Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 29 August 2015 / 14 Elul 5775

Shemoneh Esrei: Sixteenth Blessing

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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Acceptance of Our Prayers

Although one may add a request in his own words to the standard text of each of the blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei, this addition must be similar in theme to the blessing he is reciting. For example, in the “blessing for healing” one man add a request for a loved one to be healed from their sickness; or in the “blessing for prosperity” one man request his business or someone else’s business to improve. However, one should not ask for healing in the blessing for prosperity, or the reverse. (Levush, Anaf Yosef)

One may wonder what is wrong with asking for a variety of matters in one blessing. After all, our requests have one “address”. Are all our prayers not directed to G-d, “Who listens to the prayers of all”?

The reason for the above restriction can be better understood with an example. If a poor man was granted entry to plead with the king for help, and the king decided to grant him a sum of money, would he send him to the royal doctor to collect his money or to the minister of royal funds? Or, for example, if someone was pleading with the king that he was falsely accused of a crime, he would not be sent to the treasurer for help but to the minister that oversees court proceedings.

The same is true regarding prayer. Each blessing was constructed with a precise formula that corresponds to a specific Divine channel above that matches one’s request. A request for prosperity, which is rooted in the Divine attribute of benevolence, is “opposite” in nature from a request for God to fight one’s enemies, which is rooted in the Divine attribute of might. According to the above we can appreciate the deeper reasoning why one should not mix together in one blessing requests that are different in nature.

In contrast to the other blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei, the sixteenth blessing — the blessing for “the acceptance of our prayers” — is special. It is considered to be an all-inclusive blessing, representing a general channel. One can therefore ask for whatever he needs in this particular blessing, even when mentioning two “opposites”. The reason for this unique status is because it is the last of the thirteen blessings of requests, and is therefore the blessing in which all of the requests made prior to this are gathered together. (Levush)

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