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

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Learn to sing Yismach Moshe --- from the Shabbat Shacharit Amidah Print E-mail
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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.

Yismach Moshe has been set to music many times. When congregations adopt melodies that were originally part of works written for trained musicians, the melodies get simplified and also transformed in other ways. The tunes are transmitted from congregation to congregation in evolving forms, and passed from generation to generation like folk music.

Here are some melodies for Yismach Moshe:

Yismach Moshe (Moses Rejoiced...Brought Down the Two Tablets...)

The Synagogue Survival Kit has footnotes placed at the end of each chapter. Here is an expansive footnote that discusses Yismach Moshe's theological role in the service:

The Biblical passages at Exodus 20:2-14 and Deuteronomy 5:6-18 are popularly, but inaccurately called "The Ten Commandments." According to some traditional Jewish commentaries, the plain meaning of the text contains only nine commandments. Other traditional Jewish commentaries demonstrate (via complex textual analysis) that these passages can be understood as a "shorthand" notation containing all six hundred thirteen commandments.

The Hebrew term for these passages is Aseret HaDibrot. This can be translated as "The Ten Utterances" or "The Ten Things" (or more idomatically as "The Ten Statements"). Thus the best English word for them is The Decalogue, which comes from Greek for "Ten Utterances."

In any case, the traditional Jewish view is that the whole Torah was divinely revealed to Moses at Sinai. Therefore every commandment, word, and even letter, of Torah is of infinite, hence equal, importance. Thus the Decalogue is not more important than any other part of Torah.

The most ancient form of K'riyat Sh'ma (Recitation of the Sh'ma) stood on its own as a separate liturgical event. Two thousand years ago, this liturgy consisted of the Decalog and the Sh'ma together; with a blessing before and after. (c.f., Josephus, Antiquities 4:8:13; Mishnah Tamid 5:1)

At that time, the focus of the Sh'ma was love for divine service. Reciting the Decalogue was the primary daily ceremony of covenental renewal. So t'fillin (c.f., page 45) may have functioned as early prayer-books. The presence of the Decalogue is also hinted at by a line in Ahavat Rabbah (c.f., page 151), which may have been the blessing preceding the Decalogue/Sh'ma pair at that time.

By late Tannaitic times (i.e., the third century, C.E.), the Decalogue had been removed from the liturgy. (c.f, Yerushalmi Berachot 1:5 [venice 3c, vilna 9a] & 1:8 [3c, 9b]; Bavli Berachot 12a; and Bavli Tamid 35a.)

This may have been done to support the authority of the entire Torah against claims from some non-pharasaic sects that only the Decalogue had come from Sinai; and/or to challenge the later claims of the Church, which sought to invalidate all of the Torah except for the Decalogue.

Many Protestant Christian denominations still believe that the Torah is no longer valid, except for "The Ten Commandments." This belief is what the Catholic Church calls the "Doctrine of Supercessionalism." The current Catholic view, which is relatively new, rejects this doctrine, and recognizes it as a primary cause of anti-semitism. According to the Catholic view, Torah is not needed by faithful Christians because Christians enjoy an ability to fulfill God's will in a new and sur­prising way: a covenant based on their faith, as transmitted to and interpreted by Christians. But according to the new Catholic theology, the original covenant between God and Jews is also a loving gift of divine grace and remains effective. So the Torah, as transmitted to and interpreted by Jews, still represents a viable way for Jews to fulfill God's will. With this decla­ration, Catholicism has quietly taken a giant leap forward for humankind.

The struggle to maintain the authority of the Torah as opposed to just the Decalogue may also have affected the Amidah Section. On Sabbath morning, the Sanctification of the Day (the benediction that replaces the thirteen intermediate petitions of the weekday Amidah) extolls Sabbath observance as a sign of the covenant. The introduction [Yismach Moshe] begins:

Moses rejoiced at the lot assigned...
a faithful servant...
He brought down the two tablets of stone
on which was written the observance of the Sabbath,
as it says in your Torah: ...

The most logical Biblical prooftext might seem to be to quote the Decalogue: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." But V'sha-m'ru (c.f., page 110-113) was chosen instead. This careful demotion of the Decalogue seems deliberate.

Without the Decalogue, the Sh'ma section was reoriented over time. (c.f., Mishnah Berachot 2:2; Yerushalmi Berachot 1.8.3c.) The attendant blessings gained insertions related to accepting the yoke of heaven. For example:

· Ga-al Yisraeil (c.f., page 151) acquired The Song at the Sea, re-enacting ancient Israel's acceptance. (c.f., Tosefta Berachot 2,1; Tosefta Berachot 1,10; Yerushalmi Berachot 1.9.3; Bavli Berachot 14b)

· Yo-tseir Or (c.f., page 149) gained a modified K'dushah, re-enacting the angelic acceptance.

· And reciting the first line of the Sh'ma represented contemporary Israel's public acceptance. (c.f., page 155)

As a result of this transformation, reciting the Sh'ma in a congregational service is often referred to as "accepting the yoke/kingship of heaven" in ancient literature, and is still thought of that way. (c.f., Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 70:1)

Generally, the places in the Sh'ma Section where the Reader and Congregation break silence and chant antiphonally are exactly those passages that affirm allegience. (c.f., Philo, Contemplative Life 88; Tosefta Sotah 6,2-3; Bavli Chullin 91b; Deut. Rabbah 2,31; Tosefta Pesachim 2,19).

(For a detailed description of the excision of the Decalogue from the service, see "The Shema and its Blessings: The Realization of God's Kingship" by Reuven Kimmelman, an essay contained in "The Synagogue in Late Antiquity" edited by Lee I. Levine, a centenniel publication of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.)

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

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 January 2010 11:30

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