Page 186 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
a large and comprehensive biographical treasury of more than
2,000 names of halakhic and aggadic authorities, together with
their discussions and information on their method of study. Here
and there we find also material on their lives and activities.
Still we lack the names of the last group of scholars who were
active at the close of the talmudic period, those of the Saboraim.
Because of the nature of developments at that time, this period
remained shrouded in anonymity. It may be that the halakhic
works of the Geonic period, such as the writings of R. Yehudai
Gaon, R. Simon Qayyara and R. Aha of Shabha, were originally
anonymous and that only later was their authorship ascertained
on the basis of oral tradition.
WORLD OF P IYUT
The classical paytanim Yannai and Eleazar ben Kallir were
apparently among the earliest authors to affix their names to
their writings.
The great paytan Yose ben Yose who preceded them and com­
posed among other works an
avodah
(service) for Yom Kippur,
did not indicate his name. Only by chance did it become known
that he was the author of that poetic description of the sacrificial
service. The names of other paytanim who were active during the
early period of liturgical poetry did not come down to us. Yannai
and Eleazar ben Kallir, who appeared some three centuries or
more after Yose ben Yose, did not feel constrained to put their
names to their poems.
Ezra Fleischer, the authority on piyut, writes concerning this as
follows:
Classical piyut introduced a new and important factor by
permitting its poets to sign their names in acrostic fash­
ion. . . . The fact that classical piyut accepted this practice
and made it obligatory in various compositions is apparently
connected with the spread of piyut during that period and
the “industry” that developed then in liturgical poetry. The
signature of a paytan to a piyut not only attested to his
authorship and protected his rights (to fame and praise),
but also served as proof of the authenticity of the poem
(.Hebrew Liturgical Poetry in the Middle Ages
[Hebrew],
Jerusalem, Keter, p. 128).