In previous posts, I loosely reviewed the types of korbanot and the steps in doing a sacrifice. In a subsequent post, I reviewed Maimonides’ understanding that the most important part of a korban was what went on in the mind and heart of the one bringing the offering (although this need not negate the outer form).
It’s been stated many times that the “Amidah” — the central Jewish prayer — stands in the liturgy in place of the daily (Tamid) morning and evening sacrifice.
Commentators like Rabbi S.R. Hirsch divide the Amidah into 3 phases:
The first includes the Avot, G’vurot and K’dushah. Praising G-d, they com-mence the prayer-process on a positive, reassuring note, even one of awe, rather than fear, worry, anger, etc.
The middle section is “petitionary.” Here, 12 short paragraphs encompass — in as few words as possible — virtually anything one could ask for. They’re also framed in the first-person plural, so that we’re not actually asking these things for ourselves at all, but for everyone, including ourselves. Each of the 12 petitions (another was added later) concludes its terse request with a blessing that frames it as praising G-d (instead of begging) — thereby ending each one, and the entire sequence, on a positive note, too.
The final section, beginning with “R’tzeh,” includes the request that our “sacrifice” (having just been done, so to speak, through our prayer) be acceptable, that all be blessed, and that Peace (particularly spiritual peace) be placed on all — ending the whole prayer process on a positive note.
But perhaps the Amidah does more than “represent” the Korban Tamid. It’s typical for people to report being distracted by “external” thoughts while praying — doubts, unrelated thoughts, etc. This was probably true during the Korbanot in the Temple, too. As a solution, the rabbis gave us a text to follow; the text of the Amidah. In it, maybe we can see a script to guide us through the internal steps of worship that should also accompany the external steps of the Korban. It asks of us only that we accept the words uncritically — at least, while we’re saying them.
It would mean that we’re saying the Amidah to ourselves, about G-d. We should let the words we’re saying speak to us about G-d. That’s what gives it its reflective, meditative element.
The Amidah could be seen as the “Kavannah” of our Korban.
In it, the rabbis were telling us not only what to pray; they were showing us how to pray.
In it, we glimpse the ideal spirit of what a Korban should be.
For the fifth and final post in this series on the Korbanot, see: