Rabbi Steinsaltz: “The number of words, or even the number of letters”


Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes:

In the late Middle Ages, books of Kabbalah begin to appear, originating from two different schools: Hassidei Ashkenaz (“the Pious Ones of Franco-Germany”) and Hakhmei Sefarad (“the Sages of Spain”).

Even in those days, such study was limited to a few small, closed groups, albeit it is possible to trace the influence of mystic thought on the prayer liturgy.

One indication of this influence is found in the various Piyyutim (liturgical poems) composed by these pious sages.

But its influence was felt primarily in emendations and revisions of the prayer text.

Various esoteric traditions relating to the number of words, or even the number of letters, in certain prayers and benedictions, as well as stylistic and linguistic details, were all directed by the mystic tradition and introduced into the fixed liturgical texts.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz


From  An Introduction to Jewish Prayer

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