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.”
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 uses them in Psalm 25: r’ei anyi v’amali, see my affliction and my labor (verse 18). David expresses this idea again in Psalm 119: r’ei anyi … u’g’aleini, see my affliction … and redeem me (verses 153-154).
Some people insert the word “na” (please) in the middle of “r’ei b’anyeinu.” Some authorities consider this version inappropriate because David did not say it that way. Other authorities consider the practice proper because Yaakov said “na” when asking God to redeem him from his brother Eisav (Genesis 32:12). One should follow his own practice or consult a rabbi.
We ask that God redeem us speedily not for us per se but for the sake of His Own Name, i.e., so that we should be empowered and enabled to serve Him. Also, the Talmud in Sanhedrin (46a) says that when we are in pain, God metaphorically “suffers” with us, like any parent hurts when his child is injured. Redeeming us from our afflictions serves to alleviate God Himself of this metaphorical “pain.”
The blessing continues that God is a “strong Redeemer.” That is to say that He has ultimate power to redeem, as we saw in Egypt, where He redeemed the Jews through miraculous signs and wonders. The bracha concludes “Go’eil Yisroel,” that God continuously redeems Israel. (This is in contradistinction to the blessing of “Gaw’al Yisroel” that precedes Shemoneh Esrei. That blessing is in the past tense and refers to something that God did. The blessing in Shemoneh Esrei refers to an ongoing process that Hashem does.)
On fast days, during chazaras hashatz (the reader’s repetition of Shemoneh Esrei), the prayer “aneinu” (“answer us”) is inserted after this bracha. Not only is it thematically related due to the shared idea of alleviation of suffering, it also parallels the concept of s’michas g’eulah l’tefillah, that we recite the blessing of redemption before praying. Normally this simply means that the blessing “Gaw’al Yisroel” immediately precedes Shemoneh Esrei. Here, however, the blessing “Go’eil Yisroel” precedes the request that God heed the prayers of our fast day.