Quotes

The Principles of Faith

“The movement from creation to revelation to redemption is one of the great structural motifs of prayer. One example is the three blessings in the morning service, surrounding the Shema and leading up to the Amidah. The first is about the creation of the universe in space and time; the second is about the revelation of the Torah; and the third is about the miracles of history, ending with the words, ‘who redeemed Israel’. The three paragraphs of the Shema display the same pattern. The first is about creation (God’s unity and sovereignty), the second about revelation (acceptance of the commandments), and the third about redemption (“I am God your Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt”). The weekday morning as a whole is constructed on this principle. First come the Verses of Praise, taken from the Book of Psalms, with their majestic vision of creation. Then follows the central section – the Shema and its blessings, leading to the Amidah – in which we sit, then stand, in the immediate presence of God (revelation). Finally we come to the concluding prayers with their central line, “A redeemer will come to Zion”. The second paragraph of Aleinu is likewise a vision of redemption. The pattern is repeated yet again in the Shabbat evening, morning and afternoon prayers. On Friday evening, in the central blessing of the Amidah, we speak of the Shabbat of creation (“the culmination of the creation of heaven and earth”). In the morning we refer to the Shabbat of revelation (when “Moses brought down in his hands the two tablets of stone”). In the afternoon, we anticipate future redemption (when “You are One and Your name is One” and the people Israel are again “one nation on earth”). In these multiple ways, prayer continually reiterates the basic principles of Jewish faith.”

Introduction to the Siddur