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Rabbi Menachem Yaakov of Worms Print E-mail

Liturgical PoetryThe 3rd of Iyar is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Menachem ben Yaakov of Worms, a great Talmudic scholar and author of many liturgical poems. He died on April 16, 1203. He was a member of an old family of Jewish scholars connected with that city. His great-grandfather Simson, who was living in Worms at the time of the First Crusade and was surnamed "Ha-Darshan," is quoted by Rashi on Isaiah 58:14 and Amos 6:3. One of Simson's sons, Samuel, is also quoted by Rashi ("Ha-Pardes," p. 33a). Jacob, another son of Simson, died at Worms during the First Crusade (1096). In his epitaph Menachem is called "teacher of the Law," "preacher," and "payyeṭan." A responsum of his addressed to the German Talmudist Eliezer ben Joel ha-Levi is preserved among the responsa of Rabbi Judah ben Asher, the Rosh (p. 48a).

 

Rabbi Menachem is known principally through his synagogal poetry. Zunz credits him with thirty-one poems—among them being examples of "Ma'arib," "Yoẓer," "Ofan," "Ahabah," "Sulat," "Reshut," "Ḳedushshah"—as well as with a number of "seliḥot." Among his elegies the following deserve mention: "Me'one Shamayim" (which found a place in the German ritual for the 9th of Ab); "Alelai Ki Ba'u Rega'" (on the martyrs of Blois, 1171, and of Boppard, 1195); a selicḥah on the ten martyrs; a selicḥah commemorating the victims of a persecution in 1147 or 1190. One of his most famous poems is "Anah ha-Shem ha-Nikbad," . Corresponding to the condition of the Jews during this period, a tone of gloom and despondency pervades his poetry.

Me’one Shamayim

The skies, the heavenly dwelling places,

are filled with Your Majesty, nevertheless,

they cannot contain You;

how much less, then, can the Temple?

How good and how pleasant was Your dwelling amid friends;

because You desired to confine Your self among us,

You did command us to build the Temple.

O Revered One, You have shown Your love to Your people,

for they are Your inheritance,

and have made known that the Temple was called by Your name.

Even strangers went there,

and they summoned their people to Your mountain,

and they witnessed Your signs,

so that they might see

the Glory of God revealed

over Your Temple.

When my signs increased,

the zeal for the idols

ate me up,

and the adversary razed the very foundation;

he made me a desolate waste

and shattered the Temple.

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