The Rhetoric of Jewish Liturgy

BookThe Rhetoric of Jewish Liturgy

The Rhetoric of Jewish Liturgy

A Historical and Literary Commentary on the Daily Prayer Book

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


January 1st, 2023





The Rhetoric of the Jewish Liturgy is the first comprehensive academic study of the Jewish liturgy in over a century. It integrates material from biblical literature, Second Temple literature—including the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran and Jewish Hellenistic literature—rabbinic literature, early Christian literature, the Cairo Genizah, classical piyut, and medieval manuscripts and commentary, along with modern philological, literary, and historical research. Since the liturgy reflects the history of Judaism, its study becomes an expedition through the pathways of Jewish history and thought from biblical to modern times. By integrating historical, literary, and theological perspectives, this study succeeds in clarifying many heretofore obscure liturgical issues.

‘Reuven Kimelman’s works on liturgy have been indispensable reading for decades. In successive surveys of the Shema and Amidah, and studies of single texts such as Ashrei and Adon Olam, he has detected previously unsuspected themes and set new standards for identifying sources. This new book is an invaluable resource, especially for tracing the roots of his understanding of Shaharit as a daily coronation of God, and will influence future research into what the liturgy may be saying.’ 

Professor Jeremy Schonfield, author of Undercurrents of Jewish Prayer

Author Information

Reuven Kimelman is Professor of Classical Judaica at Brandeis University and rabbi of the Beth Abraham Sephardic Congregation of New England. He is the author of The Mystical Meaning of ‘Lekhah Dodi’ and ‘Kabbalat Shabbat’ (Hebrew; 2003) and a contributor to The Cambridge History of Judaism and The Cambridge Companion to Jewish Theology.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. Mah Tovu: A Psychological Introduction to Prayer
2. Adon Olam: The Theological Introduction to Prayer
3. Preliminaries: Getting the Mind and Body Ready for Prayer
4. The Ashrei: Psalm 145 as Liturgy
5. Pesuqei De-Zimra and the Liturgical Use of Scripture: A Liturgy in the Making
6. The Shema Liturgy: From Covenant Ceremony to Coronation
7. The Amidah: Literary Structure and the Rhetoric of Redemption
8. The Aleinu: Meaning and Historical Context
9. The Qaddish: Function and Origin
10. Conclusion: The Liturgy as a Whole
Index of Sources
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects