The Occurrences and the Significance of the Yoser Ha`adam Benediction

Meir Bar-Ilan

The Yoser Ha`adam benediction appears in different forms and places such as: (A) in the marriage service (Birkat Hatanim); (B) after relieving oneself; (C) on a magic bowl; (D) in Ma`aseh Merkavah (in the Hekhalot literature); (E) in a cemetery; (F) in the Grace after meals for mourners; (G) in the Preliminary Morning Service.

The purpose of the article is: first, to show each of the texts in its original place, paying attention to the slight differences among them; and secondly, to try to evaluate the significance of all these minor changes as well as the connection between the various occurences of the benediction.

Connections between the benediction and such anthropomorphic ideas as the "figure of God" (selem), the Angels, and the Throne of Glory are discussed. In addition, attention is paid to some of the general phenomena in the prayers, such as the structure of the benedictions, the way benedictions tend to become "long" (instead of staying "short"), internal censorship that erased anthropomorphic elements from the prayers, and so on. The benediction from the Hekhalot literature is revealed as an ancient version of the Qedusha, earlier than the time when the Qedusha text (known from the Siddur) was established and canonized.

After all the versions are collated, the theological significance of the benediction Yoser Ha`adam is discussed. It is argued that in all those circumstances the benediction has a polemic function and tries to confront heretical ideas, e.g., that it was not God that created man. The benediction took the role of a credo against opinions known to Jews from the Gnostics and others in the days of the Talmud.

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last updated: December 23, 1996 - November 18, 2001