Yannai

Yannai was the first of Israel’s classic poets which flourished somewhere in the 6th century, just a couple hundred years after the closing of the Talmud of the Land of Israel. Rabbi Gershon known as the Illumination of the Diaspora one of Israel’s greatest sages of the Early Middle Ages wrote of him and Israel’s Poets: “We should learn from the first Poets which were great sages. Behold Rabbi Yannai, which was of the first Sages and wrote Qerovoth for each order of the year.”

Yannai’s Poetry like that of many of the Poets of the Land of Israel met an unfortunate fate. Although he was prominent and well-acknowledge in his day, he was reduced to a mere name at a very early date.  A few reasons have been surmised for this. The first is that Yannai’s poems were closely tied with the 3-Year Torah Reading cycle customary in the Land of Israel. In Israel the reading of the entire Torah in the Synagogue was completed once every three years. In the Babylonia the weekly Torah portions were much longer so that they were able to finish the entire the Torah once a year. The 3-Year Torah reading cycle, which is still preserved in some Sephardic community largely gave way to the the 1 year Babylonian Cycle of the Torah Reading in the Diaspora.

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