Adding the Matriarchs to the Amidah
Found In: Daily Prayer & Mindfulness
By Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg | Prayer
First published in Siddur Chaverim Kol Yisrael
BRIGHT BLUE in the blessing indicates added language. Parentheses indicate parts that someone following a stricter halakhic interpretation might leave out. The formula ki atah follows the pattern of Sefardi additions to other blessings of the Amidah. The placement of this phrase occurs where it is customary and halakhically normative to add to both piyutim and High Holiday changes to the Avot prayer. One could add cheil imahot instead after Elohei Leah, viz. v’zokher cheil imahot ufoked et b’nei v’neihem. This would interrupt the original structure of the blessing less (and so might be preferred), but it also seems unwieldy. The first of the alternate closing lines preserves the order of the original, while the second better preserves the sound. Both ways of adding to the chatimah have some liturgical precedent.
Comments: All the new language used in the blessing is drawn directly from the following Biblical verses. These verses include language which indicates that the relationship with the mothers was covenantal and is therefore on par with the language in the Avot prayer about the fathers. On the issue of covenant with the mothers, see also Savina Teubal’s Sarah the Priestess on why all of the Avot had to have wives related to Sarah.
Source texts: BRIGHT BLUE in the verses below indicates words quoted directly in the language added to the blessing. GREEN in the verses indicates words which show that the relationship with the mothers was covenantal.
- The most important feature of the way the verses are used is the coupling of poked “visits” with s’khar f’ulatan “reward for their work”. In almost all other Biblical contexts, the root P.K.D. indicates the fulfillment of a negative promise, i.e., to bring chastisement for sin (see however Ps. 65:10). While in Gen. 21:1 poked is wholly positive, to use this word standing alone in a blessing, as some do in the chatimah and the line melekh ozer umoshi’a ufoked umagen, invokes those negative connotations. Pairing poked with the positive language of covenantal promise from Jer. 31 resolves that ambiguity.
- Sakhar is a word that indicates covenantal reward in two other contexts, most importantly in Gen. 15:1 (“Do not fear Avram, I am your shield, your reward is very great”), which is the source of the chatimah or closing line, magen Avraham.
- The phrase cheil imahot “valor of the mothers” also evokes the poem Eishet Chayil, “the woman of valor”.
Though cheil in Ruth 3 refers to Boaz, it nevertheless evokes an
inclusive model of the covenant that compares Ruth and Boaz as a unit with Jacob, Leah and Rachel. The placement of Rachel before Leah in Jewish liturgy is incidentally based on this verse.
- The resonance between cheil “valor” and t’cholelchem “the one who bore you” in Isa. 51:2 is intended to invoke the one verse that clearly states that the imahot were equal covenantal partners with God alongside men. Any claim that the mothers were not covenantal partners (e.g. by David Golinkin in his t’shivah against adding the imahot) is not consistent with this verse.
- This version of adding the imahot does not deal with the question of the status of Bilhah and Zilpah, who are included as matriarchs along with the four imahot in some midrashim.
- This blessing was first published in Siddur Chaverim Kol Yisrael, without the notes.