In Shemone Esrei, we express our great sorrow and longing for the days in which we will finally return to Jeusalem once again, with the words: “ And let our eyes see Your return to Tzion with compassion.” However, immediately following this beracha, we give a prayer of thanks to Hashem, in the prayer of “we are thankful to You…” over the unceasing acts of kindliness which He is continuously performing for us. Why did our Sages see fit to place these two prayers, which express completely contrary emotions, one directly after the other? Why is it so, that in one moment, we are meant to be ‘broken’ over the loss of the Bais Hamikdash. Yet, directly following this, we are to muster our strongest feelings of joy, over all the kindness of Hashem which surround us?
In the chapter of Tehillim known as Al Naharos Bavel (137: 4), which we say before birchas Hamazon, Dovid Hamelech expresses, “How can we sing the song of Hashem, on foreign soil?” Thus, we see that even the joy which we experience while singing the songs and praises of Hashem, are incomplete at a time in which we are bereft, without the Bais HaMikdash.
Therefore, we remember this thought during Shemone Esrei, by expressing our great desire to return to Tzion, specifically at the very moment in which we are about to bow in thanks for Hashem’s endless goodness which He bestows upon us.
(Adapted from the book “Passion for Perfection”, by Rabbi Usher Smith)