Birkhas Avos

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This chart combines the ideas contained two earlier divrei Torah.

The first is the idea of the Vilna Gaon that the first berakhah of the Amidah, Birkhas Avos, consists of iterations of variations on Moshe’s praise for Hashem – “HaKeil, HaGadol, HaGibbor VeHanorah.” See Mesukim MiDevash – Tetzaveh pp. 3-4.

The second is the concept that the berakhah follows a structure first used by David haMelekh and appears a number of times in Na”kh. (Mesukim MiDevash – Behar pp. 3-4)

My combining the two, we not only identify the five iterations of the same basic idea, we can explain how and why they differ.

I recommend printing it on the other side of the same piece of paper as this chart on the structure of Shema, to produce a page one can keep in their siddur.

And your thoughts...?

  1. I don’t think your categories of “might” and “transcendence” are coherent or consistent.

    I think it makes more sense to divide into 3 sections:

    1) Who God is – everything through El Elyon
    2) What God does – through …beahava
    3) Me’ein hachatima and chatima

    Sections 1 and 2 can each be subdivided into two sections, one “particular” and one “universal”.

    I’m working on a post on this basis on my own blog.

  2. Your sections would defy the Gra’s notion that birkhas Avos is based around “haKel haGadol haGibbor veHanorah”. This forces Kel Elyon to be with the subsequent “gomeil chasadim tovim”.

    The categories of might and transcendent come from the predecessor prayers, which all mention gevurah followed by a mention of G-d being in heaven, or changing time, or Master of all on heaven and earth… transcendent descriptions. In addition to the three examples on the page, earlier comparisons of these tefillos also include: Daniel 9:4, Nechemiah 1:5, Melachim I 8:23 (which is also Dh”Y 2 6:14). In other words, the categories aren’t mine, but I may have mislabeled what each of the 5 sections such prayers (except when omitted as redundant to the chasimah) have in common.


  3. I see.

    The way you explain the Gra there, it seems that “might” and “transcendence” don’t refer to different qualities – rather that “might” refers to what Moshe said and “transcendence” refers to our elaboration.

    That makes more sense, but I think it affects your attempt to relate our prayer to the Biblical prayers. If there’s no qualitative difference between “might” and “transcendence”, then there is little point in dividing the verses between them. Of course, you had trouble making this division in the first place (i.e. with Yehoshafat) so perhaps this “difficulty” would strengthen your point overall.