Shabbat Shiur – May 17, 2013

This is the last of our Shabbat Shiur services for this program year. It is fitting that we end this series with two of the closing hymns that have been part of our service for the last seven hundred to one thousand years, Ein Keloheinu and Yigdal. Since Ein Keloheinu is the older of the two, we will start with this beloved hymn.
Ein Keloheinu is mentioned in the first prayer book composed by Amram Gaon in 9th century Babylonia, Maimonides in 12th century Egypt and Rashi in early 13th century France. The initial letters of the first three verses begin with an alef, mem, and nun, spelling Amen. The next two verses begin with the words, Baruch and Atah, forming the phrase, “Amen, Baruch Atah.” It is highly likely that the last verse in an earlier version begin with “Adonai.” The theme of Ein Keloheinu is the incomparability of God, who is our Lord, King, and Redeemer. Ein Keloheinu is recited daily in the Sephardic rite at the end of the morning service but is recited in the Ashkenazic rite only during the Shabbat Musaf (additional) service before the Aleinu. In the Traditional version, the last line reads, “Atah hu Shehiktiru Avoteinu L’fanecha et Ketoret Hasamim, You are the One before whom our ancestors offered fragrant incense.” American Reform prayerbooks eliminated this verse as early as the 1896 Union Prayer Book and continued to excise it even in Mishkan T’filah. As it says in the Reconstructionist Kol Haneshmah of 1996, “We delete this verse because of its nostalgic reference to Temple worship that implies a longing for the reinstitution of sacrifices that we do not share.” Ein Keloheinu became a prominent part of the Shabbat liturgy in the early Middle Ages when the rabbis of that period took Rabbi Meir’s Talmudic dictate literally, that every man must recite one hundred blessings a day. This is not difficult to do on weekdays because the thrice recited Amidah contains nineteen blessings each. It does, however, become a challenge on Shabbat when the thirteen petitionary blessings are replaced by a blessing for the Sabbath day. How does one make up all those blessings? The Shabbat Musaf service gave them seven. The extra Shabbat meal, seudat shlishit, provided another six. They still needed twenty. Its last two lines, Baruch Atah, suggest that it should count as a blessing. Any given blessing must mention God’s name only once. Here we have five lines, each one containing four names of God, (God, Lord, King, Redeemer). We have five lines, each with four names of God. 5×4 = 20!
Yigdal is the more recent of the two, It paraphrases Maimonides Thirteen Articles of Faith as presented in his commentaryto the Mishnah, written between 1158 and 1168 in Egypt. They are: 1. God’s existence; 2. God’s unity and singularity; 3. God’s incorporeality; 4. God’s eternality; 5. God as the Creator of all; 6. God’s gift of prophecy and prophets to Israel; 7. Moses as the greatest of the prophets; 8. The Torah as God’s unique revelation to Israel; 9. The singularity and immutability of God’s Torah; 10. God’s omniscience; 11. God’s providence, rewarding the upright and punishing the wicked; 12. The future coming of the Messiah to inaugurate the divine redemption of Israel; 13. God’s resurrection of the dead at the time of the future redemption. The Reform siddur replaced the last two verses with the belief in an everlasting redemption and that God has implanted eternal life within us. The poem that we know as Yigdal is generally ascribed to the fourteenth century Italian poet Daniel ben Judah, a dayyan, judge in Rome’s beit din, rabbinic court. Some scholars ascribe its authorship to the poet Immanuel ben Solomon of Rome, a contemporary of Daniel ben Judah. It is metrically constructed and has a single rhyme throughout. In the Ashkenazi liturgy, it is printed at the beginning of the morning service but only recited at the conclusion of the Erev Shabbat and festival evening services. It is recited in the same place in the Sephardic, Italian, and Yemenite services. The Chasidim do not recite it at all. The Ashkenazi version has thirteen lines, one for each article of faith. The Sephardic version adds a line, “These are the thirten bases of the Jewish faith and the tenet’s of God’s law.” Yigdal has a number of distinct melodies all of which reflect the musical traditions of the local populations. One in particular has achieved fame, the “Leoni Yigdal,” attributed to Meyer Leon, hazzan at the Duke’s Place Ashkenazi synagogue in London. A Methodist minister, Thomas Olivers, once heard the cantor sing the Yigdal there. He decided to render it into English and introduce it into Christian worship. First published in 1770, “The God of Abraham Praise,” became immediately popular and is sung to this day in the

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