As we continue to journey through the Amida, we discover the foundation of this prayer, both in terms of why this God should be worshiped and adored as well as why the people of Israel (and all those who join them) receive a special clearance to enter into the throne room of God so frequently. (The Amida is prayed three times per day, which in and of itself signifies the privilege of full and unconditional access to God).
הָאֵל הַגָּדול הַגִּבּור וְהַנּורָא אֵל עֶלְיון
(Pronounced: Ha’El hagadol, hagibor vehanorah. El Elyon.).
The great, mighty and awesome God, the Most High God…
This seemingly accidental, rapid-fire description of Israel’s God is in fact a well-considered foundational statement of this covenant relationship. He is האל הגדול (pronounced: ha’El haGadol) – The Great God.
The key here is to remember that a Biblical worldview presupposes the existence of other powerful otherworldly beings (i.e. gods). The definite article (ה) points to this God not being alone, but being the most high God over all others. This specification of Him being not just another powerful heavenly being, but The Great God is reinforced with his description as אל עליון (pronounced: El Elyon) and translated as Most High God (or literally, “the High God” which reflects ancient Near Eastern cosmology). Notice that no definite article is used in this case, confirming the earlier observation. He is also described as האל הגבור (pronounced haEl haGibor), which means something analogous to, “The Hero God,” “The Warrior God,” or (as in our more sanitized translation), “The Mighty God”. On the top of all this, Israel’s deity is said to be האל הנורא (haEl haNora), which means, “The Awesome God,” or literally, “The Terrible (fear inspiring) God”.
גּומֵל חֲסָדִים טובִים. וְקונֵה הַכּל
(Gomel hasadim tovim. Vekoneh hakol.)
Who bestows loving kindness and goodness and is master of all.
The phrase גומל חסדים טובים is best translated as “He grants His kind faithfulness”. This important phrase establishes that Israel’s God must not be understood only as Israel’s King – He is also Israel’s heavenly Father. This theme of Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King) is very important in Judaism. In many ways it defines the nature of Israel’s Covenant with her God. This loving, kind, and faithful bestowal of good things is confessed in the short phrase, וקונה הכל (vekone hakol), which basically means that God rightfully owns everything.
וְזוכֵר חַסְדֵּי אָבות. וּמֵבִיא גואֵל לִבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם לְמַעַן שְׁמו בְּאַהֲבָה
(Vezocher hasdei avot. Umeivi go’el livnei veneihem lema’an shemo be’ahavah).
Who remembers the good deeds of the fathers, and brings a redeemer to their children, in love and for the sake of His name
One of the key concepts to consider here is the merits of the fathers. This blessing clearly states that the basis of Israel’s covenantal life is rooted in God’s memory of the faithfulness displayed in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, God’s own covenantal faithfulness to future generations of the people of Israel was always based on the merits of their fathers.
One example of prime importance of such action is the everyday reading of the Akida (the binding of Isaac) chapter as part of morning prayers by Jews everywhere. Despite Abraham’s shortcomings, he was able to display full faith in his God when he drew the knife and raised it over the bound body of his beloved son (Isaac). Actions like this were understood in Judaism to be meritorious for all future generations in Israel. On the one hand, this Jewish idea seems to deny the main Christian contention that it was Christ’s death on a Roman cross that brought redemption to the entire world. However, upon closer examination the opposite conclusion may emerge. The idea that faithfulness of one (Christ Jesus) can merit salvation and forgiveness for the entire world is in fact the same Jewish idea of the fathers’ merits, now fully realized in the Messiah Jesus.