AVOT V'IMAHOT

ALL ABOUT IT

THE PRAYER IN HEBREW

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ וְאִמוֹתֵינוּ, אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם, אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק, וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב, אֱלֹהֵי שָׂרָה, אֱלֹהֵי רִבְקָה, אֱלֹהֵי רָחֵל וֵאלֹהֵי לֵאָה. הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל הַגִּבּוֹר וְהַנּוֹרָא, אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, גּוֹמֵל חֲסָדִים טוֹבִים, וְקוֹנֵה הַכֹּל, וְזוֹכֵר חַסְדֵי אָבוֹת וְאִמָּהוֹת, וּמֵבִיא גְּאֻלָּה לִבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה. מֶֽלֶךְ עוֹזֵר וּמוֹשִֽׁיעַ וּמָגֵן. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, מָגֵן אַבְרָהָם וְעֶזְרַת שָׂרָה.

THE MEANING

Avot V'Imahot - this prayer translated as "Forefathers and Foremothers," or "Ancestors," appears in the beginning of the Amidah, the "standing prayer" during which we approach God in a more personal way as individuals and as a community. It asks God to remember the merits of all those who have come before us, calling by name our Biblical forefathers (avot): Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as our Biblical foremothers (imahot): Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. As our Biblical ancestors are mentioned, we also think of all the people who have come before us and who have shaped us into the individuals that we are today. In the Amidah, we approach God with a "referral," saying "Please remember the merits of our ancestors and be kind to us, their children, on their behalf."

TRADITIONAL TEXT


Blessed are You, Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, great, mighty and awesome God; supreme God, Who bestows lovingkindness by creating everything [in the universe]. You remember the kindness of our ancestors, and lovingly bring redemption to their descendants for the sake of Your Name.

You are our King, Helper, Deliverer and Shield.

Blessed are You, Adonai, Shield of Abraham.

:)

;)

:]

CONTEMPORARY TEXT


Blessed are You, Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel; great, mighty and awesome God; supreme God, Who bestows lovingkindness by creating everything [in the universe]. You remember the kindness of our fathers and mothers, and lovingly bring redemption to their descendants for the sake of Your Name.

You are our King, Helper, Deliverer and Shield.

Blessed are You, Adonai, Abraham’s Shield and Sarah’s Helper.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

The traditional text of avot (#1, above) speaks only of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Contemporary text (#2, above) refers also to the matriarchs (imahot) Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel.

A literal translation of the prayer is not “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” but rather “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.” Our rabbis have taught that although God is Eternal and unchangeable, we human beings evolve from one generation to the next, and each generation must therefore relate to the Eternal One in its own way.

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