A young boy, usually pre-barmitzvah, leads the congregation in singing this song of praise and yearning for God. The fruit of 13th-century Ashkenazi pietists, it is also known as Shir Hakovod, Song of Glory.
Although, we can never really know God, this lyrical poem boldly attempts to describe and praise God: "I will recount Your Glory, though I have not seen You. I describe You though I have not known You." It is replete with allusions to the Bible, Midrash and Kabbalah.
This poem is seen as so holy that some rabbis, including the Gaon of Vilna, believed that it should only be recited a few times a year and not on every Shabbat. The great Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1558–1630) wrote that Shir Hakovod should be said "at our ease and not rushed". Some say that we have a child and not a grown-up recite it because they think only a child may pure enough to sing these holy words.