We have noted in the past that while there are certain prayers regarded by our Sages as obligatory, that passing centuries have added to the basics and expanded the service greatly with introductory Psalms and blessings and some additional hymns and readings toward the end. They say that Jews say goodbye, but never leave. If that is true in social situations, all the moreso when we look at our prayerbook. On Shabbat and festivals, just as one might think we have finished our service with the chanting of Alenu and the recitation of the Mourners’ Kaddish, suddenly the ark is opened once more and we rise and join in singing Anim Zemirot and then as the ark is closed, we throw in the Psalm of the Day, sometimes followed by another Psalm or two marking Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, or the fall holiday season. After a few announcements by the rabbi or the shul president, there is a closing hymn, Adon Olam or Yigdal, in most congregations and finally, we really do finish, at least on Shabbat and festivals.
For many years, however, I’ve noticed in the more traditional prayerbooks, that the editors have tucked in a few more readings at the end of the weekday service. Some volumes include just a few passages while others go on and on for many pages. Three of these appendices appear in all three of the traditional siddurim in front of me. The Koren Siddur with its translation and commentary by the late former chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, provides just the three most common of these additions. The first is the “six remembrances,” that is six passages from the Torah in which we are enjoined to remember some event or teaching. This is followed by the Ten Commandments, which at one time were a part of the morning service, but which the sages removed, when sectarian groups began to claim that only those ten were to be observed. However, they had no objection to people continuing to read them privately after the service concluded. The third reading is a listing of the thirteen principles of faith. Like the Yigdal, this is a distillation of the principles outlined in greater detail by Maimonides, in his introduction to the tenth chapter of the Mishnah of Sanhedrin. That Mishnah teaches about various categories of people who because of their beliefs are excluded from the world to come even though in general the Mishnah holds that “All Israel have a place in the world to come.” Maimonides’ teachings explain what beliefs one is required to have to be a good Jew. Someone took those principles and listed them one by one in thirteen declarations, each beginning: “Ani m’amin be-emunah shelemah, I believe with perfect faith that….” Not surprisingly, many Jews have some question about affirming all thirteen of these beliefs and often might qualify these statements of “perfect faith.” Best known is the twelfth principle that has been set to music and is often associated with the victims of the Shoah who are said to have recited it or sung it as they entered the gas chambers. “I believe in perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he may delay, I wait daily for his coming.”
In the Siddur I am currently using for my own weekday worship, Siddur Aliyot Eliyahu, which seems to cram just about every possible prayer into its pages and, for my purposes, provides footnotes explaining where the prayers come from, these additions are only part of the story. This siddur, first of all, indicates that in Israel, there are some additions to the conclusion of the service that are not customary outside of Israel. These include the Ein Keloheinu and the passage on the incense that appear in most Shabbat prayerbooks. He also mentions the custom which he states is also an Israeli custom, which some have picked up outside of Israel, to repeat the Barchu at the end of the service for the benefit of latecomers who may have missed it in the blessing before the Sh’ma. This addition is not required however on Torah reading days since those called for aliyot each begin by reciting Barchu.
After this, we find the same additions as in the Koren Siddur, except that instead of six remembrances, the editor of this volume has found ten, including at the end, the verse from Psalm 137, “If I forget you Jerusalem….” These are followed in this prayerbook by the thirteen principles of faith. Next come several items that were originally mentioned along with the recital of the Akedah passage that we looked at last week. The Shulchan Aruch says that all of these are appropriate for one to read each day. The first is Parashat HaMan, the passage from Exodus (16:4 -36) on the manna provided in the wilderness. That is followed by the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1 -14), followed by the instructions for the Sacrifices found in Leviticus, thus following biblical order. The passage on sacrifices is introduced with a prayer noting that we no longer have a Temple in which to offer these sacrifices and we are overwhelmed by a sense of our sins and shortcomings. Therefore we pray that this recital of the passage on sacrifice may serve in place of those offerings. To this we add the confessional prayer of Ashamnu and other verses of contrition before going on to read of each sacrifice. The editor notes that there are some variations on this ritual in different prayerbooks. These readings fill several pages and conclude with a lengthy prayer for forgiveness. The editor notes that on days when it is inappropriate to recite Tachanun, we would also omit this liturgy.
Finally, looking into the Art Scroll Siddur Kol Yaakov, I find the six, not ten, remembrances as in the Koren Siddur, followed by the thirteen principles of faith, and the Ten Commandments. This is followed by a number of biblical readings, some the same as in the Aliyot Eliyahu and some others added as well. Frist is Parashat HaTeshuvah, on repentance, from Deuteronomy 30, followed by Parashat HaYirah, on reverence, from Deuteronomy, chapter 10 and 11, with a closing prayer. Then we find Parashat HaMan, on the Manna and two other prayers, one for Parnasah, a livelihood, and the other a prayer as one departs the synagogue, that one find guidance and protection on one’s way as we go off to our daily activities. This prayer includes a series of verses that speak of God’s protecting care and affirms our belief in the Almighty. At the end we add Psalm 67, which incorporates elements of the priestly blessing. You’ll note, that this siddur does not add the section of korbanot, on sacrifices, since we have already recited all of the earlier during the birchot hashachar. Aliyot Eliyahu has both.
Then, just when we might think we have come to the end, Artscroll adds one more prayer, entitled “Prayer upon leaving the synagogue. comprising not only text, mainly biblical verses, but a bit of choreography as well:
The instructions read, “Sit briefly and recite, ‘Only the righteous will thank Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.’ “ For the next passage, we are told to stand and recite it. The third passage is introduced with the following instructions, “Then walk backward, respectfully, to the exit, as if taking leave of a king. At the door, bow toward the Ark and recite [This third passage.] Finally, we find “upon leaving recite” a short handful of verses speaking of God taking care of various biblical figures. Before you slip out the door, however, I find one more large paragraph headed: “One who will engage in commerce recites,” a prayer for success in one’s business again made up of various verses and pleas for God’s help in providing us a decent and respectful living, the kind of prayer we might expect Tevye to recite in “Fiddler on the Roof.”.
My suspicion is that all of these optional additions to the service were intended for various people to read and probably not all at once by everyone. Often someone is seeking the right words to offer because of things going on in their lives, perhaps a sense of guilt over something one has done or worry and concern about one’s future or one’s livelihood. These prayers and biblical passages seek to provide an outlet for those feelings and to help us reach out to a higher power, to expiate our sins long before Yom Kippur, and to find the strength to go forth into a world which so often, in the past and, unfortunately, in our own time, seems filled with danger.
We pray, “May the Lord, our God, be with us, as He was with our ancestors; may He not forsake us nor cast us off…. My help is from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. May God guard my departure and arrival for life and for peace, from this time and forever. Look down from Your sacred dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us…a land that flows with milk and honey.”