Page:Annotated Edition of the Authorised Daily Prayer Book.djvu/23

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Introduction.

Amoraim, who compiled the Talmud in the fifth century of the current era. The Gaonim held sway in the Persian schools for several centuries, and the Gaon Amram, at about the year 870, prepared a Seder or Prayer Book, with which our present services are in general agreement in so far as the main elements of the liturgy are concerned. Nor does the antiquity of the Prayer Book end there. Many of the exact forms now in use are to be found in the pages of the Talmud itself, and (as will be indicated in the notes on the separate prayers) some go back to a far earlier date.

The Jewish liturgy, in fact, grew up while the second Temple still stood. There is no doubt but that the Synagogue system must have been established, at home as well as in the diaspora, soon after the return from the Babylonian exile. During the exile itself the Jews in Babylon must have met on Sabbaths for prayer and instruction. Ezra's reorganisation of the community included arrangements for the public reading of the Law and the regulation of congregational worship. In the Temple itself, besides the sacrifices brought by the priests, during some of which the penitent sinner made confession, there were songs and Psalms sung by the Levites, and prayers in which the Israelites joined. The passage from Deuteronomy, known from its first word as the Shema ("Hear, O Israel"), and the Ten Commandments, were recited daily in the Temple. The eighteen (or nineteen) benedictions known as "tephillah" (lit. prayer) were, in so far at least as the first three and the last three paragraphs, composed in pre-Maccabean times. Very early, too, are the passages which precede and follow the Shema, viz. the passage beginning With abounding love hast thou loved us which precedes the Shema, and the passage beginning True and firm...is this thy word which follows the Shema. Round this nucleus the service was built into the form in which it is now before us. The early association of public worship with the Temple influenced not only the hours at which the daily services are celebrated—corresponding as