ABSTRACT: The Idea of Election in Jewish Prayer

S. Almog and M. Heyd (eds.), Chosen People, Elect Nation and Universal Mission, Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1991, pp. 121-145  Meir Bar-Ilan


This paper aims to collect and analyze all the Jewish prayers in which the idea of election is mentioned: Qumran, Temple liturgies, and Talmudic and post-Talmudic texts. Placing them all together helps to analyze the meaning of these prayers and clarifies the aim of the Sages who included the idea of the election of Israel in Jewish liturgy.

In the texts from Qumran there are a few in which the election is mentioned: in a prayer like Tahanun, in one of the morning prayers and in the Thanksgiving Scroll. In these prayers, just as in the Bible and in the Temple service, the idea of the election of Israel was incorporated together with the election of Jerusalem and other elections. In the Temple, the blessing of elected Israel was said by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement and by the King in "Haqhel".

In Talmudic and post-Talmudic prayers there are several in which the idea of election is mentioned:

1. the blessing over the Torah;
2. "Ahava" benediction before the "Shema";
3. the benediction over the Haftara;
4. the Sabbath day's holiness benediction (Qedushat ha-Yom);
5. the holidays' holiness benediction;
6. the first day of the month's Mussaf holiness benediction;
7. Qidush of the Sabbath;
8. Qidush of the Holidays;
9. the blessing over the Torah in the Genizah;
10. the blessing over the Torah on Simhat Torah;
11. the blessing over virginity;
12. the blessing over the luminaries on the evening of Rosh Ha-Shana;
13. before the evening prayer on the evening of Sabbath - Genizah and Aleppo;
14. the blessing over the "BaMe Madliqin" mishna chapter said on the eve of the Sabbath.

The multiple appearances of the election in Jewish prayer and its position in various places in liturgy show that receiving the Torah was considered as the election of Israel, and hint that this blessing was conceived as a "credo" during the generations.