Greco-Roman Period
The following is the fourth section of a Qedushta (a liturgical poem for the Sabbath morning service) by Yannai, a poet who lived in Byzantine Palestine. It is meant for recitation on the Sabbath when, according to the 3-year Torah reading cycle followed in the Land of Israel in Late Antiquity, the Torah reading begins with Deut. 6-4 (the Shema). The first two lines end with the word, “Israel.” The remaining lines end in “- im,” which achieves the rhyme in this poem. Obviously, this structure cannot be reproduced in English, but this rendition tries to preserve something of the flavor of the

How blessed is the fountain of Israel! 162

They say the blessings 163 and recite the “Hear, O Israel.”

They sit in Your presence, 164 thinking of Your Name,

Audible to one another, as together they proclaim.

How beautiful they who proclaim it morn and night,

Pleasant their looks, their voices a delight!

Pledged one to another in Unity’s affirmation,

They meddle not with those who seek its alteration.

Loving with their heart and soul and might,

They bow their heads in holy fright.

Worshipping, they bend the knee.

Twice every day, perpetually,

They bless and sanctify Your Name, O Holy One.

161. Trans. Petuchowski, in Heinemann and Petuchowski, Literature of the Synagogue,

162. The Jewish people.

163. In both the evening service and the morning service, the recitation of the Shema is
preceded by two blessings—the first praising God as creator of the heavenly lights, and
the second praising God as giver of the Torah. See texts 13.2.2, 13.2.5 in this volume.

164. The Houses of Hillel and Shammai argued whether the Shema should be recited in a
sitting or in a standing position. The decision was in accordance with the House of Hillel
who contended that if one were standing prior to the Shema one should remain standing;
but, if seated, remain seated (Mishnah Berakhot 1-3).