The Shabbat Amida (Tefilat Sheva)

(The "Standing Prayer" or Shmoneh Esreh)

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © September 01, 2014

In this study I will not be covering all the details of properly reciting the Shabbat Amida nor its long history. My intention is to offer a brief overview for those who are new to Jewish prayer, and the Shabbat version of the prayer itself. Volumes have been written on related topics. With this piece I hope to provide a brief overview that will answer basic questions related to the central prayer of the Jewish faith. There are recitations that precede and follow the Amida. See a siddur for these.

For more detailed information on the Amida, as well as to read the longer Daily Amida please see my study here.

The Amida for Shabbat is considerably shorter than the weekday version. This Amida has only seven blessings and hence is sometimes referred to as Tefilat Sheva (i.e. the Prayer of Seven Blessings). This is because we are forbidden to ask for personal (physical) needs on Shabbat. Why? Because on Shabbat we are symbolically transported into the Olam Haba, into the Messianic Kingdom when we will lack nothing (Yer. Shattat 15:3). On Shabbat we focus on what we have, our loved ones, peace and especially on the innumerable received kindnesses of HaShem (Berakhot 21a)

For this reason, we recite the initial three blessings as in the daily prayer (i.e. in Praise God). The middle section is replaced with praise and thanksgiving (i.e. with the Kedushat Hayom or Sanctification of the Day). We then conclude with the final daily section thanking HaShem for hearing and accepting our prayers as in the daily Amida.

When reciting the Amida one considers that he/she is standing in the Holy Courtroom of the Most High. Since the Divine Presence resides always at the Temple Mount we turn ourselves to face the Kotel (the Western Wall) even as we pray for the restoration of the Temple. We are therefore visualizing our central Hope as Jews; we are looking with emuna or active faith to the Third Temple and HaMashiach who will one day lead us. Whereever in the world one is located, Jews look toward the Sacred Mount as they stand before the King in preparation for the Amida. This courtly sense is included in the simple ritual elements of the prayer.

You begin:

Center yourself with calm breathing and full intention (kavana) on what is to be done. Allow no distractions to disturb you. If someone speaks to you do not respond except in cases of extreme circumstances. Your full attention is to be on the King you are preparing to approach. Implicit in this is that before you begin you have handled mundane matters that are likely to distract you. Your attitude should be in imitation of the angles in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:7) and of Hanna praying for a child (I Samuel 1:13).

Although you recognize your personal unworthiness to approach the Sovereign, you do so based on His assurances concerning the offspring of the Patriarchs, such a descendant you are if you are Jewish. In the merit of our fathers you approach boldly. You may also have this confidence to approach the Holy One if you have established a relationship with a tzaddik such as Rebbe Nachman whose instructions are encouraging you to be bold in your spiritual disciplines. Now you stand with your feet together before the Holy Presence who is seated on the Sacred Mount.

Throughout this study we are assuming you are not part of a minyan. If so, refer to your siddur and follow the leader's instructions.

At [BOW] bend first the knees, then bow from the waist, then straighten.

Take three small steps forward, mindful that you are approaching the King.

Section One: Praise God

1. Patriarchs (Avot)

[BOW} Blessed are You, Lord our God and God of our fathers,
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob;
the great, mighty, and awesome God, God Most High,
who bestows acts of loving-kindness, who creates all,
who remembers the loving-kindness of the fathers
and will bring a Redeemer to their children's children
for the sake of His name, in love.

King, Helper, Savior, Shield:
[BOW] Blessed are You, Shield of Abraham.

2. Divine Might (Gevurot)
You are eternally mighty, Lord.
You give life to the dead and have great power to save.

He causes the dew to fall.

He sustains the living with loving-kindness,
and with great compassion revives the dead.
He supports the fallen, heals the sick,
sets the captives free,
and keeps His faith with those who sleep in the dust.
Who is like You, Master of might,
and to whom can You be compared,
O King who brings death and gives life,
and makes salvation grow?

Faithful are You to revive the dead.
Blessed are You, Lord, who revives the dead.
3. Holiness (Kedushat HaShem)
You are holy and Your name is holy,
and holy ones praise You daily, Selah!
Blessed are You, Lord,
the holy God.

Section Two: Praise and Thanksgiving

4. Sanctification of the Day (Kedushat Hayom)

Moses rejoiced at the gift of of his portion
when You called him "faithful servant."
A crown of glory
You placed on his head
when he stood before You on Mount Sinai.
He brought down in his hands two tablets of stone
on which was engraved the observances of the Sabbath.
So it is written in Your Torah:
The children of Israel must keep the Sabbath,
observing the Sabbath in ever generation
as an everlasting covenant.
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever,
for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,
but on the seventh day
He ceased work and refreshed Himself.
You, O Lord our God, did not give it
to the other nations of the world,
nor did You, our King, give it as a heritage to those who worship idols.
In it rest the uncircumcised do not dwell,
for You gave it in love to Israel Your people,
to the descendants of Jacob whom You chose.
Those who keep the Sabbath and call it a delight shall rejoice in Your Kingship.
May the people who sanctify the seventh day
all find satisfaction and delight in Your goodness,
for You favored the seventh day and made it holy,
calling it the most cherished of days,
a remembrance of the act of creation.

Our God and God of our ancestors, find favor, please, in our rest.
Make us holy through Your commandments
and grant us our share in You Torah.
Satisfy us with Your goodness, grant our souls joy in Your salvation,
and purify our hearts to serve You in truth.
In love and favor, Lord our God, grant us as our heritage You holy Sabbath,
so that all Israel who sanctify Your name may find rest on it.
Blessed are You, Lord, who santifies the Sabbath.
Section Three: Thanking God

5. Worship (Avodah)
Find favor, Lord our God,
in Your people Israel, and heed their prayer.
Restore the service to Your most holy House,
and accept soon in love and in favor,
the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer.
May the service o`f Your people Israel, always find favor with You.

And may our eyes witness
Your return to Zion in compassion.
Blessed are You, Lord,
who restores His Presence to Zion.

6. Thanksgiving (Birkat Hodaah)
Bow at the first nine words
(Bow while saying the first nine words)

We give thanks to You,
for You are the Lord our God

and God of our ancestors
for ever and all time.
You are the Rock of our lives,
Shield of our salvation.
from generation to generation.
We will thank You and
declare Your praise for our lives,
which are entrusted into Your hand;
for our souls,
which are placed in Your charge;
for Your miracles
which are with us everyday;
and for Your wonders and favors
at all times, evening,
morning and midday.
You are good --
for Your compassion never fails.
Your are compassionate --
for Your loving
kindnesses never cease;
for we have always
placed our hope in You.

For all these things may Your name be blessed and exalted
and raised up, our King, continually, for ever and all time.

Let all that live thank You, Selah! and praise and bless
Your great name in truth, always, because it is good,
God, our Savior and Help, Selah! the beneficent God.
[BOW] Blessed are You, Lord, whose name is "the Good"
and to whom thanks are due.

7. Peace (Birkat Shalom)
Grant peace, goodness and blessing,
life, grace, loving-kindness and compassion
to us and all Israel Your people.
Bless us, our Father, all as one, with the light of Your face,
for by the light of Your face You have given us, Lord our God,
the Torah of life and love and kindness,
righteousness, blessing, compassion, life and peace.
May it be good in Your eyes to bless us and all Your people Israel
at every time, in every hour, with Your peace.

Blessed are You, Lord, who blesses His people Israel with peace.

My God
Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech.
To those who curse me, let my soul be silent;
may my soul be to all like the dust.
Open my heart to Your Torah and let my soul
pursue Your commandments.
As for all who rise up or plan evil against me,
swiftly thwart their counsel and frustrate their plans.
    [Some add: May it be Your will, Lord my God, God of my ancestors, that envy of no man rise
    may rise up in me, nor envy of me in any other; that I will not be angry today, nor
    make You angry; and save me from my evil impulse [i.e. the yetzer hara], placing humility and modesty into my heart. Our King and God, make Your name One in Your world; build up Your City, establish Your House and complete Your Sanctuary, gather in the exiles, redeem Your flock, and have Your congregations rejoice]

Act for the same of Your name;
act for the sake of Your right hand;
act for the sake of Your holiness.
That Your beloved ones may be delivered,
save with Your hand and answer me.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
find favor before You, Lord, my Rock and redeemer.

Bow. Take three small steps back, bow again: first to the left, then center, then right while reciting:

May He who makes peace in His High high places .
make peace for us and all Israel -- and say Amen.

May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors,
that the temple be rebuilt speedily in our days,
and grant us a share in Your Torah. And there we will serve You
with reverence, as in the days of old and as in former years.
then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord.
as in the days of old and as in former years.

Here ends the Shabbat Amida.

May HaShem accept the prayers of all good intentioned people.

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