Yannai (Hebrew: יניי or ינעי) was the first payyetan to employ rhyme and introduce his name in acrostics. He flourished, probably in the land of Israel, in the first half of the 7th century. He was apparently a very prolific poet, for reference is made to "the liturgical poems of Yannai"; he is also said to have composed "ḳerobot" for the "orders of the year" (perhaps for the weekly lessons). Most of his poems are lost; some are perhaps still extant, but they cannot be recognized with certainty as Yannai's work. It is speculated that he may have composed the famous Unettaneh Tokef prayer. In 1938, Zulay published poems of Yannai collected from Geniza fragments.
The following fragments remain to show his style:
- אוני פטרי רחמתים: A "ḳerobah" for Sabbath ha-Gadol. It is said to include also הפלאת בלילה אז רוב נסים, found in the Pesaḥ Haggadah.
- שיר השירים אשירה נא לידידי : A "shib'ata" for the seventh day of Pesaḥ. The middle portion is missing. It is designated as דרמושה (this reading must be substituted for the senseless לרמושה in the superscription), i.e., "bolt" or "beam" (δρόμος, otherwise called רהיט), and forms a sort of textual variation of Song of Songs, following the conception and interpretation of that book in the Midrash.
- תעו אז בפתרוס: A "silluḳ" for Sabbath Shim'u, i.e., the second Sabbath before the Ninth of Ab.
Yannai, like his predecessor Jose b. Jose, is not as obscure in his vocabulary and in his metaphors as is Kalir, who is said to have been Yannai's pupil and to have been killed by his master out of jealousy.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Rapoport, in Bikkure ha-'Ittim, 1829, p. 111;
- idem, in Kerem Ḥemed, 1841, vi. 25;
- Luzzatto, Mebo, p. 10;
- Zunz, Literaturgesch. p. 28;
- Landshuth, Ammude ha-'Abodah, p. 102;
- Harkavy, Studien und Mittheilungen, v. 106;
- S. A. Wertheimer, Ginze Yerushalayim, ii. 18b.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Zulay, Menahem; Piyyute Yannai: Liturgical Poems of Yannai / Collected from Geniza-Manuscripts and Other Sources (Publications of the Research I Berlin Shocken 1938