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Bracha #14 – Binyan Yerushalayim (The Rebuilding of Jerusalem)
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Only two blessings of Shemoneh Esrei start with the conjunction vav, meaning “and” – the blessing against heretics and this one. The blessing against heretics is already an exception but why should the prayer for rebuilding Jerusalem start with “and?” In truth, it is connected to the blessing for the righteous, which precedes it. The […]
Bracha #13 – Tzaddikim (The Righteous)
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Following the blessing requesting the removal of the heretics, we next pray for the welfare of the righteous. The Talmud in Megillah (17b), describing the order of the blessings, says that this is because when the wicked are removed, then the righteous will be elevated. The prayer identifies six categories of deserving individuals: (1) Tzaddikim […]
Bracha #12 – Birkas HaMinim (Heretics)
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The twelfth bracha, against heretics, is the one that was later inserted, with the result that there are nineteen blessings in the “Eighteen Benedictions.” According to the Talmud in Brachos (28b), this blessing was added in the days of Rabban Gamliel in response to an increase in heretics. According to Rashi there, “minim” (heretics) refers […]
Shemoneh Esrei #11 – Din (Justice)
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In the eleventh bracha, we do not request justice per se so much as we request that God restore our system of justice. Jewish jurisprudence calls for a Sanhedrin of judges carrying the original ordination, empowered to interpret the Torah and to legislate based upon it. Restoring our legal system would be the first step […]
Shemoneh Esrei #8 – Refuah (Healing)
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Just as the seventh blessing paraphrases King David’s words, the eighth bracha recalls the words of the prophet Jeremiah. In the book that bears his name, Jeremiah said, “Heal me, Hashem, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved because You are my praise” (17:14). This verse is incorporated in its […]
Shemoneh Esrei #7 – Geulah (Redemption)
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In the seventh blessing, we ask God to see how we are afflicted, take up our case, and speedily redeem us. We have no power ourselves; we rely upon Him for salvation. The opening words, r’ei b’anyeinu (“behold our suffering” or “observe our affliction”) are a paraphrase of words used by King David. He first […]
Shemoneh Esrei #6 – Selicha (Forgiveness)
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In the fifth blessing, we asked God to help us in doing teshuvah, turning away from our bad habits and mending our ways. As a consequence of that, we ask Him in the sixth bracha to forgive us for our transgressions and lapses in judgment. This prayer contains an element of vidui (confession) in that […]
Shemoneh Esrei #5 – Teshuvah (Repentance)
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In the fifth blessing, we ask God to assist us in returning to His service as all of us have strayed to one degree or another from our responsibilities. (The word teshuvah, commonly translated as repentance, more literally means a return.) We ask God to draw us near to Him but whether or not we […]