Bracha #17 – Avodah (Service)
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.”
We ask that God find us and our prayer favorable so that He see fit to restore the Temple and the service we performed there. The prayer service we recite is only a substitute for our offerings and we long to be able to serve God the way He originally intended before we were exiled for our misdeeds. When He does, we hope that He will then accept our sacrifices with favor, in addition to the prayers that we will lovingly offer alongside them. Whether our service consists of the Temple service or our simple prayers, we hope that God will always find it acceptable.
The bracha concludes with a desire to witness God’s return to Zion, meaning the Temple Mount. The root of the word “to see” used here (v’sechezenah) is not the usual REH, but ChZN, a word normally used for a prophetic vision (as in “Chazon Yeshayahu,” “the vision of Isaiah” in Isaiah 1:1). To fully visualize and truly appreciate the meaning of God’s return to the place of His Temple requires the insight of a prophet!
This bracha is where the prayer Yaaleh V’Yavo is inserted on holidays and Rosh Chodesh, occasions on which a Musaf sacrifice was offered in the Temple. In Yaaleh V’Yavo, we ask that God recall the merits of our Forefathers, His promises to bring Moshiach and to rebuild Jerusalem, and whatever merits we may have (humble though they may be) so that we can enjoy God’s salvation, His grace, His kindness and His compassion, for life and for peace. (Chesed–kindness–means giving us good things even though we may not deserve them. Rachamim–mercy–means not punishing us, even though we may deserve it.)