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By Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:

SHEMONEH ESREH, originally consisting of 18 blessings, is begun immediately after completing the blessing (“…Who redeemed Israel”) that follows SHEMA and reciting the verse “HA-SHEM, open my lips…”; see 111:1,3. Private prayers may be inserted into the appropriate blessings or added at the end (see 119:1-2), but not in the first or last three blessings, where only prayers for the needs of the community may be inserted (112:1). On inserting PIYUTIM into the blessings see 112:2; on adding to the prayers see 113:9; on errors see 119:3-4. Between SHEMINI ATZERES (see Ch.45) and Passover, a prayer for rain is inserted into the second blessing (see 114:1-2), and some insert a prayer for dew during the rest of the year (see 114:3); on errors and cases of doubt see 114:4-9. Similarly, beginning on the 7th of Cheshvan (outside the land of Israel: 60 days after the autumnal equinox), and ending before Passover, rain is mentioned in the ninth blessing (117:1); on exceptions and errors see 117:2-5. On the significance of the blessings see 115:1;116:1;120:1. The endings of the [third and] eleventh blessings are modified between ROSH HA-SHANAH and YOM KIPPUR (118:1); see Ch.43. The words “we thank You” in the third from last blessing must not be repeated (121:2). On the wording of the last blessing see 127:2. At the end of SHEMONEH ESREH, the verse “May the sayings of my mouth…” and other private prayers are recited; see 122:1-3 and 123:1.

The leader repeats SHEMONEH ESREH [out loud] after the congregation has finished it (124:1), even if he has not yet recited it (124:2); he need not wait for everyone to finish (124:3). He repeats it even if everyone has recited it individually (124:3). An individual who was unable to recite it (or who omitted part of it; see 124:10) fulfills his obligation by listening carefully to the leader; see 114:1-2. Even those who recited it individually should listen and answer “Amen” after each blessing (see 124:4-6); for other laws about answering “Amen” see 124:7-9,11-12. When time is short, the leader may begin immediately, and the congregation may accompany him silently during the first three blessings; see 114:2. During the leader’s repetition the congregation should stand (124:4) and not indulge in idle conversation (124:7). The leader also begins with “HA-SHEM, open my lips…” (111:2;123:6). In the third blessing, the leader recites KEDUSHAH; when he does so, the congregation stand with their legs together (95:4;125:2) and recite the responses (see 125:1). At the third from last blessing, the congregation recite a passage similar to it (127:1). Before the last blessing, if the KOHANIM do not recite the priestly blessing, the leader does so (see 127:2;128:44); individuals do not recite it (see 121:3), and KOHANIM do not recite it unless a congregation is present (128:1). (For details about the priestly blessing see Ch.9.) When the KOHANIM recite the priestly blessing, or the leader recites the last blessing, an individual who has had a bad dream may recite a prayer asking that it be interpreted favorably (130:1). On cases in which the leader makes errors see 126:1-4; if he omits the twelfth blessing, or is unable to correct himself, he must be replaced (126:1-2).

A person who has no time to recite the entire SHEMONEH ESREH may recite a shorter version in which the middle blessings are replaced by a single blessing (HAVINENU), but this should not be done when additional prayers are inserted into the middle blessings — for example, on the night after a Sabbath or holiday or during the months when the prayer for rain is recited (110:1-2). A person who is afraid to recite SHEMONEH ESREH because of possible danger may recite a short prayer in its place, and should recite it afterward if possible (110:3). A person who is traveling should recite a travelers’ prayer each day when he starts out (see 110:4-7;230:1). A person who enters or leaves a city, a house of study, or a bathhouse, or who undergoes a medical procedure, should recite special prayers (110:8;230:1,3,4).

The morning SHEMONEH ESREH should be recited at sunrise, or if necessary after dawn (89:1,8). It may be recited until the end of the first third of the day, or if necessary until noon (89:1). When the time for reciting it has arrived, a person should not engage in conversation (see 89:2), eat or drink (see 89:3-5), or engage in other affairs before reciting it (89:3); but [taking care of personal needs such as] bathing or cutting the hair, and studying or teaching Torah, are permitted (see 89:6-7).

Shulchan Aruch, Copyright (c) 2000 Project Genesis, Inc.