Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  Page title
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Impossible to Praise: Understanding the First Three Brachos of Shemoneh Esrei

Heaping Praise

Reuven was reciting Shemoneh Esrei out loud. Rebbi Chanina happened to overhear him and noticed that he was adding to the standard wording of the prayer. "Blessed is the G-d Who is great, powerful, awesome, mighty, courageous, feared, strong, brave, absolute and honored …”

Rebbi Chanina waited until Reuven finished. Afterwards he asked him, “Have you completed saying all of the praises of Hashem?! It is impossible to praise Him sufficiently!”

"If so," questioned Reuven, “why does the Shemoneh Esrei refer to Hashem as 'great, powerful and awesome’? If we are permitted to use these adjectives, why can't we use more?"

Rebbi Chanina replied: "Moshe Rabbeinu set the precedent, using these three words when he spoke to Hashem [Devarim 10,17]. Had he not used these praises beforehand, it would be audacious for us to apply them to Hashem. The Great Assembly later incorporated this phrase into the wording of Shemoneh Esrei."

Reuven thought about what Rebbi Chanina said and responded, "I understand that we are incapable of praising Hashem sufficiently. But is there anything wrong with trying to do what we can?"

Rebbi Chanina responded: "Our praise to Hashem implies deficiency. Let me offer the following analogy. If a king had a million coins of gold, and someone praised him for his silver, wouldn't that be considered a disgrace! G-d's greatness is far beyond the capability of human lips to describe, and we should not do injustice to it by attempting to describe it" (Brachos 33b).

The first part of Shemoneh Esrei is dedicated to praising Hashem in accordance with the formula established by the Great Assembly. The halacha considers the first of these blessings to be one of the most crucial parts of Shemoneh Esrei, and complete concentration is mandatory. Let us try to understand these three blessings.

Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



View Complete List

Enlightening the Present From the Past
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Non Negotiable Part II
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

To Charm and Disarm
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Battle and Survival
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Light Over Darkness
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5768

Horns and Hedonism
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763


No News is Jews News
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5764

Fixing Ourselves First Before Our Enemies Do
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

On A Wing And A Prayer
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

> The Significance of the Name Succos
Rabbi Frand - 5768

Sadly Released from Prison
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Today's Chanuka Miracle
Rabbi David Begoun - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

To Win By A Hairsbreadth
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764

'Mehadrin' - An Understanding of the Concept
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Non-Negotiable Part I
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

Perceptions: Vayishlach
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5775

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information