Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 31 October 2015 / 18 Heshvan 5776

Shemoneh Esrei: Seventeenth Blessing: Part 2

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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Thus said the Lord G-d: Though I have removed them far away among the nations, and though I have scattered them among the lands, I have been for them a small Sanctuary…. (Yechezkel 11:16)

Throughout our long and bitter exile, the Beit Haknesset, the synagogue, has stood for us as a pillar of refuge in the absence of the holy Temple. Yet, although the Divine presence resides in the synagogues around the world, this fact cannot be seen with our eyes. In Temple times, however, the Divine presence was revealed, and there were constant, open miracles, which strengthened one’s faith in G-d and His presence in the world.

Nowadays, in these dark times when G-d hides His countenance from the world, we must rely solely on faith that He remains near to us, albeit in a concealed way. Prayer has the power to draw G-d closer to us, so to speak, revealing His providence to all. And although we are grateful for the privilege to approach G-d with a request for our needs, above all we await the future when we will be able to “see” G-d, as it is written, “With their own eyes they will see when G-d returns to Zion.” (Isiah 52:8) Then we will be able to serve G-d in the Temple once again.

The above idea can be seen in the order of the blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei. After we conclude the section of requests, we proclaim in the blessing of Avoda, the Temple service, “Return the service of the Temple to the Holy of Holies.” This expresses our great desire to see an end to the exile and a return to the loyal service of G-d in the Temple.

We can also learn from the order of the blessings what the true result of prayer should be. Drawing close to G-d in prayer should leave a person wanting more. It is not enough to have a small sanctuary where G-d is hidden. Although G-d is together with us in exile, that is certainly not enough. As we conclude our prayers, we cry out, “We want to be with You in the Beit Hamikdash. We want to return to the way things were, when the world saw that we were devoted only to You, through our service in the holy Temple, and that You were devoted only to us, through the fact that You chose to dwell amongst Your nation of Israel.

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