Rachel & Leah in the Amidah

Rachel & Leah in the Amidah
A woman prays the Amidah prayer in front of the Kotel (western wall). We see the back of the woman's head, and the words on the page of her Siddur (prayer book).

“Rachel and Leah answered, saying, is there a place for us in our father’s house?” (Bereisheet/Genesis 31:14)

Should the names of the Imahot (matriarchs of the Jewish people) be included in the first paragraph of the Amidah prayer, along with the names of the Avot (patriarchs)?

Arguments Against

(1) We’ve always done it without them.

(2) Prayers are largely made up of Biblical quotations. Torah often uses the phrase “God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak and God of Ya’akov,” but not the phrase “God of Sarah, God of Rivkah, God of Rachel, God of Leah.”

(3) The traditional version of the first paragraph of the Amidah is a poetic composition of 42 words – the number of words in one of God’s secret names. If we add the Imahot, we lose the spiritual symbolism of 42.

Arguments For

(1) Including the names of the Imahot specifically invites women into the chain of Jewish tradition.

(2) Torah states that each of the Imahot has a personal relationship with God. Sarah receives a spiritual name from God. Rivkah asks God about the future of her children and receives an answer. Leah and Rachel make offerings to God, and address God as they name their children.

(3) In the first paragraph of the Amidah, we seek entry into God’s presence by saying, “God, you knew my ancestors.” As Jewish tradition considers each of the Imahot meritorious, stating their names can only help us get closer to God.

How would you answer Rachel and Leah?

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