The Siddur is a reflection of both the heart and history of the Jewish people. The prayers and blessings come from a variety of sources spanning from the Bible to contemporary Sages and Rabbis (depending on the siddur). Most of us are familiar with the prayers and blessings that are prominant during a traditional Shabbat service such as the Shema, a portion of the Amidah, Ashrei, Adon Olam, Ein Kayloheynu – just to name a few. But if we are not careful we will miss some wondrous blessings and praises that can enhance our daily worship as well as help us to relate to our people and to help us in explaining Yeshua and Messianic Judaism.
One such blessing is called Ribbon Kol HaOlamim (master of the worlds). it can be found in the Artscroll Ashkenaz Siddur on p. 26 second paragraph. It originates in the Talmud (Yoma 87b) in a paragraph that discusses the necessity of confessing sins frequently. This blessing is a statement of our inadequacy and our utter need and thankfulness for the benevolence of God:
Not on the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before you but on the merit of your abundant mercy. What are we? What is our life? What is our kindness? What is our righteousness? What is our salvation? What is our strength? What is our might?
This is followed by a declaration of our covenant relationship with God. As Jewish people, we stand in relationship with God via the promise that He initiated with Abraham and confirmed as a result of the “binding of Isaac”. it is a promise of national destiny and purpose. As a messianic community, we are reminded that that God has initiated the New Covenant with us through the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. As the remnant of Israel along with all people who embrace Yeshua we are able to appropriate these new covenant blessings of complete forgiveness, intimacy with God and bodily resurrection (see Eph. 1:1-13).
The final section is filled with praise and an acknowledgment of blessing:
Therefore we are obligated to thank you, praise you, glorify you…We are fortunate – how good is our portion, how pleasant our lot , how beautiful our heritage.
We should never take for granted the covenantal purpose and destiny that we have as a people and we should never take for granted the blessings of life and forgiveness of sin that we have in knowing Yeshua the Messiah. What a wonderful way to start each day – being rememinded of our standing before God that comes via his grace and mercy.
This prayer came to mind recently when a Jewish friend challenged me on the need for believing in Yeshua. He asked me the question that we have all faced at one time or another – what about good people who have never heard of Yeshua? How unfair is it that some people live in places where they have never heard of Yeshua. I responded by talking about Ribbon HaOlamim. I told him that this prayer tells us that no one is worthy of the blessings of God and that we as Jewish people should be the most thankful people to have this covenant relationship that we have done nothing to earn. It is not a question of fairness, rather it is an issue of the grace and mercy of God. I said that clearly our people have not lived up to our end of the bargain and that Yeshua came to initiate the restoration of Israel and to be the vehicle himself for the nations to hear the good news as preached by Isaiah and Yeshua himself. I told him that embracing Yeshua means that we can appropriate New Covenant blessings of forgiveness of sins, intimacy with God and a place in the World To Come. In the end, we do not know how God may reveal himself to the hearts of individuals but we know that we are called to be a light to the nations and that is why we are called to bring Yeshua to all peoples – beginning with our own people. In Him is the promise of resurrection. My friend did not suddenly embrace Yeshua. However I hopefully communicated that we are not preaching an unfair message and that our messsage – while not in agreement with traditional jewish understanding – can find some validity from the Siddur.
May Ribbon HaOlamim remind us to be ever thankful for Messiah Yeshua.