In some Ashkenazi siddurim the line in L'olam yehei adam is written:

.זֶרַע יִצְחָק יְחִידוֹ, שֶׁנֶּעֱקַד עַל גַּבֵּי הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

In other siddurim, the same line is written with al gav hamizbeiach, not al gabei. Which version is more correct and/or authoritative?

1 Answer 1


This is a controversial issue. If you look at older siddurim, like the one of R' Yaakov Emden, who, besides his other talents, was an exceptional authority on grammar, you can find the על גבי version in plural. This was criticised by Isaac Satanow, who suggested to write it in the singular על גב form. He argued that in Yechezkeil 43:13 it is written in the singular form, and it should be written this way:

וְאֵ֨לֶּה מִדּ֤וֹת הַמִּזְבֵּ֨חַ֙ בָּֽאַמּ֔וֹת אַמָּ֥ה אַמָּ֖ה וָטֹ֑פַח וְחֵ֨יק הָֽאַמָּ֜ה וְאַמָּה־רֹ֗חַב וּגְבוּלָ֨הּ אֶל־שְׂפָתָ֤הּ סָבִיב֙ זֶ֣רֶת הָֽאֶחָ֔ד וְזֶ֖ה גַּ֥ב הַמִּזְבֵּֽחַ׃

And these are the measures of the altar by cubits, the cubit is a cubit and a handbreadth, the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about a span; and this shall be the base of the altar.

R' Wolf Heidenheim followed Satanow's opinion in his extremely influential prayer book. However, popular editions like Artscroll and Eshkol, or German siddurim (e.g. Sefas Yisroel p. 9) rejected this and reverted to the older version.

As Kouty kindly pointed out, the Mishnah uses the plural form (see Pesachim 5:8, 10) even in other cases when the object is in singular (see על גבי בהמה in Menachot 1:2). This illustrates the conflict between the orthography of the Tanakh and the later works of the Sages. Satanow propagated the former, even in case of prayers that were originally composed in the language of the Sages (לשון חז"ל).

  • 1
    I have found an extremely good blog entry that discusses other similar cases: kotzkblog.com/2017/02 Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 10:42
  • But the newest editions of the Artscroll siddurim, for example the newest pocket size paperback Rosh Hashanah machzor and the newest pocket size hardcover Schottenstein Edition Yom Kippur machzor have “al gabei.” Does this mean Artscroll changed its mind as to the correct girsa, or is it just a misprint?
    – user23976
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 20:38
  • What do you mean when you say that Artscroll has it “al gabei,” when in fact every Artscroll that I have seen besides the very newest editions have it “al gav”?
    – user23976
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 20:52
  • In every artscroll Siddur I've seen its Al gabei. Maybe you're mistaken
    – robev
    Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 22:18
  • @Tova I don't know all their editions, but it's perfectly possible that they changed their wording over time (I have one of their old Book of Esther that has different wording in the amidah). Still, in their newer editions they surely reject Satanow's version and revert to the older, plural form tradition. Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 2:07

You must log in to answer this question.