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Jewish Liturgy

Summary and Keywords

Jewish liturgy is a complex phenomenon, manifesting change over time and place as well as some significant diversity today. Today’s prayers emerged from the rituals of the rabbis of the early centuries of the Common Era, compensating for the loss of the Jewish ritual center, the Jerusalem Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 ce. Little is known for certain about how rabbinic prayers spread and became universally normative, but by the High Middle Ages, they were.

The received rabbinic worship is highly structured and scripted. There are three services every day, with a fourth on festive days. The key structural elements combined in these services are the recitation of shema῾ and its blessings, the multi-blessing ῾amidah, and the reading of Torah. To these, other elements have aggregated, like introductory prayers, Psalms, and supplicatory prayers. Meals also require short blessings before eating and a longer grace afterwards. The Passover seder extends this meal ritual with narrative, Psalms, and songs. Variation among medieval regional rites and their modern heirs manifests itself within this structure not only in small differences of wording, but also in more significant dissimilarities in modes of performance. In modernity, liberal movements abbreviated, translated, and otherwise rewrote many prayers.

The messages of Jewish liturgy are embedded within this structure as well as in the themes of the liturgical year, expressed primarily through scripture readings. The annual Torah cycle tells the Jewish story from creation up to the Israelites’ entry into their land. The primary festival cycle and the blessings surrounding the shema῾ highlight the key elements of this narrative: God’s work of creation, redemption, and revelation. Permeating the liturgy, though, is the expectation of future messianic redemption.

Keywords: Torah, prayer, synagogue, sh’ma (shema῾), ῾amidah, Judaism, siddur, maḥzor, worship, liturgy

The Hebrew Bible commands that the hereditary priesthood perform Israel’s daily formal covenantal worship of God by sacrificing animals accompanied by offerings of grain, oil, and wine (Num. 28). Individuals brought sacrifices as needed to fulfill their personal obligations, celebrate, or repair their relationship with God. By the Second Temple period, the only legitimate locus for this worship was the Jerusalem Temple. The Romans destroyed this Temple in 70 ce, thus forcing an end to this sacrificial worship and creating an existential crisis, one which some understood as “locking the gates of prayer.”1 To alleviate this situation, the rabbis constructed a verbal “worship of the heart.” This became the ritual of their synagogue and, eventually, Jewish liturgy, universally. This system developed in a deep dialectic with its sacrificial predecessor, preserving major aspects of it like its structuring of time, and praying constantly for its restoration while avoiding any semblance of actual physical offerings.

One who enters any synagogue today will encounter a verbal liturgy coherent with the structures laid out in its earliest rabbinic discussion, in the Mishnah (c. 220 ce). In traditional contexts, this also carefully integrates the sparse details of actual language recorded in subsequent rabbinic literature, especially the Talmud. Today, such a liturgy constitutes a flood of Hebrew words uttered at breakneck speed. On Sabbaths and holy days, the pace is slower and the performance is more musical, signaling the days’ elevated status. Modern liberal movements adapt this, translating, abbreviating, and revising the prayers to meet new needs. What follows sketches this liturgy’s origins and evolution, its structures, and their most significant themes, and then concludes by addressing these adaptations.


While other Jewish liturgical responses to the destruction of the Temple in 70 ce may well have existed, only the rabbinic solution has survived. This response did not emerge de novo, but drew on some existing precedents. These precedents began with the many verbal prayers recorded in the Bible, both those of individuals voiced for particular occasions and collections of texts meant for reuse like the Psalms. They also included an established model for constructing new prayers from this biblical language and imagery;2 such prayers appear already in Second Temple–era literature like the Dead Sea Scrolls3 and the New Testament. While there is evidence that some other Jews composed such prayers in Greek or Aramaic, the rabbis joined those preferring the almost exclusive use of Hebrew, the language of their Scriptures.

The synagogue provided another precedent. Literary and archaeological evidence points to its existence both in the Land of Israel and in the diaspora while the Temple still stood. Some understand it to have been originally a means for diaspora Jews to compensate for their physical remove from their liturgical center, the Jerusalem Temple, but many apparently were in Jerusalem too. There is little conclusive evidence, though, that Jews gathered to pray or otherwise worship in these places. The most frequently documented synagogue activity among Second-Temple Jews in all locations was communal reading and exposition of Scripture, probably primarily as an act of study. It is also likely that the early rabbis participated little in the popular synagogue, preferring to gather in their own contexts.

By the 3nd century ce, at least the fundamental outlines of rabbinic liturgy had emerged (also see the section “Jewish Liturgy Itself”). Beyond this there is much we do not know. What Jews followed the rabbinic model, even in the Land of Israel? Did they have influence in the far-flung Jewish diaspora of the time, stretching from Spain to Persia? Did the rabbis spread their system by scripting complete prayer texts, now lost, or, as ritual experts themselves, did they freely formulate new prayers within their structures? For more on these debates, see the section on “Historiography.”

By the 4th century, evidence begins to accumulate for rabbinic influence on a growing number of synagogues in the Land of Israel, but here too, archaeological remains containing apparently polytheist iconography raise questions. Given rabbinic objections to participation in idolatrous cults in any way, why would synagogue floors of significant rabbinic communities depict Helios in the center of their mosaics?4

Liturgical poetry provides another source of evidence for the spread and nature of rabbinic liturgy. Beginning in the 6th century in the Land of Israel, poet cantors immersed in rabbinic traditions of biblical exegesis inserted extended, complex series of poems into the liturgy’s framework on Sabbaths and holidays. This poetry replaced much of the texts’ body and gave the prayers radically new and changing content. Thus, the framework had received a wider acceptance. Possibly, this poetry simply displaced authoritative, scripted texts, but more likely, the earlier flexible liturgical language evolved into this elaborate art form.

From the early 3rd century, a diaspora community of rabbis developed in Babylonia (in the vicinity of Baghdad). The Babylonian rabbis had some significantly different liturgical norms. They read the entire Pentateuch according to an annual cycle, whereas, in the Land of Israel, most read it over about three and a half years. Babylonian rabbis insisted on much more precise prayer texts, eventually requiring that, to be recited at all, liturgical poetry must ornament the full statutory prayers, not replace the body of their texts. Nonetheless, we have only fragmentary evidence about the Babylonian statutory texts, primarily because all rabbinic traditions long remained deliberately oral. No archaeological remains from modern-day Iraq provide material evidence about ancient Babylonian synagogues.

The Babylonian rabbis achieved dominance after the 8th-century Abbasid caliphate relocated the empire’s capital there from Damascus. As the Babylonian rabbinic academies sought to spread their teachings widely, orality conceded to the demands of empire. The first comprehensive Jewish liturgical texts were written c. 875 when the heads of two rival rabbinic academies both answered queries from Spain about how to pray. Rav Natronai Gaon’s list of the one hundred blessings that must be recited daily became incorporated into the Seder (order of prayers of) Rav ῾‎Amram Ga᾽‎on. The latter, summarizing the laws of prayer with embedded liturgical texts, had enormous influence, setting the pattern for all European liturgies. Unfortunately, no early manuscripts of it survive; the scribal tendency to adapt the prayer texts to their own current liturgical practice means that we cannot retrieve ῾‎Amram’s original.

More information about early medieval Jewish liturgy is still emerging from the fragmentary texts of the Cairo geniza, a storeroom for worn Hebrew texts discovered in a Fustat synagogue in the 1890s. This synagogue continued to follow the rite of the Land of Israel into the 13th century, even after the Crusaders massacred its last practitioners in the Holy Land. Consequently, its geniza held a unique collection of prayer texts and liturgical poetry. The collection, however, contained even more manuscripts showing Babylonian influence. Many of its manuscripts predate the earliest ones preserved elsewhere. These texts, now in Western libraries and increasingly digitized, remain an emerging and critically important source of information about medieval liturgy.

Jewish liturgy came fairly universally to follow only Babylonian norms. Regional rites did emerge, though, with local variants within them. For the central statutory prayers discussed in the Mishnah and Talmud, these variants are generally small, but more peripheral and later-developing parts of the liturgy show much less uniformity. Even within a single region, choices of liturgical poetry often differed town to town. Some central European rabbis insisted fiercely on preserving local custom, especially this poetry and the musical traditions for liturgical performance.

Jewish liturgy today is commonly classified according to the three surviving medieval regional rites:

  • Minhag Sefarad—rite or custom of the Jews of the Iberian peninsula. Expelled in 1492 (Spain) and 1497 (Portugal), exiles carried this rite with them, primarily around the Mediterranean basin and east to Persia and beyond. Because, with the exception of the other two rites listed here, the local rites of their new homes were rarely printed, the Sefardi rite gradually became the rite of the locals as well.

  • Minhag ᾽‎Ashkenaz—rite or custom of central European Jews. Three versions exist: the western Ashkenazi rite of the Rhineland; the eastern “Polish” rite, dominant today; and the 18-19th-century Hasidic adaptation of the latter, known as Nusaḥ S’fard because, following the customs of the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, it incorporates some Sefardi elements.

  • Minhag ᾽‎Italia (or Roma᾽‎)—derived from the 13th-century rite of Roman Jews.

In the early modern period, these rites did not remain static. Expulsions from all western European countries eliminated local communities and their rites; printing significantly flattened what variety remained. Printers sought a “correct” wording; scholars subsequently evaluated these decisions, generating more uniformity. Effective censorship also accompanied printing; European churches and governments demanded the removal of elements disrespectful of Christians and Christianity. While targeting only isolated words and phrases in more central prayers, this also eliminated entire poetic compositions.

The Enlightenment and Jewish 19th-century emancipation brought new changes, primarily for European Jews. Seeking to fit in, some western Jews altered their worship esthetics, building grand, formal synagogues, adding choirs and sometimes organs, and calling for decorum. Actual liturgical reform beginning in the 19th century introduced prayer in the local vernacular, shorter services, and revisions of prayers deemed theologically outdated (see below). Liturgical differences significantly distinguish the largest contemporary movements:

  • Orthodox (including a range from modern Orthodox to Hasidic)—preserves traditional prayers in Hebrew although many eliminate liturgical poetry on festivals. Women do not count toward the quorum or lead services; men and women sit separately.

  • Conservative—allows minor changes to traditional statutory prayers in Hebrew and more creativity in liturgical poetry or occasional vernacular prayers. Egalitarian worship (with mixed seating) has led to woman-sensitive options.

  • Liberal (including Reform, Progressive, Liberal, Reconstructionist, Renewal, New Age, reflecting a range of theologies and/or geographic centers)—allows for liturgical creativity, vernacular prayer, and shortened services, but most preserve the general structure of the received liturgy. Fully egalitarian.

The rabbis of the first centuries of the Common Era would likely initially not recognize contemporary Jewish liturgy, neither its synagogue building nor anything more than the general structure of its prayers. Yet, overall, continuities outweigh discontinuities, and contemporary Jews understand themselves to be praying the liturgy these rabbis taught in late antiquity.

Jewish Liturgy Itself

The following sections describe the traditional liturgical system taught by the rabbis, significant elements of which were challenged and revised only by the modern liberal movements. Because these were adaptations of the existing liturgy and depend upon it, they will be discussed separately below.

Public prayer requires a minyan, a quorum of ten adult men (aged thirteen or more). Any member of this quorum may be designated as the sheliaḥ tzibbur (precentor, literally “delegate of the congregation”) and lead the prayers, although the synagogue came early to be the preferred setting for public rabbinic prayer, quorums need not meet in dedicated spaces. Individuals not able to join a minyan are still expected to pray most of the liturgy privately, omitting only those prayers whose elevated holiness requires the public setting.

Mishnah Berakhot 4:5–6 decrees that the direction of prayer is toward Jerusalem and the Temple’s Holy of Holies. This determines the orientation of Jewish prayer spaces, whether synagogues or less formal settings. In synagogues, the Torah scrolls are generally housed on the Jerusalem-facing wall, marking this locus of holiness.

The fundamental building block of statutory Jewish prayer is the berakhah, usually translated “blessing.” This name derives from its opening word, barukh, a passive participle of the root b-r-kh, meaning “bless or praise.” This formulaic statement addresses this term in the second person to God. Because God cannot need blessings from humans, many translate the blessing’s opening words as “Praised are You.” The formula then names God by God’s four-letter personal name, the Tetragrammaton. Jews in antiquity ceased pronouncing this powerful name and substituted the title “Lord” for it, both in Hebrew (᾽‎Adonai) and in Greek (kyrios). The gendered nature of this substitution challenges many today, resulting in various other substitutions in translations. Jews do not use the modern reconstructions of this name as Jehovah or Yahweh. Here we use “Eternal,” as a word that captures the sense of the Tetragrammaton’s Hebrew root, the verb “to be.” The full form of the rabbinic blessing may thus be translated “Praised are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, who . . . ,” followed by the specific content of the prayer.

Rabbinic tradition teaches that one should recite one hundred blessings daily between incidental blessings and formal prayers.5 In the course of the day’s activities, appropriate blessings briefly acknowledge God’s involvement in one’s experiences or activities, including categories like healthy bodily functions, food blessings, sensory experiences, or receiving good or bad news. The rabbis constructed the core of their formal worship system from series of blessings, each meditating sometimes extensively on the prayer’s topic. In a series, only the first blessing must necessarily begin with the full formula, but all conclude with a shorter form that omits the reference to divine sovereignty. The meaning of this formula’s words are much less significant than what the formula does: it signals involvement in that aspect of the divine-human relationship to which the specific content of the rest of the blessing points.

The four core elements of Jewish liturgy are the shema῾‎ and its blessings, the ῾‎amidah, Torah reading, and the grace after meals. Other elements, like introductory, supplicatory, and concluding prayers also find their place in the liturgy. These combine for the three daily services, as well as a fourth “additional” service on any festive day, and a fifth concluding Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The morning, afternoon, and additional services correspond in their timing to the suspended communal covenantal sacrifices of the Jerusalem Temple. While the Jewish day begins in the evening, the morning service is the only one to integrate all possible elements and weekday prayer books conventionally begin with it. Table 1 diagrams the fundamental arrangement of these parts (with the exception of meal rituals).

Table 1 The Elements of Jewish Liturgy

Morning Service (Shaḥarit)

Additional Service (Musaf)

Afternoon Service (Minḥah)

Evening Service (Ma῾‎ariv or ῾‎Arvit)

Morning blessings and study portions

Verses of Song (Pesuqei deZimra, core=Psalms 145–150

Ps. 145 elaborated (᾽‎Ashrei)

Shema῾‎ and its blessings

Shema῾‎ and its blessings

Torah reading (Sabbath only)





Supplicatory Prayers (Taḥanun)

Supplicatory Prayers (Taḥanun)

Torah reading (Sabbath and festivals, Monday, Thursday)

Concluding Prayers (if no musaf)

Concluding Prayers

Concluding Prayers

Concluding Prayers

The Shema῾‎ and Its Blessings

Shema῾‎” is the first word of a series of three biblical passages (Deut. 6:4–9, Deut. 11:13–21, and Num. 15:37–41) that form the core of this liturgical complex. Deuteronomy 6:4 itself, “Listen Israel, the Eternal is our God, the Eternal is one!” became early a fundamental declaration of Jewish faith and relationship to God. As such, it functions also as a bedtime prayer and as the ideal deathbed recitation, especially in situations of martyrdom. In daily liturgical use, an extra-biblical interjection of praise follows this first verse, responding to its mentioning God’s Holy Name. Deuteronomy 6:7’s command to speak “these words” constantly, including “when you lie down and when you rise up” generates the twice-daily recitation of this complex in formal morning and evening prayers.

The two Deuteronomy passages have very similar content. Emphasizing their points of difference, the rabbis understand their recitation as declaring personal acceptance of first one’s relationship to God and then of one’s obligation to keep God’s commandments. The Numbers passage adds God’s redeeming Israel from Egypt as an important source of this relationship. The three passages collectively dictate ritual reminders of these: studying and teaching Torah, placing these words physically on one’s body in tefillin (phylacteries, see figure 1) or on the doorposts of one’s dwelling (mezuzah, see figure 2), and reminding oneself of them with ritual fringes (tzitzit, see figure 3).

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Figure 1. IDF soldier praying with tefillin [left]. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Figure 2. Mezuzah [right]. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tefillin are consequently worn for weekday morning prayer; tzitzit are the fringes tied on the four corners of the tallit (prayer shawl, see figure 4—but also on a smaller undergarment worn all day).

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Figure 3. Tzitzit strings. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Figure 4. Tallit. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There is no mention here of the other well-known element of Jewish liturgical garb, the kippah (or yarmulke, skull cap, see figure 5) because it is of much later derivation, as is the expectation of using any head covering for ritual reasons.

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Figure 5. Kippah.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Mishnah Berakhot 1:4 records that the rabbinic liturgical complex embeds these biblical texts in a series of unnamed blessings, in the structure familiar today. The rabbis preserve no real hints as to the complex’s origins; nor is there evidence for it in earlier texts. These blessings transform the biblical passages from study texts into an act of prayer. The talmudic discussions of the Mishnah know the themes and some elements of the blessings’ wording. The structure of the complex and main themes of the blessings are:

  1. I. Blessings Preceding Shema῾‎

    1. 1. Creation: God’s continual creative activity is evident in the daily transitions from day to night and back. The specific language of the blessing responds to light in the morning and to darkness in the evening. The morning blessing also incorporates a meditation on and description of the angelic praise of God (qedushah), citing Isaiah 6:3 and Ezekiel 3:12. This meditation is expanded on the Sabbath.

    2. 2. Revelation: God expresses the divine unending love for Israel best through the gift of Torah, not only the one-time revelation at Sinai, but continuing today whenever Israel engages with Torah, studying it and living by its commandments. Praising God for this love almost directly precedes Deuteronomy 6:5’s command for Israel to love God in return.

  2. II. Shema῾‎ Itself (Biblical Passages)

  3. III. Blessings Following Shema῾‎

    1. 3. Redemption: This prayer begins by affirming the final verse of shema῾‎, Numbers 15:41’s reminder that Israel’s relationship to God is grounded in God’s having redeemed Israel from Egypt The morning version’s affirmation is effusive. The blessing concludes by remembering the details of God’s past redemption, reliving it through reciting key lines of praise from the Song at the Sea (Exod. 15:11, 18). The morning version adds a petition that God redeem Israel again soon.

    2. 4. (Evening only) Protection: Originally a bedtime prayer, this blessing praises God’s ability to protect Israel from those factors, human and otherwise, seeking its harm. It petitions God to do so.

    3. 5. (Evening only): Blessing Constructed from Biblical Verses: A late addition, recited only on weekdays and not universally, offering an effusive praise of God.

Many understand creation, revelation, and redemption to be the foundational themes of Jewish theology, expressing the primary modes of God’s interaction with Israel. In all cases, the prayers reflect on key moments of biblical history, but understand God as continuing to act in these ways. The liturgical organization deviates from biblical chronology to serve its own structural needs. The morning service concludes with a plea for future redemption, the fundamental petition of the ῾‎amidah that follows. Indeed, pleas for redemption permeate all the blessings of this complex as well, indicating the theme’s centrality in Jewish prayer.

While the texts of these blessings differ morning and evening, their fundamental themes remain constant. Today, only Italian Jews retain completely different texts for the Sabbath eve, but all expand the first blessing on the Sabbath morning; all other shema῾‎ blessings are unchanged day to day. With some notable exceptions, most liturgical poetry written for these blessings has been eliminated.


This central liturgical complex goes by three names. Early rabbinic texts call it (ha)tefillah ([the] Prayer). Because this word also can refer to any prayer, the complex acquired the names ῾‎amidah (standing), describing the posture of its recitation, and shemoneh ῾‎esreh (eighteen), describing its original number of blessings on weekdays. Every single service includes an ῾‎amidah. Although elements of its language and themes appear in earlier sources, the ῾‎amidah most likely emerged in direct response to the destruction of the Temple. The Mishnah (Berakhot 4:3) records that the late 1st-century Rabban Gamliel decreed this daily prayer obligatory for all Jews. Because not everyone was capable of praying it correctly, individuals first recite it silently and then the precentor repeats the prayer for the community, incorporating into it the angelic liturgy (qedushah). Responding “amen” to each blessing of this repetition is an equivalent to personal recitation. The times for all recitations correspond to the communal sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple, except the evening service. Because there was no night-time sacrifice, the evening ῾‎amidah is a lesser obligation and is not repeated communally. In the morning and evening, the shema῾‎ and its blessings immediately precede the ῾‎amidah.

The ῾‎amidah consists of a structured series of blessings, understood as being offered directly in the Divine Presence. This consciousness dictates the prayer’s choreography and thematic flow. The worshiper enters God’s presence by taking three steps forward, stands at attention with feet together during it, and then departs, taking three steps back, bowing, at the end. Bows also begin and close the opening and second to last blessing. Schematically, the ῾‎amidah’s text reflects this etiquette (see Table 2). It begins with three blessings that praise God and concludes with three that give thanks before departing. The intermediate blessings on weekdays carry the petitionary essence of the prayer, the reason for the audience with God. They request the community’s most basic needs, foremost among them, redemption. These themes and their order appear first in the Talmud.6 On the Sabbath and holidays, days of rest for God as well as Israel, a single meditation on the theme of the day replaces these petitions.

Table 2 The Structure of the Weekday ῾‎Amidah

Blessings of the Weekday ῾‎Amidah



1. ᾽‎Avot (Ancestors)

Statement of relationship with God, based on the patriarchal covenant.

2. Gevurot (God’s powers)

Praises God’s interactions with the world to the benefit of its inhabitants, including caring for the suffering, resurrecting the dead, and, in winter, bringing seasonal rains to Israel.

3. Qedushat HaShem (Sanctity of God)

Praises God’s holiness, incorporating the angelic liturgy in the public recitation.

Petitions (weekdays):

4. Da῾‎at (Knowledge)

Recognizes God as the source of human knowledge and asks for wisdom to discern God’s teachings. Havdalah, marking the distinction between sacred and profane, is inserted after Sabbaths and festivals.

5. Teshuvah (Repentance)

Asks for help in using this wisdom to (re)turn to God, who desires repentance.

6. Seliḥah (Forgiveness)

Voices a general confession of sins and asks God graciously to forgive.

7. Ge’ulah (Redemption)

Petitions God to be alert to Israel’s troubles and to redeem her.

8. Refu’ah (Healing)

Asks God to employ the divine powers of healing. Individual names may be inserted.

9. Birkat HaShanim (Sustenance)

Prayer for agricultural needs, including rain during Israel’s winter.

10. Qibbutz Galuyot (Ingathering the Exiles)

Requests the first step of the messianic redemption, the rebuilding of a Jewish community in the Land of Israel.

11. Mishpat (Justice)

Asks for the restoration of a just governmental system under Divine authority.

12. Birkat HaMinim (Evildoers)

Petitions that God eliminate those undermining the Jewish community.

13. Tzaddiqim (Righteous)

Solicits blessing for the righteous, especially the leaders, of the Jewish community.

14. Boneh Yerushalayim (Rebuild Jerusalem)

Requests that the Divine Presence return to Jerusalem and rebuild it, including restoring its Davidic leadership.

15. Tzemaḥ David (Davidic messiah)

Asks God to send the Messiah as the essential element of the redemptive process.

16. Shome῾‎a Tefillah (Hear Prayer)

Petitions God to be attentive and responsive to all these prayers.


17. ῾‎Avodah (Worship)

Requests that God receive this verbal worship favorably, and petitions for restoration of worship in Jerusalem.

18. Hoda’ah (Thanksgiving)

A paean of general thanksgiving to God, marked by bowing beginning and end.

19. Birkat HaShalom (Peace)

Responds to the priestly benediction’s concluding blessing of peace (Num. 6:24–26, AM only), by praising God as the source of peace and petitioning for it.

Today, there are thirteen petitions on weekdays, resulting in a prayer of nineteen blessings, not eighteen. The Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 28b), an additional petition, the birkat haminim (the curse of sectarians, 12), was added in the late 1st century ce in response to some sectarian group. In actuality, however, the Babylonian rite recited petitions 14 and 15 separately, resulting in an enhanced messianic petition. Ample evidence exists, though, that the sectarians intended by premodern forms of the birkat haminim were often explicitly Christians. Early modern Christian censorship removed these references and today’s prayers preserved the revised versions of the curse, directed usually against evil in general.7

In Numbers 6:24–27, God commands the hereditary priests (kohanim) to bless the people, saying that after the priests “place [the] divine Name upon” them, God will bless them. Reciting the priestly benediction during the ῾‎amidah continues this Temple practice. While the blessing’s words, as biblical text, are frequently just read as liturgical recollection by the precentor in the repetition of the ῾‎amidah, other times, members of the biblical priestly family themselves continue to convey the biblical blessing. The frequency of this ritual varies, from twice a day to holy days only. Especially where the ritual is infrequent, it functions as a particularly powerful occasion to feel the divine presence. Congregants avoid looking at the priests; priests guard against this by covering their heads and outstretched hands with their prayer shawls. Some traditions consider this a particularly auspicious moment for personal prayer, especially for the annulment of bad dreams.

On Sabbaths and festivals when petitioning God contradicts the spirit of the day, a blessing called Qedushat HaYom, the “sanctity of the day,” replaces the intermediate petitions. It meditates on God’s gift of that particular day, asking that Israel’s observance of it will be acceptable. The version of this blessing in the additional service is the only locus in the ῾‎amidah that incorporates a specific mention of the day’s sacrifices, reciting the appropriate biblical verses commanding them. The text surrounding these verses thus prays for the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple and its cult, after acknowledging “because of our sins, we were exiled from our land.” The other three versions of this blessing are identical on festivals, but have received different introductory passages on the Sabbath. The evening service’s passage discusses the Sabbath as the seventh day of creation, the morning service’s discusses it as part of the Sinai covenant, and the afternoon service’s speaks of it as source of (eschatological) joy.

On the High Holy Days, the morning and additional services are particularly elaborate, filled with liturgical poetry. Beyond this, on Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown in three separate sets of blasts during the ῾‎amidah’s repetition in the additional service. There are also a similar number of blasts before its recitation and more after, for a total of one hundred. The three sets of blasts embedded in the repetition each follow sets of biblical verses on themes central to the day: God’s sovereignty, associated with the mode in which God sits in judgment during this penitential season; God’s memory of righteousness and consequent power to forgive; and the shofar itself with its various associations. These expansions result in a unique nine-blessing ῾‎amidah. Prayers and poetry surrounding these verses elaborate upon their themes.

The equivalent addition to the Yom Kippur additional service is technically an extended set of liturgical poems in the “sanctification of the day.” These include, first and foremost, an extended verbal reenactment of the day’s sacrifices in the Temple (Lev. 16 and Mishnah Yoma). Its most powerful moment is when the community prostrates itself, awe-struck, during the recollection of the High Priest’s three dangerous forays into the Temple’s Holy of Holies while reciting Leviticus 16:30’s assurance that God would cleanse Israel on this day from all its sins, actually voicing the Ineffable Divine Name. Secondly, the poetry both celebrates and mourns the absence of the glorious aura that surrounded the High Priest after the conclusion of the day. Finally, the additional service includes a memorial poem for the rabbis martyred in the Hadrianic persecutions (early 2nd century). This last is a prelude to the confessional prayers recited with every Yom Kippur ῾‎amidah, both privately by individuals and again in every public repetition.

Torah Reading

As many Second Temple period sources attest, Jews were already gathering to read Scripture in their synagogues; rabbinic liturgy incorporated, formalized, and sacralized this existing custom. Maintaining earlier practice, Scripture readings occur primarily on the Sabbath and holy day mornings, with shorter readings on the ancient market days (Monday and Thursday) and Sabbath afternoon. Gradually, rabbinic custom standardized a lectionary cycle. The Land of Israel’s three-and-half-year cycle eventually gave way entirely to an annual cycle, favored in Babylonia, which reads the entire Torah (Pentateuch) word for word, ending and immediately beginning again on the final day of the fall holidays, consequently renamed Simḥat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah). Holiday readings interrupt this cycle and are relevant to the day. Where Second Temple–era Jews gathered to study Torah, the rabbinic ritual is more a proclamation of the text. It requires the presence of a quorum and must be performed perfectly. The lector chants, reading from a letter-perfect copy of the text produced in a deliberately antique form, written by hand in Hebrew on a single parchment scroll without vowels or punctuation (see figure 6). The reading ritually recapitulates the Sinai revelation of this text and, over the year, relates the central narratives of Judaism.

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Figure 6. Torah inside of the former Glockengasse Synagogue in Cologne.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Other scriptural texts receive significantly less attention. On Sabbath and festival mornings, a much shorter prophetic reading (haftarah) concludes the lectionary, chosen for its elaboration on some theme of the reading or the season. Today these are usually chanted from a printed text that includes vowels and punctuation, although scrolls may be used. Five other books are read liturgically during the year: Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Feast of Weeks, Shavu῾‎ot), Lamentations (Fast of the Ninth of ᾽‎Av, day of the Temples’ destructions), Kohelet/Ecclesiastes (Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot), and Esther (Purim, celebrating its events). Of these, only Esther must be read from a scroll. Chant modes differ for Torah, haftarah, festival scrolls, Lamentations, and Esther; they also vary by regional rite.

The Torah reading is always divided into several sections (῾‎aliyot), ranging from three (weekdays) to seven or more (Sabbaths). Any competent member of the quorum may proclaim Scripture for the community. Each section of a Torah reading begins and ends with blessings praising God for the gift of Torah, recited by a different member of the quorum (who may also be the reader). These blessings are a key element marking this reading as a ritual act as opposed to study of the text. The haftarah reader is called up last for a repetition of the final three verses of the reading. Blessings also frame the haftarah, with a complex series marking its completion. Being called to the Torah is also an occasion for many sorts of personal prayers, including commonly, for healing, naming a baby girl, gratitude on release from danger, prior to one’s wedding, and so forth. Communal civic prayers and calendrical announcements also generally take place after the reading but in the presence of the Torah scroll. This is also the location of memorial prayers for the deceased, recited on Yom Kippur and on the final day of each pilgrimage festival.

Preaching, generally tied to some element of the readings, is common today on Sabbaths and holy days, but is not liturgically necessary.

Other Elements of Daily Services

The Jewish prayer book has been described as an anthology.8 Over the centuries, it accumulated many other elements while rarely eliminating anything. “One generation’s spontaneity became another generation’s routine.”9 These included introductory selections of Psalms and Psalm-like passages, designed to set the mood for the central prayers, and hence drawing heavily on texts of praise of God. These too became encased in blessings, formalizing the recitation into a complex labeled pesuqei dezimra᾽‎ (Verses of Song). Later, public prayer prefixed to this various rituals originally designed to begin the day privately, like the morning blessings (birkhot hashaḥar) accompanying the various steps of arising and symbolic Torah study including of biblical and rabbinic passages about the lost sacrifices (on the understanding that study is an equivalent to performance).

Two other areas of Jewish liturgy also particularly fit this anthological characterization. The Babylonian Talmud concludes that while personal petitions may be inserted in the relevant petitions of the weekday ῾‎amidah, they are best left until after it.10 Contemporary prayer books contain scripted supplicatory and/or penitential prayers for this purpose on weekdays, called taḥanun. The morning collection is quite extensive. However, there is significant variation among the regional rites in the contents of this complex, and evidence from the early medieval period shows that while rabbis described the basic posture for these supplications as “falling on one’s nostrils,” they disagreed as to what this meant. Geniza evidence shows that almost none of the later prayers yet existed. Taḥanun is also eliminated for any plausible excuse, also suggesting its subsidiary status.11

A series of prayers and Psalms also gradually emerged at the conclusion of the entire service, some of it generated by a new medieval focus on memorial practices, some by a sense that more appropriate closure was required for the entire service. Most important among these are ῾‎aleynu, reciting the Psalm of the day according to ancient Temple practice,12 and the recitation of the doxological praise of God known as qaddish by mourners.

῾‎Aleynu originated in the Rosh Hashanah additional service as a poetic elaboration on the verses about God’s sovereignty. It entered European liturgies as a concluding prayer in the 12th century, perhaps in the context of increased Christian persecutions of Jews. Elements of the prayer contrast Jewish worship of the true God with the idolatry of non-Jews, and a line of the prayer, censored out by the church, was understood to apply this directly to Christianity.

Qaddish originated as a prayer praising God at the conclusion of a study session. It appears in various forms throughout the liturgy punctuating its sections, and its most important element is its call to the community to respond in praise of God. In the High Middle Ages, certain recitations of the prayer, especially those following study passages, were assigned to mourners on the understanding that their causing others to praise God would help the soul of the deceased. Forms of qaddish recited in the synagogue make no mention of death. Originally, only a single mourner would lead qaddish, leading to a multiplication of opportunities for the prayer to accommodate others. Today, all mourners recite the prayer together.

Festive and Fast Day Liturgies

Liturgical celebration is central to the entire Jewish holy day cycle, whether it be the weekly Sabbath, the three biblical pilgrimage festivals (Passover/Pesaḥ, Weeks/Shavu῾‎ot, and Tabernacles/Sukkot), the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), or more minor holidays. Although their musical performance generally changes modes, the core of the liturgy’s structure and text remains fundamentally unchanged. The exception is that the first blessing before shema῾‎ in the morning is expanded on the Sabbath, and a single “sanctification of the day” replaces the intermediate petitions of the ῾‎amidah on any festive occasion (see ῾‎Amidah). Most festive days also have an additional (musaf) service. Sabbaths and full festivals require that the evening and midday meals begin with qiddush, a sanctification of the day recited over a cup of wine or its equivalent.

Unique to festivals is the recitation after the morning ῾‎amidah of hallel, Psalms 113–118, introduced and concluded by blessings. These psalms of praise are often sung communally. During the Feast of Tabernacles, this singing accompanies waving the lulav, a palm branch bound with myrtle, willow and a citron (Lev. 23:40). On the eve of Passover, recitation of these psalms is also a significant element of the seder, the ritual retelling of the Exodus. Hallel is also recited in slightly abbreviated fashion on days of partially festive nature, like the New Month or the latter days of Passover (there, in deference to Egyptian suffering).

With the exception of Yom Kippur which has an underlying festive nature, fast days are never allowed to fall on the Sabbath. Most have some connection to mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple and full observance includes recitation of poetry of lamentation or penitence in addition to the weekday liturgy. Yom Kippur and the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the Temples’ destructions and other tragedies are twenty-five-hour fasts even from water. All other fasts, scattered through the year, are dawn to dark.

Table Rituals

The earliest rabbis consider meal-centered rituals no less important than other liturgical settings. The Mishnah presumes that eating anything requires an appropriate blessing to acknowledge its divine origins. However, eating bread creates the setting of a proper meal. Following the order of Deuteronomy 8:10’s command, “you shall eat, be satiated, and bless,” extended thanks to God following the meal. The core of the birkat hamazon (the Grace after Meals) consists of a series of four blessings (acknowledging God as the source of all sustenance, thanking God for the land [of Israel] and other covenantal elements, petitioning for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and a more general praise of God’s goodness), introduced by a communal call to blessing when in a quorum of three. Psalms 126 now prefaces this on festive occasions, and an extended anthology of additional praises and petitions, not in blessing form, now conclude the prayer. This grace becomes the setting for additional prayers connected to all lifecycle events, especially weddings where the seven blessings first recited under the wedding canopy are repeated at meals for the following week if a quorum of ten is present. In public settings, the grace is generally recited over a cup of wine.

The Passover seder, the evening home ritual for the first night(s) of this spring festival, is best understood as an elaborate expansion on the normal festive meal. Its ritual text is called the haggadah, from the root “to tell.” Of the evening’s four ritual cups of wine, only two are special. The first and third are the settings for the normal qiddush and Grace after Meals respectively. The meal itself begins with a normal blessing over the bread, here unleavened (matzah), but followed by additional blessings acknowledging that eating matzah on this night fulfills a Divine commandment. Because eating bitter herbs (maror) is similarly commanded, it too receives a special blessing. The rest of the evening is very particular to this day. The second cup of wine, preceding eating the matzah, is the occasion for an elaborate study of the story of the Exodus, an experience the participants are expected to identify with and personalize. The narrative arc of this study takes one from self-denigration, in remembering Israel’s beginnings in idolatry and slavery, to joyful praise of God for enabling Israel to leave Egypt, participate in Divine worship, and enter the Promised Land. This journey through history to the present concludes with the hallel Psalms. Psalms 113–114 precede drinking the second cup; the rest (plus Ps. 136) form the occasion for the fourth cup, following the Grace after Meals. The seder concludes by lingering over more songs, some hymnic, some more folk-songs.

Modern Adaptations of Traditional Jewish Liturgy

By the High Middle Ages, the language of the prayers was largely fixed and accepted as obligatory. Consequently, those seeking to renew the meaning of their prayers most frequently turned to commentary, increasingly through mystical lenses. While the denotative meaning of the prayer texts remained unchanged, many came to understand these words if properly performed as affecting God, and thus serving as a source of general blessing to the world. Prayer thus became an activity whose performance had powerful effect well beyond the obvious.

Modernity and assimilation into Western society introduced “rational” thinking and, more importantly, lack of facility with Hebrew prayer, creating disaffection with the regnant liturgy. In the early 19th century, the emerging Reform Movement, centered mostly in Germany, sought various means to address this, hoping also to compete more successfully with the pull toward assimilation and baptism. Influenced first by laypeople, it introduced a series of liturgical changes, beginning with aesthetic and cultural alterations, like abbreviated services with more formal music, sermons, and expectations of congregational decorous behavior, but as more rabbis took the lead, theological emendations were added. The latter became necessary when vernacular translations forced choices of single meanings, removing the poetic ambiguity and biblical and mystical allusions characteristic of the Hebrew text. Thus, a stark confrontation between the ancient texts and modern understandings emerged.

These Reform liturgies removed references to irrational or magical elements like the resurrection of the dead or a personal messiah. They rejected prayers for the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple and its sacrificial cult. They called their synagogues “Temple,” as a clear expression that synagogue worship is the Temple’s full replacement. They also sought to eliminate elements that undercut Jews’ status as newly minted citizens, like prayers that referred negatively to Jews’ neighbors, or those petitioning for restoration of a Jewish state or a return to Zion. At its extreme, services were conducted almost entirely in the vernacular, with Hebrew restricted to a few responses and verses of Scripture, all also translated.

Because the movement in general considered traditional practice only advisory, not authoritative, many other changes emerged. Shortened services meant eliminating repeated prayers, banishing many accretions to the core of the liturgy, and reading only a selection from within the weekly Torah portion. Decorum often meant a professionalization of prayer leadership, including instrumental and choral music and an enhanced rabbinic role. Diaspora-only practices disappeared, most notably the second day of festivals. Prayer quorums often became a non-issue; from the latter decades of the 20th century, women became fully part of the prayer community.

Conservative Judaism emerged significantly as a way to modernize Judaism while preserving most of its liturgical tradition. Reconstructionist Judaism emerged from it, developing a liturgy that maintained more traditional elements than Reform, but still freely incorporated substantial theological changes. In Great Britain, the reforming spectrum includes the more traditional Reform Jews and the Liberal movement, each producing its own liturgies.

Most of these characteristics of liberal liturgy persist today. However, they have had to adapt to some new realities, especially the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust. Late 20th-century diaspora liberal prayer books do relate to Israel, but usually not as a messianic entity. Most significantly, the revival of a modern, Hebrew-speaking Jewish culture in Israel has deeply influenced liturgy globally. Use of Hebrew is increasing in liberal contexts, encouraged by the transliteration of key prayers in recent prayer books. Israeli popular songs and liturgical compositions also are very common. The Progressive Movement in Israel itself continually works to develop new liturgical voices appropriate to its own unique experience.13

Feminism has also deeply affected Jewish prayer. Traditionally, women are not counted in the quorum or granted honors. When they attend services, they sit separately. The services of non-Orthodox movements have all gradually become fully egalitarian. Sensitivities about gendered references to God and humans have generated revised prayer texts according to the movements’ varying openness to liturgical change or interpretative translation. Hebrew prayers present particular challenges because the language marks all nouns and verbs as either masculine or feminine.14 The most common change is to name the biblical matriarchs wherever the patriarchs were traditionally mentioned. Feminism has also led to greater interest in women’s traditions of extra-liturgical prayers.15


Early modern rabbis and grammarians were concerned with establishing “correct” prayer texts, and their discussions of prayers generally turned to the classic rabbinic authorities. Academic study of Jewish liturgy began in the 19th century among the first Jews admitted to study humanities at European universities. Although not admitted to theological faculties, these scholars approached liturgical texts with the same critical tools Protestants were applying to the Bible, using philological methods to reconstruct and date original texts. Thus, beginning with Leopold Zunz’s short excursus on liturgy in his study of Jewish preaching,16 these scholars sometimes discounted rabbinic accounts. They placed the compositions of the ῾‎amidah’s individual blessings mostly in the Second Temple period and dated them according to the known historical issues to which they responded. This method remained operative into the mid-20th century, although the discovery of the substantially different texts of the Rite of the Land of Israel in the Cairo geniza, first published in 1898,17 challenged the presumption of a single scripted original text. Ismar Elbogen’s 1913 classic, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History, struggled to integrate this data. Even with its crucial 1972 updates by a committee of scholars, it remains today inadequate, but not yet replaced.18

From the mid-20th century, scholars began experimenting with form criticism as an alternative method for understanding liturgical origins. Joseph Heinemann, in his Prayer in the Talmud,19 argued that literary characteristics allow us to distinguish five venues from which Jewish prayer emerged, fairly organically, in the Second Temple period: the synagogue, the study hall, the Temple, the law court, and the private realm. The rabbis combined and gradually formalized these modes to generate their liturgical system, but no single retrievable “original text” existed. Beginning in 1989, Ezra Fleischer raised serious critiques of this theory, especially its vision of the liturgy’s emergence. Placing much more emphasis on rabbinic self-narrative, he understood the liturgy as a rabbinic response to the crisis created by the destruction of the Temple. To be effective, he argued, it must have been tightly scripted from the beginning. Variety resulted from subsequent problems in transmitting this original text.20

Currently, the field has no methodological consensus about how to understand liturgical origins. On the one hand, work on Second Temple liturgy demonstrates that something was indeed emerging in that period, even if it did not take the precise forms of later rabbinic prayer. Fleischer denied any significant relationship between rabbinic liturgy to its predecessors. Study of the synagogue itself as an institution suggests that at least elements of Heinemann’s theory also must be wrong. He identifies that which becomes the central rabbinic prayers as “synagogue prayer,” but there is no evidence that it has any early relationship to that institution. Additionally, Fleischer’s approach has reopened questions of the legitimacy of philological approaches. If initial texts were composed, then we should be able to retrieve something about them even though prayers were orally transmitted. This shapes Uri Ehrlich’s careful analysis of the geniza evidence for the weekday ῾‎amidah.21

Studies of later periods of Jewish liturgy are still, to a great degree, in their infancy. Many, like Lawrence Hoffman’s study of early medieval canonization of the liturgy, draw heavily on rabbinic discussions about the liturgy.22 However, actual liturgical manuscripts from the geniza and then from Europe in the High Middle Ages suggest a more diverse reality than rabbis describe. This data remains to be collected consistently, but work on it is ever easier with the microfilm collection at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem, occasional digitized full prayer books, and the systematic digitization of the geniza.23 No such resources exist for printed editions. Some important studies have also been done of modern liberal movements and their dynamics.24

Primary Sources

Liturgical materials from the Second Temple period have been collated in various volumes. On the Dead Sea Scrolls specifically, see James R. Davila, Liturgical Works (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge U.K.: William B. Eerdman, 2000). A broader selection appears in Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel, and Lawrence H. Schiffman, eds., Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2013), especially in “Prayers and Psalms,” II: 1903–2151, but also within works that receive their own chapters.

Among rabbinic texts, Tractate Berakhot of the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds is the primary locus of discussion about the liturgy. In addition, Chapters 3–4 of Tractate Megillah focus on the synagogue and Torah reading, and Chapter 10 of Tractate Pesaḥim (also called Pisḥa) on the Passover seder. Discussions of Temple sacrificial worship appear most accessibly in Mishnah Tamid (daily sacrifice) and Yoma (Yom Kippur). Other discussions are scattered throughout the corpus, including exegetical (midrashic) literature. Most of this literature is available in various translations. Systematic discussions appear first in the medieval period, but only Maimonides’ code, the Mishneh Torah, is translated. See The Code of Maimonides, Book Two: The Book of Love, translated by Menachem Kellner (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004).

The only medieval or pre-contemporary prayer book to have been translated is the Seder Rav ῾‎Amram Ga᾽‎on, but neither translator’s manuscript text is considered reliable.25 Many other prayer books and liturgical commentaries are available only in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, or Yiddish.

Contemporary American and British prayer books are generally printed with English translations. The Orthodox prayer books with the clearest translations and informative commentary are those of Jonathan Sacks, in versions created for the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth (2006) or for American usage (The Koren Siddur, 2009). Sacks has also published with Koren a two-volume High Holiday prayer book (maḥzor) with excellent commentary (2011, 2013). Of interest as well is The Online Siddur with Commentary of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidim, according to the decisions of their first rebbe in the early 19th century. Also important is the late 19th-century prayer book of the leading modern Orthodox German rabbi, Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Siddur, translated by Samson Raphael Hirsch Publications Society staff (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1969).

Other movements generally print their own official liturgies. The Central Conference of American Rabbis has printed a series of prayer books for North American communities, ranging from the 1895 Union Prayerbook to the 2007 Mishkan T’filah and Mishkan Hanefesh for the High Holy Days (2015). The Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue have jointly published prayer books for the North American Conservative Movement, with the most influential early one being Morris Silverman’s Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book (1946). Maḥzor Lev Shalem for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, edited by Edward Feld, et al. appeared in 2010, and a new prayer book is appearing in 2015. The smaller Reconstructionist Movement has also produced series of prayer books, the most recent all titled Kol Haneshamah (1989–1999).

The myriad contemporary editions of the Passover Haggadah range from just the traditional text, to elaborate artistic productions, to texts with commentaries from all sorts of perspectives, to texts reflecting the theologies of various non-orthodox movements, to texts revised to meet the needs or thinking of almost any particular constituency one might imagine.

Further Reading

Boda, Mark J., et al., eds. Seeking the Favor of God: Volume 1, The Origins of Pentitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism; Volume 2, the Development of Pentitential Prayer in Second Temple Judaism; Volume 3, The Impact of Pentitential Prayer beyond Second Temple Judaism. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006–2008.Find this resource:

    Hammer, Reuven. Entering Jewish Prayer: A Guide to Personal Devotion and the Worship Service. New York: Schocken, 1994.Find this resource:

      Hammer, Reuven. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom. New York: Rabbinical Assembly and United Synagogue, 2003.Find this resource:

        Hoffman, Lawrence A. Beyond the Text: A Holistic Approach to Liturgy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

          Hoffman, Lawrence A., ed. My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries. 10 vols. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 1997–2007.Find this resource:

            Langer, Ruth. To Worship God Properly: Tensions Between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1998. Paperback, 2005.Find this resource:

              Langer, Ruth. Jewish Liturgy: A Guide to Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.Find this resource:

                Levine, Lee I. The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1999. Updated and corrected paperback, 2005.Find this resource:

                  Munk, Elie. The World of Prayer: Commentary and Translation of the Siddur. New edition edited by Michael Plotkin. Translated by Henry Biberfeld in collaboration and Leonard Oschry. Jerusalem; New York: Feldheim, 2007.Find this resource:

                    Reif, Stefan C. Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: New Perspectives on Jewish Liturgical History. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1993.Find this resource:


                      (1.) Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 32b.

                      (2.) Collected in James R. Davila, Liturgical Works, Eerdman’s Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI, and Cambridge U.K.: William B. Eerdman’s, 2000).

                      (3.) For a collection of such prayers, see Mark Kiley, ed., Prayer from Alexander to Constantine: A Critical Anthology (London and New York: Routledge, 1997). One important study of this phenomenon is Judith H. Newman, Praying by the Book: The Scripturalization of Prayer in Second Temple Judaism, Society of Biblical Literature, Early Judaism and Its Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999).

                      (4.) For illustrations and discussion, see Walter Zanger, “Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols,” Bible History Daily (Biblical Archaeological Society).

                      (5.) Babylonian Talmud Menaḥot 43b.

                      (6.) Jerusalem Talmud Berakhot 2:3, 4b–5a (Jerusalem 2001 from Leiden ms.); Babylonian Talmud Megillah 17b–18a.

                      (7.) Ruth Langer, Cursing the Christians? A History of the Birkat HaMinim (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

                      (8.) Joseph Tabory, “The Prayer Book (Siddur) as an Anthology of Judaism,” Prooftexts 17.2 (1997): 115–132.

                      (9.) Jakob J. Petuchowski, “Some Laws of Jewish Liturgical Development,” Judaism 34.3 (1985): 312–314 (312–326).

                      (10.) Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 7b–8a, Berakhot 31a.

                      (11.) Ruth Langer, “‘We Do Not Even Know What to Do!’: A Foray into the Early History of Taḥanun,” in The Impact of Penitential Prayer Beyond Second Temple Judaism, vol. 3 of Seeking the Favor of God, ed. Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk, and Rodney A. Werline (Atlanta: Society for Biblical Literature, 2008), 39–69.

                      (12.) Mishnah Tamid 7:4.

                      (13.) Dalia Marx, “When L’Shon HaKodesh Is Also the Vernacular: The Development of Israeli Reform Liturgy,” CCAR Journal (Fall 2009): 31–62; and Dalia Marx, “Ideology, Theology, and Style in Israeli Reform Liturgy,” CCAR Journal (Winter 2010): 48–83.

                      (14.) For example, Dalia Marx, “Feminist Influences on Jewish Liturgy: The Case of Israeli Reform Prayer,” Sociological Papers 14 (2009): 67–79.

                      (15.) For example, Chava Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women (Boston: Beacon, 1998); and Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut, eds., Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1992).

                      (16.) Die gottesdienstliche Vorträge der Juden historisch Entwickelt (Berlin: A. Asher, 1832), 366–381.

                      (17.) S. Schechter, “Geniza Specimens,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 10 (1898): 654–659. Much more has been published in Hebrew since.

                      (18.) Trans. Raymond P. Scheindlin (Philadelphia and Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1993 [German original, 1913; Hebrew translation with updates, 1972]). The 1972 updates are included in the English edition.

                      (19.) Trans. Richard S. Sarason (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1977). Heinemann updated his 1964 original text for this translation.

                      (20.) Fleischer’s articles were published almost entirely in Hebrew in journal articles, now collected in two volumes. For a review essay summarizing them, see Ruth Langer, “Revisiting Early Rabbinic Liturgy: The Recent Contributions of Ezra Fleischer,” Prooftexts 19.2 (1999): 179–194. See also the subsequent correspondence, “Controversy,” Prooftexts 20.3 (2000): 380–387.

                      (21.) Uri Ehrlich, The Weekday Amidah in Cairo Genizah Prayerbooks: Roots and Transmission [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2013).

                      (22.) Lawrence A. Hoffman, The Canonization of the Synagogue Service (Notre Dame, IN, and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979).

                      (24.) The most important monographs are Jakob J. Petuchowski, Prayerbook Reform in Europe: The Liturgy of European Liberal and Reform Judaism (New York: World Union for Progressive Judaism, 1968); and Eric Caplan, From Ideology to Liturgy: Reconstructionist Worship and American Liberal Judaism (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 2002). On Israeli secular and liberal liturgy, see the various articles by Dalia Marx listed on her page at,

                      (25.) David Hedegård, ed. and trans., Seder R. Amram Gaon Part I: Hebrew Text with Critical Apparatus, Translation with Notes and Introduction (Lund, Sweden: A.-B. Ph. Lindstedts Universitets-Bokhandel, 1951); and Tryggve Kronholm, ed. and trans., Seder R. Amram Gaon Part II: The Order of Sabbath Prayer (Lund, Sweden: CWK Gleerup, 1974).