by Stuart W.
The phrase "as Hashem had commanded Moses," appears eighteen times in this week's Torah portion. The Talmud (Yerushalmi Tractate Berachot 4:3) asks the following question: Why do we say eighteen blessings in the daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer?
The phrase "as Hashem had commanded Moses," appears eighteen times in this week's Torah portion. The Talmud (Yerushalmi Tractate Berachot 4:3) asks the following question: Why do we say eighteen blessings in the daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer? Some of the answers the Talmud records are as follows: "Rabbi Shimon says that the eighteen blessings correspond to the eighteen discs in one's spinal chord. Rabbi Chaninah says in the name of Rabbi Pinchas that the eighteen blessings correspond to the eighteen times that our forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) are mentioned together in the Torah. Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani says in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that the eighteen blessings correspond to the eighteen times the phrase 'as Hashem had commanded Moses' appears in the Torah portion of Pekudei."
All of the reasons mentioned above can be combined into one central idea: One of the things that differentiates man from animal is the fact that he is able to walk upright, that he has a spine full of vertebrae. The mark of someone who is a ba'al ga'ava, a haughty person, is that he walks with a straight spine, upright, in a way which shows that he feels greater than everyone else. A humble person, however, tends to walk more bent over, in a submissive manner, realizing his lowliness in comparison to his Creator.
One foundation of prayer is for us to realize that we are totally subjugated to Hashem; only He can give us what we need and has given us what we have. Three times a day during our recital of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer we bow to Hashem as we say the words "Baruch ata -- blessed are you." We then stand upright when we say "Hashem," recognizing the blessing Hashem provides man by straightening the bent. A Jewish king is required to recite the entire Shemoneh Esrei prayer while on his knees, to show himself and the entire Jewish people that even the king is totally subjugated and dependent on Hashem.
Another foundation of prayer is zchut avot, the merit of our righteous forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their deeds and self-sacrifice are the only reason we have the opportunity to stand before Hashem. Without them, we would be like any other nation, devoid of the special relationship our forefathers achieved to connect to the Infinite.
The central idea which connects the reasons of the bent spine and our forefathers' righteousness can be found in the third reason mentioned above as to why we recite eighteen blessings in the daily Shemoneh Esrei: "as Hashem had commanded Moses," the phrase which is repeated eighteen times in this week's Torah portion. Moses did just as Hashem commanded him, and so did our forefathers. We, too, because of their merit, are able to serve Hashem by bowing our spine and subjugating ourselves to His will, as we do every time we recite the Shemoneh Esrei prayer.
NOTE: Shemoneh Esrei means eighteen in Hebrew. However, if one counts the blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei, one will find that there are nineteen blessings. This is because the 19th blessing was added by the Rabbis at a later date during the writing of the Talmud.
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