Birkat Geulah

Blessing of Redemption


Reeh veanyenu
Behold our affliction,

verivah rivenu
take up our grievance,

u'galenu meherah lemaan shemecha
and redeem us speedily for Your Name sake,

ki Goel chazak atah
for You are a powerful Redeemer.

Baruch atah Hashem Goel Yisrael
Blessed are You, Hashem, Redeemer of Yisrael.


This blessing is a fervent plea for personal triumph over adversity; a petition to be released from the incessant perils and problems of everyday existence. We do not ask for a life without challenges and struggles, for such a life would lack meaning; rather we ask for relief in the areas of suffering and stress with which we feel we cannot cope. We turn to G-d and cry for help. "Forsake me not. Only You can soothe the pain. If You are with me, I am not alone; I will survive."

The Talmud (Megillah 17b) shows how this blessing fits into the order of the prayers. In the fourth blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei we asked for intellect and insight. Then we repented and asked for forgiveness, for redemption from the soul-paralysis of sin. Now, in this blessing, we plead for release from mental anguish and emotional pain (Rashi). Recognizing that many physical ailments are psychosomatic in origin, the physical manifestation of emotional distress, the Sages prescribed that before we ask for healing of the body in the eighth blessing, we first seek a cure for the ills of the spirit.

The Talmud explains that this blessing's position as number seven alludes to the future advent of the Mashiach, which will be preceded by seven years of travail. In the seventh year, the pre-Messianic upheaval will reach its most dangerous stage and the world will totter on the brink of destruction. Then, the struggle will subside and an era of unsurpassed serenity and peace will unfold.

Talmud Bavli - Megillah 17b

‘To the ‘Amidah prayer’. Where is this derived? — As it has been taught: ‘Simeon the Pakulite5 formulated eighteen blessings in the presence of Rabban Gamaliel in the proper6 order in Yavneh.7 R. Johanan said (others report, it was stated in a Baraita): A hundred and twenty elders, among whom were many prophets, drew up eighteen blessings in a fixed order’.

Our Rabbis taught: Where do we derive that the blessing of the Patriarchs 8 should be said? Because it says, Ascribe unto Hashem, you sons of might.9 And where that we say the blessing of mighty deeds?10 Because it says, Ascribe unto Hashem glory and strength.11 And where that we say sanctifications?12 Because it says, Ascribe unto Hashem the glory due unto His name, worship Hashem in the beauty of holiness.13 What reason had they for mentioning understanding14 after holiness? Because it says, They shall sanctify the Holy One of Yaakov and shall stand in awe of the G-d of Yisrael,15 and next to this, They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding. What reason had they for mentioning repentance16 after understanding? Because it is written, Lest they, understanding with their heart, return and be healed.17 If that is the reason, healing should be mentioned next to repentance?18 — Do not imagine such a thing, since it is written, And let him return unto Hashem and He will have compassion upon him, and to our G-d, for he will abundantly pardon.19 But why should you rely upon this verse? Rely rather on the other! — There is written another verse, Who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit,20 which implies that redemption and healing come after forgiveness. But it is written, ‘Lest they return and be healed’? That refers not to the healing of sickness but to the healing [power] of forgiveness. What was their reason for mentioning redemption in the seventh blessing?21 Raba replied: Because they [Yisra'el] are destined to be redeemed in the seventh year [of the coming of the Mashiach],22 therefore the mention of redemption was placed in the seventh blessing. But a Master has said, ‘In the sixth year will be thunderings, in the seventh wars, at the end of the seventh the son of David will come’? — War is also the beginning of redemption. What was their reason for mentioning healing in the eighth blessing? — R. Aha said: Because circumcision which requires healing is appointed for the eighth day, therefore it was placed in the eighth blessing. What was their reason for placing the [prayer for the] blessing of the years ninth? R. Alexandri said: This was directed against those who raise the market price [of foodstuffs], as it is written, Break You the arm of the wicked; and when David said this, he said it in the ninth Psalm.23 What was their reason for mentioning the gathering of the exiles after the blessing of the years? — Because it is written, But you, O mountains of Yisrael, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to your people Yisrael, for they are at hand to come.24 And when the exiles are assembled, judgment will be visited on the wicked, as it says, And I will turn my hand upon you and purge away your dross as with lye,25 and it is written further, And I will restore thy judges as at the first.26 And when judgment is visited on the wicked, transgressors cease,27 and presumptuous sinners28 are included with them, as it is written, But the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake Hashem shall be consumed.29 And when the transgressors have disappeared, the horn of the righteous is exalted,30 as it is written, All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.31 And ‘proselytes of righteousness’32 are included with the righteous, as it says, you shall rise up before the hoary head and honour the face of the old man,33 and the text goes on, And if a stranger sojourn with you. And where is the horn of the righteous exalted? In Yerushalayim,34 as it says, Pray for the peace of Yerushalayim, may they prosper that love you.35 And when Yerushalayim is built, David(36) will come, as it says.

5) Possibly this means ‘cotton dealer’ (Rashi).
6) I.e. one based on Scriptural texts, as explained infra.
7) V. Ber. 28b.
8) The first blessing, containing the words, the El of Avraham, the El of Yitzchak, and the El of Yaakov’. For the ‘Amidah prayer v. P.B. pp. 44ff.
9) Tehillim 29:1. ‘Sons of might’ is taken as a description of the Patriarchs. The Talmud renders: ‘Mention before Hashem the sons of might’, i.e., the Patriarchs.
10) The second blessing, mentioning the ‘mighty deed’ of the resurrection.
11) Tehillim 29:1. (12) The third blessing beginning, ‘You are holy’.
13) Ibid. 2. (14) In the fourth blessing, beginning, ‘You grant to man understanding’.
15) Yeshayahu 29:23f.
16) In the fifth blessing, commencing, ‘Bring us back, O Father’.
17) Ibid. 6:10.
18) Whereas in fact it comes in the next blessing but one, ‘redemption’ being interposed.
19) Ibid. LV, 7.
20) Tehillim 103:3f.
21) Concluding, ‘Blessed are You, O Hashem, who redeems Yisrael’.
22) V. Sanh. 97a.
23) In our books it is the tenth (v. 15), but the Talmud apparently reckoned the first and second Psalms as one.
24) Yechezkel 36:8.
25) Yeshayahu 1:25.
26) Ibid. 26. The next blessing proceeds, ‘Restore our judges’. etc.
27) MS. M. minim (plur. of min v. Glos.).
28) Mentioned in the next blessing. This, however, was not one of the original eighteen, v. Ber. 28b.
29) Ibid. 28.
30) The next blessing concludes, ‘the support and trust of the righteous’.
31) Tehillim 75:2.
32) Mentioned in the same blessing. ‘Proselytes of Righteousness’ are converts who completely accept the Jewish creed and life.
33) VaYikra 19:32.
34) Mentioned in the next blessing.
35) Tehillim 122:6.
36) Mentioned in the next blessing, which commences, ‘Cause to sprout quickly the shoot of David’.


Not only does this blessing inspire us to look to the future, it also reminds us to learn from our past. Shibbolei Halekket cites the Midrash, which teaches: The Redemption of the Bnei Yisrael from the bondage of Egypt inspired the ministering angels to chant, "Blessed are You, Hashem, Redeemer of Yisrael."

Thus, the number seven encourages us to think of the triumph of the past and the promise of the future, and thereby be encouraged in the present. It tells us, "Don't let adversity crush your spirit. Though you feel you are losing the battles of life, don't lose hope. One battle may be lost, but fortitude and faith can yet win the war. If the spirit remains strong, you will emerge victorious. And if your spirit feels weak, turn to G-d and He will give you strength."

Note that the seventh letter of the alphabet is zayin, which also means weapon. In this seventh blessing, we call upon G-d to fight our battles (rivah rivenu) and to be our only zayin, weapon.

 


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