The Amidah: Possessor of All ‎

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			At some point in the distant past, Jewish prayer was not formalized. It was spontaneous and ‎personal. It came directly from the heart and expressed the deepest feelings and desires of the ‎person praying. But at some later point prayer became formalized. People no longer expressed ‎their personal thoughts and desires but recited a generalized formula that was like checklist ‎for what those personal thoughts and desires should be. This was both a step down and a step ‎up. It was a step down because in standardizing through recitation what should have been ‎spontaneously expressed, it would inevitably lead to the rote recital of somebody else’s ‎words, with little or no inner conviction. It was a step up since it enabled everybody, not just ‎the Abrahams, the Moshes, and the Hannas, to experience the spiritual path of prayer. Was ‎the path to more universal access worth the price of rote recital? That question can only ‎be answered by looking at the last 2,000 years of Judaism ‎
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The standardized formula is known as the Amidah, or standing prayer. Obviously, it is to be ‎recited while standing, but there are other guidelines. It is to be recited silently, with only the ‎person praying hearing the words. It clearly was meant to inspire a good deal of inner thought ‎and not simply be a rote recital. It was one of the major innovations introduced by the Great ‎Assembly during early second temple times. We don’t know exactly when it was introduced ‎or when it attained a form resembling what it is today, but we can be pretty sure that the ‎process started sometime between the years 450 BCE and 300 BCE. ‎
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The basic format consists of 19 blessings (hence it is called the Shemoneh Esreh, meaning '18' ‎‎– a 19th blessing was added about 2000 years ago) each containing what has become the ‎prototype for every blessing in Judaism. This is the words ‘Baruch atah Adonai’. The three ‎word phrase is translated ‘Blessed are You, Lord’. Jews commonly use the word Hashem ‎instead of Lord in the translation. Each blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh concludes with this ‎statement, followed by the words of blessing that are apropos for that blessing. ‎
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The first blessing is slightly different from the others in that it not only ends with this format, ‎but begins with it also. ‘Blessed are You, Lord, God and God of our forefathers, God of ‎Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, the deity, the great, the mighty, and the awesome, the ‎highest deity, who bestows good kindness, and is the Possessor of all, and who remembers ‎the kindness of the forefathers, and brings a redeemer to their descendants for the sake of His ‎great name in love. King, Helper, Savior, and Shield, Blessed are You, Lord, the shield of ‎Abraham.’ ‎
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Analysis ‎
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First off, this standard phrase used in all blessings, what is it really all about? Do we really ‎believe that when we say ‘You’, we are talking to God face to face?  We have another image ‎problem here - what is the meaning of ‘Possessor of all’? Is this a new image that we haven’t ‎seen before, or is it just a variation on the old Creator/Guide image? ‎
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We’ll begin with the last question. The phrase in the Hebrew text is koneh hakol. It means ‎literally ‘the buyer of everything’, but, understandably, it is never translated that way. The ‎word ‘koneh’ can also mean ‘owner’ or ‘possessor’. While this phrase is sometimes ‎understood as Creator of all, that is really an inexact translation. Possessor is a much better fit. ‎God is the ‘Possessor of all’. How does God possess everything? How does God possess ‎anything? Possession means ownership – a form of control of something because it belongs to ‎the owner. How does this apply to God? ‎
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Perhaps we can approach this question through looking at what we possess. What do ‎we own/control? How about our thoughts? That seems like the one thing that is entirely under ‎our own control. Thoughts may go haywire at times, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t ‎potentially under our control. We certainly sense that we have the ability to think what we ‎want to. Perhaps this is the true domain of our ownership. Thoughts are our very own ‎creations, so we can really say that we own those thoughts. Nobody else thinks those ‎thoughts up. Nobody else sustains them or negates them or lives every minute with them as a ‎part of one’s very being. We possess our thoughts. ‎
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God is the Possessor of all. Taking the analogy all the way, God would possess everything ‎since God has thought it up. In other words, everything is a thought in the mind of God. ‎God owns it all, possesses it all, and controls it all, since it is all going on in God’s mind. Now ‎that’s a whopper of an idea. We are all thoughts in God’s mind. Imagine, this amazing idea ‎contained in those two small Hebrew words. In blessing God in this first paragraph of the ‎Amidah, one of the praises is that God thinks us all into being. ‎
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Maybe we can use that idea to gain a little insight into what this blessing formula is really all ‎about. The first word ‘Baruch’, does mean ‘blessed’, but blessed itself needs explanation. It ‎isn’t meant to lavish needless praise on God. Nor is it saying that God is ‘blessed’ in the sense ‎that God has been particularly fortunate, like we might use the word to describe a person who ‎is blessed. Rather it is meant to focus us on the fact that God is the source of all blessing in ‎life. All of the categories of the Amidah from knowledge to health to peace are blessings. ‎They all, even those that seem to come from our own input, ultimately stem from God. This ‎might appear to be counterintuitive. How does God supply me with knowledge? Isn’t my ‎knowledge my own doing? This is where the ‘Possessor of all’ phrase shows its true colors. ‎That knowledge, those ideas and those thoughts, are all thoughts in the mind of God. They ‎would not exist if God did not think them into being. We may have to proactively acquire ‎them in some way, but they are only available to be acquired because God thinks them up. ‎
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The second word ‘atah’ does mean ‘you’, but that simple word also needs explanation. To ‎speak to God directly assumes a great deal. It assumes that one can speak directly to God. It ‎assumes that God is listening. It assumes that God cares about what the person praying has to ‎say. None of this should really be true by the normal standards of deities in the ancient world. ‎They were high up on the mountain or riding chariots across the sky. Even Hashem was kept ‎busy guiding the world and being greater than the heaven of heavens. How could Hashem be ‎the least bit interested in our prayers? How could we have the chutzpah to address Hashem ‎almost as an equal? The answer, perhaps, is contained in that same idea. Hashem is the ‎‎‘Possessor of all’ - the Mind that thinks us all into existence. We are all thoughts in the mind ‎of God. We are vital thoughts, right at the forefront of God’s vast mind. Any thought that ‎we come up with is also God’s thought. We are thinking God’s thoughts. How could God ‎not be listening? ‎
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In addressing God directly, we both acknowledge God’s providence over everything and ‎tacitly demand that God acknowledge our existence, in spite of the vastness of the universe. ‎We say to God: ‘I am here. I am speaking to You. I want You to listen to what I have to say ‎because I am a part of You.’ This is a truly incredible concept, to be a part of God, to be a ‎thought in God’s mind. It gives us importance almost on the divine scale. When we say ‘You’ ‎to God, we are letting our presence be known. ‎
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The Amidah is not just a collection of words to be recited x number of times a day over a ‎period of a few rushed minutes in the middle of doing something more important. It is ‎supposed to be a contemplation of the highest order, enabling the mind to penetrate into ‎regions that are inaccessible under normal conditions but somehow accessible ‎during concentrated silence and still meditation. The Amidah is serious business. It is ‎communing with the Mind whose thoughts we are. It is voicing our deepest sense of what ‎that Mind is and how it affects us in our daily, our yearly, our communal, and our ultimate, ‎lives. In addressing Hashem, the Possessor of all, as ‘You’, we are hitting on a profound truth ‎‎- that we exist within the Mind of God. ‎
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Perceiving the Image ‎
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Calling it davening really doesn’t do the Amidah justice. Those in the know understand ‎what davening is. More often than not it is the haphazard affair of half-hearted mumbling of ‎a collection of words that are frequently not even attempted to be understood. It is usually ‎rushed at a pace that is faster than ordering a meal at a fast-food restaurant. The communal ‎aspect of it rarely facilitates genuine feeling. But Jews have to be given credit for sticking ‎with this thing all these centuries. They could have dumped it 1,000 years ago in favor of ‎some shorter and less demanding practice. But they didn’t, and that alone is highly ‎commendable. Davening, and the Amidah, have survived through those rough-and-tumble ‎centuries of pogroms and exile, of intense scholarship and devout faith. But they are still ‎around, possibly getting stronger by the day. What is their secret of longevity, their elixir of ‎immortality that enables them to weather any storm, even that of indifference? ‎
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Perhaps it is because any Jew who davens, no matter how little that Jew really concentrates ‎and gets into a genuine meditative state, touches on the lofty concepts contained in the ‎Amidah in some unconscious manner. Counter-intuitive as it may be, mindlessly saying the ‎words may have some subconscious effect on the spirit. Saying that God is the Possessor of ‎all, the God of our forefathers, the Granter of Knowledge, the Giver of life, may actually ‎make an indelible impression deep in the mind that survives the most callous apathy and ‎wildest day-dreaming. Davening does work to some degree. It’s simply a matter of ‎consistency and letting it happen. ‎
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But nobody would disagree that this is not the ideal. If it can be done on a deeper level, it is ‎nothing less than a crime against the soul to not make it happen even only once in a while. It ‎is much less daunting than it appears. The words are right there waiting to fill the mind with ‎thoughts. The ideas behind the words are limitless. The human needs and desires are never far ‎from the horizon – we just need to connect those needs with the Source of their fulfillment. ‎Davening is the Jewish way of perceiving this image, the image of the Possessor of all. When ‎we think of God, we think God’s thoughts. Our lives are our own little corner of God’s mind, ‎our own private space in the Mind of all. Imagine that – we are a thought in the mind of God. ‎It is too profound an idea to just daven through. ‎
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Reflections ‎
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This image is remarkably accessible, perhaps more so now than ever. But why is this image ‎only rarely perceived if it is so accessible? What keeps us from conceiving of ourselves as ‎thoughts in the mind of God? ‎
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