Last week, we talked about the importance of the numbers 3 and eighteen in the Amidah. We will now see how the eighteen blessings are broken into 3 main sections.
The first 3 blessings, Avot, Mechalkeil Chaim, and Atah Kadosh start by praising Hashem, to “butter him up,” so to speak, at the start of our main prayer. In the middle section we pray for our important personal requests; and the last 3 blessings, Retzei, Modim and Sim Shalom are thanksgiving blessings, where we wrap up our blessings by thanking Hashem for our body and soul and praying for peace. We end with a final personal supplication to ask Hashem to guard our tongues, protect us from our enemies and allow us to pursue a good Jewish life based on Torah values.
Let us now start to delve intothe first blessing, “Avot.” After requesting that Hashem “opens our lips so that we can praise him,” we begin our Amidah journey by blessing him whilst recalling that he is the “G-d of our Forefathers.” An immediate question arises. Why do we start by mentioning the names of our three patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, yet we don’t mention Moshe? And why, at the end of the blessing, do we use only Avraham’s name as opposed to the names of all three forefathers?
In Parshat Shemot, when Moshe was sent to rescue the Jewish nation from Egypt, he asked Hashem how the slave nation would believe that he was really sent by Divine command. Hashem told him to say, “Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Yaakov has dispatched me to you.” In fact, it was with this expression that Hashem introduced himself to Moshe at the burning bush. In Parshat Lech Lecha, Rashi explains the verse, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name greater and greater, and you will become a source of blessing.” He says that the first three expressions refer to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and the final expression refers to Avraham again.
This allows us to understand why only Avraham’s name is used at the end of the first blessing. He was far greater than even the other two Patriarchs, and Hashem always remembers how the Jewish nation started with him. If he wouldn’t have found G-d, the other two would never have become who they became. By mentioning the Patriarchs in the first blessing, we are also reminded that they were the first Jews in the world to establish prayer 3 times a day. Therefore, by recalling the greatness of our forefathers when we begin our Shemoneh Esrei, we have sweetened up Hashem so to speak, hopefully allowing us the grand opportunity to curry favour with Him now, before we begin the serious business of asking him for our daily needs.