The tefilah of Adon Olam has been given much prominence. It was placed at the start of our daily Shacharis tefilah, it is recited by many nightly before going to bed, and we begin our Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur tefilos in the morning using a special nusach for this inspiring tefilah. In effect, we start and end our day with Adon Olam every day of the year and give it even more attention on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Interestingly, the exact origin of Adon Olam is not clearly known. It was either formulated by the Geonim (who preceded the Rishonim) or by HaRav Shlomo Ibn Gabirol, who lived at the end of the Geonic period or at the start of the Rishonim period.
The “Mateh Moshe writes in the name of Rabbi Yehudah HeChasid, Rav Hai Gaon, and Rav Sherira Gaon that anyone who concentrates at the beginning of Adon Olam is guaranteed that his tefilah will be accepted.” [Pathway to Prayer, HaRav Mayer Birnbaum]
“When the mal’ach Michael hears this tefilah, writes Rav Yaakov Rekach, he brings it before Hashem.” [Arise and Sing, Rabbi Yisroel Besser, ArtScroll]
What is it about this tefilah that makes it so outstanding and significant?
HaRav Pinchas of Polotsk (1747-1823) authored a commentary on the Siddur titled Maggid Tzedek. He brought it to the Vilna Gaon for a haskamah. The Gaon opened it and read just one thought, but he was so impressed by it that he immediately gave his approbation, saying that the entire commentary was worth it if only for this single explanation.
What was the insight that so impressed the Gra? Rav Pinchas suggested that we begin Tefilas Shacharis with the tefilah of Adon Olam because Shacharis was instituted by Avraham Avinu, who was the first to call Hashem “Adon–Master” (B’rachos 7b).
The question that we will, b’ezras Hashem, address in the next segment is: What was the novelty of Avraham Avinu calling Hashem “Adon”?
What did he discover that those before him, like M’sushelach, Noach, and Shem, did not know?
Even though it is nice to connect Adon Olam to Shacharis through Avraham Avinu, what is so earth-shattering about this connection and what it truly means, that it warrants all the prominence and all that has been quoted about this powerful tefilah, and that caused the Vilna Gaon to be so impressed? HaRav Shimon Schwab in Rav Schwab on Prayer [ArtScroll] answers these questions with a beautiful and crucially important message, which Adon Olam conveys to us, and of which we must remind ourselves daily, at the start and end of our day. What is that message? See if you can focus more on Adon Olam this coming week and contemplate what message you feel this powerful tefilah delivers to you each day (and evening if you say it at night). Then, stay tuned for the next segment, b’ezras Hashem.
To access print versions of previous Tefilah segments, please visit OU Torah’s Search portal, select the Topic of “Tefillah,” and then select “Weekly Tefilah Focus” from the Series list.
For Rabbi Mordechai Finkelman’s video and audio shiurim, which are based on our Tefilah Focus segments but also include his insightful and inspiring additions, please visit www.TorahAnytime.com or simply search for “TorahAnytime Rabbi Finkelman.”
You can direct any questions or comments to Eliezer Szrolovits at 917-551-0150.