Rav was the first to institute the Aleinu into the service. However, other Jews believe the prophet Joshua wrote the prayer after conquering Jericho , signifying the Israelites as a superior nation among nations. This is symbolic of bowing to God and being humbled in his presence. Many different sects within Judaism have eliminated various verses in the prayer over time.
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Click here for the text of the Aleinu in Hebrew and English. Both paragraphs of Aleinu are recited in a standing position. Though the second paragraph of Aleinu expresses a harmonious vision of collective recognition of God, Aleinu has caused a fair bit of discord at various points in history.
Some synagogues were even constructed with special spittoons in their pews, designated for this part of the service. In other cases, Jews took it upon themselves to omit this line, probably out of fear that including it would incite further Christian persecution. As the line fell out of use, so did the custom of spitting.
Today, many Jews, including some Orthodox Jews, still omit the reference and the spit. The Prophet Joshua is traditionally considered the author of Aleinu. Most scholars, however, credit Rav , a third century Babylonian sage, with writing Aleinu. Aleinu got its start in Jewish liturgy as the opening of the malkhuyot section of the Rosh Hashanah musaf liturgy, in which Jews declare God to be their Sovereign. This entire section of liturgy is attributed to Rav, including Aleinu. Israel Ta-Shma, a scholar of Jewish history who taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 20th century, noted a French version of Aleinu, preserved in a 12th-century English manuscript.
It seems from this text that some Jews in medieval France modified the text of Aleinu to reflect their experiences. This version of Aleinu is the exception that proves the rule: The text of Aleinu did not and does not refer to Christians.
Modern Jews also have tackled the difficult language of Aleinu. Early Reform prayer books in Europe and America omitted the prayer entirely.
The English is translated euphemistically to avoid potentially offensive ideology being expressed by the worshipper. Many Masters of the Torah died at the stake [and] the death of the saints was accompanied by a solemn song resounding through the stillness of the night, causing the Churchmen who heard it from afar to wonder at the melodious strains, the like of which they had never heard before. It was ascertained afterwards that the martyred saints had made use of the Aleinu as their dying song.
But this story does illustrate that Aleinu was an important and well-known prayer, as early as the 12th century. Pronounced: ah-LAY-new, Origin: Hebrew, it is the name of a prayer that marks the end of all three daily prayer services.
Aleinu - עָלֵינוּ
Biblical Garden Blog. Here's To Your Health! Aleinu Click here to return to the B'nei Mitzvah page. Click here to go back to the Blessing after the Haftarah Reading. Click here to go forward to Ein K'Eloheinu. Mishkan T'filah, pages second paragraph , and We sing the Aleinu close to the end of every service.
Jewish Prayers: Aleinu
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עלינו | Aleinu, interpretive translation by Joshua Gutoff
Click on the header row and drag the column where you want. Click here for an animated GIF showing the process. Rabbi Josh Gutoff, Ed. Following his ordination and his five years as a pulpit rabbi, Dr. Gutoff was the executive director of Hillel at the University of Minnesota, a Jewish chaplain and philosophy instructor at C. He is also the author of a number of widely read articles on Jewish thought. Professor Gutoff holds a B.