Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 6 December 2014 / 14 Kislev 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Seventh Blessing - Part 1

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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Knowledge, Teshuva, Forgiveness and Redemption

The blessing of redemption follows immediately after our request for forgiveness; for only after one is truly forgiven for his misdeeds does he deserve redemption. Thus, we see in the first four blessings of requests the reverse pattern of man’s demise.

Man’s intellect is all too often influenced by his base desires and misguided emotions, thus leading him to sin. What appear to be correct and logical decisions are in reality a result of this “inner incitement” convincing man to follow his own way instead of G-d’s. In fact, this is what happened in Gan Eden, resulting in a decree of punishment and banishment. We see that the misuse of knowledge leads to sin, resulting in punishment and exile.

In order to reverse this negative cycle we ask that G-d bestow upon us His knowledge, i.e. Torah, which serves as a light in this dark and confusing world. The Torah teaches us the path of proper repentance through which we earn G-d’s forgiveness. Once we are completely forgiven for our misdeeds, G-d will end the current exile and welcome us back to our homeland to be together again with Him. May it happen speedily, amen.

The Number Seven

The Talmud explains that the blessing of redemption was specifically chosen to be the seventh blessing. This is in accordance with a well-known teaching that the world will exist for six thousand years, followed by the final redemption which will begin at the start of the seventh millennium. Although it will be another thousand years until the Mashiach, a direct descendent of King David, will arrive, greater significance is placed on the beginning of our redemption since it marks the end of our suffering and servitude.

There is a hint to this idea in the weekly cycle. We are commanded to work for six days and to rest on the seventh day. The six work-days represent the six thousand years that we have been allotted in order to spiritually prepare both ourselves and the world for the seventh millennium, which is compared to Shabbat since it will be a time of great joy and reward. In connection to this, G-d says to those who did not prepare: “Fools of the world, only those who took trouble to prepare on the eve of (i.e. before) Shabbat will eat on Shabbat; however, one who did not prepare, from where will he eat on Shabbat?”

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