The history of the creation of the amidah prayer
The Talmud (Berakhot, 33a) says that the first formulations of the text of the amida prayer were compiled by the great assembly (the Jewish religious-legislative council that existed in the 5th-3rd centuries BC).
Until the destruction of the second temple (70 AD), the prayer had no set text, only a general structure was determined: each part of the prayer ended with a standard blessing formula, the beginning of the prayer was dedicated to glorifying God , the end – thanksgiving to God, in the middle were the actual requests.
Before the era of the Tannai, there was a ban on praying according to an established, and even more so, written text.However, after the destruction of the temple and the termination of the temple service, prayer became the only possible form of worship and thus acquired a special significance.
It was decided that the amida was in some way a substitute for the sacrifices performed in the temple, in accordance with the Bible verse “Take words with you and turn to the Lord; say to Him, Take away all iniquity and accept it for good, and we will offer the sacrifice of our mouths” (Hosea 14:3)
Therefore, in the II century. n. e. under Nasi Gamliel II, it was decided to fix the text of public and private prayers. However, it still differs slightly in various liturgical canons.
The number of blessings was established – eighteen, according to the Talmud – in accordance with the number of mentions of the name of God in the Shema prayer and the 29th psalm.
However, in the final version of the blessings, it turned out to be one more – nineteen. The Talmud explains this by the fact that Gamliel II proposed to compose an additional blessing for the Amida, directed against apostates and heretics, which was formulated by Shmuel the Lesser.
According to other sources, however, this blessing was included in the amida initially, and an additional blessing appeared as a result of the division into two prayers for the restoration of the temple and the kingdom.
The Talmud mentions some blessings that are not included in modern versions of the Amidah, as well as versions of the text of the prayer, recognized for one reason or another as heretical, and therefore prohibited.
The structure and order of reading the prayer is discussed in the Talmud (tractate Brachot, chapters 4-5) and described in the halakhic codes of the Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch.
Since the reading of the Amida is a substitute for temple sacrifices, it was established that the reading of the Amidah three times a day – in the morning (shacharit), afternoon (mincha) and evening (maariv) prayers.
The morning and afternoon prayers correspond to the daily burnt offering offered twice a day (Numbers 28:4), and the evening prayers correspond to the burning of the remnants of the sacrifices made during the day.
On Saturday, the new moon and holidays, a fourth reading is added – musaf (corresponding to an additional holiday sacrifice), and on Yom Kippur – also a fifth, neila, corresponding to a special sacrifice of this day.
According to the Talmud (Berakhot, 26b), the custom of praying three times a day goes back to the forefathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The time of reading each of these prayers is set in accordance with the time of offering sacrifices in the temple.
The morning prayer is read from sunrise to the end of the first third of the day, the afternoon prayer is read in the second half of the day, the evening prayer is allowed to be read throughout the night, the musaf is read throughout the day, between the morning and afternoon prayers.
The prescribed recitation time does not deprive the believers of the right to say the Amidah prayer at any time, in addition to the obligatory recitations.
The usual, everyday Amidah, read on all days except Saturdays and holidays, consists of nineteen blessings (although traditionally called “eighteen”).
The first three blessings – the glorification of God – have the purpose of appealing to His mercy and creating an appropriate mood in the one who prays.
The middle blessings – there are thirteen of them – contain requests to God: first there are six personal requests, then six public ones, concerning the entire Jewish people, the last blessing is a request for a favorable acceptance of prayer.
Finally, the last three blessings represent gratitude to God for the opportunity to serve Him.
Common to all variants of amidah, both everyday and festive, is that the prayer begins with the standard formula “Blessed are You, Lord ”, and every blessing ends with it.
In any version of the prayer, there are blessings glorifying God (the first three) and blessings of gratitude (the last three).