Amidah

One of the realities of not having daily minyah at Temple Sinai is that we are never able to pray the Amidah in its entirety.

Amidah comes from the Hebrew verb “la-a-mode,” meaning, “to stand.” When we pray the Amidah we are in a standing position. The prayer is also known by two other names: the Tefillah (“prayer”) and the Sh’moneh Esrei (“eighteen”).  The eighteen once referred to the number of prayers found within this portion of the service.  Today the actual count is nineteen.  But to be even more exact, nineteen individual prayers are recited only on six days of the week. On the Sabbath only seven prayers are recited.

Why only seven and not nineteen? Ordinarily the Amidah, prayed on days other than the Sabbath, is when we make requests of God. On the Sabbath we refrain from asking God for things and therefore the Amidah goes from nineteen individual prayers to just seven. We rest on the Sabbath because God rests on the Sabbath. 

In traditional congregations the Amidah is recited three times a day and on the Sabbath a fourth recitation in added (Musaf service) at the conclusion of the morning worship. In traditional congregations, the Amidah is first read silently and then recited out loud by either the cantor or the worship leader. As is our practice, we read or sing the Amidah collectively and just once.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Amidah prayer is how it begins. The first prayer is the Avot and Imahot. In this prayer mention of the patriarchs and matriarchs is our way of reminding God that he is hearing from the great, great, great, great, grandchildren of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel and Leah. It’s our way of reminding God, who is of course always busy, that we are more than just mere worshippers. We are in fact the descendants of some very important people.  (“Hey God, Abraham sent us…”)

Wishing you all good things, Rabbi