Posts Tagged ‘Synagogue Poetry’

Meaningful Poetry Reading (Recitation of Piyutim) In Shul – Guidelines from Rav Tzvi Hirsch Koidanover – הדרך לומר פיוטים לפי ספר קב הישר

March 23, 2012

I recently came across some words of advice regarding how piyutim (synagogue poetry) should be recited, in the famous sefer קב הישר, authored by R. Tzvi Hirsch Koidanover, which dates back to over three hundred years ago.

Since we are now in one of the peak seasons of piyutim of the year, I thought it would be timely and worth sharing. We all say piyutim after all basically, some more and some less. Even those who may think that they don’t say any, actually say them in one way or another, on one occasion or another.

A relevant excerpt, with a partial free translation, from פרק פו of the sefer, follows.

How To Say Piyutim

לא יהיה קל בעיניך באמירת פיוטים של קרוב״ץ, וחיוב על כל אדם לומר הפיוטים בשמחה ובכונת הלב בשפה ברורה, בי בבל פיוט ופיוט יש סודות נפלאין, ולא יהיו הפיוטים דומין עליך כמשא כי הפיוטים נתחברו ע״פ עצת מלאכי מעלה שנגלו לר׳ אליעזר הקלירי שסידר הפיוטים ע״פ א״ב ג״ד וע״פ תשר״ק כי כן מזמריז ומשבחין למעלה, וקבלה בידי מפי זקינים ומפי חסידים מי שמקל באמירת קרוב״ץ ואומר שאינו חיוב כל כך לאומרם אינו מאריך ימיו ח״ו, כי כל היחידים שחברו הפיוטים היו גדולי הדור ואנשי מעשה אשר נעשה להם כמה ניסים בחייהן ובמיתתן,

Let it be not light in your eyes the recitation of piyutim….and it is an obligation on every person to say the poems (piyutim) with joy, concentration of the heart, and clear enunciation, because in every single piyut there are wondrous secrets. And the poems (piyutim) should not appear to you as a burden, because they were composed according to the counsel of angels from above that were revealed to R. Eliezer HaKaliri who arranged them according to Alef Beis (alphabetical order) and Tashra”k (reverse alphabetical order), because that is how they sing and praise on high…..

How Not To Say Piyutim

So that is how to say piyutim. And one can also infer from the above the wrong way to say them, which has unfortunately claimed so many victims over the years. Namely, do not say them as a burden, without joy, without concentration and understanding, in a rush, and with unclear speech.

May we be zoche to to have meaningful poetry readings in our Shuls that elevate us spiritually.


Synagogue poetry month – poetry readings in your local synagogue! The current state of piyyutim.

March 4, 2011

We are about to enter one of the high seasons of synagogue poetry, aka פיוטים.

No, your Shul wasn’t overrun by a group of artists and poets. It’s just that time of the year again.

Piyyutim season is here. The ארבע פרשיות – which feature the most widely recited piyyutim perhaps, at least outside the Yomim noraim, are almost upon us. I am not sure if Sepharadim say them too. Anyone know?

The state of piyyutim today seems to be poor, from my observations over the years (as the state of poetry in general today perhaps?). A negative attitude is widespread. But it wasn’t always that way. The great talmid of the נודע ביהודה, רב אלעזר פלעקעלס, author of responsa תשובה מאהבה, who was his successor in the rabbonus of Prague,  in a famous teshuvoh, at the beginning of his teshuvos, exclaims, בא וראה כמה חביבים הפיוטים בעיני רבותינו הקדושים הראשונים, come and see how beloved piyyutim are to the holy Rabbis of earlier generations. And he brings a whole list – Rashi, Tosefos, Rishonim….who talk and bring proofs from language of piyyutim to explain Torah. To explain a gemara. To explain a midrash. Piyyutim are handled like Chazal. So piyyutim are the holiest of the holy. Viata – and now – hachareishim – the deaf – haivrim – the blind – habitu – look – im harishonim bnei haElokim, baalei hoasufos, Rashi viTosefos, Ramban, Rashba.. he brings…they all ahovu vechibevu divrei hapiyyutim, they loved the words of the piyyutim, we can come now and criticize them?

How many still say them? How many understand them?

How many enjoy them? How many look forward to them?

Who says them?

Who omits them?

Who says them in a quality manner?

Some say them during chazoras haShatz, some after.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Simple things come to mind. Say them slowly, with no speeding.  Have a fitting shliach tzibbur leading them – one that understands them, and knows the nusach with which they are traditionally chanted.

I heard a very interesting shiur from רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א on piyyutim (from which the תשובה מאהבה piece above came) a while back. One of the things he suggested to improve the situation was to have shiurim, explaining the piyyutim, before they are to be recited, as is brought by the son of the של”ה, רבי שבתי שעפטל הורוויץ, ווי העמודים, פרק י, who reports that he instituted in Frankfurt when he was אב”ד there that groups should study the meaning of תפלות, פיוטים, ויוצרות so they should know what are saying, be able to have proper kavonnoh and not just emit sounds like birds.

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