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Creation of the World

Eternal Lord who reigned supreme
When no other beings had yet been created:
At the time when everything
was created by Your will
Then were You proclaimed “Ruler.” 

And when everything in the universe
will have ended
You will rule alone, in awesomeness.
You have been, You are
And You will be glorious. 

You are One: there is no other
To be compared to You or to be Your equal.
You have no beginning and no end;
Power and dominion are Yours. 

You are my God, my living Redeemer,
My Rock when I have pain and trouble.
You are my banner and my refuge,
The portion of my cup when I call upon You. 

Into Your hands I commit my spirit
Both when I’m asleep and when I’m awake;
And with my spirit, my body too:
Adonai, You are with me and I shall not fear. 

These five eloquent stanzas appear at the very beginning of the daily morning service, but are also chanted at the conclusion of Shabbat and festival services and recited (together with the Shema) as we prepare to go to bed at night. The fifth and final stanza is often recited at the bedside of one who is ill.

Adon Olam has been attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (approx. 1021-1058), one of the best-known of the medieval Jewish philosophers and liturgical poets. Because of its use in so many contexts, it has become one of our best-known and beloved prayers.

Adon Olam is remarkable for its juxtaposition of the transcendence and immanence of God. The first three stanzas speak of a transcendent Ruler who was there before our world ever existed, and who will rule in solitary grandeur long after our world is gone. But then the fourth and fifth stanzas go on to tell us most movingly of an immanent God who cares deeply about each one of us and to whom we turn in times of trouble and sorrow.

We are reminded of the very moving poem The Creation, by the late African-American poet James Weldon Johnson:

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.   Amen.

Listen to Adom Olam as composed by Uzi Hitman

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