Jewish Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity

Translations and Commentaries. Cambridge Genizah Studies Series, Volume 8


In Jewish Aramaic Poetry from Late Antiquity, Laura Suzanne Lieber offers annotated translations of sixty-nine poems written between the 4th and 7th century C.E. in the Land of Israel, along with commentaries and introductions. The poems celebrate a range of occasions from the ritual year and the life-cycle: Passover, Shavuot (Pentacost), the Ninth of Av, Purim, the New Moon of Nisan, the conclusion of the Torah, weddings, and funerals.

Written in the vernacular of the Jews of living in Palestine after the Christianization of the Roman Empire, these works offer insight into lived Jewish experience during a pivotal age. The volume contextualizes the individual works so that readers from a range of backgrounds can appreciate the formal, linguistic, exegetical, theological, and performative creativity of these works.

"Lieber has produced reliable renderings, as well as learned and helpful annotations, and has consistently expressed herself in clear and elegant fashion....Her volume is an important, scientific study in its own right, as well as a useful reference tool (if read alongside the Sokoloff-Yahalom edition), and certainly deserves a wide readership." - Stefan C. Reif, St John's College, Cambridge, UK, in: Journal of Jewish Studies 70.2 (2019)

"Scholars of Judaism in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages will certainly appreciate Lieber’s effort in offering all of this textual material to them in conveniently accessible form. Almost every student of Judaism in those eras, regardless of academic specialty, is likely to find something of interest and value in the poems that she has translated." - Mose J. Bernstein, Yeshiva University, Speculum 95/3 (2020)

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Laura Suzanne Lieber, Ph.D. (2003), University of Chicago, is Professor of Religious Studies at Duke University, where she directs the Center for Jewish Studies. She has published monographs, translations, and articles in the field of liturgical poetry in Late Antiquity, including Yannai on Genesis: An Invitation to Piyyut (HUC Press, 2010) and A Vocabulary of Desire: The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue (Brill, 2014).


1 Passover
 A Passover Love Song (ShBM 1)
 Moses Confronts the Sea (ShBM 2)
 The Exodus Retold (ShBM 4)
 A Mighty Redemption (ShBM 5)
 The Enemy Speaks (ShBM 6)
 Who is Like You? (ShBM 7)
 The Lord Will Reign (ShBM 8)
 None is Like Him (ShBM 9)

2 Shavuot
 Ruth Retold (ShBM 10)
 Moses is Summoned to the Summit (ShBM 11)
 Moses and the Angels (ShBM 12)
 No Idols: Daniel’s Friends Counter the King (ShBM 13)
 Honor Your Father and Mother: The Akedah (ShBM 14)
 You Shall Not Murder: The Death of Joab (ShBM 15 and 15*)
 Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife (ShBM 16)

3 Tisha b’Av
 The Fall of Betar (ShBM 17)
 Reasons to Weep (ShBM 18)
 Zion’s Lament (ShBM 19)
 Woe is Me! (ShBM 20)
 I Shall Go Forth Weeping (ShBM 21)
 By the Rivers of Babylon (ShBM 22)
 A Poet’s Plea (ShBM 23)
 Witness to Destruction (ShBM 24)
 Ancestral Intercession (ShBM 25)
 A Poet’s Lament (ShBM Appendix)

4 Purim
 A Poetic History (ShBM 26)
 Esther’s Entreaty (ShBM 27)
 Esther’s Sacrifice (ShBM 28)
 A Dispute among Trees (ShBM 29)
 A Prelude to Purim (ShBM 30)
 Esther and Zion (ShBM 31)
 Zeresh’s Lament (ShBM 32)
 The Whole Megillah, in Brief (ShBM 32*)
 The Enemies of Israel Hold Forth (ShBM 33)

5 Rosh Hodesh Nisan
 The Foremost Month (ShBM 34)
 A Lyric of Redemption (ShBM 35)
 A Poem of Portents (ShBM 36)
 Nisan’s Declamation (ShBM 37)
 A Cosmic Sense of History (ShBM 38)
 A Dispute Among the Months (ShBM 39)

6 Concluding the Torah
 Moses Confronts Mortality (ShBM 40)
 Mourning Moses (ShBM 41)
 Jochebed’s Search (ShBM 42)
 A Psalm for the Psalmist (ShBM 43)
 On Chronicles (ShBM 44)

7 Epithalamia
 Wisdom for the Groom (ShBM 44*)
 An Address to the Groom (ShBM 45)
 A Groom’s Tribute (ShBM 46)
 Marriage Takes Three (ShBM 47)
 A Poet’s Advice (ShBM 48)
 A Groom’s Teaching (ShBM 49)
 A Wedding Homily (ShBM 50)

8 Eulogies
 A Lineage of Mortality I (ShBM 51)
 A Lineage of Mortality II (ShBM 52)
 A Lineage of Mortality III (ShBM 53)
 A Farewell for a Priest (ShBM 54)
 A History of Mortality (ShBM 55)
 A Farewell to a Woman (ShBM 56)
 Body versus Soul (ShBM 57)
 A Farewell to a Child I (ShBM 58)
 A Farewell to a Youth (ShBM 59)
 A Farewell to a Child II (ShBM 60)
 A Graveside Eulogy I (ShBM 61)
 A Graveside Eulogy II (ShBM 62)
 A Graveside Eulogy III (ShBM 64)
 A Graveside Eulogy IV (ShBM 65)
 After the Farewells (ShBM 66)

9 A Poetic Miscellany
 A Song of Solomon (ShBM 67)
 A Threefold Torah (ShBM 68)

All interested in Jewish religious life and culture in Late Antiquity, including readers approaching the material from perspectives of Rabbinics, Early Christianity, and Classics.
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