Siddur Ba-eir Hei-teiv --- The Transliterated Siddur

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Learn to sing Ashrei (Psalm145) Print E-mail
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All transliterations, commentary, and audio recordings are copyright © 1997, 1998, 2002, 2009, or 2016 by Jordan Lee Wagner. All rights reserved.

  • Here is the traditional chant for Ashrei (Psalm 145).


Each service is preceded by an introductory section whose main theme is praise. This is intended to get us into the proper mood for what follows.[i] It helps bridge the wide psychological gap between the active working world and the introspective world of prayer. The main ingredient in these sections are Psalms of praise.

Although the Musaf (Additional) Service for Shabbat is almost always performed on Saturday mornings without a break, it is technically a separate event from the daily Shacharit (morning) Service, so it has its own praise section.

Ashrei (Psalm 145) at Mincha and Musaf

At Mincha (the daily afternoon service) and at Shabbat Musaf (the extra service for Sabbath), the praise section consists of Ashrei. Ashrei consists of Psalm 145, prefaced by Psalm 84:5 & 144:15, and suffixed by Psalm 115:18. "Ashrei" means "happiness" or "good fortune." The first two sentences con­tain the word "ashrei" three times:
Oh the happiness of those that dwell in your house!
May they always praise you, selah!
The happiness of the nation for whom this is so!
The happiness of the nation whose god is HaShem!

The first sentence calls to mind the value of prayer and meditation to our psychological and spiritual well-being, while the second tempers the desire to spend one's life absorbed in contemplation, by hinting that progress to­ward real utopia requires taking what one learns in con­templation, and applying it to the daily trials of communal life.

The main theme of the remainder of Ashrei (which is Psalm 145) is that the needs of human soci­ety and of every living thing will then be taken care of. Ashrei is optimistic, inspiring social justice by citing areas where we can imitate the metaphoric behavior of God as described in the Psalm.

Ashrei is an acrostic on the Hebrew alphabet. (i.e., Each sentence starts with the next letter of the alphabet). Many prayers, Psalms, and hymns are structured this way. The use of every letter commmunicates a sense of completeness. In some contexts it is an indication that everything created -- from A to Z -- is good. In others it indicates that every human faculty is to be employed in divine service. In some cases such acrostic designs are just intended to facilitate memorization. But in Ashrei, the letter "nun" (corresponds to N) is missing, implying incompleteness. There is a traditional association between the letter "nun" and the destruction of the Temple, which gives meaning to the omission here as well as in other alphabetic acrostics.[ii]

Ashrei is often sung responsively (i.e., reader and congregation take turns singing alternate lines). The traditional chant is quite repetitive.[iii]

The Talmud[iv] deems it meritorious for each individual to recite Ashrei three times a day. So Ashrei is recited twice every morning and once every after­noon. The Mincha Praise Section accounts for one daily afternoon occurence. On Saturday only, the Musaf Praise Section provides one of the two daily morning occurences. We will encounter the other occurences of Ashrei later.[v]

[i] c.f., Mishnah 5:1, Talmud Berachot 32a.

[ii] The version found in the Dead Sea scrolls includes the missing line!

[iii] It can also be sung to the tune of Anim Z'mirot.

[iv] c.f., Berachot 4b.

[v] They are: the Verses of Praise in the daily Shacharit Praise Section, and Uva L'Tsion in the weekday Closing Section.

--- adapted from "The Synagogue Survival Kit" by Jordan Lee Wagner, publ. by Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 December 2009 15:21

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