Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Jewish Hymnography

A Literary History
Leon J. Weinberger

'A pivotal reference book . . . The volume's coverage is admirably broad and dense; its approach and presentation are apt and felicitous. Nothing comparable has been available in English . . . we owe Weinberger a big debt of gratitude.'
Ephraim Nissan, Shofar

'It is a blessing to have in English such a felicitous treatment of the fruits of modern Israeli scholarship on piyyut or Jewish hymnography incorporated into the author's own prodigious research . . . The work is the best introduction in English to the whole subject . . . It is bound to encourage scholars of English-speaking universities to mount courses in this heretofore neglected area of Hebrew poetry. The lack of a good textbook can no longer serve as an excuse.'
Reuven Kimelman

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'All of us who have an interest in Hebrew literature or Jewish culture must be grateful to Weinberger . . . His book takes us on a veritable odyssey around the greater and lesser islands of Jewish culture and through more than ten centuries.'
Nicholas de Lange

'The best introduction in English to the whole subject; indeed it ranges more widely than any comparable work in Hebrew. It is bound to encourage scholars of English-speaking universities to mount courses in this heretofore neglected area of Hebrew poetry.'
Reuven Kimelman

'A pivotal reference book . . . The volume's coverage is admirably broad and dense; its approach and presentation are apt and felicitous. Nothing comparable has been available in English . . . we owe Weinberger a big debt of gratitude.'
Ephraim Nissan, Shofar

Leon Weinberger draws on a wealth of material, much of it previously available only in Hebrew, to trace the history of Jewish hymnography from its origins in the eastern Mediterranean to its subsequent development in western Europe (Spain, Italy, Franco-Germany, and England) and Balkan Byzantium, on the Grecian periphery, under the Ottomans, and among the Karaites. Focusing on each region in turn, he provides a general background to the role of the synagogue poets in the society of the time; characterizes the principal poets and describes their contribution; examines the principal genres and forms; and considers their distinctive language, style, and themes. The copious excerpts from the liturgy are presented in transliterated Hebrew and in English translation, and their salient characteristics are fully discussed to bring out the historical development of ideas and regional themes as well as literary forms.

Professor Weinberger’s study is a particularly valuable source-book for students of synagogue liturgy, Jewish worship, and medieval Hebrew poetry. It provides new perspectives for students of religious poetry and forms of worship more generally, while enabling the general reader to acquire a much-enriched appreciation of the synagogue services.

 

About the author

Leon J. Weinberger was University Research Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama, and winner of the 1995 Friedman Prize of the Histadrut Ivrit of America for contributions to Hebrew literature and culture. He died in 2011.

Contents

Note on transliteration
Abbreviations
Hispano-Hebrew Metres

Introduction

1 The Beginnings of Hymnography in Eres Yisra’el and Babylon
The Early Period in Eres Yisra’el: General Background; The Principal Poets; The Principal Genres • The Classical Period in Ers Yisra’el: General Background; The Principal Poets; The Principal Genres; Language and Style • Post-Classical Developments in the Babylonian Diaspora: General Background; The Principal Poets; The Principal Genres; New Genres

2 Hymnographic Developments in Spain
General Background • Language and Style • The Principal Genres

3 Cantor-Rabbis in Italy, Franco-Germany, and England
General Background • The Principal Italian Poets • Language and Style in Italy • The Principal Italian Genres • The Principal Franco-German Poets • Franco-German Language and Style • The Principal Franco-German Genres • England’s Principal Poets

4 Poets in Balkan Byzantium
General Background • The Principal Poets: Early Romaniotes • The Principal Genress of the Early Romaniotes • The Principal Poets: Later Romaniotes • The Principal Genres of the Later Romaniotes

5 Cantor-Poets on Greece's Periphery: Macedonia, Bulgaria, Corfu, Kaffa (Crimea), and Crete
General Background: Macedonia and Bulgaria • The Principal Macedonian and Bulgarian Poets • The Principal Macedonian Genres • General Background: Corfu, Kaffa (Crimea), and Crete • The Principal Corfiote Poets • The Principal Corfiote Genres • General Background: Kaffa • The Principal Kaffan Poets • The Principal Kaffan Genres • General Background: Crete • The Principal Cretan Poets •The Principal Cretan Genres

6 Ottoman Hymnography
General Background • The Principal Poets • The Principal Genres

7 Karaite Synagogue Poets
General Background • The Principal Poets • Language and Style • The Principal Genres

Glossary
Select bibliography
Index of piyyutim (Hebrew)
Index of piyyutim (Transliterated)
General index

 

 

Reviews

Weinberger deserves our deepest gratitude for a book that is an unprecedented English introduction to the world of piyyut . . . this book is a convincing endeavour to show an English-reading audience the great value of Hebrew liturgical poetry for Jewish religion and culture.'
Wout Jac. van Bekkum, Bulletin of Judaeo-Greek Studies

'He deserves our deepest gratitude for producing the first introduction to piyyut in English and including many fragments of poems that have never previously been anthologized . . . for the English-reading audience, this book will show the great value of Hebrew liturgical poetry for the study of Jewish religion and culture.'
Wout Jac. van Bekkum, Journal of Jewish Studies

'Will serve well Judaic scholars of other areas who wish to understand the history, function, and language of piyyut better; and students of piyyut and medieval Hebrew literature whose resources in English have been sorely lacking . . . it is the lone introduction to piyyut for an English-speaking audience which offers a chronological and geographical survey of piyyut; and it brings to light many obscure poets, especially those of the Balkan region, England, and Karaite community. But it will also contribute to the appreciation and understanding of the literary riches of medieval Jewry in all their complexity and variety. Instructors of Judaica and their students alike are now provided with a good English guide to the fascinating and complicated world of piyyut.'
Debra Reed Blank, Journal of Semitic Studies

'It is a blessing to have in English such a felicitous treatment of the fruits of modern Israeli scholarship on piyyut or Jewish hymnography incorporated into the author's own prodigious research into Greek, Balkan, and Byzantine hymnography. The work is the best introduction in English to the whole subject, indeed it ranges more widely than any comparable wok in Hebrew. It is bound to encourage scholars of English-speaking universities to mount courses in this heretofore neglected area of Hebrew poetry. The lack of a good textbook can no longer serve as an excuse.'
Reuven Kimelman

'A pivotal reference book . . . The volume's coverage is admirably broad and dense; its approach and presentation are apt and felicitous. Nothing comparable has been available in English . . . we owe Weinberger a big debt of gratitude.'
Ephraim Nissan, Shofar