S'u sh'arim (Charles Davidson) 01:58
Havu godel leloheinu (Charles Davidson) 01:17
Sh'ma yisra'el (Charles Davidson) 00:55
Gadlu adonai iti (Charles Davidson) 00:36
Hodo al eretz (Charles Davidson) 00:39
Torat adonai t'mima (Samuel Adler) 01:12
Etz ḥayyim hi (Abraham Wolf Binder) 03:26

Liner Notes

The common designation “Torah service” refers to the section of the synagogue worship format that encompasses the readings or cantillations of portions of the Holy Scriptures, as assigned by the Hebrew calendar: the Torah and the haftara—or excerpts from the biblical Prophets—together with their accompanying b’rakhot. The Torah service also includes the surrounding introductory and concluding liturgy in connection with removing the Torah scroll(s) from the ark and replacing them. These occasions include all Sabbath, Festival, High Holy Day, and weekday Rosh Ḥodesh (the New Month) morning services, as well as the Sabbath afternoon service (minḥa l’shabbat). In some Reform congregations, especially those that do not—or are unable to—conduct viable Sabbath morning services, a Torah service is included within the Sabbath eve service. This remains a matter of choice by individual congregations.

Most of the Torah service liturgy is drawn from various books and verses of the Hebrew Bible. A few elements have their origins in sources such as the Zohar and various liturgical authors.

In traditional morning synagogue services, the Torah service in effect punctuates the shaḥarit (morning) and musaf (“additional”) services and liturgies. It commences following the cantor’s intoned repetition of the communally and silently recited shaḥaritamida)—the statutory core liturgy—and its culminating kaddish recitation (the full kaddish version, or kaddish shalem). Indeed, among the functions of kaddish recitations are their roles as conclusions to services and as dividers between liturgical sections. In most prayerbooks, however, the Torah service appears as the final part or at the end of the shaḥarit service. In Reform practice—which early on eliminated musaf and in its place incorporated some of its elements into the single morning service for Sabbaths, Festivals, and High Holy Days—the abridged and partially revised Torah service traditionally occurs just prior to the sermon and the conclusion of worship.

The principal components of the traditional Sabbath morning Torah service are:

I. SEDER HOTZA’AT HATORA—Service (liturgical order) for removing the Torah scroll(s) from the ark.

Ein kamokha va’elohim adonai ....
(Psalms; Numbers; Isaiah)
There is none like or equal to adonai, God, among the mighty
[among the gods worshipped by various other peoples]....

Av haraḥamim hetiva virtzonkha et tziyon....
(Psalm 51)
Father of compassion, may it be your will to favor Zion [with
you goodness and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem....]

Upon opening the ark:
Vay'hi binso'a ha'aron vayomer moshe ...
ki mitziyon tetze tora...

(Numbers; Isaiah)

Whenever the ark set out [in the wilderness], Moses said...
for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth...
B'rikh sh'mei d'marei alma...
Blessed be Your name, Sovereign of the universe...

Sh'ma yisroel ... eḥad eloheinu... gad'lu
ladonai iti...

(Deuteronomy; Psalm 34)
Listen and exclusive is our God, adonai...
Magnify and exalt the Lord, adonai, together with me...

Procession with the Torah scrolls:
L'kha adonai hag'dula...

(Psalms 34 and
99; I Chronicles)

Yours, adonai, is the greatness and the power...
Av haraḥamim hu y’raḥem ....    May the Father of compassion haver mercy upon the people....

II. SCRIPTURAL READINGS and their surrounding b’rakhot, followed by various collective or community-centered prayers as applicable:

Prayer for scholars

Prayer for the people Israel (and, since 1948, for the State of Israel)

Prayer for the congregation

Prayer in advance of the New Month during the coming week (seder birkat haḥodesh)

Prayer for the government and the welfare of its leaders

Martyrology: av haraḥamim shokhen m'romim (omitted on certain Sabbaths)


III. Ashrei (from Psalms 84, 144, 145, and 115)

IV. SEDER HAKHNISAT HATORA—Returning the Torah scroll(s) to the ark.

Y’hal’lu et shem adonai ....
(Psalms 148)                                            
Let them praise the name of the Lord, adonai....
Hodo al eretz....
(Psalm 148)
His glory is above the earth....
Return procession:
Havu ladonai b'nei elim ...
(Ps. 29)
Ministering angels, ascribe to the Lord, adonai, glory and power
Uv'nukho yomarr... etz ḥayyim hi...
hashivenu adonai elekha...
(Numbers, Psalms, Proverbs,
When the ark came to rest [in the wilderness], Moses would say....
It is a tree of life for those commited to it.... Turn us back to you,
adonai... Renew our days as of old

The Union Prayerbook—which, at the time of the composition of the settings included in this recording, was still the prevalent prayerbook among Reform congregations throughout the United States—contains a modified version of the traditional Torah service. In some cases the texts are merely abbreviated or emended. In one case the text gad’lu ladonai iti was moved from its original place in the traditional order—the introduction to the initial procession of Torah scrolls and their placement on the bima prior to the reading—to the commencement of the return of the scrolls to the ark following the haftara reading. And for the introduction to the Torah service, ein kamokha was replaced with a Psalm text that is used in the traditional service for the return procession on Festivals and High Holy Days when they occur on weekdays: s’u sh’arim (from Psalm 124). In addition, a few biblically based texts or bits of text that are not part of the traditional Torah service were included in the Union Prayerbook’s version: havu godel leloheinu ut’nu khavod latora, which is a combination of a quotation from Deuteronomy 32:3 and an adaptation from Jeremiah 13:16; bet ya’akov l’khu v’nelkha b’or adonai (Isaiah 2:5); and torat adonai t’mima m’shivat nefesh (Psalm 19:8).

The components and order of the Sabbath morning Torah service in the Union Prayerbook—and thus in typical American Reform worship of at least the first six decades of the 20th century—are as follows:


S'u sh'arim                                              
Lift your locks, O gates [that the King of glory may enter].
Havu godel leloheinu....
Let us declare God's greatness....
Bet ya'kov l'khu v'nelkha...
House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Sh'ma yisra'el....
(abbreviated version of the
traditional Torah service
sh'ma yisra'el)
Listen, Israel! [adonai is our God, the only God. The essence of unity
and oneness].

L'kha adonai hag'dula....
(abbreviated version of the
traditional text)
Yours, adonai, is the greatness and the power...

II. SCRIPTURAL READINGS, surrounded by their b’rakhot and followed by “Prayers for special occasions,” including “announcements of the New Moon” in the coming week (English reading), and prayers in English for the community, the congregational leadership, the country or nation of the congregation, and the welfare of the government and its leaders.


Gad'lu ladonai iti....       
Magnify and exalt the Lord....
Hodo al eretz
(abbreviated version of
Psalm 129)
His glory is above the earth....
Torat adonai t'mimo....
The law of the Lord is perfect....
Etz ḥayyim hi ...
(abbreviated version of
the full traiditional text)
It is a tree of life..

In the modern era, beginning with the groundbreaking work of Salomon Sulzer in Vienna (1804–1990) and Louis Lewandowski in Berlin, synagogue composers throughout the Ashkenazi world have created artistic settings of the principal texts of the Torah service for cantor and four-part choir—both a cappella and with organ accompaniment. From about the 1940s on, a number of American composers have written structurally unified and conceptually self-contained Torah services as single, multi-movement works. These range from functional synagogue music intended primarily for worship to sophisticated works equally suitable for concert performance—such as one by Yehudi Wyner, which, in its full version, features orchestral accompaniment.

The composite Torah service recorded for the Milken Archive—a service geared to Reform worship—draws on individual settings by three composers: Charles Davidson, Samuel Adler, and Abraham Wolf Binder.

S’u sh’arim, Havu godel leloheinu, Sh’ma yisroel, Gad’lu ladonai iti, andHodo al eretz are all from Davidson’s rhythmically inventive A Modern Torah Service, which was commissioned by the White Plains (New York) Jewish Center and completed in 1966. It reflects the composer’s interest at that time in fluid inner harmonic schemes, along with some subtle investment of Hassidic flavors. These settings incorporate some bossa nova rhythmic patterns, and engaging syncopation is pervasive.

Adler’s setting of Torat adonai t’mimo, excerpted from his Sabbath service B’sha’arei T’filla, offers a more classically conceived meditative bridge to the conclusion. It is appropriately infused with the spirit of biblical cantillation, which is nonetheless stylized within a loose metrical framework. Yet the deliberately simple chord progressions in the organ accompaniment allow for tasteful rubato. 

Binder’s Etz ḥayyim hi setting, which brings the Torah service to its conclusion as the Torah scrolls have been replaced in the ark, evokes a rich, almost Wagnerian choral aesthetic—especially in its first section for male voices. Once again, Binder—not unlike a number of well-known composers in the classical concert music realm—shows himself here at his best and most inspired in miniature forms. Although he intended this setting for the Reform format, he included the final line of the traditional text (hashivenu adonai elekha), even though it was omitted in the Union Prayerbook. This renders the setting suitable for those Conservative synagogues that use the organ. (Whether it is viable a cappella, without adjustments to the choral parts, is a matter of individual judgment.) When the sopranos and altos join the men in that plea for reestablishment of Jewish historical continuity, the lyrical vocal lines express resolute but calm confirmation of the sanctity of the Torah and its centrality to Jewish life.

By: Neil W. Levin



Sung in Hebrew


O you gates, raise up your heads! You ancient doors, get yourselves up! Let the King of Glory enter! Who then is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts is the King of Glory. Sela

Translation: Union Prayer Book 1954

Let us declare the greatness of our Good and render honour unto the Torah. Praised be He who in his holiness has given the Torah unto Israel.


Listen, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is the only
God—His unity is His essence.

Translation: Union Prayer Book 1954

O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.


His majesty is above earth and above the heavens. He raised the honor of His people. He is the glory of all of His faithful ones, of the children of Israel, that people so close to him. Hallelujah.

Translation: Union Prayer Book 1954

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the judgements of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether Behold, a good doctrine has been given unto you; forsake it not.

Translation: Rabbi Morton M. Leifman

It is a tree of life to them that lay hold to it, and the supporters thereof are happy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.

It is a tree of life to those who cling to it, and those who support it are happy. Its paths are paths of pleasantness and all of its ways lead to peace.



Composer: Various
Length: 55:24
Genre: Liturgical

Performers: Raphael Frieder, Cantor;  Neil Levin, Conductor;  New York Cantorial ChoirMcNeil Robinson, Organ;  Coro Hebraeico

Date Recorded: 02/01/2001
Venue: Riverside Church (A), New York
Engineer: Robert Rapley (Recording), Dirk Sobotka (Editing)
Assistant Engineer: Nunes, Michelle
Assistant Engineer: Frost, David
Project Manager: Levin, Neil


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