Friday, October 15, 2021

The spoken word and piyuttim

People used to enjoy listening to the spoken word. The headliner at Gettysburg was not Lincoln, but Edwards Everett and his two-hour oration. And there are many other examples. The piyuttim, properly understood, belong to that world, not ours. The point was to *hear* them, not read them and the intent was for the power of the words themselves to affect you in the same way a soulful kumsitz might affect us now.

Perhaps that's why the piyuttim have become a kumsitz. No one actually *listens* to them anymore and I suppose hardly anyone even reads them carefully. Instead, they are sung, or - worse - the congregation chants or hums over them. In such places its nearly impossible for the words to reach you at all.
If the piyuttim are no longer used as intended why keep them? There's no magic to them. They aren't spells. Rambam and ibn Ezra fully opposed them. If we'd rather kumsitz why not reconstruct the service to support that preference just as it was first constructed to support an earlier preference?

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