“Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” (The Twelfth Blessing of the Amida)
Question: In the Blessing regarding the heretics in the daily Amida prayer, how should one end the twelfth blessing: “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” (He who smashes enemies and humbles the wicked) or “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Minim” (He who smashes enemies and humbles heretics)? The reason I ask is because I’ve seen some Siddurim with the former text and some with the latter.
Answer: Indeed, in the Siddur “Tefilat Yesharim”, which was the most widespread Siddur among Sephardic Jews until approximately twenty years ago, the ending for this blessing is printed as “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Minim”. They opted for this text because Maran Ha’Chida in his Sefer Kesher Gudal writes that he learned from his rabbis that one should end this blessing by saying “U’Machnia Minim”. The reason for this is because one must conclude every blessing similar to the text it started with. Thus, the blessing of “Ata Kadosh” ends with the words “Ha’el Ha’Kadosh” and the blessing of “Refa’enu” ends with the words “Rofeh Holei Amo Yisrael” etc. Therefore, the blessing of “La’Minim Ve’Lamalshinim” should end with the words “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Minim”. Maran Ha’Chida writes that he found this text in the Siddur of the Ari z”l, printed in Levov. Indeed, this is also the text found in the Sefer Chemdat Yamim.
Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim, the saintly author of the Ben Ish Hai, writes in his Sefer Ben Yehoyada (Berachot 28a) in accordance with the words of Maran Ha’Chida, for, regarding the order of prayers, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim usually follows the rulings of Maran Ha’Chida. Rabbeinu Yosef Haim adds as sort of proof to this matter that the author of this blessing was Shmuel Ha’Katan (this blessing was authored much later than the other blessings of the Amida; it is for this reason that the Amida blessing is usually referred to as the “Shemoneh Esreh prayer” [the prayer of eighteen blessings] although it is actually comprised of nineteen blessings) and it could very well be that Shmuel HaKatan hinted his name at the end of the blessing, like many songwriters do, in acronym form, as follows: “SH’over O’yevim U’machnia M’inim; this is an acronym for the Shin, Mem, Vav, and Alef of Shmuel’s name. The last letter of his name, Lamed, is hinted in the first word of the blessing, “L”aMinim. However, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l disputes this position, for one cannot bring a proof from such a Remez “hint” as to the correct text of the blessing. Furthermore, it is quite farfetched to think that Shmuel Ha’Katan would have hinted his name in a text that is meant as a curse upon heretics.
However, the argument of Maran Ha’Chida still stands in that one must always end the Beracha in a text similar to its beginning, thus, the text of “U’Machnia Minim” seems more of an appropriate ending to the blessing which begins “La’Minim Ve’Lamalshinim”.
Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l brings several proofs that the correct version is indeed “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim”. Maran zt”l is not the one to create this text; rather, this is the opinion of most Poskim, as the Shalmei Tzibur writes that he has never found the text of “U’Machnia Minim” in the works of the Mekubalim. Similarly, the text of “U’Machnia Zedim” is the text quoted in the works of all of the early Geonim such as the Siddurim of Rav Sa’adia Gaon and Rav Amram Gaon, among others. Regarding the Chida’s question that “U’Machnia Zedim” does not fit the beginning of the blessing, we can answer that the Gemara explains that “Zedim” are sinners, meaning that included in the term “Zedim” are all the greatest sinners, including the “Minim” (heretics).
Indeed, we find in the Talmud Yerushalmi as well as several Midrashim from our Sages that the proper ending is “Zedim”. If this is so that the Yerushalmi, Midrash, and earlier authorities all agree upon this text, surely we must follow this version of “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” as per the consensus of the majority of the Poskim. Hagaon Harav Chaim Palagi rules likewise in his Sefer Ru’ach Chaim. In his Sefer Kaf Ha’Chaim he adds that “although Maran Ha’Chida rules to recite ‘Minim’, in this matter I have veered from his path and I have brought proofs from the Rishonim; were Maran Ha’Chida to see their words, he surely would have retracted his opinion.” Many of the great Mekubalim have also dealt with this matter at length and they have disagreed with the opinion of Hagaon Chida and the Chemdat Yamim in this situation.
Other great Mekubalim of Jerusalem also customarily recited “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim”, as per the testimony of Hagaon Harav Amram Aburbia zt”l in his Sefer Netvei Am that this was the custom of the Mekubalim in the Yeshivat Ha’Mekublaim (Kabbalistic Yeshiva) “Bet El”. Even Hagaon Harav Yaakov Moshe Hillel, who usually follows the practices of the Mekubalim, has dealt with this matter at length and has written that halachically, one should recite “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” in accordance with the ruling of Maran zt”l.
Thus, the Halacha most certainly is that one should end this blessing of the Amida by saying “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim”. Those Siddurim that print the text of “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Minim” as if it were the ancient and established text of Jewish tradition are incorrect in doing so, for the source of this text for Sephardic Jews is based on the words of Harav Chida zt”l. This text that was printed in the Siddur Tefillat Yesharim and other Siddurim following the texts based on Maran Ha’Chida has been adopted by some Syrian communities (see Siddur Magen Avraham) and Moroccan communities (see Siddur Tehillat Yitzchak), however, this should be corrected to “Shover Oyevim U’Machnia Zedim” and one need not be concerned any other custom to the contrary.