I'd just like to share with you a few thoughts about the sequence of requests in the amidah, the silent prayer, also called shmoneh esreh - 'eighteen blessings', (though there are actually nineteen), or simply known as tefila, the quintessential prayer.

This prayer is the climax of the morning prayer service. As we pray we ascend through the four worlds.

We begin with the mundane world of action when we recite the morning blessings.

As we move through the psalms of praise, the pesukei dezimra, we are in the world of yetzira, the world of formation.

When we say the words of the Shma with it's accompanying blessings we have ascended to the world of Briyah, the world of creation.

Finally we arrive at atzilut, the world of emanation and the world closest to G-d. These are clearly not distances in space but states of being, spiritual dimension as it were. At this level we are potentially as close as we can get to the Ain sof, the infinite One.

Amidah means "standing". We stand simple and straight like angels. We annul our independent will. .

The first and last blessings are of praise and thanksgiving.

The intermediate blessings are blessings of request and these are the subject of this contemplation in their content and their progression.

We begin with the fourth blessing, ata chonen le'adam da'as - you grace man/womankind with insight...

We are asking G-d to give us clarity. We can't make any progress without mental clarity. We can use chochma- possibly right hemisphere cognition. Co'ach ma - the potential of 'what'- Primal knowledge awaiting actuality.

In contrast bina is understanding and left hemisphere cognition. This involves logic, building an edifice of thought based on sound premises. Bina is based on the Hebrew verb livnot, to build.

Finally we have da'as- insight, a deeper level of knowledge which combines chochma and bina and goes beyond them in perception.

Most problems in the world are caused by lack of clarity. Petty disputes, feuds, even wars often arise from lack of understanding, lack of communication and proper negotiation.

The fifth blessing, Hashivenu avinu letoratecha- "Bring us back, our father, to your torah"

Now we have reached clarity and it is evident to us that we should get back on the right track. Our goals can sometimes get lost in the myriad details of life. We need divine assistance to recognise the right path, and tokeep it in focus.

The sixth blessing, slach lanu - "pardon us!"

Now we're back on track, we see clearly the errors we have made. "Forgive us!". We don't wallow in guilt, we admit, we correct, we move on but we also ask G-d's mercy for our human failings.

The seventh blessing, re'eh na veanyenu - "please see our affliction"

We ask for personal redemption. As we recognize our mistakes, we see the mess they make of our lives. Are we on good terms with our family? Our neighbours?

Personal redemption means release from small, restricted consciousness. We need to draw ourselves out of any personal messes we got ourselves into, deal with them maturely, recognise our part in them.

The eighth blessing, refaeinu, "heal us!"

Negative emotions and behaviour can make a profound imprint in our health- physical, mental, and emotional. As our clarity increases we recognise this and we ask for deeper healing. At the same time we daven for the healing of others.

The ninth blessing, barech aleynu, "bless us"

When we are truly contrite, broken hearted, in pieces (though not lost in a pit of depression), we are a receptacle for blessing. We have to dismantle ourselves, clear ourselves out totally. It's like making Passover. Now is the time to ask for blessing on the land. Literally we're talking about the land of Israel, but on another level we're also talking about ourselves. Rain is real rain but it's also symbolic of divine compassion.

The tenth blessing, teka beshofar, "blow on the ramshorn"

We blow the ramshorn. We ask for the return of all of the people ofl Israel to the land. The shofar is a healing sound which has great powers. This also symbolises the imperative of putting ourselves together again after we've dismantled ourselves.

The eleventh blessing, hhashivenu shoftenu, "Bring back our judges!"

Judgement -, fair and merciful but firm and no nonsense! Now the exiles are gathered in we can set up a proper Torah legal system.

Now that all the disparate parts of ourselves are drawn together again, we can renew our inner judgement, fair and objective, without the bias of the dirty stuff that used to be inside us.

The twelth blessing, velamalshinim , al ti tikva, " for the informers, let their be no hope!"

On a national level: if we have a decent legal system, we can judge and cast away those elements within us that seek to harm Israel. On a personal level, now that our sense of judgement is restored we can easily identify any remaining contaminating negative thoughts and give them the boot!

The thirteenth blessing, al ha tzadikim..., "On the righteous..."

Who is left? The pious, the righteous and the rest of us. For all these we ask G-d to have mercy and recompense because we have trusted in Him Now we have only the good parts of us. The evi, is cast out- (at least for a little while!)

The fourteenth blessing, velirushalayim..., "and to Jerusalem..."

Please G-d, come back to Jerusalem and dwell within Her.. The real Jerusalem in the land of Israeland also ourselves. Jerusalem is made up of two words-yirah, "awe" and shalom" peace, wholeness, completion, integration. That's what we're aiming for, and if we accomplish that, we will BE Jerusalem and we can invite G-d's presence to dwell fully within.

The fifteenth blessing, et tzemach David, "and the sprout of David"

We ask for the Mashiach to sprout- literally. We all have a seed of Mashiach within us. We need to make ourselves like a wholesome and nurturing land so that Mashiach can sprout and grow like a tree. That powerful inner G-dly potential will rise within us, unfolding its sweet wonders like a young tree in new leaf.

The sixteenth blessing, av harachman, shma koleinu!, "Merciful father- hear our voice!

Now that I've made all my requests, may they please be accepted in heaven!

copyright © 2002 gila atwood

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