Aleinu - V'neemar (chanted)

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Aleinu (Hebrew: עָלֵינוּ, "it is our duty") or Aleinu leshabei'ach ("[it is] our duty to praise [God]"), meaning "it is upon us or it is our obligation or duty to praise God," is a Jewish prayer found in the siddur, the classical Jewish prayerbook. It is recited at the end of each of the three daily Jewish services. It is also recited following the New Moon blessing and after a circumcision is performed. It is second only to the Kaddish (counting all its forms) as the most frequently recited prayer in current synagogue liturgy.

A folkloric tradition attributes this prayer to the biblical Joshua at the time of his conquest of Jericho. This might have been inspired by the fact that the first letters of the first four verses spell, in reverse, Hoshea, which was the childhood name of Joshua (Numbers 13:16). Another attribution is to the Men of the Great Assembly, during the period of the Second Temple. An early - that is, pre-Christian - origin of the prayer is evidenced by its explicit mention of bowing and kneeling - practices associated with the Temple, and its non-mention of exile or a desire to restore Israel or the Temple.

Its first appearance is the manuscript of the Rosh Hashana liturgy by the Talmudic sage Rav (Rabbi Abba Arikha, died 247), who lived in Babylonia (Persia). He included it in the Rosh Hashana mussaf service as a prologue to the Kingship portion of the Amidah. For that reason some attribute to Rav the authorship, or at least the revising, of Aleinu. Its inclusion at the end of the three daily services throughout the year is first mentioned by Eleazar Rokeach (also known as Eleazar of Worms or Eleazar ben Kalonymus, died 1237).

In Blois, France, in 1171, many Jews - reportedly 34 men and 17 women - were burned at the stake for refusing to renounce their faith. They went to the deaths bravely singing Aleinu to a "soul-stirring" melody, which astonished their executioners. This act of martyrdom may have inspired the adoption of Aleinu into the daily liturgy. There was a medieval document ascribed to Hai Gaon (Rabbi Hai ben-Sherira, died 1038, Gaon of Pumbedita), purporting to be his letter describing the daily recitation of Aleinu approximately 150 years earlier than the martyrdom in Blois, but by the 19th century this document was identified as a forgery and there is persuasive evidence that it was fabricated by Moses de Leon (died 1305).

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