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The Introduction of Liturgical Poetry into the Karaite Prayer Book

From Moses ben Abraham Dar’i to Aaron ben Joseph

The research aims to unravel the liturgical setting of Karaite liturgical poems before and simultaneously with the redaction of the Karaite prayer book (i.e. twelfth and thirteenth centuries). The main corpus consists of a poetical cycle of liturgical poems composed by the twelfth-century Egyptian Karaite poet Moses ben Abraham Dar’i. These poems, bound to the liturgical cycle of weekly Torah reading on the Sabbath, will be critically edited and analyzed as early examples of inserting poetry and Andalusian poetical norms into the Karaite liturgy. Their liturgical setting will be reconstructed and then compared to that of later Karaite liturgical poems composed by Aaron ben Joseph “the Elder”, who compiled the Karaite prayer book while living in Constantinople in the late thirteenth century. This prayer book has been regarded as instrumental in introducing liturgical poetry into Karaite worship and has influenced Karaite prayer services ever since. Aaron ben Joseph was well versed in medieval rabbinic literature and introduced – in addition to his own poetry – Andalusian Rabbanite liturgical poetry into the Karaite prayer book. The analysis of the integration of these Andalusian Rabbanite liturgical poems in the Karaite prayer book may provide new insights into the cultural and literary transfer between different religious groups.

The objective of this research is to contribute to the groundwork of a typology of reoccuring models of interaction within different groups of the same religious system ranging from the adoption of aesthetic norms (Moses Dar’i) to the inclusion of “foreign” (Rabbanite) elements that remain identifyable in their new (Karaite) context (Aaron ben Joseph). The first focus of this research is a critical edition of liturgical poems by Moses ben Abraham Dar’i (step I), a study of their liturgical setting (step II), and their analysis as examples of comparatively early Karaite piyyuṭ (step III). In a second phase the aim will be to compare the liturgical setting of Moses Dar’i’s poems with that of later piyyutim (liturgical poems) composed by Aaron ben Joseph “the Elder”. In a final and third phase the integration of Andalusian Rabbanite piyyutim into the Karaite prayer book will be scrutinized (step V). The research aims to publish a critical edition of Dar’i’s liturgical poems in a monograph, which will include a commentary and an introduction explaining how Moses Dar’i connected his piyyutim to the weekly Torah readings. Their analysis and comparison with later Karaite piyyutim and the study of the Rabbanite piyyutim included in the Karaite prayer book will be published separately. Before the publication of the results, they will be presented to the scholarly community at relevant conferences

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