Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review of Lieber, A Vocabulary of Desire

Ulmer on Lieber, 'A Vocabulary of Desire: The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue'

Author: Laura Suzanne Lieber
Reviewer: Rivka B. Ulmer

Laura Suzanne Lieber. A Vocabulary of Desire: The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2014. 450 pp. $210.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-90-04-23463-5.

Reviewed by Rivka B. Ulmer (Bucknell University)
Published on H-Judaic (May, 2015)
Commissioned by Matthew A. Kraus

"I am My Beloved's": The Mosaics of Love in Early Piyyut

The title “Vocabulary of Desire” implies that payyetanim, liturgical poets, used the available words of the biblical Song of Songs as lexemes to construct richly woven, liturgical poetry. In post-biblical interpretation the Song of Songs expressed God’s love for Israel and Israel’s love for God, and it provided ancient Jewish exegetes with a powerful vocabulary. Perhaps of even greater significance, the poetry of the Song of Songs “provides a natural language for liturgical prayer. The Song, while hardly an overtly religious work, nevertheless offers a profound, and important, vocabulary for theology” (p. 22). The resulting piyyutim, liturgical poems, are examined in this book, which contains two parts. The two parts are successfully integrated and explain certain concepts concerning the structure and the religious messages of the piyyut and the culture that produced it.

I noted the release of the book last summer here.