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Aleinu (Hebrew: עָלֵינוּ, "ours" here to be understood as: "it is upon us, it is our obligation or duty") is a Jewish prayer found in the siddur, the classical Jewish prayerbook. It is recited at the end of each of the three daily Jewish services. It is also recited following the New Moon blessing and after a circumcision is performed.

The traditional view of its composition, based on a geonic account, is that this prayer was created and proclaimed by Joshua in biblical times. However, the modern scholarly view is that the prayer was composed in Talmudic times for the mussaf liturgy on Rosh Hashanah. The Aleinu praises God for allowing the Jewish people to serve him, and expresses their hope that the whole world will recognize God and abandon idolatry.

Contents

Text

The following is the first half of the current Ashkenazi version of the prayer (there is also a second paragraph, which some traditions omit, though it is a standard part of the Ashkenazi orthodox liturgy). Translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, from the Koren Sacks Siddur, Copyright 2009.

# English translation Transliteration Hebrew
1 It is our duty to praise the Master of all, Aleinu l'shabeach la'Adon hakol עָלֵינוּ לְשַׁבֵּחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכֹּל,
2 to ascribe greatness to the Author of creation,
latet gedulah l'yotzer b'reishit, לָתֵת גְּדֻלָּה לְיוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁית,
3 who has not made us like the nations of the lands
sh'lo asanu k'goyei ha'aratzot, שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂנוּ כְּגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת,
4 nor placed us like the families of the earth;
v'lo samanu k'mish'p'chot ha'adamah, וְלֹא שָׂמָנוּ כְּמִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה.
5 who has not made our portion like theirs,
shelo sam chel'qenu kahem, שֶׁלֹּא שָׂם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָּהֶם,
6 nor our destiny like all their multitudes.
v'goralenu k'khol hamonam. .וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְּכָל הֲמוֹנָם
Some congregations outside of Israel omit:
7 (For they worship vanity and emptiness, (Sh'hem mish'tachavim l'hevel variq (שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק,
8 and pray to a god who cannot save.) umit'pal'lim el el lo yoshia) וּמִתְפַּלְּלִים אֶל אֵל לֹא יוֹשִׁיעַ.)
9 But we bow in worship Va'anachnu qor`im, umishtachavim umodim, וַאֲנַחְנוּ כֹּרעִים ומִשְׁתַּחֲוִים ומוֹדים,
10 and thank the Supreme King of kings, lif'nei Melekh, Mal'khei haM'lakhim, לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים
11 the Holy One, Blessed be He, haQadosh barukh Hu. הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא.
12 who extends the heavens and establishes the earth,
Shehu noteh shamayim, v'yosed aretz, שֶׁהוּא נוֹטֶה שָׁמַיִם וְיֹסֵד אָרֶץ,
13 whose throne of glory is in the heavens above,
umoshav y'qaro bashamayim mima'al, וּמוֹשַׁב יְקָרוֹ בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל,
14 and whose power's Presence is in the highest of heights.
ushkhinat uzo begav'hei m'romim, וּשְׁכִינַת עֻזּוֹ בְּגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים.
15 He is our God; there is no other. Hu Eloheinu ein od, הוּא אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאֵין עוֹד,
16 Truly He is our King, there is none else,
emet mal'kenu, efes zulato, אֱמֶת מַלְכֵּנוּ אֶפֶס זוּלָתוֹ.
17 as it is written in His Torah: kakatuv baToratecha: כַּכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה:
18 "You shall know and take to heart this day
v'yada'ta hayom,
vahashevota el l'vavekha.
וְיָדַעְתָּ הַיּוֹם וַהֲשֵׁבֹתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ,
19 that the Lord is God, Ki Adonai, hu haElohim, כִּי יי הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים
20 in the heavens above bashamayim mi ma`al, בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל
21 and on earth below. There is no other."
v'al ha'aretz mitachat. Ein od. וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת. אֵין עוֹד

Use in the synagogue

The original context of this prayer was as part of the middle paragraphs of the Amidah prayer in the additional service on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and more specifically in the passage known as Malchuyot (the kingdom of God). In this context it includes both paragraphs of the prayer. The first paragraph is also included at the equivalent point in the liturgy for Yom Kippur.

In the Middle Ages the custom grew up of reciting the first paragraph every day, at the end either of the morning service alone or of all the prayer services for the day. In the 16th century the kabbalist Hayim Vital, recording the opinions of Isaac Luria, ruled that both paragraphs should be included in all services, and should end with the verse "on that day the Lord shall be one and His Name one". This has been accepted in all communities except for the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, who retain the "short Alenu".

Censored passage

The earlier form of this prayer contains an additional sentence:

It is our duty to praise the Master of all, to exalt the Creator of the Universe, who has not made us like the nations of the world and has not placed us like the families of the earth; who has not designed our destiny to be like theirs, nor our lot like that of all their multitude, For they worship vanity and emptiness, and pray to a god who cannot save.

The sentence in italics is a quote from the Bible, Isaiah 45:20. "Come, gather together, Draw nigh, you remnants of the nations! No foreknowledge had they who carry their wooden images and pray to a God who cannot give success." (New JPS) It was omitted in most Ashkenazi prayer books. (It is still present in Sephardi and Italian prayer books.) In most Orthodox Jewish siddurim (prayer books) this line has been restored, and the practice of reciting it has increased.

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History

Ismar Elbogen, a historian of the Jewish liturgy, held that not only this line, but the early form of the entire prayer pre-dated Christianity. Conservative & Masorti Rabbi Reuven Hammer comments on the excised sentence:

Originally the text read that God has not made us like the nations who "bow down to nothingless and vanity, and pray to an impotent god," ...In the Middle Ages these words were censored, since the church believed they were an insult to Christianity. Omitting them tends to give the impression that the Aleinu teaches that we are both different and better than others. The actual intent is to say that we are thankful that God has enlightened us so that, unlike the pagans, we worship the true God and not idols. There is no inherent superiority in being Jewish, but we do assert the superiority of monotheistic belief over paganism. Although paganism still exists today, we are no longer the only ones to have a belief in one God.
(Reuven Hammer, Or Hadash, The Rabbinical Assembly, NY, 2003)

Restoration

Some Orthodox Rabbinical authorities, prominently the 19th century Rabbi Moshe Yehoshua Leib Diskin (Maharil Diskin), have argued that the disputed phrase should be recited in communities that previously omitted it.

Other variations

Reform and other communities rephrase the opening to make it read more positively. For example, the British Reform version borrows words from the blessings over the Torah, and begins "It is our duty to praise the Lord of all, to attribute greatness to the maker of creation, who has chosen us from all peoples, and given us his Torah. Therefore we bow down, etc." Reconstructionist Judaism changes the lines which reference the chosen people.[1]

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.jrf.org/edu/faqs.html

See also

External links


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