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prayer pings #34 bringing back the dead (amidah paragraph 2)

Rabbanit Alissa

In the second bracha of the Amidah, we speak of God's gevurah, His might. Chazal teach that the paradigm for God's gevurah is techiyat hameitim, the resurrection of the dead, and so we mention it five times in this bracha. Why is techiyat hameitim the paradigm of God's gevurah?

The Gemara in Masechet Taanit explains that there are three keys to unlock blessing that only God holds-- the key for rain, the key for a barren woman's womb, and the key for techiyat meitim. These are miraculous because we as humans, as hard as we may try and as far as medicine may take us, cannot truly replicate them.

With the first two, we may get close: While we cannot make it rain when there is a drought, Israel is currently finding ways to create water from the elements of oxygen. And while we cannot 'cure' barrenness, we can use medical innovations, from artificial insemination to surrogacy and beyond, as well as adoption to bring a cherished child into the right family. But with techiyat hameitim, we all know that we cannot bring our loved ones back from the dead once they are gone. When we are buried, only God can resurrect us from our graves in the time of Moshiach.

This is why techiyat hameitim is the paradigm of God's gevurah. His might is reflected in the fact that only He can take the infinite and scattered pieces of dust that once physically composed the millions of lives lived between us and Adam Harishon and recreate them, breathe life and order back into them. Techiyat hameitim is a belief in our tradition that exists outside of science, outside of logic, outside of our hands, and it is greater than we can even comprehend.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks teaches in his Koren Siddur commentary that the belief in techiyat hameitim was a great controversy between the Sadducees and Pharisees in the time of the Second Temple. The Sadducees rejected it, while the Pharisees, from whom we are descended, believed fervently in it. Rabbi Sacks tells us that techiyat hameitim is central to our Jewish identities and the tradition the Pharisees passed on to us because it is our principle of hope. "Belief that those who died will one day live again is one of Judaism's great principles of hope, set out in the vision of Ezekiel of the valley of dry bones that came to life once more. Jews kept hope alive; hope kept the Jewish people alive" (Koren Siddur, 110).

 

And so, the only way to truly praise God's gevurah in the Amidah is to mention techiyat hameitim. For through the words מחיה מתים, "Resuscitator of the dead", we celebrate God's power to do the impossible-- to bring those who have died long before us back to life. And not only that, but we also express gratitude for the God-given gevurah we each possess-- the capacity to hope.

Mon, August 19 2019 18 Av 5779