The Kiddush recited on Erev Shavuot uses
the same melody as on the other Festivals (Pesach and Sukkot). The
source of the melody (in the Ashkenazic tradition, at least) is the
tune used to chant Akdamut (see below). Since Shavuot is centered on
the revelation of the Torah, and the Festivals are commanded by God in
the Torah, using the melody provides a thematic throughline connecting all
three of the Shalosh Regalim
together. Appropriately, the same melody makes a third appearance in the musical calendar -- as the tune used when the Chatan Torah
and Chatan B'reshit
are called for their aliyot on Simchat Torah.
The links below are for when Shavuot occurs on a weekday, as it does this year (5772).
Text and transliteration of Kiddush for Erev Shavuot
Recording of Kiddush for Erev Shavuot
Shavuot celebrates God’s gift of Torah
to the Jewish people. On the first day of Shavuot, the Ten
Commandments, or Ten Statements, are the focus of the Torah reading and thus
represent the entire revelation of Torah. The first line of this
special poem, akdamut milin
(introductory words) describe the poem’s purpose -- to introduce the words of the Ten Commandments.
In the complete 90 line poem, Akdamut praises God as the Creator of the
world, highlighting the inadequacy of any mortal attempt at such
praise. The angels join in praise of the Creator, yet wondrous and
respectful as angels are, the praise of Israel is far more precious to
God. The people Israel have been enticed to join others in idolotry,
but maintain their loyalty to God and Jewish tradition, anticipating
the time when they will enjoy the rewards of being in His presence. All
of us, the poet concludes, will be able to merit and enjoy that
splendor by fulfilling the “Ten Words,”, the words that embody God’s
gift of Torah, which we are about to read.
Akdamut was written in Aramaic by Rabbi Meir ben Isaac Nehorai
(c.1030-c.1096) of Worms, Germany. Rabbi Meir is known to have been a
great scholar and a Hazzan, as well as the author of many liturgical
poems and prayers, most of which have been lost. Rashi (Rabbi Solomon
ben Isaac, 1040-1105), the well-known commentator on Tanach and Talmud,
quoted Rabbi Meir frequently in his works.
Originally, whenever the Torah was read publicly, the reading was then
translated into Aramaic so that the congregation could better
understand what had been read. Long after this custom ceased to be
commonplace, the practice of translating the Ten Commandments into
Aramaic following their reading in Hebrew endured. It is likely this
tradition which influenced Rabbi Meir to compose Akdamut in Aramaic.
The poem is written in acrostic, first running through the alef-bet in
couplets, followed by "Rabbi Meir Ben Yitzchak may he grow
to Torah and good deeds, amen, be strong and have courage."
Ordinarily, Akdamut is sung responsively, using a traditional melody,
by the Reader and congregation. We will be doing an abbreviated
version, in unison.
If you'd like to brush up on your Akdamut prior to Shavuot, here are
links to the version of the text we'll be singing, as well as a
recording so you can practice and amaze your friends.
Text, transliteration, and translation of Akdamut at HERJC
Recording of Akdamut at HERJC