Monday, June 24, 2013

The Similarity Between the L-rd's Prayer and Traditional Jewish Prayer

So Limburg (Judaism: An Introduction for Christians) makes an interesting observation:

The main prayer in worship--often called simply 'prayer' (tefillah)--is the Amidah, recited while standing (which is the meaning of the Hebrew word).  It is also called the 'Prayer of 18 Petitions' (Shemonah Esreh), even though only the middle 13 blessings of the Amidah are petitions...Its content has many points of contact with the Lord's Prayer."

So let's take a look at Jewish prayer and see if this is true.

First, if you want to understand Jewish prayer, you don't have a prayer unless you read Donin's "To Pray as a Jew.


Historical Background

Ezra fixed the "general outline of the basic prayers" (Donin, pg. 10, ibid).  But he didn't make everyone write down a siddur!

"It must be remembered that until about the eighth century C.E. prayers were always said by heart.  There had existed a fundamental resistance to writing down prayers (Shabbat 115b), just as there had been a tradition against writing down the Oral Torah.  The prohibition was eventually lifted, but is was not until the eighth century that written prayer books came into use.  The first formal siddur for year-round use, as we know it today, was compiled by Rav Amram Gaon (ninth century C.E.).  Before then it was necessary to memorize the prescribed prayers in order to fulfill one's religious duty," pg. 15 (ibid)


"The general arrangement of the services in most siddurim intended for daily year-round use and their identifying Hebrew headings are as follows:
The first part of the siddur is reserved for the weekday services.  These are arranged in the following order:
The Morning Weekday Service...
The Afternoon Weekday Service...
The Evening Weekday Service...
The next part of the siddur is reserved for the Sabbath services.  These are usually arranged in the following order:
Welcoming the Sabbath
Evening Service for Sabbaths and Festivals
Morning Service for Sabbaths and Festivals
Additional Service for Sabbath
Afternoon Service for Sabbath" (pg. 28, ibid)


Introduction to Amidah

"The Shemoneh Esrei is the heart of every service.  It contains the basic components of prayer:  praising God, petitioning Him, and thanking Him.  Whenever the Talmud refers to tefilah ('prayer'), it means the Shemoneh Esrei, and not any other blessing, supplication, or psalm.  it is The Prayer....Shemoneh Esrei means simply 'eighteen.'  The prayer is so called because the original version consisted of eighteen blessings....This prayer is called by still another name--the 'Amidah,' which means 'standing.'  The prayer is called this because it reflects our having stopped to stand in the presence of God," pg. 69 (ibid)

Laws and Customs of Amidah

"LAWS AND CUSTOMS RELATING TO ITS RECITATION...The Shemoneh Esrei is said while facing in the direction of Eretz Yisrael..." (pg. 71, ibid)

Structure of Amidah

Order and Name of Blessing
1  Fathers ('Avot') [Begins with the words 'Barukh atah']
2  Powers of God ('Gevurot') [Begins with the words 'Atah gibor']
3  Holiness of God ('Kedushat HaShem')  [Atah kadosh]
A.  Personal Needs
4  Knowledge ('Binah')  [Atah honen
5  Repentance ('Teshuvah') [Hashiveinu]
6  Forgiveness ('Selichah')  [Selach lanu]
Physical, Material and Emotional
7  Redemption-Security ('Geulah')  [R'eh v'onyeinu]
8 Health ('Refuah')  [Refaeinu]
9 Economic Prosperity ('Birkat Hashanim') [Barekh aleinu]
B.  Needs of the Jewish People and Society
10  Ingathering of the Dispersed ('Kibbutz Galuyot')  [Teka bashofar]
11  Restoration of Justice ('Birkat Hamishpat')  [Hasiva shofteinu
12  Destruction of Israel's Enemies ('Birkat Haminim') [V'lamalshinim]
13 Prayer for the Righteous ('Birkat HaTzadikim')  [Al hatzadikim]
14  Restoration of Jerusalem ('Birkat Yerushalayim')  [V'liYerushalayim]
15  Coming of the Messiah ('Birkat David')  [Et tzemach David]
C. Summary Blessing
16  Hear Our Prayer ('Tefilah')  [Retzei]
17  Worship ('Avodah')  [Retzei]
18  Thanksgiving ('Birkat Hodaah')  [Modim]
19  Peace ('Birkat Shalom')  [Sim Shalom]" (pg. 73, ibid)


So here's the L-r'ds prayer:

9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Can you see the formulaic similarities?  

  • Number 2 in the Amidah (Powers of G-d) coincides with "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven"
  • Number 3 in the Amidah (Holiness) coincides with "Hallowed be Thy Name"
  • Number 5-6 (Repentance and Forgiveness) coincide with "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors")
  • Numbers 7-9 (Physical Needs) coincide with "Give us this day our daily bread"
  • Numbers 17-19 (Thanking, Praising, Peace) coincide with "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen")

I did those slightly out of order.  But at least you see that it matches.


The L-rd's Prayer is very Jewish!   : )

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