Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Sefer Yetsirah: "Quarried in Air" and set to music

BOOK REVIEW: Quarried in Air (Shai Secunda, Jewish Review of Books). The book is:
Sefer Yeṣirah and Its Contexts: Other Jewish Voices
by Tzahi Weiss

University of Pennsylvania Press
208 pp., $59.95
In the introduction to his Sefer Yeṣirah and Its Contexts: Other Jewish Voices, Tzahi Weiss quips that after a century and a half of research, we know almost everything there is to know about Sefer Yeṣirah except the identity of its author, the time and place of its writing, the shape of the original text, and, also, its meaning.
Yes, that about sums it up.
Weiss contends that Sefer Yeṣirah applies the Syriac Christian alphabetology to the singular language of Hebrew. He argues that the text emerged from a barely known northern Mesopotamian Jewish community at some remove from rabbinic Babylonia, located to the south. If this is right, then Weiss has done more than locate the true origins of Sefer Yeṣirah, he has recovered the “Other Jewish Voices” of his monograph’s subtitle, voices that had been drowned out by the rolling waters and gasping wind of the talmudic sea.
Intriguing. Past posts on Sefer Yetsirah) are here and here and links. Variant English spellings include Sepher Yetsirah, Sefer Yetzira, and Sefer Yesira.

The second part of the article reviews the self-titled 2017 album by Israeli musician Victoria Hanna. It was heavily influenced by Sefer Yetsirah. Notably the song "22 Letters." You should listen to it. Also to "The Aleph-bet Song (Hosha'ana)." For more on her work, see here.

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