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Adon Olam


ADON OLAM (Heb. אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם; "Lord of the World"), rhymed liturgical hymn in 12 verses (in the Ashkenazi rite) extolling the eternity and unity of God and expressing man's absolute trust in His providence. The Sephardi rite has 16 verses. The author is unknown, though it has been attributed to Solomon ibn *Gabirol (11th century). It may, however, be much older and stem from Babylonia. The hymn has appeared as part of the liturgy since the 14th century in the German rite and has spread to almost every rite and community. It was incorporated into the initial section of the Shaḥarit Service, but it has been suggested on the basis of the penultimate line that it originally formed the conclusion of the Night Prayers where it also still appears. Its main place now is at the conclusion of the Sabbath and festival Musaf Service (with the Sephardim even on the Day of Atonement) and of the *Kol Nidrei Service. Adon Olam has become a popular hymn. In Morocco it serves as a wedding song and it is also recited by those present at a deathbed. The hymn has been translated several times into English verse, among others by George Borrow in his Lavengro (reprinted in Hertz, Prayer, p. 1005) and by Israel Zangwill (reprinted ibid., 7, 9), and into other European languages.


Adon Olam is generally sung by the congregation. In the Ashkenazi tradition it is also sometimes rendered by the cantor on certain festive occasions, and then the melody is adapted to the nosaḥ of the section of the prayer into which it is incorporated. The great number of melodies for Adon Olam includes both individual settings, and borrowings from Jewish and Gentile sources. Ex. 3, from Djerba, is a North African "general" melody for piyyutim. Two versions from Germany in Idelsohn (Melodien, 7 (1932), nos. 59 and 336) both borrow the western Ashkenazi melody of Omnam Ken, while no. 346a is a German folk tune. A melody from Tangiers (I. Levy, Antologia, 1 (1965), no. 96) is the tune of the Romance Esta Rahel la estimoza. The composed or adapted tunes are mostly based upon a strict measure of four or three beats, both equally suitable for conforming to the ḥazak-meter of the text – one short and three longs. The melody is sung in many schools in Israel at the end of the pupils' morning prayer (in 4/4 measure; cf. the same, in 3/4 measure, ye, vol. 1, p. 514). Salamone de' *Rossi included an eight-voice composition of Adon Olam in his Ha-Shirim Asher li-Shelomo (Venice, 1622/23).

[Avigdor Herzog]


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 88; Abrahams, Companion, vii–ix; Davidson, Oẓar, 1 (1924), 29, no. 575; C. Roth, Essays and Portraits (1962), 295 ff.; Baer S., Seder, 35; idem, Toẓe'ot Ḥayyim (1871), 57. music: Sendrey, Music, indexes.

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