The second berakha (= blessing) of the ‘Amida is called geburot, the blessing that describes “the powers of God.” In the first blessing, Abot, which we discussed yesterday, we saw how HaShem uses His powers to protect His People, Israel. In this Berakha we will see how HaShem uses His powers to resurrect, prevent and overcome death.
TEXT: 1. “You are infinitely powerful, HaShem, You restore the life of the dead, and You save [avoid death] in many ways, [During summer: You bring the dew down] [In winter: You make the wind blow and rain fall].
2. You sustain living beings with goodness, You restore life with great compassion, You support those who are about to fall, You heal the sick and You free the captives.
3. And You fulfill Your promise with those who sleep on the dust [our ancestors]. Who is like You, Almighty, and Who resembles You, the King who can take away and restore life, and make salvation to flourish.
4. And in You we trust, that You will revive the dead. Blessed are You, HaShem, who revives the dead”.
The mythological gods used their powers to defeat other gods, to destroy their enemy, or to spread panic among humans. The power of these gods and mythological heroes was measured by their ability to kill: the more and more efficiently a god was able to kill, the more powerful he was. We Jews see the power of HaShem in all that is beneficial to mankind. HaShem uses His powers to sustain life and to prevent death, by providing food to all living creatures, by healing the sick and saving the captives. All this inspires us to act with kindness. It teaches us that similar to HaShem, we must also use our powers, resources and abilities to save, heal, help, sustain, nourish, assist, etc.
The ultimate expression of God’s power is Tehiyat haMetim, the resurrection of the dead, which is the idea with which this blessing ends (TEXT 4). Resurrection (not to be confused with “reincarnation”) is a central belief in Judaism. Tehiyat haMetim means that in messianic times, God will restore life to the dead. The body and soul will be back together as before death. Maimonides explains that this does not mean that men will no longer die; men will live longer, but will continue to be mortal. Now, understanding how this is going to happen, that is, how bodies will be resurrected, is an idea that is beyond our power of visualization or imagination.
Anyways, the concept of resurrection is repeated several times in this blessing, and in different contexts. And it seems to me that in a progressive way this blessing gives us some illustrations where we see that HaShem’s intervention revives and renews life, in three different levels.
PLANET EARTH (TEXT 1): At first HaShem’s power to renew life place manifests itself in the context of producing rain “You make the wind blow and the rain to descend.” Without rainwater, death would be inevitable. Without precipitation and without the climatic system that produces freshwater no living beings could exist. Thanks to precipitation, dry land revives, plants grow back and all creatures in the world can stay alive. Rain, even though we might not realize it in our daly lives, is responsible for the constant renewal of life and for overcoming the death of all living creatures.
HUMANITY (TEXT 2): The second level of resurrection refers to human society. Our berakha presents different situations in which the very delicate difference between life and death is perceived. In the first place, we affirm that HaShem provides sustenance and nourishment to all creatures, without which life could not exist. HaShem intervenes and helps to prevent death by supporting those who are about to falter, by healing the sick, by freeing the captives (= prisoners sentenced to death). In all these cases, death would be imminent, if not for the intervention of HaShem Almighty to overcome it.
PEOPLE OF ISRAEL (TEXT 3): The third part of this blessing alludes to the survival of the Jewish people. HaShem fulfills the promise He made to our ancestors, alluded in this berakha by saying, “Those who sleep in the dust,” i.e., Abraham, Ytshaq and Ya’aqob. HaShem promised that the Jewish people will prevail and survive. It might be on the verge of total extinction, as in Egypt, or in the time of King Hizhqiyahu, or in the time of Haman, or in the Shoah. But HaShem will prevent their extinction, and He will restore the life of His People.
תחיית המתים וחזון העצמות היבשות
2500 years ago, the prophet Ezekiel (Yehezquel) had a very special prophetic vision. In this vision (chapter 37) HaShem transported him to a valley. In that valley there were bones. Many bones. Human bones. Dry bones. There is nothing more dead than a dry bone. And in that vision, HaShem said to Ezekiel: “Son of man: Do you believe that these bones can come back to life?. And Ezekiel, in a combination of humility and surprise, replied: “HaShem … only You know that”. And then there was a deafening noise. And the bones began to move. Bones were joined with other bones and formed skeletons. And the skeletons were covered with veins, nerves and flesh, and skin. Now they were no longer bones, but human bodies without life. Corpses. And then HaShem said to Ezekiel: “Prophesy that the breath of life may come to them ….and let them live again.” And so it was. “And a breath of life entered the bodies and they rose to their feet. It was a great army, very numerous.” And then HaShem told the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, these bones are the House [the Nation] of Israel. They say: our bones have dried up, we have lost our hope, we have been condemned [to die]. Therefore, I want you to prophesy and tell them [Israel]: thus says HaShem, God: Behold, I will open your graves, and I will raise you from your graves and lead you to the land of Israel. And thus they will know that I am HaShem, when I open your grave and take you out of them, My people. And I will give you a spirit of life and you will relive. And I will lead you to your land. And then you will know that I am HaShem. I promised and I will deliver. “
It is impossible not to connect this prophecy with 1945 and 1948. In 1945 we were doomed to disappear. We were dry bones, or perhaps worse, ashes of bones. And then, when the Goyim (and even us!) thought that we had disappeared, that we would never again be a people, that all the great prophecies would never be fulfilled, the greatest miracle occurred: HaShem opened our graves, He raised us up, restored our lives and brought us to Israel. HaShem promised it. And he delivered. This is a modern example of Tehiyat haMetim, resurrection, one we can see with our own eyes.