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Shakespeare and Shabbos, or Davening as Drama Part I

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07.12.2021

It seems incongruous that Shakespeare, who created the character Shylock, could have any relationship with Shabbos or davening. Let us keep in mind that we are examining only structure, not content. In this first part of a two-part essay, we explore the possibility that the structure of the Shabbos prayers corresponds to the five-part/five-act structure of Shakespearian drama.

We begin by noting that the central prayer of the Musaf Amidah, from Tikanta Shabbos to az misinai nitstavu alecha, constitutes a rare reverse acrostic, the first line beginning with the letter tof and the last beginning with aleph. This leads to a question of the significance of such an unusual construction.

My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, Volume 10, edited by Lawrence A. Hoffman says that the reverse acrostic”…[a]ccording to Siddur Rashi, Machzor Vitry, and Sefer HaPardes, hints at messianic redemption that will come through the merit of observing Shabbat…”,while Images of Prayer: An Art Siddur for Shabbat Morning by Arlene Frimark] elaborates further:

“It [Kedushat Hayom] is written in the form of a reverse acrostic, beginning with tav, the last letter of the aleph-bet. Doing so mystically alludes to the concept of a complete cycle: Creation, Revelation, Redemption, and the final return to the Source of all creation. The prayer first addresses Shabbat, the day where one may experience a taste of the World to Come in this life, and then a future time in which we will lovingly bring offerings to the Temple as our ancestors did. …. The prayer ends by recalling Shabbat as a day of delight, G-d’s gift of a day of complete peace, rest, and renewal; as it says, ‘G-d set apart the seventh day as the most desirable remembrance of creation.’”

In contrast to the reverse acrostic in the Musaf Amidah, the Shacharis service contains a forward acrostic shortly before the Shema. [Art Scroll Siddur, p. 410] This........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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