Page:Annotated Edition of the Authorised Daily Prayer Book.djvu/28

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Historical and Explanatory Notes.

and also to the Spanish Jewish poet Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021-1070). With regard to both Yigdal and Adon Olam the texts vary considerably in the different editions and MSS. Moreover the Sephardim have one extra line in Yigdal and two or more extra lines in Adon Olam.

The charm of Adon Olam consists in the subtle manner in which Jewish dogmatics are associated with the simplest spiritual thoughts. In the first four lines we have a picture of God, the eternal Lord, existing before the creation of the world, existing still when the world shall cease to be. Between the eternal past and the eternal future comes the world of time. This is purely Jewish dogmatics. Aristotle held that the world was eternal, Judaism that it was created. It is God alone who is eternal. Further, Judaism conceives of God as Something apart from, outside of, his world. He transcends man and the universe. Yet God is also immanent; he dwells within the human soul as well as within the world. God is not one with man but akin to man; he is high above the world, yet nigh unto them that call upon him. The God who exists for ever is proclaimed King when men acknowledge his Kingship and show him the allegiance of worship and obedience. The God who stands high above creation is the One into whose hand man commits himself without fear. The Majestic King is also the Redeemer. The transcendent God is a Refuge in man's distress. He does not merely raise a banner, he is the Banner; he does not only hold out the cup of salvation, he is the consummate Cup.

The concluding section of the hymn, Into his hand I commend my spirit, has led to the suggestion that Adon Olam is a night prayer, and it is very probable that this is the case. In some liturgies, the only occasions on which Adon Olam is sung are certain solemn evenings, such as the Eve of the Day of Atonement. Many Jews recite Adon Olam every night, just before retiring to rest, and the habit is a very good one. So, too, Adon Olam is the hymn used at the death-bed. The soul falls asleep cheered by these words of simple