Avodah - Service
Retzeh, Hashem Elokeinu be-am'cha Yisrael uvitfilatam
Be favorable, Hashem, our G-d, toward Your people Yisrael and their prayer,
vehasheiv et ha-avodah lidvir bei-techa
and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple.
Ve-ishei Yisrael, utfilatam be-ahavah tekabel beratzon
The fire-offerings of Yisrael and their prayer accept with love and favor,
ut'hi leratzon tamid avodat Yisrael amecha
and may the service of Your people Yisrael always be favorable to You.
Vetechezeinah eineinu beshuv'cha leTziyon berachamim
May our eyes behold Your return to Tziyon in compassion.
Baruch atah Hashem, hamachazir shechinato leTziyon
Blessed are You, Hashem, Who restores His Presence unto Tziyon.
The blessing of Retzeh specifically embodies the idea that prayer is now the sacrificial offering, the korban that we bring to G-d in lieu of the animal sacrifice. It is through prayer that we are now drawn closer to Him, and that was, after all, the main purpose of the korbanot. In former days, the Kohanim asked G-d to favorably receive the sacrifice. And so today, we ask that G-d favorably receive our service of prayer as our offering to Him (Yer. Berachot 4:4).
Words like "retzeh" and "le-ratzon" are nearly always used in association with the way G-d is asked to respond to what we bring to Him, not to what we ask of Him. and so in Retzeh, which relates to our "prayer offerings," we ask G-d to "receive with love." The blessing of Retzeh is modeled after one that the Kohanim said in the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) at the conclusion of the two daily sacrifices. The concluding words of the blessing then were (Berachot 11b; Yoma 68b, Rashi):
Baruch atah, Hashem, she'otcha levadcha beyirah na'avod
Blessed are You, Hashem, for only You will we worship in awe.
This original last line is still said on the festivals during the Musaf service whenever the rite of the Priestly Blessing takes place.
After the destruction of the Temple, the blessing of Retzeh was altered to include a prayer for the re-establishment of the Temple service and for the return of the Divine Presence to Tziyon.
In connection with this hope, deeper insight into the meaning of ve-ishai Yisrael ("the offerings of Yisrael") can be gleaned from midrashic sources. Although it is generally understood as a reference to animal sacrifices in a restored Beit HaMidash, there is another view expressed in ancient sources that ve-ishai Yisrael refers to "the souls of the righteous of Yisrael" (Menachot 110a; Tos. s.v. u'Michael). Their souls and their prayers are part of our spiritual offering. This matches the opening words of the blessing which speaks only of "Thy people Yisrael and their prayers" as the subject of the offering that G-d is asked to receive favorably.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik reflects this view when he translates "ve-ishai Yisrael" as the human "self-sacrifice" that our people made throughout history. ("Redemption, Prayer, Talmud Torah," TRADITION, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 71) And what greater self-sacrifice has there indeed been, than the martyred "souls of the righteous" whose blood was shed only because they were Jews and insisted on remaining Jews.