Angels / Middle Ages / Minhag / Shavuot


The famous poem (Piyut) AKDAMUT is being read in Ashkenazi Synagogues on the first day of Shavuot. In the 11th century, Rabbi Me’ir ben Yitzchak wrote the poem in rather difficult Aramaic.
The background of Rabbi Me’ir writing Akdamut: In a certain country further away, a Christian priest was bashing the Jews before the King. The priest claimed that the Jews are evil and don’t believe in Joshke. In order to prove the Jews wrong, the priest demanded a public discussion. 
Rabbi Me’ir heard about this specific Jewish community in a foreign country. The community was in danger and Rabbi Me’ir sent out a representative who would participate in the discussion with the priest. For this purpose, Rabbi Me’ir composed Akdamut and gave it in writing to the representative so that he can praise G – d on his way to this community.
Everything worked out fine and the representative convinced the King not to destroy the Jews living in his country. The priest, however, was proven wrong. 
Akdamut consists of 90 verses. It says that Rabbi Me’ir ben Yitzchak deliberately composed it in Aramaic because he wanted to make sure that the Angels don’t understand it. Otherwise, they may have become jealous that the Jews have such a great way of praising G – d and the Angels maybe don’t. The Talmud teaches that Angels don’t understand Aramaic.
The verses of Akdamut are kept in alphabetic order. Each verse concludes with the suffix T A, the last and the first letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Stressing that the cycle of Torah study is endless. As soon as someone completes the entire Torah, he should start all over again. 
The first Akdamut verse
The origin of Akdamut
On the Minhag of Akdamut
More details on Shavuot

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