting "repentance," and the hif'il "hasheb" have a synonym, "we-ha-ḥazir" (in No. v.), in which sense the root is not found in Biblical Hebrew. The expression "meḥal" (vocalized "meḥol") is altogether mishnaic (Yoma vii. 1; Ket. 17a; Ber. 28a; Shab. 30a; Ta'an. 20b; Sanh. 107a). "Nissim," for "wonders," "miracles," has a significance which the Biblical word "nes" does not possess (Ab. v.; Ber. ix. 1; Niddah 31a). So also the term "sha'ah," an adaptation from the Aramaic, occurs as the equivalent of the Hebrew "rega'" = "moment" (secondarily, "hour"). "Peleṭat soferim" is a rabbinical designation (Meg. Ta'an. xii.; Yer. Ta'an. 66a), while "ḥerut" = "freedom" is another late Hebrew term. "Gere ha-ẓedeḳ" is the late technical term for Proselytes.
The language of the "Tefillah" would thus point to the mishnaic period, both before and after the destruction of the Temple, as the probable time of its composition and compilation. That the Mishnah fails to record the text or to give other definite and coherent directions concerning the prayer except sporadically, indicates that when the Mishnah was finally compiled the benedictions were so well known that it was unnecessary to prescribe their text andcontent (Maimonides on Men. iv. 1b, quoted by Elbogen, "Gesch. des Achtzehngebetes"), although the aversion to making prayer a matter of rigor and fixed formula may perhaps have had a part in the neglect of the Mishnah. That this aversion continued keen down to a comparatively late period is evidenced by the protests of R. Eliezer (Ber. 28a) and R. Simeon ben Yoḥai (Ab. ii. 13). R. Jose held that one should include something new in one's prayer every day (Yer. Ber. 8b), a principle said to have been carried into practise by R. Eleazar and R. Abbahu (ib.). Prayer was not to be read as one would read a letter (ib.).
While the Mishnah seems to have known the general content and sequence of the benedictions, much latitude prevailed as regards personal deviations in phraseology, at all events; so that men's learning or the reverse could be judged by the manner in which they worded the benedictions (Tos. to Ber. i. 7).Preserved by Memory.
Prayers were not reduced to writing (Shab. 115b; Yer. Shab. 15c). Not until the times of the Masseket Soferim were written prayer-manuals in existence (see Zunz, "Ritus," p. 11). Hence the necessity of resorting to mnemonic verses in order to prevent too much variety—a method employed even by very late authorities. For instance, the "Ṭur" gives the verse Isa. vi. 3, containing fourteen words, as a reminder that benediction No. iii. contains the same number of words. For No. iv., Ex. xxviii. 3 is the reminder that only seventeen words (excluding "ḥokmah") are admissible. The number of words in No. v., namely, fifteen, is recalled by the similar number of words in Isa. lv. 7 or ib. vi. 13, which proves the correctness of the German text.
The "Kol Bo" states that No. vii. has eighteen words, as has the verse Ex. xvi. 25; and this would justify the insertion of the word "Na" (
The earlier Talmudic teachers resorted to similar aids in order to fix the number of the benedictions contained in the "Tefillah." The choice of eighteen is certainly a mere accident; for at one time the collection contained less, and at another more, than that number. The fact that such mnemonic verses came into vogue suggests that originally the number of the benedictions was not definitely fixed; while the popularity of the verses fixing the number as eighteen is probably caused by the continued designation of the prayer as the "Shemoneh 'Esreh," though it now has nineteen benedictions (according to "J. Q. R." xiv. 585, the Yemen "Siddur" has the superscription. " Nineteen Benedictions"). Eighteen corresponds to the eighteen times God's name is mentioned in Ps. xxix. (Yer. Ber. 8a, above; Lev. R. i.), which psalm, nevertheless, seems to indicate the number of benedictions as nineteen (see Elbogen, l.c.; "Monatsschrift," 1902, p. 353). Another mnemonic reference, based upon the number of times the names of the three Patriarchs occur together in the Pentateuch (Gen. R. lxix.), is resorted to, and points to the fact that at one time seventeen benedictions only were counted.
Other bases of computations of the number eighteen are: (1) the eighteen times God's name is referred to in the "Shema'"; (2) the eighteen great hollows in the spinal column (Ber. 28b); (3) the eighteen psalms at the beginning of the Book of Psalms (i.-ii. being really only i.; Yer. Ber. iv.); (4) the eighteen "commands" which are in the pericope "Peḳude" (Ex. xxxviii. 21 et seq.); (5) the eighteen names of
The Talmud names Simeon ha-Paḳoli as the editor of the collection in the academy of R. Gamaliel II. at Jabneh. (Ber. 28b). But this can not mean that the benedictions were unknown before that date; for in other passages the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" is traced to the "first wise men" (
The historical kernel in these conflicting reports seems to be the indubitable fact that the benedictions date from the earliest days of the Pharisaic Synagogue. They were at first spontaneous outgrowths of the efforts to establish the Pharisaic Synagogue in opposition to, or at least in correspondence with, the Sadducean Temple service. This is apparent from the haggadic endeavor to connect the stated times of prayer with the sacrificial routine of the Temple, the morning and the afternoon "Tefillah" recalling the constant offerings (Ber. 26b; Gen. R. lxviii.), while for the evening "Tefillah" recourse was had to artificial comparison with the sacrificial portions consumed on the altar during the night. In certain other homilies the fixation of the day's periods for the three "Tefillot" is represented as being in harmony with the daily course of the sun (Gen. R. lxviii.; R. Samuel bar Naḥman, in Yer. Ber. iv.). Again, the Patriarchs are credited with having devised this tripartite scheme (Ber. 26b; Abraham = morning; Isaac = afternoon; Jacob = evening). Dan. vi. 11 is the proof that this system of praying three times a day was recognized in the Maccabean era. Gradually both the hours for the "Tefillah" and the formulas thereof acquiredgreater regularity, though much uncertainty as to content, sequence, and phraseology continued to prevail. R. Gamaliel II. undertook finally both to fix definitely the public service and to regulate private devotion. He directed Simeon ha-Paḳoli to edit the benedictions—probably in the order they had already acquired—and made it a duty, incumbent on every one, to recite the prayer three times daily. Under Gamaliel, also, another paragraph, directed against the traitors in the household of Israel, was added, thus making the number eighteen (Ber. iv. 3; see Grätz, "Gesch." 3d ed., iv. 30 et seq.).
Old material is thus preserved in the eighteen benedictions as arranged and edited by the school of Gamaliel II. The primitive form of most of them was undoubtedly much simpler. J. Derenbourg (in "R. E. J." xiv. 26 et seq.) makes two facts appear plausible:
- (1) While recited in the Temple, the original conclusion of benedictions was "Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, God of Israel from eternity to eternity" (Ber. ix. 5; Geiger, in "Kerem Ḥemed," v. 102; idem, "Lehr- und Lesebuch zur Sprache der Mischnah," ii. 2;"He-Ḥaluẓ," vii. 88), emphasizing the "other eternity or world" denied by heretics. From this is derived the usual designation of God as "King of the world," not found, strange to say, in the eighteen benedictions—a circumstance that attracted the attention of the Rabbis (Ber. 29a). This omission might indicate that the bulk of the benedictions received something like their present form under the supremacy of the Romans, who did not tolerate the declaration "God is king." More likely is the explanation that the omission was for the purpose of avoiding the misconstruction that God ruled only over this world. In the Rosh ha-Shanah prayer the thought of God's rulership is all the more strongly emphasized; and this fact suggests that the Rosh ha-Shanah interpolations are posterior to the controversies with the Jewish heretics and the Romans, but not to the time when Christianity's Messianic theology had to be answered by affirmations of the Jewish teaching that God alone is king. The word
V11p278001.jpg, wherever found in the text, is a later insertion. So also is the phrase V11p278002.jpg= "in love," which also carries an anti-Pauline point (see Epistle of Paul to the Romans).
- (2) In the middle, non-constant benedictions (Nos. iv. xvi.) there is a uniform structure; namely, they contain two parallel stichoi and a third preceding the "Blessed be" of the "sealing" (as the Rabbis call it) of the benediction; for example, in No. iv. are: (1) "Thou graciously vouchsafest knowledge to man" = (2) "and teachest mortals understanding"; and (3) "Vouchsafe unto us from Thee knowledge, understanding, and intelligence." By this test the later enlargements are easily separated from the original stock.In the "sealing" formula, too, later amplifications are found. It was always composed of two words and no more, as in Nos. vii., ix., xiv., and xvi. of the present text; so No. vi. originally, read
V11p278003.jpg V11p278004.jpg; No. viii., V11p278005.jpg; and the others similarly.
The abstracts of the benedictions (Ber. 29a) which R. Joshua (ib. 28b) recommended, and Rab and Samuel explained, so that the last-named has come to be considered as the author of a résumé of this kind (ib. 29a), indicate that primarily the longer eulogies were at least not popular. Abaye (4th cent.) found the fondness for these abstracts so strong that he pronounced a curse upon those who should use them (ib.). In the time of R. Akiba the knowledge of the eighteen benedictions was not yet universal; for he advised that one who was familiar with the prayer should recite it, and that one who was not might discharge his duty by reciting a résumé (ib. 28b). In dangerous places a very brief formula was, according to R. Joshua, substituted: "Help, O Eternal, Thy people, the remnant of Israel. May their needs at all the partings of the roads be before Thee. Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who hearest prayer" (Ber. iv. 3). The following brief prayer, attributed to R. Eliezer, is for use in places where wild animals and robbers may be prowling about: "Thy will be done in heaven above, and bestow ease of mind upon them that fear Thee [on earth] below, and what is good in Thine eyes execute. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who hearest prayer" (ib. 29b). R. Joshua recommended this formula: "Hear the cry of Thy people Israel, and do speedily according to their petition. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who hearest prayer." R. Eliezer, the son of R. Zadok, virtually repeated the preceding, with merely the substitution of a synonym for "cry." Others used this form: "The needs of Thy people Israel are many, and their knowledge is scarce [limited]. May it be a pleasure from before Thee, O Eternal, our God, to vouchsafe unto each sufficiency of sustenance and to each and every one enough to satisfy his wants. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who hearest prayer" (ib.). This last form came to be officially favored (ib.).
That, even after the "Tefillah" had been fixed as containing eighteen (nineteen) benedictions, the tendency to enlarge and embellish their content remained strong, may be inferred from the admonition not to exaggerate further God's praises (Meg. 18a); or, as R. Johanan has it: "Whoever exaggerates the laudations of the Holy One—praised be He!—will be uprooted from the world" (ib.). R. Ḥanina took occasion to reprove very severely a reader who added attribute to attribute while addressing the Deity. If the "men of the Great Synagogue" had not inserted the qualifications "great, mighty, and awe-inspiring," none would dare repeat them (Meg. 25a; Ber. 33b; see Agnosticism). Provisions were made to silence readers who should indulge their fancy by introducing innovations (Ber. 33b), especially such as were regarded with suspicion as evincing heretical leanings.
The abstracts, however, throw light on what may have been the number of the benedictions before Gamaliel fixed it at eighteen by addition of the petition for the punishment of traitors ("wela-malshinim") The Babylonian Talmud has preserved one version; Yerushalmi, another (or two: a longer and a briefer form, of which the fragments have been combined; see J. Derenbourg in "R. E. J." xiv. 32).These abstracts, known as the "Habinenu" from their first word, were intended to replace benedictions Nos. iv.-xvi. The Babylonian text reads as follows:
"Give us understanding, O Eternal, our God, to know Thy ways, and circumcise our hearts to fear Thee; and do Thou pardon us that we may be redeemed. And remove from us bodily pain; and fatten us with the fertility of Thy land; and our dispersed ones from the four corners of the earth do Thou gather together; and they that go astray against the knowledge of Thee shall be judged; and upon the evil-doers do Thou lift up Thy hand: but may the righteous rejoice in the building of Thy city, and in the refounding of Thy Temple, and in the sprouting up of a horn unto David Thy servant, and in the preparing of a light for Jesse's son, Thy Messiah. Before we call Thou wilt answer. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who hearest prayer".
An examination of the phraseology establishes the concordance of this abstract and the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" as in the prayer-books.The Fifteenth Benediction.
The Palestinian text (Yer. Ber. iv.) reveals the contraction of two blessings into one. "Give us understanding, O Eternal, our God [= No. iv.], and be pleased with our repentance [= v.]; pardon us, O our Redeemer [vi.-vil.], and heal our sick [= viii.], bless our years with dews of blessing [ix.]; for the dispersed Thou wilt gather [x.], they who err against Thee to be [will be] judged [xi.]; but upon the evil-doers thou wilt lay Thy hand [xii.], and they who trust in Thee will rejoice [xiii.] in the rebuilding of Thy city and in the restoration of Thy sanctuary [xiv.]. Before we call Thou wilt answer [xvi.]. Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, who answerest prayer." From this it appears that No. xv. ("the sprout of David") is omitted; it was not regarded as an independent benediction, but formed part of the one preceding. According to this, seventeen was the number of benedictions without the "Birkat ha-Ẓadduḳim." That this was the case originally is evidenced by other facts. In Yer. Ber. iv. 5, R. H. iv. 6, Midr. Teh. to Ps. xxix. (ed. Buber, p. 232), and Midr. Shemu'el. xxvi. the "sealing" of benediction No. xiv. is quoted as "Blessed be Thou, O Eternal, the God of David, and the builder of Jerusalem," indicating that Nos. xiv. and xv. formed only one benediction. In support of this is the notation of what now is No. xvi. as No. xv. (Yer. Ber. ii. 4; Gen. R. xlix.). Again: (1) In Yer. Ber. ii. 4, iv. 3, and Ta'an. ii. 2, the Tosef., Ber. iii. 25 is quoted as reporting the inclusion of the "David" benediction in that concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem. (2) In the account by Yer. Ber. 4d of the order in which the benedictions follow each other, the benediction concerning David is not mentioned. (3) In many of Ḳalir's compositions—still used in the Italian ritual—for Purim, Hosha'na Rabbah, the Seventeenth of Tammuz, and the Tenth of Ṭebet, in which he follows the sequence of the "Tefillah," this No. xv. is not found (Rapoport, in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," x., notes 28, 33). Additional indications that Nos. xiv. and xv. were originally one are found in "Halakot Gedolot" (Ber. vi.), "Sefer ha-Eshkol" ("Tefillah," etc., ed. Auerbach, p. 20), and Midr. Leḳaḥ Ṭob on Deut. iii. 23.
But in Babylon this contraction was deemed improper. The question, put into the mouth of David (Sanh. 107a), why God is called the God of Abraham but not the God of David, suggests the elimination of "Elohe Dawid" from benediction No. xiv. In Babylon Nos. xiv. and xv. were counted as two distinct blessings. But this division seems to have been later than the introduction of the prayer against the traitors by Gamaliel (see Pes. 107a, 117b; Tan., Wayera [ed. Buber, p. 42]: "in Babel they recite nineteen"), though Rapoport ("'Erek Millin," p. 228b), Müller ("Ḥillufim," p. 47), and others hold, to the contrary, that the contraction (in Palestine) of Nos. xiv. and xv. was a contrivance to retain the traditional number eighteen, which had been enlarged by the addition of one under Gamaliel II. Which of the two views is the more plausible it is difficult to decide.Haggadic Explanation of Sequence.
At all events, the sequence in the existing arrangement is logical. The midrashic explanation connects it with events in the lives of the Patriarchs. When Abraham was saved the angels recited the "Blessed be Thou . . . shield of Abraham" (No. i.; Pirḳe R. El. xxvii.); when Isaac was saved by the substitution of the ram they chanted ". . . reviving the dead" (No. ii.; Pirḳe R. El. xxxi.); when Jacob touched the gate of heaven they intoned ". . . the holy God" (No. iii.; Pirḳe R. El. xxxv.); and when Pharaoh raised Joseph to the dignity of viceroy and Gabriel came to teach him the seventy languages, the angels recited ". . . vouchsafing knowledge" (No. iv.; comp. Pirḳe R. El. ix., where Moses calls forth the benediction by receiving the knowledge of God's ineffable name). No. v. was spoken over Reuben and Bilhah (or when Manasseh the king repented; ib. xliii.). No. vi. refers to Judah and Tamar; No. vii. to Israel's deliverance from Egypt; No. viii. was first sung at Abraham's recovery, through Raphael's treatment, from the pain of circumcision; No. ix. refers to Isaac's planting and plowing; No. x. to Jacob's reunion with his family in Egypt; No. xi. to Israel's receiving the Law ("Mishpaṭim"); No. xii. to Egypt's undoing in the Red Sea; No. xiii. to Joseph's tender closing of Jacob's eyes; No. xiv. to Solomon's building of the Temple; No. xv. to Israel's salvation at the Red Sea; No. xvi. to Israel's distress and ever-present help; No. xvii. to the establishment of the Tabernacle ("Shekinah"); No. xviii. to Solomon's bringing the Ark into the inner sanctuary; No. xix. to the Israelites' conquest of the land after which they had peace.
Why No. iv. follows upon No. iii. is explained in Meg. 17b by a reference to Isa. xxix. 23; why the "Teshubah" immediately succeeds the "Binah," by a reference to Isa. vi. 10. Again, upon the "Teshubah," repentance, follows the "Seliḥah," pardon, in keeping with Isa. lv. 7. The "Ge'ullah," redemption, should be the seventh benediction (Meg. 17b) because redemption will take place on the seventh day, or rather, as stated by the "Cuzari" and the "Ṭur," because the result of forgiveness is redemption. No. viii. treats of healing because the eighth day is for circumcision (Meg. 17b). No. x. follows No. ix. so as to harmonize with Ezek. xxxvi. 8 (Meg. 17b). As soon as the dispersed (No. x.) are gathered, judgment (No. xi.) will be visited on the evil-doers as stated in Isa. i. 26 (Meg. 17b); and when this hastaken place all treason (No. xii.) will cease (Ber. 28b; Meg. 17b; Yer. Ber. iv.). As the traitors are mentioned, the righteous (No. xiii.) naturally are suggested; and their triumph is assured by the downfall of the wicked (Ps. lxx. 11; Meg. l.c.). The immediate outcome of this triumph is the resurrection of Jerusalem (No. xiv.; Ps. cxxii. 6; Meg. l.c.) and the reenthronement of David's house (No. xv.; Hos. iii. 5; Isa. lvi. 7; Ps. l. 23; Meg. 18a). The connection between the last benediction and the priestly blessing is established (Meg. 18a) by Num. vi. 27 and Ps. xxix. 11.The Age of the Concluding Benedictions.
The last three benedictions seem to be the oldest of the collection. The names of Nos. xvii. and xviii. ("'Abodah" and "Hoda'ah") occur in the liturgy for the high priest for the Day of Atonement as described in the Mishnah (Yoma vii. 1). It goes without saying that parts of the present text of No. xvii. could not have been used before the destruction of the Temple. But in Yer. Yoma 44b is given a concluding formula almost identical with that now used on holy days when the blessing is recited by the kohanim (
The affinity, noticed by Loeb (in "R. E. J." xix. 17), of the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" with the "psalms of the poor" is in keeping with the Pharisaic-Ḥasidic emphasis of the benedictions. The "pious and poor" of the Psalms were the ideal types which the Pharisees sought to imitate. The palpable emphasis of No. ii. on the resurrection (hence one of its names, "Teḥiyyat ha-Metim"; Ber. v. 2; Ta'an. 2a) confirms this theory. The expressions used in this blessing are Biblical (see Loeb in "R. E. J." xix.). The doctrine of the resurrection is intimately connected with Pharisaic nationalism. The anti-Sadducean protest in this benediction is evident.
Of the middle benedictions, No. ix., the blessing for the year, discloses a situation such as prevailed before the disruption of the state, when agriculture was the chief occupation of the Jews. It must for this reason be credited with being one of the oldest parts of the "Tefillah." Nos. iv. and xvi. are not specific in content. The latter is a good summary of the petitions (comp. that of the high priest in Yoma 70a and Yer. Yoma 44b), while No. iv., more than any other, is characteristic of a religion in which understanding is considered essential to piety. The importance of this petition was recognized at an early date. R. Judah ha-Nasi desired to have it used on the Sabbath as well as on week-days (Yer. Ber. v. 2: "if no understanding, whence prayer?"). This passion for knowledge also was characteristic of Pharisaism. The prayer for the sick may perhaps likewise be assigned among the older portions (see Elbogen, l.c. p. 341).
In its earlier composition, then, the "Tefillah" seems to have comprised Nos. i, ii., iii., iv., viii., xiv., xvii., xviii., and xix. The other benedictions are altogether of a national content. None of them may be assigned to a date before the Maccabean era, while for many a later one is suggested by the content. But the prayer found in Ecclus. (Sirach) xxxvi. should be kept in mind, as it proves that prayers for Jerusalem, and even for the Temple, were not unusual while both were still standing. The original meaning of the prayer against enemies is perhaps also apparent in this chapter:
- Verse 1. "Save us, God of all, and lift up Thy fear upon all the nations."
- Verse 2. "Swing on high the hand against the strange people and let them behold Thy might."
- Verse 3. "As before their eyes Thou wert proved the Holy One in us, so before our eyes be Thou glorified in them."
- Verse 4. "And they shall know as we do know that there is no God besides Thee."
- Verse 5. "Renew signs and repeat miraculous deeds. Lift up in glory hand and right arm."
- Verse 6. "Summon wrath and pour out glowing anger. Hurl back the adversary and humiliate the enemy."
- Verse 7. "Gather all the tribes of Jacob and do Thou cause them to inherit as of old."
- Verse 8. "Make glad the people called by Thy name, Israel Thou namedst the first-born."
- Verse 9. "Have mercy on Thy holy city, Jerusalem, the place of Thy dwelling."
- Verse 10. "Fill Zion with Thy splendor and with Thy glory Thy Temple."
- Verse 11. "Hear the prayer of Thy servants like the blessing of Aaron upon Thy people."
This has the appearance of being an epitome of the "Tefillah" as known in the days of Ben Sira.Analogies in Sirach.
- Verse 1: "God of all" recalls benediction No. i., while 1b is the key-note of the prayer for Rosh ha-Shanah.
- Verse 2 contains the word
V11p280005.jpg= benediction No. ii.
- Verse 3 is a summary of the "Ḳedushshah" = benediction No. iii.
- Verse 4 explains the knowledge asked for in No. iv.
- Verse 6 accounts for the petition against the enemy, No. xii.
- Verse 7 is the prayer for the exiles, No. x.
- Verse 8 is the content of the prayer in behalf of the pious, No. xiii.
- Verse 9 is the prayer for Jerusalem, No. xiv.
- Verse 10 recalls No. xvii.
- Verse 11 is clearly related to both Nos. xvi. and xix.
Another line begins "Hasten the end-time," which may, by its Messianic implication, suggest benediction No. xv. ("the sprout of David").
If this construction of Ben Sira's prayer is admissible, many of the benedictions must be assigned to the Maccabean era, though most scholars have regardedthem as posterior to the destruction of the Temple. The verse marked 5, indeed, seems to be a commentary on benediction No. xi. It begins with the word
The history of the petition against enemies may serve to illustrate the development of the several component parts of the "Tefillah" in keeping with provocations and changed conditions. The verses of Ecclesiasticus make it certain that the Syrian oppressors were the first against whom this outcry of the poor, oppressed victims of tyranny was directed. As the Syrians were aided by the apostates, the "zedim," these were also embraced in the imprecatory appeal. The prayer was in fact designated even in later days as
R. Gamaliel revitalized the prayer originally directed against the Syrians and their sympathizers (so also Loeb, Weiss, and Hoffmann; Elbogen [l.c. p. 357] rejects this view in favor of the assumption that the original composition of the prayer was due to Gamaliel), his purpose being to test those suspected of being minim (Tan., Wayiḳra, ed. Buber, p. 2a; Yer. Ber. v. 4). The editorship is ascribed to Samuel the Younger (Ber. 28a), who, however, is reported to have forgotten its form the very next year. According to Yer. Ber. v. 3 he merely omitted some part of the prayer; and, as he was not under suspicion of heresy, the omission was overlooked.Modifications in "Birkat ha-Minim."
The above account seems to suggest that this "new" (revised) addition to the benedictions was not admitted at once and without some opposition. The prayer has undergone since the days of Gamaliel many textual changes, as the variety of versions extant evidences. "Kol Bo" gives the number of the words contained therein as thirty-two, which agrees with none of the extant recensions. The prayer furnished the traducers of Judaism and the Jews a ready weapon of attack (e.g., Wagenseil; see "Sefer Niẓẓaḥon,"p. 348). In the Maḥzor of Salonica it begins with the word La-meshummadim" (see Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 118), as it does in the Roman Maḥzor (see also "Kesef Mishneh, Tefillah," at the beginning of ii.). "Meshummad" designates a Jew who apostatizes (Ramban on Ex. xii. 43 gives an incorrect identification, as does Parḥon, s.v.
According to Zunz, the seventh benediction looks like a duplication and is superfluous: at all events it is misplaced. There is some probability that it originally formed part of the liturgy for the fastdays, when 18 + 6 benedictions constituted the "Tefillah" (Ta'an. ii. 2); for in specifying the additional benedictions the Mishnah enumerates seven, not six (ib. ii. 4). The first of the seven enumerated is identical with the one contained in the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" as No. vii. Most likely when Israel's distress became constant this petition for help was gradually made a part of the daily liturgy.Method of Recital.
As the prevailing use of the plural shows, the"Shemoneh 'Esreh" was first intended as a prayer in behalf of the congregation, which listened in silence and at certain points bowed with the reader (Tos. to Ber. i. 9). By joining the precentor in reading aloud, one became notorious (ib.). At the conclusion of every benediction the congregants, while in the Temple, said "Amen," probably because the Tetragrammaton was pronounced; the response was "Blessed be the name; the glory of His kingdom [endureth] forever and aye" (Tos. to Ber. vii. 22; Ta'an. 16b). Gradually, after R. Gamaliel, it came to be the custom that every man softly read the "Tefillah" for himself, instead of merely listening to the reader's recitation of it; only for one not familiar enough (
According to "Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ." (ed. Buber, p. 9), some prefaced the "Tefillah" by the verse Ps. lxv. 3, while in Constantine "Wehu Raḥum" was recited as an introduction (Zunz, "Ritus," p. 52). At the end, after Mar bar Rabina's "My God keep my tongue" (Ber. 17a), during the Middle Ages was added "do on account of Thy name," etc.; then to this, Ps. xix. 15; and, still later, the phrase "He who established peace," etc. ("Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ," p. 18). In the Roman ritual the "Elohai Neẓor" (Ber. 17a) is missing (Zunz, l.c. p. 79).
In the Reform liturgies, in benediction No. i. "go'el" is changed to "ge'ullah" (redemption). In No. ii. the resurrection is replaced by "sustaining in life the whole" and by "redeeming the soul of His servants from death." The prayers for Jerusalem, for the reestablishment of the sacrifices, and for the coming of the Messiah are omitted, as is also the petition against the enemies of Israel (comp. "Protokolle der Zweiten Rabbinerversammlung," pp. 104 et seq., Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1845).
- Zunz, G. V. 1st ed., pp. 367-369;
- Delitzsch, Zur Geschichte der Jüdischen Poesie, 1836, pp. 191-193;
- Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, iii. 200-204;
- Bickell, Messe und Pascha, 1872, pp. 65, 66, 71-73;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii. 1092-1099;
- Enoch, Das Achtzehngebet nach Sprache, 1886;
- Derenbourg, in R. E. J. xiv. (1887) 26-32;
- Loeb, Les Dix-huit Bénédictions, in R. E. J. xix. (1889) 137-166;
- Lévi, Les Dixhuit Bénédictions, in R. E. J. xxxii. (1896) 161-178; xxxiii. (1896) 142 et seq.;
- Gaster, Targum zu Shemoneh Esreh, in Monatsschrift, xxxix. 79-90;
- Gollancz, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 186-197, Berlin, 1897;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 460 et seq.;
- Elbogen, Die Gesch. des Achtzehngebets, in Monatsschrift, 1902.