EL MELEKH NE'EMAN (Heb. אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן; "God, faithful King"), an affirmation of faith pronounced before the recital of the *Shema. The rabbis interpreted the word *Amen as being composed of the initial letters of El Melekh Ne'eman (Shab. 119b). The phrase, however, is pronounced only in private prayer and not at public services where an interposition (even Amen) between Shema and the preceding benediction is omitted (according to some opinions) as an unlawful "interruption." A midrashic interpretation (Tanḥ, B., Lev. 74ff.) derives the custom of reciting El Melekh Ne'eman from the fact that the Shema consists of 245 words, and the phrase El Melekh Ne'eman brings the number up to 248, corresponding to that of the human limbs (cf. Ps. 35:10 "All my bones shall say: Lord, who is like unto Thee"). At public synagogue services where the ḥazzan repeats the last three words of the Shema aloud, the number of the words comes to 248 and the recital of El Melekh Ne'eman is therefore omitted (see Sh. Ar., OḤ 61:3).


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 21ff.; Eisenstein, Dinim, 16.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.