The terms rishonim and acharonim are in the morning davening, in the second paragraph after the Shema. To what do these terms refer, as used there?

We use those terms to refer to a sages of different time periods, in this sequence:
Zugot, Tannaim, Amoraim, Savoraim, Geonim, Rishonim, Acharonim
(see, for example, http://www.henkrijstenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/JODENDOM-TIJDSLIJN-JOODSE-GESCHIEDENIS.pdf).

It seems the terms rishon and acharon are also used generically, to refer to those father back in time and those more contemporary in time, whatever the time period.

In what sense are the terms Rishonim and Acharonim used in the morning davening?

To answer that question, I think we need to know when these two terms came to have the current meaning, referring to sages in the first and second part of the last 1,000 years, or so.

Also, to answer that question, we we need to know when that paragraph entered the morning davening.

  • You should realize all paragraph breaks you may see in some siddurim in the middle of blessings are completely fake/meaningless. There is no "second paragraph" of the blessing. It's one long blessing following shema.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 1:04
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    You're probably asking about the sentence וּדְבָרָיו חָיִים וְקַיָּמִים נֶאֱמָנִים וְנֶחֱמָדִים לָעַד וּלְעוֹלְ֒מֵי עוֹלָמִים, עַל אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ וְעָלֵֽינוּ, עַל בָּנֵֽינוּ, וְעַל דּוֹרוֹתֵֽינוּ, וְעַל כָּל דּוֹרוֹת זֶֽרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדֶֽיךָ, עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים, וְעַל הָאַחֲרוֹנִים דָּבָר טוֹב וְקַיָּם לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד which is a list of 'all' the people to whom God's word is faithful, beloved, etc.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 1:08
  • The way we refer to sages of the past thousand years certainly didn't start prior to the ordaining of the blessings of Shema.
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 1:12
  • What does rishonim mean in the Talmudic statement אם ראשונים בני מלאכים אנו בני אנשים ואם ראשונים בני אנשים אנו כחמורים? What do rishonim and acharonim mean in the Talmudic statement בא וראה שלא כדורות הראשונים דורות האחרונים? Etc.
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 1:17
  • Why do you assume that there is a connection to the terms for post talmudic personages? When God says "ani rishon v'ani acharon" in Yeshayahu 44, it doesn't mean that he is connected. Maybe the words just refer to the range of people from earliest to most recent.
    – rosends
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 1:57

2 Answers 2


The phrase (or at least a close analog of it) already appears in the blessing following the morning shema' in the siddur of R. Sa'adia Ga'on, dating to the 10th century CE.

ודבריו קימים נאמנים נחמדים לעולם ולעולמי עולמים עלינו ועל אבותינו על בנינו ועל דורותינו ועל כל דורות זרע ישראל עבדיך הראשונים והאחרונים דבר קים לעולם ועד

It would therefore seem to be very unlikely that it could be referring to the sages of the 2nd millenium CE, and instead the sentence means:

And His words are lasting, faithful and pleasant forever and ever, upon us and upon our fathers, upon our children and upon our generations and upon all of the generations of the seed of Israel, your servants, the earlier and later ones; it is a matter lasting forever.

  • 1
    Your reasoning is perfectly sound, but your answer doesn't really address the question except in the sense that the usage of the terms Rishonim and Acharonim are generic and need to be understood according to the context where they are used. The primary question is: Who is being referred to with those terms in the 2nd paragraph after the Shema in the siddur? Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 20:42

In the context of the language of the paragraph, there is a general division that the Rishonim is referring to the Avot.

And like it says in Brachot 16b, the Avot only refers to three individuals, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov.

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: אֵין קוֹרִין ״אָבוֹת״ אֶלָּא לִשְׁלֹשָׁה, וְאֵין קוֹרִין ״אִמָּהוֹת״ אֶלָּא לְאַרְבַּע

In that context, Acharonim refers to all those who are descendants and inheritors of their faith. That means the nation of Israel, the entire Congregation of Yaacov.

And that is the plain meaning of both the first and second paragraph which follow the Shema. This is also the same intention found in the Ahavat Olam paragraph which precedes the Shema.

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    "the Rishonim is referring to the Avot" how do you know this?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 17:28
  • @DoubleAA From the plain meaning of the two paragraphs: Emet v'yatziv and Ezrat Avoteinu. When you see Avot, it means Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov/Yisrael. The prayers in the siddur, particularly the recital of Shema and its blessings together with the Amidah were composed with specific intention. The 'first ones' were the Avot, in particular Avraham. Everyone else are the 'later ones'. The same intention is found in Ahavat Olam which precedes the Shema. Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 19:50
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    "אבות ובנים כעלו מן הים" means the Avot? "שעשה נסים לאבותינו" means the Avot?
    – magicker72
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 21:40

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