Last class we reviewed the eleventh blessing of the Shemoneh Esrai, continuing to review the communal blessings and focusing on our request for the restoration of justice. Today, we will review the twelfth blessing overall and continue examining the new set of communal requests. As always, let’s first review the actual text of the blessing:
“And for slanderers let there be no hope; and may all wickedness perish in an instant; and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. May You speedily uproot, smash, cast down, and humble the wanton sinners – speedily in our days. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who breaks enemies and humbles wanton sinners.”
First, a little historical background: This blessing was not included as part of the original eighteen blessings of the Shemoneh Esrai. Rather, it was instituted during the time of Rabban Gamliel after the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed. The blessing was added due to the incredible pressure of heretical sects who attempted to persuade Jews to leave the faith. The inclusion of this blessing means there are truly nineteen blessings in the Shemoneh Esrai, even though the name “Shemoneh Esrai” means eighteen. We keep the original name in the hopes that this blessing will one day be rendered unnecessary and removed.
Like we’ve seen in so many other places, the placement of this blessing – following the request for a restoration of the justice system – makes logical sense. Once a judicial system is restored, the next logical step would be the eradication of lawless individuals.
The beginning of the blessing asks that all “wickedness” perish in an instant, as opposed to any wicked people in particular. This is because we always hope that individuals will repent and their wickedness will vanish. Indeed, the Maharal points out that we are not praying for the destruction of any individual. This is why we also ask that the slanderers have no hope – we want those people to be rid of their ideas and any destructive behavior through repentance.
Similarly, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer notes that the of the blessing, where we ask for sinners to be uprooted, smashed, cast down, etc., is an opportune time for us to turn the lens inward. As we recite this blessing, we can ask ourselves what improvements we need to make in order to eradicate our own sins and wicked ways. We can then pray that HaShem help us in this endeavor.