Welcome to “Share a Prayer” a quick look at a prayer that is found in our daily, Shabbat or Holy Day Prayer Service. Often during the course of the service we encounter some real gems that we don’t have time to reflect upon; this will give us an opportunity to select one prayer and take a closer look at it.
Thanks to Sharon Burak for the suggestion for this edition of Share a Prayer; “Elohai N’tzor, May God guard my tongue from evil…”
Every version of the Amidah concludes with this personal meditation which dates back many centuries to the Talmudic sage, Mar son of Ravina. During the course of the Amidah, the compilation of blessings that forms the core of each formal service, we feel as though we are in a private, one on one conversation with God. This feeling is enhanced by the process undertaken at the beginning of the Amidah where by we take 3 steps backward and 3 steps forward to symbolically separate or isolate ourselves from the rest of the congregation and step into God’s private meeting space. As we enter into God’s realm and prepare to offer our personal prayers or meditations intertwined with the ancient formula of the Amidah Blessings, we say, “Adonai S’fatai Tiftach… Lord, open my lips so that my mouth can utter Your Praise.” In essence, we ask God to put the words in to our mouths that will give voice to our prayers. Our sages felt that as we begin our talk with God with God’s own vocabulary, we should end our encounter with the Divine with a prayer that our words continue to reflect Holiness.
At the conclusion of the Elohai N’tzor, with the words “Oseh Shalom,” we take three steps backwards and bow to the left and the right symbolizing the conclusion of our formal chat with God. However, in parting we pray that we may leave with a feeing of Divine inspiration that will, God willing, guide our thoughts, conversations and behavior until our next Holy encounter.