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AMIDAH (Heb. עֲמִידָה; "standing"), the core and main element of each of the prescribed daily services. In talmudic sources it is known as Ha-Tefillah ("The Prayer" par excellence). As its name indicates, the Amidah must be recited standing. Other names for this prayer include Shemoneh esreh, for the number of its benedictions (presently 19), and Tefillat laḥash, because of the obligation to recite it silently.

Types, Manner, and Nature

The Amidah is recited individually during each of the daily services – *Shaḥarit (Morning Service), *Minḥah (Afternoon Service) and *Arvit (Evening Service); on Sabbaths and the festivals it is recited also for *Musaf ("Additional Service") and on the Day of Atonement, a fifth time, for Ne'ilah ("the Concluding Prayer"). In congregational prayer, i.e., when there is a minyan (a quorum of at least ten male adults), the reader repeats the Amidah aloud and a number of additions are made (see below). The original purpose of the repetition was to enable uneducated persons, who did not know the prayers, to fulfill their duty by listening to the recital and responding "Amen" after each benediction. There are various forms of Amidah. On weekdays, the Amidah originally comprised 18 benedictions (later 19); on fast days one more is added in the repetition by the reader, and in ancient times, on some public fasts, six were added to the regular 18 (Ta'an. 2:2–4). On Sabbaths and festivals, there are only seven benedictions, except in the Musaf of *Rosh Ha-Shanah, when there are nine. In cases of emergency or illness, the intermediate blessings of the weekday Amidah may also be combined into one (see below Havinenu). The various forms have in common the first three and the last three benedictions; the former are devoted to the praise of God, the latter, to closing and leave-taking. On weekdays, the intermediate benedictions are petitions, and the daily Amidah is, therefore, predominantly a prayer of supplication. The pronoun "we" is used throughout the Amidah (even when it is recited silently by the individual), both in praise and in petition, indicating that it was always conceived as a communal prayer. Even the individual worshiper recites it not on his own behalf but as a member of the congregation.

The Amidah was fashioned in the form of an interpersonal dialogic encounter between the worshiper and God. The language of the prayer addresses God in the second person, and the order of the benedictions – praise, petition, closing and leave-taking – is consistent with how a slave approaches his master (Ber. 34a). Consequently, the worshiper stands throughout the recitation of the prayer and bows at its beginning and end (T. Ber. 1:8). At its conclusion, the worshiper bows again and takes leave of the divine presence with backward steps (Yoma 53b). The further obligation to face the locus of the Temple (T. Ber. 3:15) is grounded in the notion that, while praying, the worshiper stands directly in the presence of the shekhinah. After the destruction of the Temple, even though some sages opined that the shekhinah had left Jerusalem, based on other national-religious considerations, worshipers continued to face the place of the Temple. But they directed their hearts to the shekhinah, wherever its locus: "He who prays should regard himself as if the Shekhinah were before him" (Sanh. 22a; see also T. Ber. 3:14). To facilitate achieving this elevated spiritual state, the rabbis forbade the worshiper to divert his thoughts from the tefillah (M. Ber. 5:1), and some prohibited recitation of the Prayer when of unsettled mind (Erub. 65a).

Evolution and Redaction of the Amidah

Scholarly opinion is divided as to the origins of statutory prayer in general, and of the Amidah in particular. Even the talmudic sources reflect such diverse opinions as the one attributing the formulation of the Amidah to the Men of the Great Assembly (Meg. 17b), namely to the early Second Temple period, as opposed to one that explicitly ascribes the arrangement of the prayer to the activity of Rabban Gamliel in the post-destruction era at Jabneh (Ber. 28b). Scholarly opinion spans these two poles: some scholars date the origins of the Prayer to the final centuries preceding the destruction of the Temple; others date it as late as the era of Rabban Gamliel at Jabneh. From the welter of sources and opinions, the following likely scenario emerges. As a means of religious expression, prayer gained in importance during the late Second Temple period. Qumran literature provides rich testimony to fixed prayer among circles that opposed the Temple. Rabbinic sources indicate that, at the same time, some Pharasaic circles began to make use of fixed prayer ceremonies and to recite prayers on special occasions. For example, there is attestation to set benedictions recited by the priests in the Temple, of which some partially parallel Amidah benedictions (M. Yoma 7:1; M. Tamid 5:1). Explicit testimony from the Tosefta (Rosh Ha-Shanah 2:17) indicates the practice of prayer on Sabbaths and holidays among the sages of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel. But it is only in the wake of the destruction, from the period of Rabban Gamliel and onward, that we have testimony for the institutionalization of prayer as a mandatory communal, and individual, obligation. The requirement to recite the Shemoneh Esreh daily dates only from the time of Rabban Gamliel and his contemporaries.

The exact nature of the fixing of the prayer by Rabban Gamliel at Jabneh also remains a debated point among scholars. Until the late 1980s the prevailing view was that Rabban Gamliel did not mandate the precise wording of the benedictions but rather their number, main motif, and concluding formula, giving worshipers and prayer leaders leeway to formulate the wording of the benediction as they saw fit. Over time, whether by natural processes or rabbinic fiat, certain versions came to predominate. Only in geonic Babylonia did the versions of the prayer achieve greater uniformity, but even then, variants were not entirely eliminated. In the early 1990s a different viewpoint was proposed, according to which Rabban Gamliel not only set the general principles governing the Amidah but also its precise wording, which he sought to impart to all Jewish communities. Over time, because of alterations in the worshipers' outlook and esthetic taste, this primary version underwent changes. The scattering of the Jewish people in various diasporas, and the lack of a central leadership, fostered the creation of different branches of the text in the diverse Jewish communities.

For the first centuries of its development, due to the absence of a complete version of the Amidah in talmudic literature, we have only vague testimony to its language. The first full witnesses to the wording of the prayer come from siddurim in use in the late first/early second millennium c.e. – the siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and Rav Saadiah Gaon as well as thousands of genizah fragments – namely, from texts compiled centuries after the fixing of the Amidah. Among the siddurim preserved in the Cairo Genizah, it is possible to distinguish two main branches: a Palestinian and a Babylonian rite. Despite many differences of detail, the Amidah as preserved in both rites retains an inherent linguistic kinship. With the thinning out of the Jewish settlement in Palestine in the early second millennium c.e. and the growing influence of the Babylonian yeshivot on most of the Jewish world, the Palestinian rite disappeared and the Babylonian rite became the progenitor of all versions of the Amidah to the present.

The Weekday Amidah

The sequence of the benedictions of the weekday Amidah is as follows:

(1) Refers to God as the God of the avot ("patriarchs"), and extols Him as great, mighty, and awesome (Deut. 10:17); it concludes with Barukh … Magen Avraham ("Blessed … Shield of Abraham").

(2) Praises God for His deeds of gevurot ("power and might"). Among the manifestations of God's power are his providing sustenance for all living creatures and His causing the rain to fall in the rainy season. Special stress is laid on the revival of the dead and the benediction which concludes with Barukh… meḥayyeh ha-metim ("Blessed … He Who revives the dead") is therefore also known as Teḥiyyat ha-Metim ("Resurrection of the Dead").

(3) Speaks of God's holiness, and is, therefore, called Kedushat ha-Shem. It concludes with Barukh … ha-El ha-Kadosh ("Blessed … is the Holy God").

(4) Petitions God to grant wisdom and understanding. It concludes with Barukh … ḥonen ha-daʿat ("Blessed … gracious giver of knowledge").

(5) Entreats God to cause a return to His Torah and to His service. It concludes with Barukh… ha-roẓeh bi-teshuvah ("Blessed… Who delights in repentance").

(6) Beseeches forgiveness for all sins, concluding with Barukh … ḥannun ha-marbeh lislo'ah ("Blessed … Who are gracious and abundantly forgiving").

(7) Implores God to redeem. It concludes with Barukh … go'el Yisrael ("Blessed … redeemer of Israel").

(8) Requests God to heal the sick and concludes with Barukh … rofe ḥolei ammo Yisrael ("Blessed … Who heals the sick of Your people Israel").

(9) Supplicates God to bless the produce of the earth and grant a good (fertile) year; It is, therefore, called Birkat ha-Shanim ("Blessing of the Years") and concludes with Barukh … mevarekh ha-shanim ("Blessed … Who blesses the years").

(10) Is a request for the ingathering of the exiles, concluding with Barukh … mekabbeẓ niddeḥei ammo Yisrael ("Blessed … Who gathers the banished ones of Your people, Israel").

(11) Appeals to God to restore righteous judges and reign Himself over Israel. It concludes with Barukh … Melekh ohev ẓedakah u-mishpat ("Blessed … King Who loves righteousness and judgment").

(12) Asks God to destroy the malshinim ("slanderers" or "informers"), all His enemies, and to shatter the "kingdom of arrogance" (see below). The text of this benediction, called in the Talmud *Birkath ha-Minim ("Benediction Concerning Heretics"), underwent many changes. It concludes with Barukh … shover oyevim u-makhniʿa zedim ("Blessed … Who breaks the enemies and humbles the arrogant").

(13) Supplicates God to have mercy upon the righteous, the pious, the proselytes, and all those who trust in Him; it concludes with Barukh … mishan u-mivtaḥ la-ẓaddikim ("Blessed … the support and trust of the righteous").

(14) Solicits God to rebuild Jerusalem and dwell there. It concludes with Barukh … boneh Yerushalayim ("Blessed … Who rebuilds Jerusalem").

(15) Seeks the reestablishment of the kingdom of David. It concludes with Barukh … maẓmi'ah keren yeshuʿah ("Blessed … Who causes the horn of salvation to flourish").

(16) Is a general plea to hearken to (i.e., accept) prayers. It concludes with Barukh … shome'a tefilah ("Blessed … Who hearkens unto prayer").

(17) Begs God to reinstate the avodah ("the Temple service"), and to return the Divine Presence to Zion. It concludes with "Barukh … ha-maḥazir Shekhinato le-Ẓiyyon ("Blessed … Who returns the Divine Presence unto Zion").

(18) Gives thanks to God for all His mercies. The benediction is called Hodayah ("Thanksgiving") and concludes with Barukh … ha-tov shimkha u-lekha na'eh lehodot ("Blessed … whose name is good and to whom it is fitting to give thanks").

(19) Is a petition for peace. It is called Birkat ha-Shalom ("Blessing of Peace") and on some occasions is preceded by the Priestly Blessing, recited by the worshipers of priestly descent (see below). The latter concludes with the word shalom ("peace") and the benediction is a kind of response to the blessing. It is, therefore, also called Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing; rh 4:5) and concludes with Barukh … ha-mevarekh et ammo Yisrael ba-shalom ("Blessed … Who blesses Your people Israel with peace").

The 13 petitions (4–16) may be subdivided into two distinct groups: Benedictions 4 to 9 are concerned with general human, everyday needs, both spiritual and material; benedictions 10 to 15 give expression to specific Jewish-national aspirations, all concerned with various aspects of messianic redemption.

The above description of the daily Amidah essentially portrays most of the details of the accepted prayer rites that are the continuation of the early Babylonian rite. The Amidah of the early Palestinian rite differed somewhat in several, some important, details. Of these, the most striking is that in Palestinian siddurim the Amidah has only eighteen, not nineteen, benedictions. The Palestinian rite has no separate benediction for the restoration of the kingdom of David (benediction 15 in the Babylonian rite), and this request is incorporated in the benediction regarding Jerusalem (14 in the Babylonian rite). The reason for this distinction between the rites, already found in talmudic times, is not entirely clear. Some link it to the development of Birkat ha-Minim, which was added to the Amidah at Jabneh after the full redaction of the Shemoneh Esreh. In Palestine, seeking to preserve the number eighteen, the benedictions on Jerusalem and the Davidic kingdom were united. Another change in the early language of the Amidah came with the deepened awareness of galut and the concomitant aspiration for redemption. An outstanding example is the seventeenth benediction, whose closing formula is based on the notion that the shekhinah had departed Jerusalem in the wake of the destruction. This conception is missing from the early Palestinian versions of the benediction, which concludes with she-otekha be-yir'ah na'avod ("we worship you with awe"). The twelfth benediction as well underwent significant alteration. Its early version did not encompass a request to destroy the malshinim (slanderers), but was rather directed at Jewish separatists who endangered internal Jewish unity, explicitly mentioning the early Nazarenes, as well as against the "evil kingdom," namely, Rome. Because of historical circumstances, changed worldviews, and Christian censorship, this benediction underwent manifold changes, the most significant of which was the expunging of the word noẓerim from the benediction (see *Birkat ha-Minim). With modernity, in some streams of Judaism wide-ranging changes have been made in the wording of the benedictions, including alterations related to awareness of women's status.


When the Amidah is recited aloud in the congregational service, some additions are made within the above-mentioned framework. Different customs prevail regarding the recitation of the Priestly Blessing which is interpolated before the last benediction. In the Diaspora it is customarily recited in Ashkenazi communities only in the Musaf of festivals. In the Eastern communities it is recited in every Shaḥarit service (and at Minḥah on fast days). In Ereẓ Israel the Sephardim do the same, and the Ashkenazi communities in most places. While the reader intones Modim (the 18th benediction) the congregation recites Modim de-Rabbanan, a different prayer of thanksgiving, in an undertone. The most striking addition to the congregational recitation of the Amidah is the *Kedushah. This is an expanded version of the third benediction and comprises the exalted praise of God by the angels (quoted in Isa. 6:3 and Ezek. 3:12). Other additions to the Amidah are made on specific occasions, also in the individual recitation. In the rainy season mention is made in the second benediction of God's power which causes the rain to fall; in the ninth, rain is prayed for. On the New Moon and intermediate days of festivals, the significance of the occasion is mentioned in the *Ya'aleh ve-Yavo prayer, inserted into the 17th benediction. The miracles performed on Ḥanukkah and Purim are described in the *Al ha-Nissim prayer which is added to the 18th benediction. On public fast days, a special supplication, Anenu, is inserted into the 16th benediction in the silent recitation; the reader recites this as a separate benediction between the seventh and eighth benedictions. On the Ninth of *Av, the 14th benediction is elaborated with a lamentation on the destruction of the Temple. During the *Ten Days of Penitence, petitions that God may grant life are inserted into the first two and the last two benedictions while the third concludes with ha-Melekh ha-Kadosh ("the Holy King) and the 11th with ha-Melekh ha-Mishpat ("the King of Judgment"). These changes are not found in the early Palestinian rite. In the evening service, after the conclusion of the Sabbath, a *Havdalah is inserted into the fourth benediction. Additions may be made to the standard framework by a worshiper as long as these are appropriate to the general theme of the particular benediction to which they are added (Sh. Ar., oḤ 119:1–3).

Sabbath and Festivals

In the Sabbath and festival Amidah, as well as in the Musaf on New Moon, all petitions (4–16) are omitted, and one central benediction, Kedushat ha-Yom ("the sanctification of the day"), expressing the special character of the holy day in question, is recited instead. For festivals, the text of this benediction is uniform, only the name of the festival being changed (an exception being at the Musaf Amidah; see below). The benediction concludes with Barukh … mekaddesh Yisrael veha-Zemannim ("Blessed … Who sanctifies Israel and the festive seasons"). On Rosh Ha-Shanah this is expanded to read Barukh … Melekh al kol ha-areẓ mekaddesh Yisrael ve-Yom ha-Zikkaron ("Blessed … King over all the earth who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Memorial"); on the Day of Atonement, Barukh … Melekh moḥel ve-sole'aḥ le-avonoteinu… mekaddesh Yisrael ve-Yom ha-Kippurim ("Blessed … King Who pardons and forgives our iniquities… who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Atonement"). On all the festivals it begins with thanks to God for choosing Israel from among all the peoples (Attah Beḥartanu) sanctifying them through His Torah and mitzvot and giving them "festivals and seasons of joy" with the mention of the particular festival; Ya'aleh ve-Yavo, in which the name of the festival recurs, follows and it concludes with a brief petition for the blessing of the festivals. The same version is used for all services, except for Musaf, where Attah Beḥartanu is followed by a prayer for the restoration of the Temple (U-mi-Penei Ḥata'einu) and of the pilgrimages and the sacrificial cult; this is followed by the appropriate Bible verses (taken from Num. 28–29) containing the instructions for the sacrifices of the day in question and a more elaborate and solemn petition for speedy redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple. The conclusion is again as above. On New Moons a different text, stressing the character of the day as one of atonement, is used, concluding with Barukh … mekaddesh Yisrael ve-Rashei Ḥodashim ("Blessed … Who sanctifies Israel and New Moons"). On festivals and special Sabbaths poetical prayers are often inserted and said by the congregation during the reader's repetition. These are known as Kerovot and are to be found added to the various benedictions. Special poems concerning the 613 commandments and known as *azharot, are added in the Shavuot prayers, usually in the Musaf Amidah.

On the Sabbath, the introduction of the fourth benediction varies in each Amidah. In Arvit the Sabbath is presented as a "memorial of creation," followed by the recital of Genesis 2:1–3; in Shaḥarit the Sabbath is associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai and presented as the symbol of the Covenant between God and Israel; in Minḥah the Sabbath is extolled as the day of complete rest, anticipating, as it were, the perfect peace and rest of the messianic age. The above texts seem to have been chosen intentionally to express three different, yet complementary, aspects of the Sabbath: creation – revelation – redemption; a triad of concepts, occurring elsewhere in Jewish thought and liturgy. Other introductions to this benediction are also known and used: for Musaf, Tikkanta Shabbat ("You did institute the Sabbath") in the Ashkenazi version and U-le-Moshe Ẓivvita ("You did command Moses") in the Sephardi, both of which mention the sacrifices; for Arvit, U-me-Ahavatekha ("Out of Thy Love"; Tosef., Ber. 3:11, used in the Italian rite); for Minḥah, Hannaḥ Lanu ("Grant us Rest" – see the siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and of Rav Saadiah Gaon). The versions of the Sabbath prayers found in the Cairo Genizah indicate that this variety is a secondary development and that the benediction for the day was originally uniform as for the festival prayer.

The only festival Amidah which diverges from the general pattern of seven benedictions is that of Musaf of Rosh Ha-Shanah which has three intermediate benedictions, making a total of nine. This special structure probably came into being in order to provide three separate occasions for sounding the *shofar, as required by the Mishnah (rh 4:9), at the end of each of the three intermediate benedictions. According to Sephardi custom the shofar is blown both in the silent as well as the reader's repetition of the Amidah, whereas the Ashkenazim sound it only in the latter. The text of each of them, therefore, relates to one of the special aspects of the day. In addition to the usual "sanctification of the day" (fourth blessing), the fifth benediction was devoted to *Zikhronot ("Remembrances") as Rosh Ha-Shanah is the "Day of Remembrance," and the sixth to Shofarot ("the blessing of the Shofar") to express the shofar aspect of the festival. A third aspect of the day, "the Kingship of God" was made the subject of Malkhuyyot, probably at a later stage. Malkhuyyot was not allocated a separate benediction, but was combined with the "sanctification of the day" (rh 4:5). On Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement, the third benediction is recited in a more elaborate version which contains the prayer u-Vekhen Ten Paḥdekha ("Now therefore impose Your awe"), an ancient petition for the eschatological Kingdom of God. On the Day of Atonement, the silent recital of the Amidah is followed by the viddui ("confession of sins"), which is not written as a benediction. In the repetition by the reader, however, the viddui is inserted into the fourth benediction. Two confessions, one short and one long, are recited; both are arranged in alphabetical form. Sins, which might have been committed during the year, are enumerated. In common with other community prayers, they are formulated in the "we"-style: "we have trespassed, etc." (see *Confession of Sins).

[Uri Ehrlich]


Shortened form of the Amidah. An abbreviated form of the Amidah (known as Havinenu ("give us understanding") from its initial word) may be recited instead of the Amidah in cases of emergency, e.g., when a person is hurried or is ill and unable to concentrate for any length of time. The Havinenu prayer consists of a shortened version of the 13 intermediary benedictions of the Amidah and concludes with the blessing "Blessed are You, O Lord, who hearkens unto prayer." It is preceded by the three introductory benedictions of the Amidah and concludes with the last three blessings of the Amidah. There are several versions of the Havinenu (Ber. 29a; tj, Ber. 4:3, 8a, see also B.M. Lewin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 1 (1928), Teshuvot 72, no. 184 and A.I. Schechter, Studies in Jewish Liturgy (1930), 71). The version from the Babylonian Talmud (Ber. 29a), ascribed to Mar *Samuel, is the commonly accepted text in the daily liturgy. *Abbaye scorned those who substituted the shortened Havinenu version for the full Amidah (Ber. 29a). The law, however, permits such a substitution, except during the evening service at the termination of the Sabbath, when the fourth benediction (Attah Ḥonen) is supplemented by a special prayer marking the distinction between Sabbath and the weekdays (Havdalah); and during the winter season when the petition for rain (ve-ten tal u-matar) must be said in the sixth benediction of the Amidah (Ber. 29a; see Sh. Ar., oḤ 110:1).


In Ashkenazi tradition, the first benediction of the A midah is sometimes distinguished by a particular melody that contrasts with the subsequent cantillation in the tefillah-mode. On the occasion of the Tal, Geshem, and *Ne'ilah prayers, the special Avot tunes employ merely the motive material of the preceding *Kaddish. A more conspicuous and peculiar melody appears in the morning prayers of the High Holidays. It is considered among the unchangeable *Mi-Sinai tunes. Like the majority of the latter, the Avot melody starts with a theme of its own, while the continuation draws from the thematic stock in use for this kind of synagogue song. The characteristic Avot themes show a relatively late European tonality. They develop by means of sequential progression, and are followed by a typical synagogue motive. After repetition of this section the melody uses themes known from *Aleinu le-Shabbe'ah and *Kol Nidrei. Like several other tunes from the Mi-Sinai cycle, the basic Avot melody sometimes underwent elaboration and extension into a "cantorial fantasia." This was done by Aaron *Beer in 1783, and in the local tradition of Frankfurt and other communities until late in the 19th century. Examples of the basic melody can be found in: S. Naumbourg, Zemirot Yisrael (1847), no. 54; Idelsohn, Melodien, 7 (1932), pt. 1, no. 150a; pt. 3, no. 146; I. Schorr, Neginot Baruch Schorr (1928), no. 81; and others. Examples of the cantorial fantasia can be found in: Idelsohn, Melodien, 6 (1932), pt. 2, no. 5; 7, pt. 1, nos. 150b–c; F. Ogutsch, Der Frankfurter Kantor (1930), no. 177; M. Deutsch, Vorbeterschule (1871), no. 269.

[Hanoch Avenary]


General: add. bibliography: U. Ehrlich, The Nonverbal Language of Prayer: A New Approach to Jewish Liturgy (2004); idem, "The Earliest Versions of the Amidah – The Blessing about the Temple Worship" in: J. Tabory, ed., From Qumran to Cairo: Studies in the History of Prayer, 17–38 (Heb., 1999); I. Elbogen. Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History. tr. R.P. Scheindlin (1993), 24–66; L. Finkelstein. "The Development of the Amidah," in: jqr, 16 (1925–1926), 1-43, 127-70. (Reprint, J.J. Petuchowski (ed.), Contributions to the Scientific Study of Jewish Liturgy (1970), 91–177); E. Fleischer, Eretz-Israel Prayer and Prayer Rituals (Heb., 1988), 19–159; idem, "Le-kadmoniyyut Tefillot ha-Ḥovah be-Yisrael," Tarbiz, 59 (1990), 397–441, idem, "Tefillat Shemoneh Esreh: Iyyunim be-Ofya, Sidra, Tokhna, u-Megamoteha," Tarbiz, 62 (1993), 179–223; J. Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud: Forms and Patterns (1977), 13–76, 218–50; L.I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years (2000), 151–59, 510–19; Y. Luger, The Weekday Amidah in the Cairo Genizah (Heb., 2001); B. Nitzan, Qumran Prayer and Religious Poetry. (1994); S. Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer (1993), 53–87. havinenu: et, 8 (1957), 120; Hertz, Prayer, 158–60, text and Eng. tr. music: Idelsohn, Melodien, 7 (1932), xxxiii; idem, in: Zeitschrift fuer Musikwissenschaft, 8 (1926), 445, 465; Avenary, in: Yuval, 1 (1968), 65–85.


views updated May 08 2018


CANTILLATION , a term derived from the Latin canticum and cantilena, which besides "song" also meant the singsong delivery of an orator or an insistent talker. It was introduced into musical terminology by the influential work of J.N. Forkel, author of Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (Leipzig, 1788–1801, p. 156), to indicate the musical reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. In its subsequent broadest application, cantillation can be defined as having simpler, freer structure than ordinary vocal music, closer to solemn declamation than to structured, organized singing. Although on occasion this music may be ornamented with rich vocalizations, its form and flow are subordinated to the text being sung. Cantillation is primarily, but not exclusively, associated with religious rites. The basic principles of cantillation are universal, although their application reflects unique local attributes as expressed in language and intonation, as well as in the temperament and mores of a given population. The style comprising any form of cantillation may be defined according to Curt *Sachs as "logogenic," i.e., a word-created, word-dependent, and word-supporting system of musical expression.

In 1961, the eminent French scholar Solange Corbin published an extensive article on cantillation in the Christian ritual wherein she discusses its numerous parameters. Although her definitions relate to cantillation in Christian ritual, they nevertheless have many points in common with its use in Jewish ritual. Dealing with the universal principles of cantillation E. *Gerson-Kiwi has given the interesting name of "Sounds of Alienation" to the special vocal tension inherent in cantillation (1980). It should be noted, however, that biblical cantillation is distinguished by a unique musical phenomenon within the Jewish musical oral culture referring to an exceptional combination of orality on one hand and written text with its *Masoretic accent system on the other.

The term cantillation is also found in Judaic and musical literature with any of the following meanings: Delivery of a talmudic text by projection of the rhetorical speech-curve into a few standard "melodic clauses" ("talmudic cantillation"); recital of biblical poetry for similar texts in a standard "melodic sentence" recurrent for each verse ("Psalm cantillation," "Psalmody"); recital of liturgical formulae and texts, mostly prose but often also poetry, by the improvised but conventional linking of the elements of a melodic pattern in free oratorical rhythm ("synagogal cantillation," "cantorial recitative").


C. Sachs, The Rise of Music in the Ancient World-East and West (1943), 30–44; E. Gerson-Kiwi, in: Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 13 (1961), 64–67; H. Avenary, Studies in the Hebrew, Syrian, and Greek Liturgical Recitative (1963). add. bibliography: J. Parisot, "Notes sur les recitatives israelites Orientaux," in: Dictionnaire de la Bible de vigoroux, vol. 8 (1902); S. Corbin, in: Revue de Musicologie 47 (1961), 3–36; E. Gerson-Kiwi, in: Israel Studies in Musicology 2 (1980), 27–31.

[Bathja Bayer /

Amnon Shiloah (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 21 2018

ʿAmidah (Heb., ‘standing’). A Jewish prayer consisting of eighteen benedictions which is a core part of the structure of each of the three daily services. It is also known as the Shemoneh-Esreh (‘eighteen’) or, in Talmudic sources, as ha-tefillah (‘the prayer’). It is said standing (facing in the direction of Jerusalem), and is recited in different forms on weekdays, Sabbaths, and festivals.


views updated May 17 2018

Cantillation. The musical reading of the Jewish Bible, Talmud, or other liturgical passages. There is no scholarly agreement over the cantillation of Jewish liturgy.


views updated May 21 2018

Amidah a prayer, part of the Jewish liturgy, consisting of a varying number of blessings recited while the worshippers stand. The word is recorded from the late 19th century and comes from Hebrew, literally ‘standing’.


views updated May 18 2018

cantillation. Chanting in free rhythm, in plainsong style. The term is most used in connection with Jewish liturgical mus.

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