The backbone of the daily service, already in the beginning of talmudic times, is the reading of the Shema, three Biblical passages which set forth the basic beliefs and commitments of Judaism. These paragraphs are preceded by two benedictions before and followed by one after. Each benediction emphasized the theme of one of the Biblical passages. The first benediction corresponds to the recital of Deut. 6-5. This passage emphasizes God’s sovereignty and this is the meaning of the first benediction regarding the heavenly bodies of which God is the sole creator. The second benediction recalls the Jew’s obligation to study the Torah and practice its commandments. This is paralleled in the reading of Deut. 11- 13-21 which recalls these same themes. The benediction ends with the ingathering of exiles, just as the biblical passage mentions longevity in the Land of Israel.

1 Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who formest light and createst
darkness, who makest peace and createst all things.

All shall thank thee, and all shall praise thee, and all shall say, there is none holy like the
Lord. All shall extol thee for ever, Creator of all things, a God who openest every day the
doors of the gates of the East, and c1eavest the windows of the firmament, bringing forth
the sun from its place, and the moon from its dwelling, giving light to the whole world
and to its inhabitants whom thou hast created in thy mercy. In mercy thou givest light to
the earth and to those who dwell on it, and in thy goodness renewest the creation every
day continually; a King, who alone was exalted from aforetime, praised, glorified, and
extolled from days of old.

Eternal God, in thine abundant mercies, have mercy upon us, Lord of our strength, Rock
of our stronghold, Shield of our salvation, thou Stronghold of ours!There is none to be
compared unto thee, and there is none besides thee; there is none but thee- who is like
thee? There is none to be compared unto thee, Lord our God, in this world, and there is
none besides thee, our King, in the life of the world to come; there is none but thee, our
Redeemer, in the days of the messiah; neither is there any like thee, our Deliverer, in the
resurrection of the dead.

God, the Lord over all works, 20

blessed is he, and ever to be blessed by the mouth of everything that has breath.

His greatness and goodness fill the universe;

knowledge and understanding surround him.

He is exalted above the holy Hayot

and is adorned in glory above the celestial chariot.

Purity and rectitude are before his throne,

kindness and mercy before his glory.

The luminaries are good which our God has created

he formed them with knowledge, understanding and discernment;

He gave them might and power

to rule in the midst of the world.

They are full of luster, and they radiate brightness-

beautiful is their luster throughout all the world.

They rejoice in their going forth, and are glad in their returning;

They perform with awe the will of their Master.

Glory and honor they render his name,

exultation and rejoicing at the remembrance of his sovereignty.

He called unto the sun, and it shone forth in light

He looked, and ordained the figure of the moon.

All the hosts on high render praise unto him,

the Seraphim, the Ophanim, and the holy Hayot 21 ascribing

glory and greatness.

To the God who rested from all his works, and on the seventh day exalted himself and
sat upon the throne of his glory; who robed himself in glory on the day of rest, and called
the Sabbath day a delight. This is the praise of the Sabbath day, that God rested thereon
from all his work, when the Sabbath day itself offers praise and says, “A Psalm, a song of
the Sabbath day, it is good to give thanks unto the Lord” (Ps. 92-1-2). Therefore let all his
creatures glorify and bless God; let them render praise, honor, and greatness to the God
and King who is Creator of all things, and who, in his holiness, gives an inheritance of
rest to his people Israel on the holy Sabbath day. Thy name, Lord our God, shall be
hallowed, and thy remembrance, our King, shall be glorified in heaven above and on the
earth below. Be thou blessed, our Savior, for the excellency of thy handiwork, and for the
bright luminaries which thou hast made- they shall glorify thee for ever.

Be thou blessed, our Rock, our King and Redeemer, Creator of holy beings, praised be
thy name for ever, our King; Creator of ministering spirits, all of whom stand in the
heights of the universe, and proclaim with awe in unison aloud the words of the living
God and everlasting King; all of them are beloved, pure and mighty, and all of them in
dread and awe do the will of the Master; and all of them open their mouths in holiness
and purity, with song and psalm, while they bless and praise, glorify and reverence,
sanctify and ascribe sovereignty to the name of the Divine King, the Great, Mighty, and
Dreaded One, Holy is He; and they all take upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom of
Heaven one from the other, and give permission to one another to hallow their Creator in
tranquil joy of spirit, with pure speech and holy melody they all respond in unison, and
exclaim with awe- 22

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts- the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6-3).
And the Ophanim and the holy Hayot with a noise of great rushing, upraising
themselves toward the Seraphim, over against them offer praise and say-
“Blessed be the glory of the Lord fromhis place” (Ezek. 3-12).

To the blessed God they offer melodies; to the King, the living and eternal God, they
utter hymns and make their praises heard; for he alone performs mighty deeds, and makes
new things; he is the Lord of battles; he sows righteousness, causes salvation to spring
forth, creates remedies, and is revered in praises. He is the Lord of wonders, who in his
goodness renews the creation every day continually, as it is said, “To Him that made
great lights, for His mercy endures for ever” (Ps. 136-7). O cause a new light to shine
upon Zion, and may we all be worthy soon to enjoy its brightness. Blessed art thou, O
Lord, Creator of the lights.

2 With abounding love hast thou loved us, Lord our God, great and exceeding mercy
hast thou bestowed upon us. Our Father, our King, for our fathers’ sake, who trusted in
thee, and whom thou didst teach laws of life, be gracious unto us and teach us. Our
Father, merciful Father, ever compassionate, have mercy upon us and put it into our
hearts to understand and to discern, to mark, learn, and teach, to heed, to do, and to fulfill
in love all the words of instruction in thy Torah. Enlighten our eyes in thy Torah and let
our hearts cleave to thy commandments, and unite our hearts to love and fear thy name,
so that we be never put to shame. Because we have trusted in thy holy, great, and revered
name, we shall rejoice and be glad in thy salvation. O bring us in peace from the four
corners of the earth, and make us go upright to our land; for thou art a God who works
salvation. Thou hast chosen us from all peoples and tongues, and hast brought us near
unto thy great name for ever in faithfulness, that we might in love give thanks unto thee
and proclaim thy unity. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast chosen thy people Israel in

19. J. Heinemann with J.J. Petuchowski, Literature of tile Synagogue (New York- Behrman House, 1975),
pp. 21-4.

20. This hymn, El Adon, is closely linked to the hymns of praise found in both the Dead Sea Scrolls and
Hekhalot mystical texts.

21. Seraphim, Ophanim and Hayot are classes of angels.

22. In what follows, the text recalls the angelic recitation of the Qedushah, the sanctification of God. Just as
humanity praise God on earth, so do the angels on high. This notion is closely connected with the early
Hekhalot mystical literature.