As we will see in Mitzvah #433, there is an obligation for us to try to get closer to God through prayer. To help us fulfill this, our Sages established a prayer to be recited thrice-daily, corresponding to the prayers of our Forefathers. This prayer is called the Amidah (because it is recited standing); the weekday version is also called Shemoneh Esrei, the Eighteen Benedictions (although a nineteenth has since been added). Once a week for nineteen weeks, we will review the contents of the 19 blessings of “Shemoneh Esrei.”
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 Talmud in Megillah (17b) tells us that the righteous will be elevated with the restoration of Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 30:3 says that God will return the people from their captivity and have mercy on them, gathering them from all the nations where they have been exiled. The Talmud in Megillah (29a) explains that when God exiled the Jews, He also exiled His Presence to some degree, which He will return with the nation. In this blessing, we ask that He return His Presence to Jerusalem, demonstrating the mercy He has promised.
We continue by asking that God cause His Presence to dwell in Jerusalem as He has said He would do. This is a reference to Zechariah 8:3, in which God says, “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem.” We ask that He rebuild the city soon, in our lifetimes, as an eternal construction, and establish the Davidic dynasty within it. The restoration of the Davidic dynasty is an integral component of the return to Jerusalem. We don’t want Jerusalem restored just so that we can have a beautiful metropolis; we desire it as part of returning to the service of God in our land.
The blessing concludes that God is the One Who builds Jerusalem – not that He will build it but that it is something He always does. The return to Jerusalem is an ongoing process and all of our ups and downs are part of the chain of events that will lead to its ultimate restoration.