AMIDA, SEVENTH BERAKHA: Goel, our next of kin

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ראה נא בענינו וריבה ריבנו
1. Please [HaShem] see our oppression, defend us in our struggle, and rescue us
2. Grant us a complete salvation, by Your name, for You are a Mighty Redeemer.
3. Blessed are You, HaShem, the Redeemer of Israel.
In this berakha we ask HaShem to help us and free us from oppression.
This berakha (blessing) lends itself to confusion. Let’s see why. In each of the blessings before and after this berakha, the subject at hand is very simple to identify: we ask for wisdom, forgiveness, absolution, health, sustenance … but, what are we asking for in this Berakha?

 

Let’s start with what we are NOT asking HaShem here. Evidently the key word of this blessing is, as expected, at the end of it: “goel Israel,” which we translated as “the Redeemer of Israel.” But what redemption are we referring to here? In modern Hebrew the concept of redemption (in Hebrew גאולה) is associated with the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the messianic times. But these subjects are fully developed explicitly later, when we speak of the needs of the Jewish people as a nation. We have already explained that the berakhot in which we ask HaShem for our needs are divided into two very distinct groups: personal and national. The first six berakhot of this section deal with our personal needs and the next six, with of our needs or longings as a nation. And that is where we ask for our return to Israel, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, the arrival of the Mashiah, etc. In this berakha, as Rabbi Israel Ya’aqob Algazi (1679-1756) explains, we are asking HaShem for help to free us from personal constraints and difficulties. What kind of difficulties? The Hebrew word this berakha uses is ONYENU, which means “oppression”: when we are under the yoke of an oppressor. For example, when we are slaves, prisoners or captives, something that in ancient times was not al all uncommon. “Oppression” could also be applied in circumstances of political or religious persecution or in any other scenario of physical abuse, or illegitimate deprivation of liberty. In all these cases, our problem is not lack of means, health or food, etc. but the oppression we suffer at the hands of an individual, a tyrant, a corrupt society, etc.

 

Now that we have understood what the theme of this Berakha is, let us review what are we really asking of HaShem.

 

1. “Please [HaShem] see our oppression,” that is, do not ignore our suffering.“Defend us in our struggle,” we ask Your intervention to rescue us from our oppressors.
2. “Grant us a complete salvation by Your name, for You are a Mighty Redeemer.” We ask HaShem to act promptly and rescue us in a definitive and total way from the oppressor. “For Thy Name,” because you promised it in the Tora, and also because You, HaShem, are Almighty, and there is nothing that is impossible for You.

 

3. “Blessed are You, HaShem, the Redeemer of Israel.”
We must explain this important word “redeemer”, in Hebrew “goel”.
In the earlier berakhot we spoke, for example, of Teshuba, something for that, although we might need Divine help or inspiration, we can (and must) do it ourselves. The idea of Geula refers to scenarios in which one does not have or has already exhausted the possibilities of saving himself, and needs external help from a “goel”. 
In biblical Hebrew “Goel” means “next of kin,” a technical and legal term that appears many times in the Tora. According to Jewish law, it is the duty of that ‘nearest relative’ or ‘goel’ to help and rescue his or her relative in times of imperative need.
Some illustrations.

 

1. In ancient Israel, if a person lost all that he had, he was forced to sell himself as a slave. And it was the duty of the next of kin, his “goel”, to help, pay the debts and rescue this person from captivity.

 

2. Boaz, a relative of Elimelekh, acts as a “goel” and assists Naomi, the widow of Elimelekh and takes care of her and their daughter-in-law Rut. He supports them and rescues them completely from the situation of misery in which they were.
3. Another example of the idea of “Goel” in similar contexts is the expression we say in Tefilat Arbit: וגאלו מיד חזק ממנו, that when HaShem freed us from slavery in Egypt “he rescued Israel from the hands of an oppressor, who was more powerful than the Jewish people. “
In this berakha, then, we address HaShem as “our closest relative,” our “father” (or in some poems and metaphors “husband”) asking Him, our “goel” to listen to us or to our brothers who suffer, and free us from oppression and rescue us.