The Jewish Nightlife #Unfinal | Program

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The Biography of Piyyut | PopUp Test #3

As we have discussed in class, both during lectures and during the music section, piyyutim (Hebrew liturgical poems) have many dimensions.

Moreover, each piyyut has a distinctive biography, which at the very list includes:

  • a literary history and a publication history
  • an intellectual agenda (involving the interpretation of the Bible, theology, and more)
  • a political dimension (how its performance may bring certain segments of a community together, or not)
  • a spiritual dimension (how its text and performance concur to create a defined link among those who perform it)
  • a musical dimension (how the many musical settings of each piyyut may reflect all of the above)

For today’s assignment, select one piyyut from the ones we have explored in class (also listed below), and write three short paragraphs (max 1 page) describing the following:

  1. Biography and character of the piyyut in as many dimensions possible
  2. How you believe these dimensions come together to create a spiritual impact on those who perform it and on those who participate in its ritual performance
  3. How you would describe the “essence” of the piyyut you choose? (I.e., what is the specific piyyut, text, music, and all, really about?)

As usual, create a document on bDrive and share it with your instructors (spagnoloacht[at]berkeley and yairharel[at]berkeley). Please, include your name in the title of the document. If you do not have a way to post this during class time, do so by midnight tonight.

For your convenience, here is a list of the incipits of the piyyutim that have been performed by the class during the music sections thus far:

  • Kol beruei
  • Shema’ qoli
  • Adon ‘olam
  • Ben adam
  • Rachamana de’anei
  • El eliyahu
  • Amar adonai leya’aqov
  • Qarev yom
  • Simu lev ‘al haneshamah

A Piyyut and Its Publication History

Kol berue ma’ala umatah (“All creatures above and below” [in Heaven and on Earth])
Bakkashah with acrostic “shelomoh” (Solomon)
Attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol (Malaga-Valencia, 11th centurty CE)
On bakkashot see Idelsohn p. 157

Publication history (selection) based on Davidson’s Thesaurus
Otzar hatefilot, Vilnius 1914
Arba’h ta’aniyot, Constantinople 1780
Bet av, Livorno 1877
Bet habechirah, Livorno 1880
Bet ya’aqov, Tunis 1898
Bakkashot yerushalayim, Jerusalem 1913
Bakkashot rash”ad, Ms. Bodleian Library (Oxford)
Zavche shlemim, Constantinople 1728
Z”Y Izmir, Smirne 1766
Yigal, Jerusalem 1885
Yiztchaq yeranen, Jerusalem 1855
apa, Mezhirov (Ukraine) 1793
Liqute zvi hachadash, Warsaw 1879
M. Argil 1, Livorno 1878
M. Tunis 1, Livorno 1861
Machzor Elohei Ya’aqov, Jerusalem 1908
Meshat Binyamin, Jerusalem 1909 (Persian)
Mishmeret hachadash, Baghdad 1908
Sidur ya’avatz (Italy), Altona (Germany) 1731
Sidur tefilah, Mantua 1676

In class, we discussed how the publication history of a piyyut can be researched, and how it points to the following directions:

– Social history: impact of a liturgical poem on a given community, or on a network of communities across the global Jewish diaspora
– Intellectual history: the intellectual debates involved in the creation and diffusion of a piyyut, and the spiritual dimensions involved in its textual and musical meanings
– A “history of feelings” (in the nexus between text and music)

We discussed all of this around the fact that the class is learning and rehearsing the poem illustrated above.