From the first day of the month of Elul through the Holiday of Succos, we recite Psalm 27, which begins with L’Dovid at the conclusion of the Shacharis prayers. Depending on the custom of the Shul, the Psalm is again recited either after Mincha or after Maariv.
I wondered, why is it recited only twice a day and not at the conclusion of all three prayers?
Before I address this question, I want share with you a statement in the Talmud regarding the formulation the Amidah prayer – Shemone Esrei, the eighteen benedictions, which is the focal point of our prayers,.
The format of the Amidah ― the 18 blessings ― was established by 120 sage elders and among them many prophets. The Talmud goes on to explain the order in which the particular blessings are placed.
The Talmud offers a few reasons our sages formatted the Amidah with 18 blessings. One reason is that it reflects on the Shema prayer where we mention G-d 18 times. Another opinion is that in Psalm 29, which speaks of G-d’s sanctity and glory, it mentions G-d’s name 18 times.
Thus, we see that there is a significance as to how many times G-d’s name is mentioned in a prayer or a Psalm. The Gematria – numerical sum ― of G-d’s four letter name, Yud, Hey, Vuv, Hey is 26.
This being said, commentators point out, when one looks over the Psalm 27 – L’Dovid, he will find it mentions G-d’s name 13 times. Thus, when the Psalm is recited twice a day we have recited G-d’s name 26 times.
This may sound a bit esoteric. However, as the Talmud relates, each blessing and format of the Amidah was carefully formulated some 2500 years ago, with each word calculated with the Divinely inspired wisdom of our sages and prophets to incorporate within it and foresee the general needs of the Jewish people during every possible situation until the Moshiach arrives.
King David was a prophet as well and each of his Psalms were Divinely inspired, with each word and mention of G-d calculated and significant.
Rabbi Avrohom Schorr points out that, as mentioned, the name of G-d is equal to 26; if it is multiplied 26 times it equals 676. This week’s Parsha records a warning of what will befall the Jewish people if they do not uphold the Torah. When one looks into the portion of the rebuke he will find the name of G-d mentioned 26 times, and the number of words that it contains is 676!
G-d mentions His Name repeatedly within the rebuke to show that His caring and loving kindness is present even during our most difficult times.
Getting back to the Amidah and how to appreciate it. This past week the world lost a beloved leader, Queen Elizabeth II. Although in the world we live in today almost any type of behavior, attitude and expression is permitted, it was unheard of to act so in the presence of the Queen. One acted differently, with great respect, while having an audience with the Queen. Before meeting the Queen, visitors were instructed in the proper protocol and etiquette that was expected.
The focal point of our prayers is the recitation of the Amidah, and we also must act according to protocol. We recite preliminary prayers and blessings and then we stand up and take three steps forward, bringing our feet together, similar to the stance of the angels , and we begin the Amidah with reciting a blessing while bowing. We are now standing before the King of Kings. We are speaking to Him directly and He is listening to each of us while we are speaking in an undertone. We are not flustered as to how to address the King nor are we looking for words or ideas about what we are going to ask and request from the King, nor do we have to search for ways of how to thank the King. Then when we complete the Amidah, we take leave by respectfully bowing and taking three steps back, bowing to the left, right and center.
Our appointment with the king for each of our three daily prayers has a set timeframe and only then can they be recited. On Rosh Chodesh and Holidays we are granted an additional Mussaf appointment and on Yom Kippur the special Neilah Amidah opportunity is added as well!
Our protocol is all there right in the Siddur, established by the greatest of our people who knew the proper method of speaking to and asking from Hashem!
The Halacha guides us as to what one is allowed or not allowed to do during the Amidah. Even if a mortal king enters and extends his welcome to one who is in middle of the Amidah – one may not respond, because we are standing before the King of all Kings.
In addition, it’s not only when we are personally engaged in the Amidah that we have to have such respect; it is also when a fellow is in the midst of the Amidah, one is not to pass within a few feet since this fellow is engaged in conversation with the King!
In Psalm 27 King Dovid speaks of his struggles and wars against his adversaries, including his confrontation with the Yaitzer Hara – the evil inclination. King Dovid overcame them all through his desire and devotion to serve G-d sincerely. The Talmud tells us that King David is the paradigm of one who did Teshuva, repenting for his sin, and G-d accepted it. His example strengthens every Jew to repent. It is most fitting to recite L’Dovid during these special days of introspection!