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1.Traditional Text:

Adonai, open my lips so that my mouth may declare Your glory.{Psalm 51:17}

Blessed are You, Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, great, mighty and awesome God; supreme God, Who bestows lovingkindness by creating everything [in the universe]. You remember the kindness of our ancestors, and lovingly bring redemption to their descendants for the sake of Your Name.

You are our King, Helper, Deliverer and Shield.

Blessed are You, Adonai, Shield of Abraham.
 

2.Contemporary Text:

Adonai, open my lips so that my mouth may declare Your glory.{Psalm 51:17}

Blessed are You, Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel; great, mighty and awesome God; supreme God, Who bestows lovingkindness by creating everything [in the universe]. You remember the kindness of our fathers and mothers, and lovingly bring redemption to their descendants for the sake of Your Name.

You are our King, Helper, Deliverer and Shield.

Blessed are You, Adonai, Abraham’s Shield and Sarah’s Helper.


The avot [ve’imahot] prayer begins the next major section of the service, known variously as the tefila (“the prayer”), the amida (“the prayer recited while standing”) or the shmoneh esrei berachot (“the eighteen blessings”). This set of prayers is included in every formal worship service.

• The first three prayers of the tefila are always:

- avot [ve’imahot]: a reminder that the God that we worship is the same as the God of our ancestors;

- gevurot: a declaration that God has the absolute power to accomplish that for which we are about to ask; and

- kedushat haShem: an affirmation of God’s holiness.

• The middle part of the tefila varies with the day on which it is being recited:

- On weekdays there are 13 petitionary prayers—for wisdom, the capability of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, health, prosperity, the ingathering of exiles, the restoration of justice, punishment of slanderers, reward for the righteous, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the restoration of the Davidic kingship, and God’s compassionate attention to our requests.

- It is considered inappropriate to ply God with our petitions on Shabbat and Festivals, so on those days there is only one middle prayer: kedushat hayom: an affirmation of the holiness of the particular Shabbat or festival that we are celebrating. (At the additional—musaf—service for Rosh Hashanah, however, there are three kedushat hayom prayers in order to enunciate the three major themes of the holiday and to allow for three soundings of the shofar.)

• The concluding three prayers of the tefila are always:

- avoda: a reminder of the sacrifices that used to be offered in the Temple of old, and for which these “words of our mouths” (Psalm 19:15) are a substitute;

- hoda-a: an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and an expression of our gratitude to the Eternal One. The Hebrew root y d h  י ד ה  carries the dual meaning of “acknowledgement” and “thanks”; and

- birkat shalom: a prayer for peace.

The traditional text of avot (#1, above) speaks only of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Contemporary text (#2, above) refers also to the matriarchs (imahot) Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel.

A literal translation of the prayer is not “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” but rather “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.” Our rabbis have taught that although God is Eternal and unchangeable, we human beings evolve from one generation to the next, and each generation must therefore relate to the Eternal One in its own way.

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