Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Berachot 33b: Piyutim, and excessive appellations of Hashem

In Berachot 33b, the following gemara:
A certain [reader] went down in the presence of R. Hanina and said, O God, the great, mighty, terrible, majestic, powerful, awful, strong, fearless, sure and honoured. He waited till he had finished, and when he had finished he said to him, Have you concluded all the praise of your Master? Why do we want all this? Even with these three that we do say,23  had not Moses our Master mentioned them in the Law24  and had not the Men of the Great Synagogue come and inserted them in the Tefillah, we should not have been able to mention them, and you say all these and still go on! It is as if an earthly king had a million denarii of gold, and someone praised him as possessing silver ones. Would it not be an insult to him?
Associated with this, see this parshablog post (as well as these prior to it: see part i, part ii, part iii, and part iv) detailing the position of Rav Shmuel Palagi against many piyutim in general, as well as against Nirtzah on the Seder night.

He writes, in part:
Behold, it is already explained to you from these words that not everything that one finds from the ascribed appellations are fitting for us to pray with and to say. For he {=Rabbi Chanina} did not {merely} say, "had Moshe Rabbenu of blessed memory said them, we would not be able to say them. Rather, he imposed another {additional} condition, and said, "and the Men of the Great Assembly came and instituted them in prayer" -- then it is permitted for us to pray using them.

And not like the poets {paytanim} do in truth, that they are energetic {?} in praises, and they extend and increase words -- they compose prayers and collects flowery phrases, to approach with them to the Creator, according to their conception. The describe the Creator with appellations which, if a person were to be described with it, the lack would be in his lap. For they do not understand these great and important matters which are strange to the intelligence of the common folk. And they take the Blessed Created as a stepping ground {?} for their tongues, and ascribe to Him appellations and recount about Him every thing that they think it fitting, and they are energetic to praise with this, until they arouse Him to act in accordance with their thoughts {as they described Him}.

And all the more so, if they find a verse from the words of the prophet, in this the matter is {so they think} permitted to them, to come to verses which one should publicize any way and to return them to their simple meaning, and they cut from them and the make from them clauses {seifim} and build upon them statements. And this heter {thing they permitted themselves} is abundant by the composers of songs {/poem: shir} and flowery prose, and by one who thinks he is making a song and ends up composing matters, some of which are complete heresy and some of which have the nonsense and loss {? due to ?} of imagination, such that it is fitting for a person to laugh at him according to his nature, and cry with the understanding of how such things as this are said regarding the lap of Hashem Yitbarach.
See the rest inside.

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