AḤOT KETANNAH (Heb. אַחוֹת קְטַנַּה; "Little Sister"), name of a hymn for Rosh Ha-Shanah. It was composed by Abraham Ḥazzan Gerondi, a writer of devotional hymns, who flourished about the middle of the 13th century in southern France. The poem consists of eight metrical stanzas of four to five lines, each ending with the refrain Tikhleh shanah ve-kileloteha ("May this year with its curses end"). The last stanza ends Taḥel shanah u-virekhoteha ("May the year and its blessings begin"). The acrostic gives the name of the author "Abram Ḥazzan." The opening words of the hymn are taken from Song of Songs 8:8 "We have a little sister" and refer to the traditional allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs. The poem evokes Israel's sufferings in exile and implores God's mercy "to fortify the song of the daughter and to strengthen her longing to be close to her lover." At first adopted into the Sephardi ritual, where it is recited before the evening prayer of Rosh Ha-Shanah, the poem was subsequently adopted in the Ashkenazi and Yemenite rites, especially in kabbalistic circles.
Aḥot Ketannah is sung either by the entire congregation, or by the cantor alone with the congregation joining in the refrain. The melody is uniform throughout the Sephardi Diaspora, with only slight local variations, and may therefore belong to the common pre-expulsion stock. Notated examples may be found in Idelsohn, Melodien, 1, no. 93; 2, no. 48 (mus. ex. 1); 3, nos. 43, 46, 175; 4, nos. 185, 186 (mus. ex. 2), 187, 192; 5, no. 159; Levy, Antologia, 2, nos. 93–101; F. Consolo, Sefer Shirei Yisrael (1890), 125; E. Aguilar and D.A. de Sola, Sephardi Melodies (1857, 1931), no. 26; O. Camhy, Liturgie Sepharadie (1959), nos. 63, 64; Cremieu, J.S. and M., Chants hébraïques… de l'ancien Comtat Venaissin (1885), no. 1.
Zunz, Lit Poesie, 140.