The Amidah (Part 19) - Blessing of the Davidic Dynasty
“Prayer is not a miracle. It is a tool, man’s paintbrush in the art of life. Prayer is man’s weapon to defend himself in the struggle of life. It is a reality. A fact of life.” ( Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer)
Our blessing opens with the entreaty, “The offspring of Your servant David may you speedily cause to flourish.” Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer explains that the word used for offspring — tzemach — has the same root as the word for flourish — tatzmiach. The phrase is based ona verse in Tehillim (132:17): “There [in Yerushalayim] I shall cause pride to flourish for David.” In his commentary on Tehillim, Rabbi David Kimche writes that when the Jewish People are in exile, they resemble a shriveled tree with one small branch showing signs of life. But it is from that seemingly insignificant shoot that the regeneration of the entire tree will occur. In the same way, we await that “small branch,” the descendant of King David, to reveal his identity so that he can rejuvenate Hashem’s chosen nation. In Zechariah (6:12), the Mashiach is called Tzemach (see Targum Yonatan), “Behold, there is a man, and his name is Tzemach, and he will flourish in his place; he will build the sanctuary of Hashem.”
Rabbi Alexander Susskind of Grodno in Belarus was an eighteenth century Kabbalist. His most popular work is called Yesod v’Shoresh HaAvodah — The Essence and Root of Worship. It is mostly a Kabbalistic commentary on the Siddur and has been reprinted countless times since it was first published in 1782. He cites the Ari Zal’s, teaching that as we recite this blessing, we should yearn for the Mashiach and the final redemption, and that by doing so, we will fulfill the dictates of our Sages to eagerly await the Mashiach. However,the Messianic Era will not only be a national experience. Every single Jew will experience his own personal salvation. Consequently, Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Margolis (1780-1823), the Rabbi of Dubno in Ukraine, writes in his indispensable commentary printed alongside the Orach Chaim section in the Shulchan Aruch, titled Sha’arei Teshuvah (118): “When we recite the words “for we hope for Your salvation all day long,” we should have in mind to ask Hashem to save us from all of the personal problems that plague us.”
The blessing is not telling us that we should hope for our salvation just three times a day when we pray. Rather, we should anticipate the arrival of the Mashiach all day long, because the Messianic Era will not just be a “religious” experience. It will be an all-encompassing experience that will have impact, in the most wonderful way, on every detail of our lives.
A famous story is told to describe the extent of the Chofetz Chaim’s yearning for the Mashiach. His longing to greet the Mashiach was so great that he kept a packed suitcase in his home so that he would be ready to travel to Israel the minute he would hear of the Mashiach’s arrival. It is certainly a story with a powerful message. However, I once heard from one of the Chofetz Chaim’s grandchildren that there was a very good chance that this was not actually true. And then he added, “The Zeide’s (Yiddish for grandfather) anticipation and longing for the Mashiach was far, far greater than having a packed valise waiting under his bed. For the Zeide, the imminent arrival of the Mashiach was as real to him as the room next door is to us. It was palpable!”
The fact that the blessing relating to the Davidic dynasty is the fifteenth blessing in the Amidah is not by chance. Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher (1255-1340), not to be confused with Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paquda, the author of Chovot Helevavot who lived two hundred years earlier also in Zaragoza, was one of the most influential rabbis of his generation, renowned for his brilliance and Torah scholarship. His commentary on the Torah incorporates Kabbalistic interpretations extensively, and is considered to be a timeless masterpiece. Rabbeinu Bachya points out that there are twenty-nine and a half days in a lunar month. The moon waxes for fifteen days and then wanes for the last half of the month until it disappears, and then the whole process begins anew, heralding in the beginning of the following month. On the fifteenth day of the month, the moon is at its fullest and its luminance radiates at its maximum potency. In a similar fashion, there are fifteen generations from Avraham Avinu until Shlomo Hamelech. In allegorical terms, Avraham Avinu represents the very nascent beginnings of the Jewish nation — the very first generation — when the moon is only a tiny sliver of what it will become. Shlomo Hamelech is comparable to the fifteenth night of the month, when the full moon lights up the night sky. The reign of Shlomo Hamelech was a time of peace and tranquility. It was a time when there were miracles continuously occurring in the Holy Temple. Shlomo Hamelech’s reign was a moment in history in which maximal spiritual potential was attained. It was an era in which the spiritual light of Yerushalayim and the Holy Temple illuminated the entire world. It was a time of spiritual levels that will be surpassed only with the advent of the Messianic Era. So, too, our blessing is the fifteenth blessing, as we plead with Hashem that He will send the Mashiach so that the world can, once again, be suffused with the purest and most sublime light of all — the light of the Mashiach.
To be continued…