National Redemption

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

Print this page Print this page

15. Speedily cause the sprout of Your servant, David, to flourish and let his horn be exalted by Your salvation, for we wait for Your salvation daily. Blessed are You, O Lord, who causes the horn of salvation to flourish.

Note the absence of the term "Messiah," and the minimal role of the "Sprout of David," despite its pregnant biblical antecedents. Of those antecedents, the closest is that of Zechariah 3:8, which employs both the term "sprout" and the term "servant." Zechariah, however, prophesies that the "sprout" (6:12) will rebuild the Temple. Even Jeremiah has the "sprout" reigning and executing justice in the land, a function that is in line with its use as a royal title.

As for the Amidah, "the Sprout of David Your servant," appears without any reference to name or to ruling function. He does not rule, teach, determine pedigrees, conduct wars, resurrect the dead, judge, or mark an age of travail. Appearing only after God has reassembled the dispersed (blessing 10), restored His rule through righteous leaders (blessing 11), meted out the appropriate deserts to the righteous and the wicked (blessing 12 and 13), and rebuilt Jerusalem (blessing 14), it is clear that the Messiah lacks a specific role in the events ushering in the rule of God. His appearance marks the culmination of the process, not its initiation.

Stranger still is the location of the blessing for the Davidic line. It should have immediately succeeded the blessing for the restoration of political autonomy (blessing 11) or have been integrated into it. By coming four blessings later, the advent of the Davidic scion is so disjoined from the hope for the restoration of political autonomy, it is as if it were a separate agendum. Even stranger is the paradox of some versions that have both blessings speak of human agency only to have such agency undermined by a subsequent reference to divine agency. This counterstatement, as it were, appears in the third strophe of each blessing.

In blessing 11 it goes as follows:

1. Restore our judges as in former times and our counselors as in the beginning.

2. Remove from us sorrow and anguish.

3. Reign over us You alone [O Lord].

And in blessing 15 it goes as follows:

1. Cause to flourish the shoot of your servant David.

2. May his horn be exalted by Your salvation.

3. For it is to Your salvation that we have hoped for every day.

In both cases, what is granted to the human role in the first strophe is transferred to the divine role in the third. However rulership and salvation may be mediated through human agency, they remain divine prerogatives.

By highlighting near the beginning of the eschatological scenario God's exclusive rule (blessing 11), the appearance of the Davidic scion (blessing 15) at the end turns out to be more a manifestation of divine power than an expression of acute messianism. Indeed, as blessing 11 underscores our hope for divine rule alone despite the presence of biblical-type rulers as in Isaiah 1:26 ("I will restore your judges as in former times and your counselors as in the beginning"), so blessing 15 underscores our hope in divine salvation despite the presence of the scion of David. It is thus less a messianic liturgy than a divinely orchestrated redemptive drama on the order of the Exodus.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Dr. Reuven Kimelman

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