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Azharot (Hebrew: אזהרות‎), "exhortations") are didactic liturgical poems on, or versifications of, the 613 commandments in rabbinical enumeration. The first known example appears in the tenth century Siddur of Saadia Gaon; The best known include those by two Spanish authors of the Middle Ages; Isaac ben Reuben Albargeloni and Solomon ibn Gabirol.[1][2]


The name of the poetical form derives from the first word of its earliest example, Hebrew: אזהרות ראשית לעמך נתת‎.[3] Two attempts to ascribe special meaning to that choice of term have been suggested:[4]

  1. Chazal sometimes refer to biblical prohibitions as azharot.
  2. The numerological sum of a condensed form of the word (אזהרת, instead of אזהרות) equals the number of commandments.


Abraham ibn Ezra ("Yesod Moreh," gate 2, end) compared azharot to counting medicinal herbs enumerated in medical works without knowing anything of their virtues.[3]

Maimonides claims in the introduction to Sefer HaMitzvot, his own prose enumeration of the commandments, that he was motivated to compose that work because of errors in the azharot. Deference to Maimonides' criticism led major rabbis (18th-century Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azoulai ; 20th-century Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef) to prefer reading Maimonides' prose list to the poetic azharot. In 1971, Rabbi Yosef Kapach composed azharot based upon Maimonides' list.[5]


  • Hebrew: אזהרות ראשית לעמך נתת
  • Hebrew: אתה הנחלת תורה לעמך‎ - Referred to variously as "Azharot of the Rabbis of the Academy" or "Azharot of Elijah or "Azharot Elijah the Tishbite". Its authorship is disputed, but its origin seems to have been in the academies of Pumbedita.[3]
  • Hebrew: אנכי אש אכלה‎ - Written by Saadia Gaon
  • Hebrew: אחגור חיל לרומם הבורא‎ (lit. "I will gird me with strength to extol the Creator") - According to Isaac b. Todros, to be found in the siddur of Amram Gaon, but scholarship[3] suggests possibly actually written by Isaac Gikatilla.
  • Hebrew: אוכלה אלקיך אש‎ - Ibn Gabirol (edited by Sachs-Halberstamm, "Ḳobeẓ 'al-Yad," 1893)
  • Hebrew: איזה מקום בינה‎ (lit. "Where is the abode of understanding?") - Isaac b. Reuben Albargeloni
  • Hebrew: אמת יהגה חכי‎ (lit. "Truth shall my mouth indite") - Elijah ha-Zaḳen b. Menahem of Mans, first published by Luzzatto in "Literaturblatt des Orients," 1850, part 16
  • Hebrew: ריש לדברות אנכי‎ - by Eliezer b. Nathan, for the evening service of the second day of Shavuot
  • Hebrew: אני בינה שוכנת אמונה‎ (lit. "I, Understanding, dwell on high") - by Isaac Petit b. Mordecai Kimḥi
  • Hebrew: ארוממך ה' מלכי‎ (lit. "I will extol Thee, O Lord, my King") - by Krespia ha-Naḳdan
  • Hebrew: אברך לא-ל נורא‎ (lit. "I will bless the God Tremendous") - by Elijah ha-Kohen Tchelebi
  • "Pour forth Thy mercy" - written by Menahem Tamar.
  • Hebrew: מה' מאוד נעלה אשאלה‎ - Menahem Egozi
  • Hebrew: אדנ-י בם‎ - by Elijah Adeni (of Aden) (Amsterdam ed., 1688)
  • - by Joshua Benveniste
  • - by Joseph b. Solomon Yaḥya



While the original intent of the azharot may have been educational, its terse and cryptic poetic form led to a need for its content to be explained. Commentaries include:[3][5]

  • "Netiv Mitsvotekha" (Livorno, 1841), by Rabbi Saul ibn Musa ha-Kohen of Jerba (1772–1848)
  • "Mahzor Shelom Yerushalayim" for Shavuot (New York, 1994) by Rabbi Shimon Hai Alouf and Rabbi Ezra Labaton (pages 279-287).
  • Rabbi David Bitton (1979), on Ibn Gabirol's Azharot (Missvot 'Aseh).

Liturgical Customs[edit]

Among those who recite the azharot at all, the most common custom is to recite them sometime during the period of Shavuot. They are variously recited during the Shavuot synagogue mussaf, mincha or arvit service, or during the Sabbath prior to Shavuot. Some Sephardic diaspora communities chant the Positive Commandments of the azharot on the first day of Shavuot, and the Negative Commandments on the second day.[5] Sephardic/Eastern communities recite the azharot of Ibn Gairol, while North African communities of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya recite the azharot of Barceloni.[5] As mentioned above, Rabbinic advice is to prefer reading Maimonides' prose list to the poetic azharot[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elbaz, Andre E; Hazan, Ephraim (April 1995). "Three Unknown Piyyutim by David Ben Hasin". AJS Review. Cambridge Univ Press. 20 (1): 87–98. doi:10.1017/S0364009400006310. Retrieved October 13, 2015. "... Among North African and other Oriental Jews, the most popular azharot are two eleventh-century works from Spain, Shemor libbi ma 'ane, composed by Shelomo Ibn Gabirol, and 'Ei ze meqom bina, by Yishaq Ben Reuben Al-Bargeloni"
  2. ^ Davidson, Israel (1924). Selected Religious Poems of Solomon ibn Gabirol. Schiff Library of Jewish Classics. Translated by Zangwill, Israel. Philadelphia: JPS. p. 247. ISBN 0-8276-0060-7. LCCN 73-2210., at page xx
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gottheil, Richard; Brody, H. (1906). "Azharot". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  4. ^ unsourced information on Hebrew Wikipedia page, retrieved October 13, 2015
  5. ^ a b c d e "Azharot". Sephardic Pizmonim Project. Retrieved October 13, 2015.

External links[edit]