Ani Maamin 05

30 Aug 2006

Fifth of the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith laid down by the Rambam in the twelfth century, and the fifth and last of the five principles relating to the Existence and Nature of G-d:

“I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name – to Him Alone is it proper to pray, and it is not proper to pray to any other.”

In the “Aseret HaDibrot,” the Ten Utterances, the Second Command begins:

“You shall not have the gods of others in My Presence. You shall not make for yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not bow down to them nor worship them, for I am HaShem, your G-d…” (Shemot 20:3-5)

In “Mishneh Torah,” the magnum opus of the Rambam, his compilation of Jewish Law, he begins the description of the evolution of Prayer at the beginning of “Hilchot Tefilah,” the Laws of Prayer:

“It is a Positive Command to pray every day, as it says, ‘You shall serve HaShem, your G-d.’ From the Tradition it was derived that the ‘Service’ referred to here is ‘Prayer,’ as it says, ‘…and to serve Him with all your heart…’ and the Sages said, ‘What is service of the heart? That is Prayer’… The obligation of this Law is as follows: That a person should plead and pray each day, and he or she should pronounce the Praise of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and afterwards they should request the fulfillment of their needs with an attitude of supplication. After that, they should express their gratitude to HaShem for all the Blessings that He had showered upon them in the past, each individual according to his ability…”

“And so it was from the time of Moshe Rabbeinu until the time of Ezra. When the People of Israel went into Exile at the hands of Nevuchadnezzar the Wicked (of Babylon), they became assimilated as well with Persia and Greece and the other nations…and they lost the ability to speak in Hebrew… and they were unable to ask for their needs properly or to praise the Holy One, Blessed is He, in the Holy Tongue. Once Ezra and his court perceived this situation, they enacted for the People the “Eighteen Blessings” in proper sequence: the first three, Praise of HaShem and the last three, expressions of Gratitude to HaShem, and the middle ones General Requests that every human being and the community would need to make…” (“Hilchot Tefilah” 1:1-4)

In the Prayer of “Aleinu,” recited at the end of every Prayer in the Jewish liturgy, we find the following:

“… for they bow down to emptiness and vanity, and pray to a god who cannot save them. But we bend our knees, bow down and acknowledge the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He…”

The poetic rendering of this Principle in “Yigdal” is as follows:

“Behold! He is Master of the Universe to every creature; He demonstrates His greatness and His Kingship.”

Here too, as well as in the previous stanza, corresponding to the fourth “Ani-Maamin”, there is some disconnect between the Principle and the stanza, for while it is true by implication that it only makes sense to pray to the Master of the Universe, Who controls all events on earth, not an explicit word concerning prayer appears in the stanza.