Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 21 February 2015 / 2 Adar I 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - Tenth Blessing: Part 3

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“Gather us together” — Two Redemptions

Since we already asked for redemption in the seventh blessing why do we ask for it again here in the tenth blessing?

According to Rashi the idea of redemption in the seventh blessing does not refer to the general redemption of the Jewish People from their current exile. Rather, it is a request from G-d for rescue from distress and misfortune that befall a person in daily life. It is for this reason that the word “redeem” (go’el) is in the present tense, hinting to the daily help we receive from G-d, saving us from our troubles.

But the question still remains. Why are two separate blessings needed?

A person should long for the final redemption, beseeching G-d each day to hasten its arrival. However, since we may be lacking the necessary merit for this, it is also necessary to pray for our physical wellbeing while we are still in exile, i.e. in a world where G-d's presence is “concealed” from us.

If we were to turn to G-d in our current exile, using our freedom and resources to serve Him instead of betraying Him, He would surely relieve us from our distress. This is similar to the climax of the Purim story. Although the Jews were rescued from physical harm, they still remained in exile.

Moreover, just as Yaakov lived out his final days exiled in Egypt amidst peace and tranquility, so too, through prayer and teshuva we may become worthy to live a more tranquil life and experience great wealth and comfort. For the life of our Forefathers are examples of what can and will be for their descendants.

Since asking for a better life in the place where one is presently is a separate request from asking for the exile to end, these requests were divided into separate blessings.

Body and Soul

Another explanation for mentioning redemption in both the seventh and tenth blessings is that they refer to two different aspects of the same redemption. The first refers to the body, while the latter the soul (Rabbi Meir ben Gabay, 1480-1540, in his famous work on kabbala called Avodat Hakodesh). This approach, based on a precise reading of the Talmud, contends that both blessings were established for the final redemption, which ultimately is a story of the freedom of the body from its servitude, and the soul from its confines.

According to the above we can explain the phrase “Gather us together from the four corners of the earth” to refer to the unification or purification of the body that was formed from the four corners of the earth.

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