Akdamut: An Alphabet of Eleventh-Century Ashkenaz

Aton M. Holzer Tradition Online | May 11, 2021

Akdamut, the poetic introduction to the Targum of the Torah reading of the first day of Shavuot, is so beloved that it has survived in the Mahzor for almost a thousand years, and its tune has become the anthem of Jewish festivals — despite that it is written in Aramaic, and that nearly all other such poems, and even the Targum itself, have all but disappeared from the liturgy. Yet we know precious little about the author and his era, the Ashkenazic Rishonim of the generation immediately preceding the First Crusade; these lesser-known giants taught and laid the groundwork for Rashi and the Tosafists, whose monumental commentarial work definitively established the center of Jewish life and scholarship in the European continent for a millennium. In this article from TRADITION’s newest issue, Aton M. Holzer argues that a careful reading of Akdamut itself reveals a great deal about the intellectual life, thought, influences, polemics, spoken language, and even the writing implements of the Jews of this period.

Read “Akdamut: An Alphabet of Eleventh-Century Ashkenaz”

TRADITION’s publisher, the Rabbinical Council of America, has made this version of the text of Akdamut available to our readers, excerpted from the new RCA Siddur Avodat HaLev


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