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Siddur Ba-eir Hei-teiv --- The Transliterated Siddur

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All transliterations, commentary, and audio recordings are copyright © 1997, 1998, 2002, 2009, or 2016 by Jordan Lee Wagner. All rights reserved.


Here are some of the most popular melodies for Ahavat Olam, which is not always sung aloud.


  • I learned this melody in a synagogue in northeastern New Jersey in the 1960's. I'll post more when I know more about its origin. This is a recording of me leading it, backed by Kol Tefilah. The recording begins with the chatima (conclusion) of Maariv Aravim (the prayer that precedes Ahavat Olam), and also includes the first notes of the Shema that follows. (Although this is Friday night liturgy, the Shema tune begun here is the one Solomon Sulzer wrote for taking out the Torah on Saturday mornings. On Friday nights, I prefer to use Louis Lewandowsky's Friday night Shema.)

  • This melody is borrowed from Keil Adon, a hymn in the Shema Section of the Shacharit Service for Sabbaths.
  • -->

Ahavat Olam (Everlasting Love)


The central theme of the Sh'ma is our love of God. In the liturgy, the Sh'ma is attended by three other prayers; two before and one after. The first of these recalls Cre­ation, the second recalls the giving of the Torah. The last recalls redemption from slavery in Egypt. While these subjects are mentioned frequently in the Siddur, they are depicted in a unique way here. They are thought of here as acts of love. This is most explicit in the second prayer. Thus the Sh'ma is sandwiched in prayers that talk about evidences of God's love for us. Thus the rela­tionship is thought of as reciprocal.[*]

The two prayers before the Sh'ma cite the great events of the Jewish past. The third prayer looks to the future re­demption by analogy with the past ...

... The second prayer has two versions. The morning version is called Ahavat Rabbah (Great Love). The evening version is called Ahavat Olam[i] (Eternal Love), and is a shorter version. This is another example of the sages recon­ciling divergent traditions by incorporating both. They are thought to have been written between 444 and 300 B.C.E. [ii] and are both very beautiful.

It is appropriate that these benedictions, which express gratitude for the Torah, immediately preceed reciting the Sh'ma, which is a Torah excerpt. [iii] [iv]

The chatima (closing formula) of Ahavat Rabbah is: "Baruch atah Adonai., who has graciously chosen your people Israel." The closing of Ahavat Olam is: "Baruch atah Adonai, .who loves your people Israel." They lead directly to the first line of the Sh'ma , usually sung by the congregation aloud, which declares, "God is echad." The numerical value of ahavah (love) is thirteen, which is the same as that of echad (One). The Sh'ma then continues, "You shall love [God]..."


[*] This arrangement was established under Rabban Gamliel II around 100 C.E.

[i] The phrase comes from Jeremiah 31:3.

[ii] c.f., Berachot 11b; Hoffman, pp. 30-39. Nusach Sfard follows the Rambam, using Ahavat Olam as the opening at all times. c.f., Orach Chaim 60:1.

[iii] Some form of these blessings are thought to have functioned as Torah-Reading blessings in ancient times.

[iv] That they follow Yo-tseir Or and Ma^ariv Aravim reminds us that the Torah is a greater light than the luminaries. The duty to reciprocate divine love by fulfilling the divine plan as perfectly as possible necessitates making the study of the Torah, which is the greatest gift of grace, central to our lives. This is emphasized in Ahavah Raba when it recounts eight aspects of growing strong in Torah; for the Covenant is symbolized by eight, as it is the number of days to circumcision.

--- adapted from "The Synagogue Survival Kit" by Jordan Lee Wagner, publ. by Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.



Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2009 01:59
 

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