The Architecture of Tefilah by Joel Robinson

Looking at the architecture of the Siddur has given me a better understanding of the thoughts that I am expressing in Tefilah. Hopefully, the thoughts that we are about to discuss will help you in the same way.

Let me point out that there are two views on the architecture of tefilah among the Poskim. Starting with the Avudraham and continuing through the Ashkenazic Shulchan Aruch, the concept of architecture within tefilah is less important.

The Gemara, the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon, the Nusach Ari used by Lubovitch and Rabbi Soloveitchik are more concerned with the architecture of tefilah. Therefore, most major differences between the siddurim used by the Ashkenazim on the one hand and by the Adot Hamizrach and Lubovitch on the other hand are architectural. The Ashkenazim being less concerned and the Adot Hamizrach and Lubovitch being more concerned. My personal opinion is that the Ashkenazim don’t care less. They just allowed the printers to be their Poskim more often than the Adot Hamizrach. Two examples are “V’shivchachah” in Kedushah and Mussaf Shabbat Rosh Chodesh.

Since Hebrew is not my native tongue, I found tefilah to be a series of syllables to be recited as fast as possible. Not being convinced that the purpose of tefilah was a race to the finish, I found that pursuing the architecture gave me an understanding of tefilah that the racing to the finish did not give.

I have chosen to discuss nine architectural concepts.

1. In the same way that protons, neutrons and electrons are the building blocks of matter, Brachot are the building blocks of Tefillah, the first architectural concept that I wish to discuss is the minimum Halachic requirements of what constitutes a Bracha (a blessing). In order for an element of prayer to have the characteristics in which it may be called a bracha, or a blessing, it must have the standard introduction of “Baruch” along with Shem and Malchut; Malchut being a definition of G-d’s Domain. As we will discuss in architectural point four, the physical words may be missing if the Shem and Malchut are “borrowed” from the first Bracha in the group.

Examples of where the followers and non-followers of the architecture go separate ways:

The Shma in Birchot Hashachar and Tefilat Haderech.

Rabbi Soloveitchik taught us that the appropriate translation of “Baruch,” the first word of a Bracha is “abundant.” The second word, “Atah” (You), defined that the individual praising G-d for his abundance was talking directly to G-d. The third word “Hashem” I am going to leave undefined for a number of reasons, but understand that without this appellation of G-d, the series of words under discussion does not constitute a Bracha. It may be a tefilah, but it is not a bracha.

The next word in every Bracha is “Elokeinu.” In my opinion most people don’t have a clue of the content of Jewish Prayer because “Elokeinu” is a key word throughout Jewish Prayer and most people are unaware of its meaning. The last syllable in the word “nun vav” means “our.” The rest of the word is two concepts intertwined (meshulav). Together with the last syllable, those two concepts are “Our King” and “Our Father.”

Most of us, fortunately, have never lived under a human king. Therefore, the concept of “King” is foreign to us. Understand that a king is the sole legislator of a society and the sole judge of his subjects’ behavior. That is the first part of “Elokeinu.” The second part of “Elokeinu” is “Our Father.” I don’t have to call and request an appointment to talk to “My Father.” Whenever I wish to talk to My Father, He is ready, willing and able to receive me.

I have just reviewed the first four words of every Bracha. The fifth and sixth words in all Brachot except for “the Amidah” are “King of the Universe.” In the Amidah, the words following “Elokeinu” are different, but in both cases define G-d’s Domain or Kingdom, starting with the word “Elokeinu.” In the Amidah, G-d’s Domain is described in much more Jewish terms, but of course, is an appropriate description of G-d’s Domain for the Amidah.

2., 3. & 4. Architectural points 2, 3 and 4 are the three types of Brachot from a constructional point of view:

Bracha Ketzara (a short Bracha), Bracha Arucha (a long Bracha), and Bracha S’mucha L’Chaverta (a Bracha which leans on (or borrows from) the first bracha in its group for Shem and Malchut).

A short Bracha is defined as a Bracha with only one theme, such as the blessing on an apple.

A long Bracha is a Bracha which has two or more themes, is generally multi-sentenced, (could be multi-paragraphed or even multi-paged) and closes with a sentence beginning with the three words: “Baruch Ata Hashem.” Each of the Brachot made by the Oleh to the Torah is a good example of a Bracha Arucha.

A Bracha which leans on another Bracha for Shem and Malchut is identical to a long Bracha except that the words which normally make up the Shem and Malchut of the Bracha are missing, because the leaning Bracha has a thematic or constructional connection, in addition to its proximate connection to the foundation Bracha, the first bracha in the group.

Although this last concept of a Bracha, Bracha Smucha L’Chaverta, seems somewhat obscure, it is one of the major tools for the construction of our Siddur. As you begin to look at the architecture of the Siddur, you will see how Chazal use this tool to join and to separate concepts.

I mentioned that in a Bracha Arucha or in a Bracha Smucha L’Chaverta, the last sentence begins with the three words: “Baruch Ata Hashem.” There is a converse rule to this. You must not use the phrase “Baruch Ata Hashem” at the end of a “paragraph” unless you have Shem and Malchut at the beginning, either on its own, or “leaning” on another Bracha for its Shem and Malchut.

(Bracha L’Vatolah: A Bracha stated for no apparent reason, just like the use of G-d’s name for no appparent reason, is forbidden.)

5., 6. & 7: Architectural points 5, 6 and 7 are the three themes upon which Chazal base our Tefilot.

5. G-d is the Creator of the Universe.

6. There is a special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, and

7. Geulah (Redemption).

8. In a long Bracha or in a Bracha which leans on another Bracha, the next to last phrase, or clause, must have the same theme as the closing sentence of the Bracha. The closing sentence, of course, begins with the words “Baruch Ata Hashem.”

9. “Call & Response” which applies to what is referred to as a “Dovor Shebikdushah,” Kedushah, Borchu, Kaddish and Zimun fit into this category.

The only place I can think of where all nine concepts appear together is Birkat Hamazon. The fourth Bracha of Birkat Hamazon (Hatov V’Hamaitiv) is a short Bracha (even though quite long in words). The first Bracha is a long Bracha. And the second and third Brachot are Brachot that lean on the first Bracha. As I mentioned earlier, in any group of Brachot that “lean” together, they all “lean” on the first Bracha in the Group.

In the first Bracha of Birkat Hamazon, we speak of the G-d the Sustainer. (For those of you who didn’t notice, Creation is an ongoing process.)

In the second Bracha, we speak of the wonderful gifts that G-d gave our Fathers. (Special relationship)

The third Bracha is the rebuilding of Jerusalem, Geulah or Redemption.

You can look for yourselves and see how architectural concepts 1, 8 & 9 are integrated as well into Birkat Hamazon.

I have already spoken about how the three concepts:

1. G-d the Creator

2. The special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, and

3. Geulah (Redemption)

are applied to the Brachot of Birkat Hamazon. Let’s look at some other examples.

The three Brachot of Shma in the morning and evening:

In the morning, the first Bracha is Yotzer Ham’orot, G-d is the Creator of light. In the evening, the first Bracha is “Hama’ariv arovim,” He Who brings on the evening. In both cases, G-d is the Creator.

The followers and non-followers of the architecture take slightly different routes here: Ohr Chadash in the morning and Kel Chai V’Kayom in the evening.

The second Bracha is Ahava Rabbah in the morning and Ahavat Olam in the evening, the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.

And the third Bracha, morning and evening is the Bracha of Geula. Notice that the Bracha of Geula starts with Shma itself. There is no Geula without accepting that G-d is King, my sole Legislator and my sole Judge. Notice that Shma itself uses Elokeinu and not Malkenu. G-d is not only my sole legislature and my sole judge, but my father, as well.

As we know, the three Amidot of Shabbat (not including Mussaf) are different from each other, the only day of the year that that is the case. Friday night, Vayechulu, Creation. Shabbat morning, G-d did not give the Shabbat to any other nation. (Special relationship). Shabbat afternoon, You are One and Your name is One (Geulah, Redemption).

With this background knowledge of these architectural concepts in mind, let’s examine an example of how this affects Chazal’s decisions in its compilation of the Siddur.

I once heard Rabbi Soloveitchik explain that most people think that only the first two lines of Kedushah, i.e. the quotation from Isaiah quoting the angels “Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh...(Isaiah 6,3) and the quotation from Yechezkel quoting the angels “Boruch Kvod...” (Yechezkel 3,12) are in the Kedushah of the Brachot of Shma in the morning. He explained that this is not the case.

The third line of Kedushah is in the Brachot of Shma in the morning. It is not in the first Bracha, where the two aforementioned quotations are found because the two aforementioned quotations are statements of the angels exalting G-d, the Creator, and therefore are located in the Bracha which deals with G-d the Creator. The third line of Kedushah, “Hashem Yimloch L’olam Vo-ed” is a statement of Geulah, and therefore appears in the Bracha of Geulah (several pages later).

You might ask a very legitimate question: “Why is the third line of Kedushah in the Brachot of Shma a different quotation than the third line of Kedushah in Chazorat Hashatz. The third line there “Yimloch Hashem...” comes from Psalms 146, 10. Hashem Yimloch in the Shma Brachot comes from the Song of Moshe after the crossing of the Red Sea in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 15, verse 18.

(The Ashkenazic Siddur follows the Avudraham and the Rama where the third line of Kedushah does not “exist” in the Brochot of Shma and is a quotation from Psalms in the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz because it is anti-climactic. I would like to explain what I believe the Rav felt, namely that the third line of Kedushah is the climax.)

The first two quotations in Kedushah are the two prophets Isaiah and Yechezkel quoting the angels. Since the angels’ only relationship with G-d is as the Creator, these two quotations are praises of G-d the Creator.

But the third line of Kedushah is the crescendo, the climax of Kedushah, our response to the angels, which is a statement of Geulah. To be the climax of Isaiah and Yechezkel quoting the angels, we would anticipate a quotation from at least the Kedushah of Neviim, and preferably a quotation that would have the Kedushah of Chumash.

In the Brachot of Shma, that is precisely what we do have. And in the Kedushah of Uva L’Zion that is precisely what we have. In fact, in Uvo L’Zion it is more obvious becuase we respond - according to the Rav - with Hashem Yimloch upon receiving the invitation to respond which is the Aramaic of Baruch K’Vod. (The Avudraham, the Rama and the Ashkenazim specifically instruct the Chazan not to use the Aramaic of Boruch Kvod as an invitation to respond, because they do not wish to have Hashem Yimloch be the conclusion of Kedushah.)

It is in the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz that we are surprised to see that the climax of Kedushah is a quotation from Psalms, from Ketuvim. If you look closely at the Kedushah of Shma and the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz, you will see why. The Kedushah of Shma appears in the Brachot of Shma in which we have all three themes: G-d is the Creator, Yotzer Hamorot, The special relationship between G-d and the Jewish People, Ahava Rabbah and Geulah in the third Bracha.

In the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz, we are missing the middle theme, the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish People. Therefore, Chazal accepted as a compromise that the climactic statement would come from Ketuvim, even though it has a lower level of Kedushah than Neviim, because it included both the declaration that G-d will be King as well as the special relationship aspect with the two words “Elokaich Zion,” which are not in the quotation from Chumash.

Permit me to answer this same question (How can Hashem Yimloch from T’hilim be the climax to Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh and Boruch Kvod?) by taking a different architectural route to the answer. The question is why did Chazal allow a sentence from Tehilim - with its lower level of Kedusha - be the climax to the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz. In the first answer, we saw that we were missing the middle theme - the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. Therefore, Chazal accepted a sentence from Tehillim that included that missing theme (of the special relationship beteen G-d and the Jewish people) as well as the Geulah theme.

But, let’s look at the Malchut of the Bracha of the Amidah, of which Kedushah is the climax. The Malchut of each Bracha in the Amidah is not Melech Haolam, the King of the Universe, i.e. the Creator. The Malchut of each Bracha of the Amidah is the Elokei Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov. The Malchut of each Bracha of the Amidah is the Special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.

We learned from the Vilna Gaon that Kedushah is Call and Response. The climax of Kedushah, which is the climax of Tefilah wants to reflect G-d’s domain - Elokei Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov - within that framework of the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish People. Therefore, the sentence from Tehilim which includes that special relationship while declaring G-d to be King, Geulah.

Therefore for this architectural reason as well, Chazal were prepared to accept as a compromise a quotation from T’hilim to be the climax of the Kedushah of Chazorat Hashatz.

If we have time after some questions and answers, I would like to compare the application of these 9 architectural principals in the Ashlenazic siddur to other siddurim, the Nusach Ari siddur as used by Lubavitch, the Munkatch siddur, the general siddur of the Adot Hamizrach, and the Italian and Yemenite siddurim. Especially the Bracha for the rebuilding of Jerusalem in the Amidah.

Some subjects for discussion:

1. In the first paragraph of the Amidah, after the phrase “Gomail Chasodim Tovim,” The Ashkenazic siddur (including the Nusach Sfard siddur of the Ashkenazim) precedes the phrase “Konai Hacol” with the Hebrew letter “Vav.” The Sephardic (Adot Hamizrach) siddurim, the Nusach Ari used by Lubavitch and the Munkatch do not have a Vav there. Based on the architectural principals that we have discussed, why do they prefer not to have the Vav?

2. Why is the construction of Hallel, which begins with “Baruch Ata Hashem...Likro et Hahallel” and ending (several pages later) with “Baruch Ata Hashem Melech M’hulal Batishbachot” similar to the construction of Sfirat Haomer and not similar in construction to the section in Shacharit which begins: “Baruch Ata Hashem...Yotzer Or Uvorai Choshech Oseh Shalom Uvorai et Hacol” and which ends (several pages later) with “Baruch Ata Hashem Yotzer Ham’orot?”

3. In an ordinary weekday, when one says 100 Brachot, which Malchut is used more often?

4. In an ordinary weekday, when one says 100 Brachot, which constructional bracha is used more, Bracha Ketzara, Bracha Aruka or Bracha Smucha Lechaverta?

5. Where are the “Stops” in the Kedushah of Mussaf of Shabbat? And why?

6. What do the first Shma in the morning and Tefillat Haderech have in common? (Hint: Elokai Neshama seems to have the same thing in common, but really doesn’t.)

7. Where in the Siddur do many Chazanim say something out loud that they should not and why should it not be said out loud?

8. According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, what do most chazanim not say out loud that they should say out loud? No connection to the architecture, but connected to concepts of tefilah.

9. Why do the Adot hamizrach and the Nusach Ari of Lubavitch not say the three words “Zecher L’Maaseh Breishit” in the Amidah of Shabbat morning?