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In HaMoadim BeHalachah, page 371, Rav Shlomo Zevin endorses the idea raised by Rav Yitzchak Isaac HaLevy that the tefillot were established before the destruction of the Second Temple. However, he takes issue with what he deems an overstatement, that aside from the Birchat Haminim, was no change whatsoever in the days of Yavneh.

text from HaMoadim BeHalachah

He points out several changes in Tefillah that seem to indicate exile or destruction. Would they have said in Musaf, in Temple times, וּמִפְּנֵי חֲטָאֵינוּ גָּלִינוּ מֵאַרְצֵנוּ, "and because of our sins we were exiled from our land", or בְּנֵה בֵיתְךָ כְּבַתְּחִילָה וְכוֹנֵן בֵּית מִקְדָּשְׁךָ עַל מְכוֹנו, "build your house as at first and establish your Bet Hamikdash on its place"? It is logical that this nusach was innovated in the time of Yavneh. And even in the blessings of Shemoneh Esrei, would they have had the bracha of וַתֶחֱזֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ, "and let our eyes see (Your return to Jerusalem in Mercy)", with its conclusion of "who returns his Shechina to Zion"?

All of these are good evidence of post-Destruction editing. And it is convincing (to me, at least), that even this last proof, regarding וַתֶחֱזֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ, is true, in the sense that the point of the blessing as it currently exists (starting with retzei), is the restoration of the Avodah, the service, such that returning the Divine Presence means with the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash. That is why it also includes וְהָשֵׁב אֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ, that the service should be restored to the Beit HaMikdash.

However, technically, isn't there a problem with his last proof from וַתֶחֱזֶינָה? After all, in Yoma 21b, we read of five differences between the First and Second Temples. One was Divine fire (though this is mitigated / interpreted in the gemara as a different level of fire). Another was the presence of the Shechina:

אֵלּוּ חֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים שֶׁהָיוּ בֵּין מִקְדָּשׁ רִאשׁוֹן לְמִקְדָּשׁ שֵׁנִי וְאֵלּוּ הֵן אָרוֹן וְכַפּוֹרֶת וּכְרוּבִים אֵשׁ וּשְׁכִינָה וְרוּחַ הַקּוֹדֶשׁ וְאוּרִים וְתוּמִּים

These are five differences between the First Temple and the Second Temple: The Aron/Ark, the Kapores/Ark covering and the Keruvim/Cherubs, the fire and Shechinah/Divine Presence, Ruach HaKodesh/Divine inspiration, and the Urim VeTumim.

(Which some commentators understand as a full withdrawal and some as a partial withdrawal.) If so, is Rav Zeven's last proof truly solid? Couldn't this blessing then have been a request, composed in Second Temple times, that the Shechina return (from its full or partial absence)?

I understand that other words in the same blessing indicate otherwise (וְהָשֵׁב אֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ), and that this interpretation might seem somewhat forced, but regardless, how could Rav Zevin have written this, and overlooked such an "obvious" point?

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Indeed, one could ask such a technical question on Rav Zevin's last proof. Yet, in context, the point was that the obvious interpretation of this blessing was the asking for the rebuilding of the Temple, the resumption of sacrifices, and along with it (whether the Shechina had or had not been present before), Hashem's dwelling in Tzion.

Footnote 61 can help us understand his reasoning. He writes:

footnote 61 in Moadim BeHalachah

That is, he notes historical evidence that this was indeed changed. He points us to Rashi on Berachot 11b, and on Yoma 68b, where Rashi writes explicitly that in place of the blessing of וַתֶחֱזֶינָה, and the conclusion of הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן, they would say a different nusach, which was more in line with the Temple existing.

That Rashi in Yoma reads:

ועל העבודה - רצה בעמך ישראל ותרצה העבודה בדביר ביתך וכו' שאותך לבדך ביראה נעבוד:

All the aforementioned difficulties in וַתֶחֱזֶינָה are obviated. Namely, it is "let the avodah be accepted in Devir Beitecha" as opposed to וְהָשֵׁב אֶת הָעֲבוֹדָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ, and no mention of longing of our eyes seeing Hashem's return.

Presumably, it was this knowledge of an earlier form of the blessing, and that the current form was different, that made Rav Zevin correctly see the post-Churban implications of this blessing. The technical objection did not bother him. And he assumed people would be reading his sefer in Hebrew, or at least check the footnotes, to understand his words.

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  • One could argue (pretty unconvincingly in my opinion) that Rashi is only referring to a special form of the blessing recited in the temple, in conjunction with the avodah. It’s possible that he believed that outside of the temple, even in temple times, they recited המחזיר שכינתו לציון – Joel K Mar 31 at 6:45

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