Two Anthem-Like Views of What Judaism Boils Down To

The two great liturgical songs of Yigdal and Adon Olam offer rival attempts to summarize the essence of Judaism.


A father and son praying. Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
A father and son praying. Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.
Atar Hadari
Observation
June 8 2017
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


Two great liturgical songs perch together in the early pages of the daily prayer book. Most often recited at the end rather than at the beginning of the service, they represent rival attempts to summarize Judaism under a single handy rubric. Since, in both cases, the history behind the rubric is not so simple, looking at where each came from and what it draws upon can tell us a great deal about both Judaism and Jewish liturgy.

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