AKDAMUT MILLIN (Heb. אַקְדָּמוּת מִלִּין; "Introduction"), opening words of an Aramaic poem by R. Meir b. Isaac Nehorai. The poem was recited in the synagogue on Shavuot as an introduction to the Aramaic translation (targum) of Exodus 19–20 (the theophany at Mount Sinai). Exodus 19:1 was read aloud in Hebrew, "Akdamut Millin" was then read, followed by the next few verses in the Hebrew, and after that the same verses in Aramaic. The remainder of the reading was finished in the same sequence: two to three verses of the Hebrew text followed by the Aramaic translation of the preceding verses. The recitation of "Akdamut Millin" now generally precedes the Reading of the Torah, in deference to the objections of later halakhic authorities against interrupting the Reading of the Torah (cf. Magen David to Sh. Ar., OḤ 494), particularly since it is no longer customary to read the Aramaic translation. The poem consists of 90 acrostic lines forming a double alphabet followed by the author's name. It praises God as creator and lawgiver, expatiates on Israel's fidelity to God despite all sufferings and temptations, and ends with a description of the apocalyptic events at the end of days and the future glory of Israel. The poem is recited in the Ashkenazi rite only. A similar work by the same author, introducing the reading of the Aramaic version of the Song of Moses (Ex. 15:1–10) on the seventh day of Passover, is found in some medieval manuscripts. "Akdamut Millin" has been translated into English in various prayer books, notably by Joseph Marcus (Silverman, Prayer, 185–8) and Raphael Loewe (Service of the Synagogue, London, 1954, 210). There are also several versions of the "Akdamut" in Hebrew (see Sefer ha-Mo'adim, 3 (1950), 141–4). A similar poem, "Yeẓiv Pitgam," is recited on the second day of Shavuot before the reading of the haftarah. In East European folk tradition the origin of the poem is connected with the widespread legend that R. Meir b. Isaac saved the Jewish community of Worms by invoking the help of a miraculous emissary of the Ten Lost Tribes from across the *Sambatyon. In many versions of the legend, extant in manuscripts and still alive in oral tradition, the hero is identified with R. *Meir Ba'al ha-Nes, and the "Akdamut" piyyut celebrates a victory over the Jew-baiters.
[Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt]
The poem has been given two musical settings which have become well-known in Ashkenazi synagogues. One of these can claim great antiquity by its psalmodic style of recitation; the simple but expressive declamation suits the narrative character of the poem. Its identity in the Western and Eastern branches of the Ashkenazi rite, and its use for the *Kiddush and other prayers, indicates its age. Another melody is found only in the West, and apparently is of a later date, although its motives were already incorporated in cantorial works of 1744 and 1796. Moreover, this second tune serves as a motto theme of the Feast of Weeks and is applied in the *Hallel, the *Priestly Blessing, and other prayer texts.
Davidson, Oẓar, 1 (1924), no. 7314; Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 191; Idelsohn, Music, 156; Fishman, in: Ha-Tor, 3, no. 25–26 (1923), 11; Zunz-Albeck, Derashot; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 151; J.-T. Lewinski, Sefer ha-Mo'adim, 3 (1950), 135–60; ZDMG, 54 (1900), 118; Rivkind, in: Yivo Filologische Schriftn, 3 (1929), 1–42, 599–605; M. Kosover and A.G. Duker, Minḥah le-Yiẓḥak (New York, 1949), no. 59. MUSIC: A. Friedmann, Der synagogale Gesang (1908), 80; Idelsohn, Melodien, 6, pt. 1 (1932), nos. 236, 247, 250, 255–7; EJ.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.