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It has been pointed out to me that the two halves of the "Alenu" prayer follow a pretty strict pattern. Each contains eight parallel couplets, followed by a Biblical quote. I broke it all down myself, but it is not clear to me exactly how lines 5 and 6 (bolded below) work: Is the pattern maintained? What is the correct breakdown?

עָלֵינוּ לְשַבֵחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכל ---- לָתֵת גְדֻלָה לְיוֹצֵר בְרֵאשִית
שֶלא עָשָנוּ כְגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת ---- וְלא שָמָנוּ כְמִשְפְחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה
שֶלא שָם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָהֶם ---- וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְכָל הֲמוֹנָם
שֶהֵם מִשְתַחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק ---- וּמִתְפַלְלִים אֶל קֵל לא יוֹשִיעַ
וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים וּמודִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא
שֶהוּא נוֹטֶה שָמַיִם ---- וְיסֵד אָרֶץ
וּמוֹשַב יְקָרוֹ בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל ---- וּשְכִינַת עֻזּוֹ בְגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים
הוּא אֱלקֵינוּ אֵין עוֹד ---- אֱמֶת מַלְכֵנוּ אֶפֶס זוּלָתוֹ

כַכָתוּב בְּתורָתו: וְיָדַעְתָ הַיּוֹם וַהֲשֵבתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ כִי ה' הוּא הָאֱלקִים בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָחַת אֵין עוֹד:

וְעַל כֵן נְקַוֶה לָךְ ה' אֱלקֵינוּ ---- לִרְאוֹת מְהֵרָה בְתִפְאֶרֶת עֻזָךְ
לְהַעֲבִיר גִלּוּלִים מִן הָאָרֶץ ---- וְהָאֱלִילִים כָרוֹת יִכָרֵתוּן
לְתַקֵן עוֹלָם בְמַלְכוּת שַקַי ---- וְכָל-בְנֵי בָשָר יִקְרְאוּ בִשְמֶךָ
לְהַפְנוֹת אֵלֶיךָ כָל רִשְעֵי אָרֶץ ---- יַכִירוּ וְיֵדְעוּ כָל יוֹשְבֵי תֵבֵל
כִי לְךָ תִכְרַע כָל בֶרֶךְ ---- תִשָבַע כָל לָשׁוֹן
לְפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלקֵינוּ יִכְרְעוּ וְיִפלוּ ---- וְלִכְבוֹד שִמְךָ יְקָר יִתֵנוּ
וִיקַבְלוּ כֻלָם אֶת על מַלְכוּתֶךָ ---- וְתִמְלךְ עֲלֵיהֶם מְהֵרָה לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
כִי הַמַלְכוּת שֶלְךָ הִיא ---- וּלְעוֹלְמֵי עַד תִמְלךְ בְכָבוֹד

כַכָתוּב בְּתורָתֶךָ: ה' יִמְלךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
וְנֶאֱמַר: וְהָיָה ה' לְמֶלֶךְ עַל כָל הָאָרֶץ בַיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה ה' אֶחָד וּשְמוֹ אֶחָד:

My apologies about formatting. There are some slight variations in version (aside from the major one), but I don't think the more minor ones affect this concern.

Secondarily, why is this prayer never printed this way in sidurim?

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Line 5 is missing "Umodim." –  Isaac Moses May 31 '11 at 19:01
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@IsaacMoses Thanks. The version I copied this from was missing a couple other words that I caught as well. Apparently there is more variation than I expected. And the one you point out might actually affect the answer. –  WAF May 31 '11 at 19:04

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In R' Saadiah Gaon's siddur, the word שהוא (beginning of the sixth line) is missing, so you have five stiches of four words each from there until ככתוב. Which raises the possibility that this part isn't meant to be in couplets; in fact, I'd analyze it as a triplet (each part of which describes Hashem's greatness in some way) followed by a couplet (each half of which focuses on a different way in which we relate to Him, as אלקינו and מלכנו).

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So the entire first half could be 4-word clauses, with the exception of the prominent middle line, which breaks for emphasis, and one short clause (3 words) and one long one (5 words). –  WAF Jun 1 '11 at 2:23
    
Also, thanks for the link. Rav Sa'adia Ga'on (I think) confirms the hypothesis I have always held that goye ha'aratzos is just a double plural and refers to a single land[mass]. –  WAF Jun 1 '11 at 2:24

I recall from English Lit. in high school that sometimes a poet deliberately breaks in one point from the poem's overall rhyme/rhythm scheme to emphasize that point. Perhaps that's what's going on here. We emphasize this line in other ways, such as by bowing and possibly with melodic emphasis (although that may just be a consequence of the bowing).

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To expound on @IsaacMoses' answer, I would consider just the line "וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא" as the main emphasis in breaking the pattern, to then continue with a praising description of God.

Just like on Rosh Hashana in the piyut מלך עליון, we break with "אבל מלך אביון" to give a disparaging description following the poetic form, then break again with "אבל מלך עליון" to continue our praise, again following the poetic form.

Here too, I would count four couplets beginning Alenu:

עָלֵינוּ לְשַבֵחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכל ---- לָתֵת גְדֻלָה לְיוֹצֵר בְרֵאשִית

שֶלא עָשָנוּ כְגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת ---- וְלא שָמָנוּ כְמִשְפְחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה

שֶלא שָם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָהֶם ---- וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְכָל הֲמוֹנָם

שֶהֵם מִשְתַחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק ---- וּמִתְפַלְלִים אֶל קֵל לא יוֹשִיעַ

Then break with the next line to emphasize our beginning the praise of God:

וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא

Then four more couplets describing God's praises:

שֶהוּא נוֹטֶה שָמַיִם ---- וְיסֵד אָרֶץ

וּמוֹשַב יְקָרוֹ בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל ---- וּשְכִינַת עֻזּוֹ בְגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים

הוּא אֱלקֵינוּ ---- אֵין עוֹד

אֱמֶת מַלְכֵנוּ ---- אֶפֶס זוּלָתוֹ

Then the biblical quote:

כַכָתוּב בְּתורָתו: וְיָדַעְתָ הַיּוֹם וַהֲשֵבתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ כִי ה' הוּא הָאֱלקִים בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָחַת אֵין עוֹד

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Sounds good, except that that makes the lines shehu... aretz, hu... od, and emes... zulaso much shorter than the other lines in the prayer. For example, en od has only two syllables (t'nuos), while the shortest line outside of these few has, I think, six. –  msh210 May 31 '11 at 19:45

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