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.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

23 COMMENTS

  1. I am enjoying this article and decided to use this prayer for my everyday prayer. Thank you for this article. I will start the Akida right now. Shalom, Dr Timothy Brown

  2. I’m unable to find previous lesson material I was reading. I’m having trouble navigating this site. The first and only time I was able to bring up what I thought was a lesson I couldn’t follow Brother Eli in his

  3. Thank you for this. I do have one question, if I may..what about sacrifice?.
    I understand where Christians are concerned, but When did Jews stop doing that and why.
    Thank you. I love your teachings

    • Jews offered sacrifices (and the apostles too) as long as there was an altar. When conquering nations came in and desecrated or destroyed the altar, they sacrifices stopped. So when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, Jews were no longer able to offer sacrifices.

  4. Although in the Babylonian exile the sacrifices also stopped when they were in captivity, the sacrifices were replaced by prayer as happened after 70 CE.

  5. Jesus the Messiah taught the Jewish disciples how to pray. This is called the Lord’s prayer. He recognized God as our Father. There is none other like Him. Then He also taught that we should ask of the Father in His name. Then another Jewish author revealed that we must pray in the Holy Spirit. So as taught by Jews we are to pray to the Father in the name of the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I am sure you agree this is the way to prsy,both Jews and Gentiles who know the Father.

  6. I hope my article before come. One Jew Yeshua hamassiah taught other Jewish followers to pray: “our Father who is in heaven hallowed be thy name.” H e also taught them to pray in His name. Another Jewish writer says we must pray in th power of the Holy Spirit. So prayer today for alll Jews and Genties who are related to God the father god the Son and God the Holy Spirit must pray to the Father in the name of the Son and power of the Holy Spirit. The TANAK believers did not have this privilege.

  7. The Amidah is the same as the Shemone Esra I believe. But my formulation reads differently, “Blessed are You, O Lord, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, God Most High, who are the Creator of heaven and earth, our Shield and the Shield of our fathers. Blessed are You, O Lord, the Shield of Abraham.” Also your formulation is different than the Palestinian short form in y Ber. 4.3 and the Babylonian short form in b Ber. 29a. Where does your formulation come from? Thanks!

    • From any Hebrew Siddur (Jewish prayer book) to be found in any good Synagogue or Jewish bookstore. In the Talmud, prayers (among other things) are abridged as a general rule.

  8. I like the line; after the dream of falling and calling your name out; the roots of rhythm sustain me, the roots of rhythm remain. Probably an inaccurately transcribed lyric of Paul Simon’s

  9. Prof. Eli, I know that you are VERY busy in your studies, teachings and this blog. I would ask that if you could, could you engage me in some e-mails? The topic being the institution of the coming Kingdom and the Salvation of human kind.

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