Sanctifying the Sabbath in the Amida Prayers of the Sabbath

Author: Lori Fagelston, Tamuz 5767/July 2007

The Amida prayer on the Sabbath keeps only six of the blessings that constitute the weekday version. It eliminates the entire middle section, thirteen blessings and replaces them with one blessing for the Sabbath and an introductory text to that blessing. The section that is eliminated is one of 'requests' made by the Jewish people, requests for knowledge, forgiveness, redemption, health, sustenance, the ingathering of exiles, the rule of justice, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah. The Sabbath Amida retains the three opening and the three closing blessings and replaces the middle section with a text that is appropriate to the Sabbath, the kedushat ha yom, the sanctity of the day.

Interestingly, the four services held on the Sabbath, ma'ariv, shacharit, mussaf, mincha, evening, morning, additional and afternoon services have different texts and different themes for their middle sections. In each case, the kedushat ha yom relates to a different stage in the relationship between the Jewish people and the Almighty.

Friday night, ma'ariv. The section begins with the words ata kidashta: 'You did hallow the seventh day to Your Name, as the end of Creation of heaven and earth. You did bless it above all days and did hallow it above all seasons. And thus it is written in Your Torah': (Gen.2, v.1-3) vayechulu. "And the heavens and the earth were finished and all their host. And on the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And G-d blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it because He rested thereon from all His work which G-d had created and made". This is followed by a prayer that our rest be acceptable, ending with the blessing…mekadesh haShabbat, …Who sanctifies the Sabbath. This last paragraph and blessing is said in all four services.

The theme on Friday night is clearly the Creation of the Book of Genesis. As in the fourth commandment given at Sinai, zachor et yom ha Shabbat lekadesho, Remember the Day to keep it holy…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth…and rested on the seventh day (Ex.20, v.8-11), we stress that our rest on the seventh day follows G-d's 'rest' from Creation. A secondary theme is that slaves were allowed no rest in Egypt. The day of rest was given to us once we left Egypt and were free.

Saturday morning, Shacharit. Again the middle section of the Amida is the kedushat ha yom, but the theme has changed. Following the kedusha, we have a section that begins: Yismach Moshe be matnat chelko. Moses rejoiced in the lot assigned to him, for You did call him a faithful servant, You did put a crown of glory upon his head when he stood before You upon Mt Sinai; and in his hand he brought down the two tables of stone on which was written the observance of the Sabbath. And thus it says in Your Torah: (Ex.31, v.16, 17) ve shameru. "And the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant. It is a sign between Me ad the children of Israel for ever, that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested and ceased from His work"

This is followed by a paragraph beginning ve lo natato H' elokeinu le goyim ha aratzot, and You id not bestow it, O Lord our G-d, unto the other nations of the earth…the Sabbath was given to Your people Israel…unto the seed of Jacob…in remembrance of the Creation.

The scene has shifted from the Creation to Mount Sinai, to Moses bearing the two tables inscribed with the ten commandments. The passage quoted from the Torah, however, is not the fourth commandment, but part of the injunction to keep the Sabbath that figures together with instructions that concern the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Observance of the Sabbath overrules all work on the tabernacle and the work needed to fashion the tabernacle defines our understanding of 'work' not permitted on the Sabbath. The passage stresses the role of the Sabbath as a 'sign' that testifies to the covenant between the Lord and the Jewish people. This idea is reiterated in the next paragraph, which stresses that the Sabbath was given to the Israelites, not to the other nations.

Saturday morning, Mussaf. In the Additional Service of Sabbath morning, the middle section of the Amida changes again. 'Mussaf' designates the extra, the additional sacrifice for the Sabbath and the subject of the kedushat ha yom follows that subject:Tikanta Shabbat…'You did institute the Sabbath and did favourably accept its offerings…as you had prescribed for us in Your Torah through Moses Your servant, from the mouth of Your glory, as it is said: (Num.28, v.9) u ve yom ha Shabbat…"And on the Sabbath day, two lambs of the first year without blemish and two tenths of an ephah of fine flour for a meal offering mingled with oil and the drink offering thereof. This is the burnt offering of every Sabbath beside the daily burnt offering and the drink offering thereof".

The paragraph that follows, yismechu be malechutecha, ' They that keep the Sabbath and call it a delight shall rejoice in Your kingdom' speaks of the pleasure of those who observe the Sabbath, just as the Almighty took pleasure in it and sanctified it. The special sacrifice that marked the Sabbath recalls a most essential way in which the Children of Israel served G-d.

Saturday afternoon, Mincha. Here, as in the other three Amida prayers, the end of the middle section is the paragraph that ends with the blessing, mekadesh ha Shabbat. Only one paragraph precedes this, beginning ata echad u shimecha echad, You are One and Your Name is One and who is like Your people Israel...even the day of glory and holiness You have given unto Your people…a perfect rest in which You delight. Let their children know and perceive that this their rest is from You and by their rest they sanctify your Name'. Unlike the three other services, here there is no quotation from the Torah to support the text, perhaps because the theme here is not really in the Torah text.

Our Sages suggest that the theme in the kedushat ha Yom in the afternoon Amida is the Sabbath of the End of Days. We associate the Sabbath with the Messianic era here, just as we do in the Grace after meals of the Sabbath, 'May the all-Merciful let us inherit the day that will be wholly Sabbath and rest in life everlasting'.

The Sabbath of Creation, of the Covenant at Sinai and of the Temple Service is seen as a forerunner of the real Sabbath, through which the people of Israel will fully sanctify the Oneness of the Almighty, ata echad u shimecha echad.