Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jewish Prayer Made Simple

The structure of the core Jewish prayers is actually rather simple.  There are three Scriptural selections containing the Shema and then there is HaTefillah ("the prayer", a.k.a. shemonei esrei, a.k.a. the amidah).


1) Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

(2) Deuteronomy 11:13-21

13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
17 And then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.
18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

(3) Numbers 15:37-41

37 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
41 I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.


[The following is adapted from Donin's "To Pray as a Jew"]


Formal Introduction to the Amidah:

Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Thy praise.

Order and Name of Blessing:

1  Fathers ('Avot') [Begins with the words 'Barukh atah']

Blessed art Thou, Lord our God and God of our fathers,
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob,
The great, mighty, and aweseom God,
God Supreme, who extends loving kindness and is Master of all,
Who remembers the gracious deeds of our forefathers,
And who will bring a Redeemer with love to their children's children for His name's sake.
King, Helper, Savior and Protector.  Blessed art Thou, Lord, Protector of Abraham

2  Powers of God ('Gevurot') [Begins with the words 'Atah gibor']

Thy might is eternal, O Lord,
Who revives the dead,
Powerful in saving, 
Who makes the wind to blow and the rain to fall, [said only in winter]
Who sustains the living with loving kindness,
Who revives the dead with great mercy,
Who supports the falling, heals the sick, frees the captive,
And keeps faith with the dead;
Who is like Thee, Almighty, and who resembles Thee,
O King who can bring death and give life
And can make salvation blossom forth.
And faithful art Thou to revive the dead.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who makes the dead live.

3  Holiness of God ('Kedushat HaShem')  [Atah kadosh]

Thou art holy, and Thy name is holy,
And those who are holy shall praise Thee every day.
Blessed are Thou, Lord, the holy God.


A.  Personal Needs


4  Knowledge ('Binah')  [Atah honen]

Thou grantest knowledge to man,
And teachest understanding to humans;
From Thine own Self, favor us with knowledge, understanding, and sense.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, giver of knowledge.

5  Repentance ('Teshuvah') [Hashiveinu]

Return us, our Father, to Thy Torah,
And draw us closer, our King, to Thy worship,
And bring us back before Thee in complete repentance.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who desires repentance.

6  Forgiveness ('Selichah')  [Selach lanu]

Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned,
Pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed,
For Thou art a pardoner and forgiver.
Blessed are Thou, Lord, Gracious One who forgives abundantly.

Physical, Material and Emotional

7  Redemption-Security ('Geulah')  [R'eh v'onyeinu]

Look upon us in our suffering,
And fight our struggles,
Redeem us speedily, for thy Name's sake, 
For Thou art a mighty Redeemer.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, Redeemer of Israel.

8 Health ('Refuah')  [Refaeinu]

Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed,
Save us and we shall be saved,
For Thou art our glory.
Send complete healing for our every illness
For Thou, Divine King, art the faithful, merciful Physician.
Blessed are Thou, Lord, who heals the sick of His people Israel.

9 Economic Prosperity ('Birkat Hashanim') [Barekh aleinu]

Bless this year for us, O Lord our God, and all its varied produce that it be for good;
Provide (dew and rain as a*) blessing on the face of the earth,
Satisfy us with Thy goodness, and bless this year like the good years.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who blesses the years.

*The words "dew and rain" are limited to the winter season.

B.  Needs of the Jewish People and Society

10  Ingathering of the Dispersed ('Kibbutz Galuyot')  [Teka bashofar]

Sound the great shofar [to proclaim] our freedom,
Lift up a banner for the ingathering of our exiles,
And bring us together from the four corners of the earth.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who gathers together the dispersed of His people Israel.

11  Restoration of Justice ('Birkat Hamishpat')  [Hasiva shofteinu

Restore our judges as at first,
And our counselors as in the beginning,
Removing from us sorrow and sighing;
Rule over us, Thou alone, O Lord
With kindness and mercy,
And vindicate us in the judgment.
Blessed are Thou, Lord, King, who loves righteousness and judgment.

12  Destruction of Israel's Enemies ('Birkat Haminim') [V'lamalshinim]

For slanderers let there be no hope,
And let all wickedness instantly perish.
May all Thy enemies be quickly cut off;
And as for the malicious,
Swiftly uproot, break, cast down, and subdue
Quickly in our day.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who breaks the power of His enemies and subdues the malicious.

13 Prayer for the Righteous ('Birkat HaTzadikim')  [Al hatzadikim]

On the righteous and the saintly,
On the elders of Thy people, the house of Israel and on their surviving scholars,
On the true proselyte and on ourselves, 
Let Thy compassion flow, O Lord our God.
Grant a good reward to all who sincerely trust in Thy Name;
Place our lot with them forever and let us not be shamed,
For in Thee do we trust.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, the support and security of the righteous.

14  Restoration of Jerusalem ('Birkat Yerushalayim')  [V'liYerushalayim]

To Jerusalem Thy city, return with compassion,
And dwell within it as Thou promised;
Rebuild it soon in our days--an everlasting structure;
And speedily establish in its midst the throne of David.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, builder of Jerusalem.

15  Coming of the Messiah ('Birkat David')  [Et tzemach David]

The offspring of Thy servant David,
Quickly cause to flourish,
And lift up His power by Thy deliverance;
For Thy deliverance do we constantly hope.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who makes the glory of deliverance to flourish.

C. Summary Blessing

16  Hear Our Prayer ('Tefilah')  [Retzei]

Hear our voice, O Lord our God,
Show compassion and mercy to us,
Accept our prayers with mercy and favor,
For Thou art a God who hears prayers and supplications.
And from Thy presence, O our King, turn us not away empty;
*For Thou hearest the prayer of Thy people Israel with compassion.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who hears prayer.

*This is the appropriate place to add special requests.


17  Worship ('Avodah')  [Retzei]

Favorably receive, O Lord our God, Thy people Israel and their prayer.
Restore the worship to Thy Temple in Zion,
Receive with love and favor the offerings of Israel and their prayer, 
And may the worship of Thy people Israel always be favorably received by Thee.
May our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion.

18  Thanksgiving ('Birkat Hodaah')  [Modim]

We give thanks unto Thee who art the Lord our God and God of our fathers for all eternity.
Thou art the Strength of our lives, the Shield of our deliverance.
In every generation, we shall thank Thee and declare Thy praise 
For our lives that are entrusted in Thy hand,
And for our souls that are in Thy care,
And for Thy miracles that are daily with us,
And for Thy wondrous deeds and goodness that occur at all times, evening, morning, and noon.
Thou art the Benevolent One, for Thy mercies are never ended, 
The Compassionate One, for Thy deeds of kindness do not stop,
Always have we placed our hope in Thee.
For all this, O our King, may Thy Name be always blessed and exalted forever and ever.
All the living will forever thank Thee and praise Thy Name in truth, O God, our eternal salvation and help.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, whose Name is Goodness; it is pleasing to give thanks to Thee.

19  Peace ('Birkat Shalom')  [Sim Shalom]"

Establish peace, well-being, blessing, grace, loving kindness, and mercy upon us and upon all Israel, Thy people.
Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, by the light of Thy presence,
For by the light of Thy presence have you given us, O Lord our God, 
A Torah of life, love of kindness, justice, blessing, compassion, life, and peace.
And it is good in Thy sight to bless Thy people Israel at all times and in every hour with Thy peace.
Blessed art Thou, Lord, who blesses His people Israel with peace.

Formal conclusion of the Amidah:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.

NOTE:  It's my opinion that Messianics shouldn't recite a certain portion of the Morning Blessings.  See my earlier post on Kahn's book entitled "The Three Blessings" HERE.


  1. Thank you for this. I agree with you that Messianics should recite the traditional prayers, and also that certain sections of the morning blesings, which are incompatible with a One-Law view, should be omitted by them.

    In my opinion, however, the whole service has to be Yeshua-centered. We should not only take over the prayers which were delivered to us — sometimes from the immemorial past — through Jewish tradition, we should also look forward to the future of the Messianic Kingdom, when Messiah will be openly confessed by the entire Jewish nations and by all those from the other nations that will be deemed worthy of entering it. We should thus make clear in our prayers that we are Messianics and this messianic orientation should not only be formal and outward, by recognizing that we pray in Yeshua's name, but should go into the details and manner of prayer. For example, we should restore the ancient custom of kneeling as appropriate for certain sections of the Shemoneh Esrei.

    About a couple of years ago I started the ambitious project of composing a Messianic Siddur, and on my website you'll find some small examples of the results. At the moment this project is almost finished qua substance, and I'm now busy with the remaining details and typing all the texts.

    With your permission I would like to draw your readers' attention to a messianic version of the Minchah prayers, which I have already published. It retains the traditional structure and yet is fully messianic, and it includes the "Our Father" and other specific messianic prayers. I'm open for any well-argued criticism. You'll find the link to the liturgical text at the end of this post:

  2. Yes, it was me. Since a couple of weeks I have to log in at my Disqus account in order to comment.