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The Amidah ( Hebrew: תפילת העמידה, Tefilat HaAmidah, "The Standing Prayer"), also called the Shmoneh Esreh (שמנה עשרה, "The Eighteen", in reference to the original number of constituent blessings: there are now nineteen), is the central prayer of the Jewish liturgy. This prayer, among others, is found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book. As Judaism's central prayer, surpassed only by the Birkat Hamazon, the Amidah is the only prayer that is designated simply as tefila (תפילה, "prayer") in rabbinic literature. The short version of the Amidah, designated for persons in a rush or under pressure, is called Havineinu. It consist of only seven brachot ("blessings"). To recite the Amidah is a mitzvah de-rabbanan (Aramaic: דרבנן) for, according to legend, it was first composed by the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah ("Men of the Great Assembly").

Observant Jews recite the Amidah at each of three prayer services in a typical weekday: morning, afternoon, and evening. A special abbreviated Amidah is also the core of the Mussaf ("Additional") service that is recited on Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), Rosh Chodesh (the day of the New Moon), and Jewish festivals, after the morning Torah reading, with various forms of the Amidah that depend on the occasion. The typical weekday Amidah actually consists of nineteen blessings, though it originally had eighteen; when the Amidah is modified for specific prayers or occasions, the first three blessings and the last three remain constant, framing the Amidah used in each service, while the middle thirteen blessings are replaced by blessings specific to the occasion.

The language of the Amidah most likely dates from the mishnaic period, both before and after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE) at which time it was considered unnecessary to prescribe its text and content. The Talmud indicates that when Rabbi Gamaliel II undertook to fix definitely the public service and to regulate private devotion, he directed Samuel ha-Katan to write another paragraph inveighing against informers and heretics, which was inserted as the twelfth prayer in modern sequence, making the number of blessings nineteen. Other sources, also in the Talmud, indicate, however, that this prayer was part of the original 18; and that 19 prayers came about when the 15th prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem and of the throne of David (coming of the Messiah) was split into two.

The prayer is recited standing with feet firmly together, and preferably while facing Jerusalem. In Orthodox public worship, the Shemoneh Esrei is usually first prayed silently by the congregation and is then repeated aloud by the chazzan (reader); the repetition's original purpose was to give illiterate members of the congregation a chance to participate in the collective prayer by answering " Amen." Conservative and Reform congregations sometimes abbreviate the public recitation of the Amidah according to their customs. The rules governing the composition and recital of the Amidah are discussed primarily in the Talmud, in Chapters 4–5 of Berakhot; in the Mishneh Torah, in chapters 4–5 of Hilkhot Tefilah; and in the Shulchan Aruch, Laws 89–127.

Usage examples of "amidah".

Though Aaron no longer whispers questions to God during the Silent Amidah, part of him has never stopped praying for revelation.

Silent Amidah, Aaron and Eliza play a game called Sheep that both claim to have invented.

When they stand for the Silent Amidah they never know whether to focus on the prayerbook or upon a distant point, looking thoughtful.

He would recite the Amidah and sit down before I was halfway through, even though I skipped a lot.

Eliza thinks back to countless Amidahs spent waiting to hear that voice.

Silent Amidah, the time of the Shabbat service meant for personal prayer, Aaron tenders up his own question, too shy to more than whisper the words inside his head: There were a lot of people on that plane.

In the morning and afternoon prayers, the tradition for communal worship was to recite the Amidah privately, silently, in a whisper or in a quiet voice, and then have the chazzan, the cantor, chant it aloud when everyone had finished their private recitation.

If a minyan was not present, the Chazzan could not repeat the Amidah, the Kaddishes could not be said, and the Torah and Haftorah could not be chanted.