Review of Laura Lieber’s Yannai on Genesis

There’s a glowing review at H-Judaic of a new book on Jewish prayer by Laura S. Lieber.Yannai on Genesis: An Invitation to Piyyut.Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press. The review is by Debra Blank (Brandeis University). Published on H-Judaic (April, 2011).

In praising this book in many ways, Blank includes this specific assessment, “The volume’s raison d’être is the k’dushta’ot (poetic versions of the Amidah’s first three sections) that Yannai, one of the greatest early medieval Palestinian paytanim, wrote for Genesis. Given his time and place, one can begin to grasp why a study of his poetic and exegetical elaborations on that biblical book would have rich potential for scholars of Byzantine culture and religion, as well as for areas like midrash, biblical commentary, liturgical history, and theology. Lieber describes Byzantine Judaism as an “exegetical culture” and situates Yannai within its vitality, using these piyyutim as an example of that world’s cultural richness (e.g., pp. 39, 145). Because she focuses on context, the dense integration of non-Jewish symbols (zodiac), priestly concerns, and aggadic material that one finds in these poems finally makes sense, no longer an over-stylized hodgepodge.” Here is what the publisher says about this book:

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