The Bible in the Liturgy
Stefan C. Reif
For much of Judaism's history, one of its central means of liturgical expression has been the traditional rabbinic prayerbook or Siddur. The Siddur (understood in the sense of prayerbooks from many times and places) deserves close attention when considering the role of the Bible in Jewish religious thought and practice, since biblical texts figure prominently in it. While the reading, translation, and interpretation of biblical texts in the synagogue are also integral parts of Jewish liturgical practice, they receive attention elsewhere in this volume (see “The Bible in the Synagogue,” pp. 1929–37); this article concentrates on biblical texts found in the Jewish prayers.
The word siddur (“order”) refers to the established “order [of prayer]” in any prayerbook. Such “orders” were created from as early as the 9th century CE, and efforts to create a standard book continued during the succeeding centuries, but there is no “standard” Jewish prayerbook. Nevertheless, those in use contain certain common elements, and these form the basis of this discussion.
The prayers described here are those recited in the morning, afternoon, and evening on a daily basis. They consist primarily of the Shema (Deut. 6.4–9; 11.13–21; Num. 15.37–41 , recited morning and evening), with its introductory and concluding benedictions; the weekday ʿAmidah (“standing prayer”) with its nineteen benedictions of praise, entreaty, and thanksgiving; and a set of varied items that are prefixed and appended to these two central pieces. Brief reference is also made to the Sabbath and festival prayers, which abbreviate some of the central weekday prayer‐texts and expand others to take account of the special nature of these days, and to communal, domestic, and personal rituals that have gradually been incorporated into the medieval and modern liturgies. The essay focuses on how the rabbinic tradition relates to the Bible and how the prayerbooks of the various periods engaged the problem of this relationship. There are sections on the language and theology of the prayers vis‐à‐vis their biblical connections, and on some of the bestknown biblical passages included in the liturgy. The importance of mysticism and the needs of contemporary prayer also feature briefly.