Isaac ben Judah Ha-Seniri

views updated


ISAAC BEN JUDAH HA-SENIRI (i.e., of Mount Senir; end of 12th century-beginning of 13th), Provençal paytan. He was one of five sons of the scholar *Judah b. Nethanel of Beaucaire whom Judah *Al-Ḥarizi met on his travels. Isaac's brother, Samuel b. Judah, was also a liturgical poet. The dates 1208 and 1220 appear in three of his poems and the poet's productive period can be determined according to them (Zunz, Lit Poesie, 472 nos. 1, 8, 9). In the acrostic of one poem he speaks of himself as "living on [or "at"] Mount Senir." There has been much discussion as to the meaning of Mount Senir, but it almost certainly refers to Mount Ventoux in the region of Carpentras.

Isaac is one of the few non-Spanish poets whom Al-Ḥarizi praises without reservation ("Isaac makes the stars turn pale," Taḥkemoni, sha'ar 46). Similarly, Isaac's poems are praised lavishly by his friend *Meshullam de Piera, by Abraham *Bedersi in Ḥerev ha-Mithappekhet (verse 139), Menahem de *Lonzano (16th century) in Shetei Yadot (Venice 1618). He wrote only liturgical poetry. About 59 of his religious poems have been preserved; most of them formed part of and were printed in the rite of Carpentras and the Comtat Venaissin. Individual poems were also used in the rite of Tripoli (Siftei Renanot), Algiers, and others. B. Bar-Tikva (1996) published a complete edition of Ha-Seniri's piyyutim. Isaac cultivated almost all styles of the piyyut: Bar-Tikva's edition includes nine yoẓerot (me'orah, ofan, zulat, geulah, mi-khamokha), three kedushta'ot and silluk for the amidah, eight reshuyyot, some Spanish preferences, such as four nishmat, kaddish, barekhu and three shillum of Provençal style; 20 of his poems are seliḥot of different genres, including four tokhaḥot, three mustagāb, three rehuṭot, one bakashah, one teḥinnah; two kinot for Tishah be-Av, eight hoshanot for Sukkot (he devoted a large composition, preserved in the Carpentras Maḥzor, to Hoshana Rabba which embodies one of the most lengthy and elaborate acrostics on record), and one petirat Moshe for Simḥat Torah. In some cases, different forms of the same poem have been preserved, reflecting the changes of the time (Einbinder). Sometimes he drew on halakhic material and converted it to poetic form. He is also a witness of the historical conditions of his time and shows in some poems his perceptions of ritual violence. About half of his poems use the Spanish meter, in particular the syllabic one; not a few take strophic patterns. Other poems are written using the language and the technique of the old Palestinian piyyut, with stress or word meter. E. Fleischer considers Ha-Seniri the best and the most representative of the Provençal paytanim.


Zunz, Poesie, 12, 110, 290f.; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 472–75; Landshuth, Ammudei, 118–20; Renan, Rabbins, 715 n. 1; Gross, Gal Jud, 120, 360f.; Kahn, in: rej, 65 (1913), 182f.; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 424f.; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 275–84. add. bibliography: B. Bar-Tikva, Piyyutei R. Yiẓḥak ha-Sheniri (1996); Schirmann-Fleischer, The History of Hebrew Poetry in Christian Spain and Southern France (1997), 452–64 (Heb.); S. Einbinder, in: rej, 163 (2004), 111–35.

[Angel Sáenz-Badillos 2nd ed.)]

About this article

Isaac ben Judah Ha-Seniri

Updated About content Print Article