AVODAH: An Anthology of Ancient Poetry for Yom Kippur (2006) YAHALOM, Joseph, SCHWARTZ, Michael D.
I finally got to read the excellent work Avodah – a beautiful translation of the various versions of the Avodah for Yom Kippur.
The book shows that the avodah piyyut, even though it is based on the Mishnah, makes the avodah a narrative entirely about the priests. It removes the Mishnah’s granting to the Sages the ability to give oversight to the priests. It also removes the Sages’ distrust of priestly groups.
Here we have more theology of 6th to 9th century. The book focuses on tracing these images to DSS and Heikhalot and offers little on the actual 6th-9th centuries
In all the versions, the world was created to worship God in the Temple and they give a history of the world including early creatures. The book points out how the use of myth and mythos in the piyyut. Adam was originally of great size and appearance and was originally worshiped by the other creatures. The piyyutim describe how the high priest overcame the hostility of the angels, but from a theology perspective I missed any reference to the debates of Scholem, Idel, and Schaffer.
Is this still relevant? Well, we still use the version called Ata Konanta but we do not use versions like “Az be en Kol” which describe rivers of fire, cosmic ice, demigods, and adam kadmon.
For an alternative reading, see Rav Soloveitchik on the Avodah
In the beginning of the web era, Haaretz still commissioned academic Judaica articles before every Jewish holiday. They made great printouts to take to shul.
In 2002, Yosef Yahalom wrote a concise article showing that the piyyut is originally a conclusion to a piyyut by Yannai later attached to Kalir and was not written by R. Amnon in Ashkenaz.
The piyyut, or sacred poem, “Unetaneh tokef kedushat hayom” (“Let us recount the power of the holiness of this day”), is one of the central and most thrilling texts in the liturgy of the High Holy Days.
This text was written by Yanai’s most celebrated student, Elazar Hakalir.
A year later Hananel Mack wrote a follow up article, less certain which Byzantium author wrote the poet. But Mack shows that the vision of the angels themselves being judged is a theme of Kedusha, so the piyyut was originally a ending poem to a kedushah piyyut.
Additional corroboration for the claim that the liturgical poem `Unetaneh Tokef’ was written during the period of Yanai and Elazar Hakalir and not, as tradition says, by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz.
However, here we hear for the first time of the fate shared by heavenly beings and humans, who are all judged on Judgment Day – that is, on Rosh Hashanah and, apparently, also on Yom Kippur, which is also a judgment day and is also mentioned in the body of the piyyut.
This topic is a reminder that we do not have a good book on the theology of Judiasm 600-1100, the great age of Piyyut and Aggadic Midrash.
Update 2010- Haaretz is no longer giving free access to the articles.