Page 82 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
used in this poetic category remained unchanged until the time
o f Saadya Gaon, although the style and the vocabulary developed
rapidly. The Yemenite poets borrowed much from the early pe­
riod and, to be sure, the biblical and midrashic vocabulary was the
dom inant mode at that time. In the second period, when ele­
ments o f kabbalistic literature were interwoven into the poems
alongside the biblical and midrashic ones, the poetry was greatly
enriched by the combined influence o f the three sources. In the
piyyutim o f this period we again note the theme o f the dialogue
between body and soul that emerged from the “Poetry o f the
soul.”The didactic style is readily discernible as the poet describes
the confrontation between the two. Here, however, whenever the
speaker turns to God and pleads for redemption, there is no me­
diator.
Analysis o f these piyyutim leads us to suggest that they were
composed during both the first and the second periods. The
piyyutim of the first period make use of biblical and midrashic
vocabulary and resemble the Palestinian piyyutim. As noted
above, this suggests that we may trace the beginnings of Yemen­
ite creative writing to a few centuries before the tenth. The
piyyutim of the second period use kabbalistic motifs.
GENRE OF THE HALLELOT
T h e Hallelot are poems composed in rhymed prose and
consisting mostly of blessings bestowed upon the householder or
the master o f ceremonies. In fact, it is possible to describe these
poems as an exchange of blessings between host and guest. The
word “Halleluyah” serves as a refrain that begins and ends each
poem. Poems o f this nature were written only in Yemen and are
not found in any o ther community. We should note, however,
that the basis for this genre, which is devoted to the celebration of
joy and the expression o f thanksgiving, is the Book o f Psalms.
The Hallel which is recited during the three Pilgrim Festivals and
on Hanukkah, is in the form o f the Hallel Gadol11 or Full Hallel.
The Hatzi Hallel,12 a shorter version, is recited on the advent of
the New Moon and during the last six days o f Passover. In one of
the passages in the Talmud that refer to the Hallel, Rabbi Eliezer
11 Psalms 113-118.
12 Ta’anit, 28b.