Code Introduction, Rabbi Asher ben Yehiel’s Arba`ah Turim


Blessed the God of Israel, who is great and mighty! To him , song and praise, lauding and hymns, power and dominion are appropriate. He is greater than any other god. Were I to say- “I shall sound all his praises and praise him,” I would not be able to do so, for I lack the words. He is above all human blessings and praises. Silence is his praise.

He reigns in every part of the lower and upper worlds. Every man on earth must bow down to him in awe. He is the first of all beginnings. His beginnings have no beginning points. He is the last, and he has no end point. In the beginning, he created the heavens and the earth, and in six days he completed his work and created man from dust. He created all properly in its appointed time, for the first of his harvest [the people of Israel] and for his Torah, which he bequeathed to his holy people Jacob, his special inheritance and his first partner. The end point is always superior to its beginnings, and his partnering succeeded.

The sayings of the Lord are pure, bedecked like a bride in the twenty-four [books of the Bible]. He gave to us through his trusted one [Moses] his laws and teachings. He separated us from the impurity of idolaters and brought into his service. He commanded us laws and statutes that we learn them. He did as he commanded—he taught Israel laws and statutes. He did not do likewise to all the nations; he did not inform them of his statutes. The Torah that was given to Moses on Sinai was passed down to Joshua, and from Joshua to the elders, and from the elders it was passed to the prophets, and the prophets passed it down to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] returned the splendor of old to the Torah with great awe and respect—they blessed with awe the great, mighty, and awesome God. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] established the order of the daily blessings for the Shema [the biblical verses proclaiming God’s unity]—two before the Shema and one after in the morning and in the evening two before and two after, basing themselves on the biblical verse- “I praise you seven times each day (Psa. 119-164).” Likewise, [they established the order for] the Shemoneh Esreh [the blessings that combine praise and petition], again basing themselves on biblical verses. They decreed that one should recite one hundred blessings every day and that one should bless everything with its appropriate blessing. They transmitted all this to their students and similarly [their students to subsequent students] generation after generation until today.

Alas, we have spent many days in exile. Our strength has waned, our hearts have despaired, our hands have become weary—our eyes tired, our ears heavy, our tongues have been silenced and have lost the capacity to speak. The wellsprings of our wisdom have been sealed; our [legal] reasoning has become flawed; controversy reigns; diverse opinions have multiplied. There is not one law that does not have many opinions surrounding it. Thus, many err by taking pleasure from this world without reciting a blessing. Our sages of blessed memory said that one should visit a great scholar, who would teach us the order of the daily blessings, so that one does not sin through oversight.

Thus, my thoughts aroused me, and I reflected, saying- “I shall arise and visit the sages and examine their books. I shall collect two or three kernels of wisdom from these authors, and I shall compose a legal work dealing with the laws of prayer and blessings. I shall order all matters with the blessings appropriate to them, from beginning to end. I shall clarify them in such a way as to leave no doubt.”

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