Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Amidah - part 16 - Service

How is the concept of religious service related to the concept of prayer?

 Look with favor, L-rd our G‑d, on Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to Your Sanctuary and accept with love and favor Israel's fire-offerings and prayer; and may the service of Your people Israel always find favor. 

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed are You L-rd, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion. 

Certainly this section begins in the same spirit as the previous: Asking for favorable response to our prayers.  Then, however, it turns more specifically to the restoration of the ancient temple-services in Jerusalem (Zion).  This is a reminder that the entire Amidah prayer was specifically instituted as a substitute for the temple services when the temple was destroyed, first in 586 BCE by Babylon, and then in 70 CE by Rome.  Both events took place, as prophesied, on the 9th day of the month of Av, which was observed about 3 weeks ago.  The loss of the temple and its impact on the Jewish people is hard to comprehend by modern observers.  However, we were able to re-live it when Israel undertook to rescue the beleaguered Jews of Ethiopia in 1991 This community had been exiled from Israel before the destruction of  the first Temple.  When they arrived in Israel, their first and foremost wish was to be taken to the Temple that they may offer their Thanksgiving.  Upon hearing that there was no Temple, that it had lain in ruins for many centuries, they mourned with utter abandon.

It is with this frame of mind that we must read this section.  We pray that our prayers be accepted in lieu of the ancient fire-offerings.  In fact, we must pray as though we are making an actual sacrifice.  A sacrifice is an expression of love.  It is a statement of our priorities.  A sacrifice, properly made, is a declaration that the object of our love - G*d - is a higher priority to us than the material value being sacrificed. We are asking here for our priorities to be set straight, in order to restore the meaning of the Temple service.

It is said that the Temple was destroyed due to the internal strife among Jewish factions.  Again, a loss of priorities, as well as a loss of love.

So how is this section related to the previous one?  In the previous section, we asked G*d to listen favorably to our prayers.  Here we ask for help in ordering our priorities, help in prayer and service such that we will be deserving of such favor.  When we have our priorities in order, when we treat each other with love and willingly sacrifice material comforts for the sake of relationships which are more valuable - both with G*d and with each other - then the divine Presence is restored among us.

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