National Redemption

The blessings that conclude the Amidah's center section emphasize God's redemption of Israel.


Reprinted with permission from the CLAL Rabbinic Community Online

The language of the Amidah as a whole draws heavily on biblical language, and the section that concludes the center section of the weekday Amidah is no exception. Nevertheless, the representation of Israel’s eschatological future diverges from any earlier precedent or any other contemporary model. While the emphasis on God’s primary and virtually solitary role as redeemer accords with other developments in Jewish contemplation during the first centuries of the common era, the de-emphasis of the role of the Davidic Messiah places the Amidah in a class by itself. 

Blessings 10-15 constitute a scenario for national redemption. It commences with the great shofar’s blast of freedom, announcing the ingathering of the exiles (10), and continues with the restoration of divine rule through righteous leaders (11), the meting out of appropriate deserts to the righteous and the wicked (12 and 13), the rebuilding of Jerusalem (14), and the return of the Davidic line (15). Since the motifs are all biblical, the distinctive contribution made by this liturgy to the idea of national redemption lies in the particular linguistic formulation, in the sequence of events, and in the uncompromising emphasis on divine involvement, all of which converge to make the point that God alone is the redeemer as opposed to any human redeemer. 

Linguistically, these blessings weave threads of verses from Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Malachi, and Psalms into a liturgical tapestry. There is hardly a word not pronounced by the prophets. Therefore, it has been suggested that by reformulating their prophecies into requests, “It is as if the Deity were reminded of his promise and asked to fulfill it.”

The eschatological sequence of the Amidah does not match any antecedent or contemporary scenario. It is not dictated by any single biblical text nor paralleled by any other post-biblical scenario or, for that matter, any other rabbinic liturgical formulation of eschatology. Unlike so many other extrabiblical eschatological scenarios, the Amidah is free of apocalyptic elements, whether utopian or catastrophic, symptomatic of which is the absence of any reference to the book of Daniel. Its sobriety verges on the Maimonidean. But even Maimonides had to reverse the order of the Amidah in order to come up with a messiah who can “restore the kingdom of David … rebuild the Temple, and gather the dispersed of Israel.

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Reuven Kimelman is a Professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University.

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