Payetanim v'Piyyutim - Poets and poems
Piyyut is a liturgical Jewish poem which is usually sung, chanted or recited during religious services. Most Piyyutim (plural of Piyut) are in Hebrew or Aramaic. Piyyutim have been written since Temple times and flourished in Eretz Israel in the seventh and eighth centuries.
Later in the Middle Ages, Spanish-Jewish poets composed quantities of religious poetry. Many of these poems have been incorporated into the Sephardic, and to a lesser extent the other, rites, and may be regarded as a second generation of piyyut.
The Early Paytanim
(Hebrew: יניי or ינעי) was the first payyetan to employ rhyme and introduce his name in acrostics. He flourished, probably in the land of Israel, in the first half of the 7th century. He was apparently a very prolific poet, for reference is made to "the liturgical poems of Yannai"; he is also said to have composed "ḳerobot" for the "orders of the year" (perhaps for the weekly lessons). Most of his poems are lost; some are perhaps still extant, but they cannot be recognized with certainty as Yannai's work. It is speculated that he may have composed the famous Unettaneh Tokef prayer.wikipedia
Eleazar ben Kalir
Eleazar ben Kalir (Hebrew: אלעזר בן קליר) was one of Judaism's earliest and most prolific of the paytanim, liturgical poets. Many of his hymns have found their way into festive prayers of the Ashkenazi Jews synagogal rite.
Kalir was the first to embellish the entire liturgy with a series of hymns whose essential element was the Haggadah. He drew his material from the Talmud, and from Midrash compilations, some of which latter are now probably lost. His language, however, is not that of his sources, but Biblical Hebrew, enriched with daring innovations. His predilection for rare words, allegorical expressions, and haggadic allusions make his writings hard to understand – some describe him as a "Hebrew version of Robert Browning". His linguistic peculiarities were followed by many a succeeding payyetan (Hebrew poetic liturgist); and they influenced to some extent even early prose, especially among the Karaites.
Some beautiful renderings of Kalir's poems may be found in the volumes of Davis & Adler's edition of the German Festival Prayers entitled Service of the Synagogue.
With the awakening of linguistic studies among the Jews and with the growing acquaintance of the latter with Arabic, his linguistic peculiarities were severely criticized (e.g., by Abraham ibn Ezra on Eccl. ch 5, v. 1); but the structure of his hymns remained a model which was followed for centuries after him and which received the name "Kaliric" (). While some of his hymns have been lost, more than 200 of them have been embodied in the Mahzorim, i.e., prayer-books for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kipur. Most of the kinot of Tisha B'Av have been composed by him too. Wikipedia
Jose b. Jose
(Hebrew: יוסי בן יוסי) was an early payyetan who lived in Israel in the 6th century CE. Some of his poetry is preserved in the contemporary Hebrew payer books.
Some of the Second Generation Paytanim
Solomon Ibn Gabirol(1021 - 1058)
Little is known of Gabirol's life. His parents died while he was a child. At seventeen years of age he became the friend and protégé of Jekuthiel Hassan. Upon the assassination of the latter as the result of a political conspiracy, Gabirol composed an elegy of more than 200 verses. The death of Hai Gaon also called forth a similar poem. When barely twenty Gabirol wrote Anaḳ, a versified Hebrew grammar, alphabetical and acrostic, consisting of 400 verses divided into ten parts. Of this grammar, ninety-five lines have been preserved by Solomon Parḥon. In these Gabirol reproaches his townsmen with their neglect of the Hebrew language.
A legend concerning the manner of Gabirol's death is related by Ibn Yaḥya in "Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah." In this legend, a Muslim poet, jealous of Gabirol's poetic gifts, killed him, and buried him beneath the roots of a fig tree. The tree bore fruit abundantly; and the fruit was of extraordinary sweetness. This strange circumstance excited attention; a search was instituted, the remains of the murdered Gabirol were brought to light, and the murderer expiated his crime with his life.Wikipedia
Shachar Avakeshcha by R. Shlomo Ibn Gabirol
Sfarad Spain 11th Century
שַׁחַר אֲבַקֶּשְׁךָ צוּרִי וּמִשְׂגַּבִּי
אֶעְרֹךְ לְפָנֶיךָ שַׁחְרִי וְגַם עַרְבִּי
לִפְנֵי גְדֻלָּתְךָ אֶעְמֹד וְאֶבָּהֵל
כִּי עֵינְךָ תִּרְאֶה כָל מַחְשְׁבוֹת לִבִּי
מַה זֶּה אֲשֶׁר יוּכַל הַלֵּב וְהַלָּשׁוֹן
לַעְשׂוֹת וּמַה כֹּחַ רוּחִי בְּתוֹךְ קִרְבִּי
הִנֵּה לְךָ תִּיטַב זִמְרַת אֱנוֹשׁ עַל כֵּן
אוֹדְךָ בְּעוֹד תִּהְיֶה נִשְׁמַת אֱלֹהַּ בִּי
Rabbi Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra
Rabbi Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra, known as ha-Sallah ("writer of penitential prayers") (Arabic: أبو هارون موسى بن يعقوب ابن عزرا, Abu Harun Musa bin Ya'acub ibn Ezra, Hebrew: משה בן יעקב הסלח אבן עזרא,) was a Jewish, Spanish philosopher, linguist, and poet. He was born at Granada about 1055 – 1060, and died after 1138. Ezra is Jewish by religion but is also considered a great influence in the Arabic world in regards to his works. He is considered one of the greatest poets to originate from Spain and was thought of as ahead of his time in terms of theories surrounding the nature of poetry. One of the more revolutionary aspects of Ezra’s poetry that have been debated over is his definition of poetry as metaphor and how it fuses Aristotle’s early ideas. Ezra’s philosophical works were minor compared to his impact on poetry, but they address the relationship that is held between God and man.Wikipedia
כתנות פסים לבש הגן
וכסות רקמה מדי דשאו
ומעיל תשבץ עטה כל עץ
ולכל עין הראה פלאו.
כל ציץ חודש לזמן חדש,
יצא שוחק לקראת בואו
אך לפניהם שושן עובר
מלך כי הורם כסאו.
יצא מבין משמר עליו
וישנה בגדי כלאו.
מי לא ישתה יינו עליו -
האיש ההוא ישא חטאו.
Judah Halevi (also Yehuda Halevi; Hebrew: יהודה הלוי; Arabic: يهوذا هاليفي; c. 1075–1141) was a Spanish Jewish physician, poet and philosopher. He was born in Spain, either in Toledo or Tudela, in 1075 or 1086, and died shortly after arriving in Palestine in 1141. Halevi is considered one of the greatest Hebrew poets, celebrated both for his religious and secular poems, many of which appear in present-day liturgy. His greatest philosophical work was The Kuzari. Wikipedia
Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (Hebrew: אברהם אבן עזרא or ראב"ע, Arabic ابن عزرا; also known as Abenezra) (1089 — 1164) was born at Tudela, Navarre (now in Spain in 1089, and died c. 1167, apparently in Calahorra. He was one of the most distinguished Jewish men of letters and writers of the Middle Ages. Ibn Ezra excelled in philosophy, astronomy/astrology, mathematics, poetry, linguistics, and exegesis; he was called The Wise, The Great and The Admirable Doctor.
He was born at Tudela, (current day province of Navarre) when the town was under the Muslim rule of the emirs of Zaragoza. Later he lived in Córdoba. In Granada, it is said, he met his future friend (and perhaps his father-in-law) Yehuda Halevi. He left Spain before 1140 to escape persecution of the Jews by the new fanatical regime of the Almohads. He led a life of restless wandering, which took him to North Africa, Egypt (in 1109, maybe in the company of Yehuda Halevi), the Land of Israel, Italy (Rome in 1140-1143, Lucca, Mantua, Verona), Southern France (Rodez, Narbonne, Béziers), Northern France (Dreux), England (London, and Oxford in 1158), and back again to Narbonne in 1161, until his death on January 23 or 28, 1167, the exact location unknown: maybe at Calahorra at the border of Navarre and Aragon, or maybe in Rome or in the Holy Land.Wikipedia
One of Abraham Ibn Ezra's most famous Piyyuts
Samuel HaNagid/Samuel ibn Naghrela
Samuel ibn Naghrela's main poetic works include "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms), "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs), each of which imitates the "father work". His choice of poetic themes reflected his myriad occupations and personal world-view, including poems describing the battlefield using the analogy of a game of chess, poems speaking of the great beauty of nature, of which there are numerous, etc. His power in word choice of poetic portrayal of nature rivals that of the other great Jewish poets, namely ibn Saruk. He founded the Yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as R' Yitzhaq ibn Ghiath and R' Maimon ben Yosef (father of Maimonides). The "Introduction to the Talmud" is erroneously attributed to Shmuel].
He fled Córdoba when the Berbers took the city in 1013. For a while he ran a spice shop in Málaga, but eventually he moved to Granada, where he was first tax collector, then a secretary, and finally an assistant vizier to the Berber king Habbus al-Muzaffar.
When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel HaNagid made sure that his son Badis succeeded him. In return, Badis made Hanagid his vizier and top general, two posts which he held for the next seventeen years. HaNagid's son Joseph ibn Naghrela inherited those jobs. Some Muslims accused Joseph of using his office to benefit Jewish friends, assassinated him.wikipedia
Dunash ha-Levi ben Labrat
Dunash ha-Levi ben Labrat (920-990) (Hebrew: דוֹנָש הלוי בֵּן לָבְרָט; Arabic: دناش بن لبراط) was a medieval Jewish commentator, poet, and grammarian of the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. He was, according to Moses ibn Ezra, born in Fes. In his youth he travelled to Bagdad to study with Saadia Gaon. Dunash is called the founder of Spanish Hebrew poetry. He first introduced Arabic meter into Hebrew poetry. Traditional Arabic poetry was built on interspersing long and short vowels. In contrast, Hebrew distinguishes between the quality of the vowels, rather than their length.wikipedia
Dror Yikra was written by him and it's one of the most ancient Shabbat piyutim known, it has been loved by many of the communities of Israel over the generations and has been honored with many melodies.
דְּרוֹר יִקְרָא לְבֵן וּלְבַת
וְיִנְצָרְכֶם כְּמוֹ בָבַת
נְעִים שִׁמְכֶם וְלֹא יֻשְׁבַּת
שְׁבוּ נוּחוּ בְּיוֹם שַׁבָּת
דְּרֹשׁ נָוִי וְאוּלָמִי
וְאוֹת יֶשַׁע עֲשֵׂה עִמִּי
נְטַע שׂוֹרֵק בְּתוֹךְ כַּרְמִי
שְׁעֵה שַׁוְעַת בְּנֵי עַמִּי
‘Mrs Dunash’ is the only female Jewish poet to have been identified between the biblical prophetess Deborah and the late middle ages. In her poem she tells of the lovers’ exchange of a ring, wristband, mantle and veil as tokens of loyalty, and asks, in a dignified tone, whether the gift of half the realm would prevail on him to stay in Spain.
In 1896-97 Solomon Schechter, Reader in Talmudic and Rabbinic literature in Cambridge, travelled to Cairo to investigate the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. There he found the fragment in the above photo (her profile photo).
In 1984 Ezra Fleischer, Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, working on a project to identify and catalogue the poetic fragments, announced the discovery of an unknown poet: the wife of Dunash ibn Labrat.
Rabbi Shalom ben Yosef Shabbazi
also Abba Shalem Shabbezi or Salim Elshibzi (Hebrew: שלום שבזי, Arabic: سالم الشبزي) was one of the greatest Jewish poets who lived in 17th century Yemen and now considered the'Poet of Yemen'. Shabbazi was born in 1619 at Jewish Sharab, close to Ta'izz, and lived most of his life in Ta'izz from which he was expelled, along with most of the Yemenite Jews in 1679. He died in 1720. His father, Yosef ben Abijad bin Khalfun was also a Rabbi and a poet. Shabbazi's extant poetic diwan, comprising some 550 poems, was published for the first time by the Ben-Zvi Institute in 1977. He wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Judeo-Arabic. Shabbazi's other writing include a treatise on astrology and a cabbalistic commentary on the Torah. Shabbazi's grave in Ta'izz is revered by Jews and Muslims alike. He is now considered by Academics as the 'Shakespeare of Yemen'.wikipedia
Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna
One of the greatest Sephardic poets of the 17th century, Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna, lived in Jamaica. Laguna is most recognized for converting biblical Psalms into poems. His book of poems, Espejo Fiel de Vidas (“The True Mirror of Life”), was the first book published in Jamaica under British rule in 1720.
Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish, is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 - it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.
When the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal they were cut off from the further development of the language, but they continued to speak it in the communities and countries to which they emigrated. Ladino therefore reflects the grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The further away from Spain the emigrants went, the more cut off they were from developments in the language, and the more Ladino began to diverge from mainstream Castilian Spanish.
In Amsterdam, England and Italy, those Jews who continued to speak 'Ladino' were in constant contact with Spain and therefore they basically continued to speak the Castilian Spanish of the time. However, in the Sephardi communities of the Ottoman Empire, the language not only retained the older forms of Spanish, but borrowed so many words from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, and even French, that it became more and more distorted. Ladino was nowhere near as diverse as the various forms of Yiddish, but there were still two different dialects, which corresponded to the different origins of the speakers.
'Oriental' Ladino was spoken in Turkey and Rhodes and reflected Castilian Spanish, whereas 'Western' Ladino was spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Romania, and preserved the characteristics of northern Spanish and Portuguese. The vocabulary of Ladino includes hundreds of archaic Spanish words which have disappeared from modern day Spanish, and also includes many words from different languages that have been substituted for the original Spanish word, from the various places Ladino speaking Jews settled.
Some terms were actually transferred from one community to another through commercial or cultural relations, whereas others remained peculiar to particular communities. These foreign words derive mainly from Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, French, and to a lesser extent from Portuguese and Italian. In the Ladino spoken in Israel, several words have been borrowed from Yiddish. For most of its lifetime, Ladino was written in the Hebrew alphabet, in Rashi script, or in Solitro, a cursive method of writting letters. It was only in the 20th century that Ladino was ever written using the Latin alphabet. In fact, what is known as 'rashi script' was originally a Ladino script which became used centuries after Rashi's death in printed books to differentiate Rashi's commentary from the text of the Torah. sephardicstudies.org