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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Language of the Liturgy

The Hebrew of the Siddur is very reminiscent of its biblical counterpart but by no means identical with it. The basic vocabulary and phraseology of praise and supplication is borrowed from Psalms, and there are occasionally linguistic usages that are characteristic of biblical rather than rabbinic Hebrew. The overall style, syntax, and linguistic flow are, however, very much dependent on rabbinic literature, and there is no doubt that the early talmudic leaders were anxious not to confuse the two forms of the language. Perhaps one of the ways in which rabbinic Judaism created its own identity was by rejecting a preference for the biblical Hebrew style in the formulation of its traditions and committing itself to its own linguistic usage.

Throughout its history of almost two millennia, the language of rabbinic prayer underwent a long and complicated development from a format that may well have been oral in origin, through a process of literary improvement and linguistic selection, toward the establishment of independent parameters. It achieved a status that ultimately exercised a formative influence on the reemergence of contemporary, spoken Hebrew in the modern period. The process was always accompanied by a tension between those who were anxious to reforge the link with the Bible and those who saw the need for the language of rabbinic prayer to grow independently, whatever its deepest roots. The “biblicizers” of each generation made their stand. They fought off the challenges of Greek, Aramaic, and later vernaculars and expressed preference for wording the prayers in a style that followed the biblical precedent more closely. When the ben Asher text of the Bible became the standard in the second millennium CE, it was their circles that fought valiantly to apply its principles to the language of the liturgy. They were not averse to the employment of strange strategies to achieve their aims.

The 16th‐century Polish rabbinic scholar Solomon Luria argued that the Sabbath day should be termed shabbat and not manoaḥ in Hebrew, because Manoaḥ in the Bible is not used for “rest” but as the name of Samson's father, about whom the Talmud makes derogatory remarks. Similarly, the verse in Num. 24.5 should not be used in the synagogue because it originates in the words of the Gentile pseudo‐prophet, Balaam. Though leaving an impact, particularly at times and places that had a need for a stronger identification with the Bible (as, for instance, in Central and Western Europe immediately after the Reformation or during Jewish emancipation), their efforts were neither intended nor destined to remove parts of the rabbinic liturgy from their place in traditional Jewish literature. Such a result was achieved only by the nontraditional movements beginning in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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