Jerrold Landau
Genealogical and Translation Services




Now that we have delved into piyyutim of many different types, spanning the cycle of the Jewish year in joy and sadness, I will examine some modern creativity in piyyutim. I will include some of my own creations from both ends of the spectrum, along with those of others. I note that this chapter is written with some trepidation that I may be overstepping the goals that I set out to accomplish in writing this book.

One might ask the question: is it appropriate to parody sacred matters? The answer, which might not satisfy everyone, is that a bit of lightheartedness helps round out a religious outlook that can sometimes be prone to an overly high degree of seriousness. It is not healthy to take oneself and one’s practices so seriously that one cannot find room for an occasional witticism, pun, or chuckle. A different religion than Judaism (or more precisely, some of the more extreme streams thereof), when faced with perceived mockery of that which it holds sacred, reacts with threats of retaliation, and in extreme cases, actual bloodshed. According to their adherents, one cannot and must not mock the sacred – and if one dares do so, it is reason to pull out the sword. All would agree that such an attitude is a perversion of true spiritual intentions. Furthermore, there is a significant difference between mockery and lightheartedness. On Purim, we let down our guard to some degree, and allow ourselves to poke some gentle fun at the sacred. Perhaps this helps us treat the sacred with due seriousness during all the other days of the year.


Humour in Piyyut

Where would one expect to find humour more than in Purim? A booklet was published in the 1800s, entitled Kol Bo LePurim, edited by Abraham Menachem Mendel Mohr [114], which contains a variety of parodies of piyyutim for Purim. The booklet includes responsa, a set of piyyutim, Tractate Purim from the Talmud Shikurim [Talmud of Drunkenness], Haggadah for Leil Shikurim [Haggadah for the Night of Drunkenness], as well as Seliḥot for Purim. The piyyutim section  covers a wide variety of genres, including:

  • Maaravot: The entire theme extolls drinking. The concluding brachot are changed to reflect the praise of the cup and its contents, while maintaining the meter of the original bracha. For example, the second bracha ends: Ohev mashke Yisrael, rather than Ohev amo Yisrael. The refrain of the long poetical section (always the third of the six sections of Maaravot) is: Beyom Ḥag Purim.
  • Atah Hareita along with Hakafot: The Hakafot begin with Ana Hayayin Hashpia Na…  [Let the wine have its influence].
  • Yotzrot: Misod keilim mikeilim shonim (based on Esther 1:7)… I will open my mouth to drink very many cups… (a play on words from the standard Misod, in which we state that we are opening our mouths in prayers and petitions). The Yotzrot continue with: Uvechein: and indeed, Lot drank on that day…
  • Hoshanot: Lemaancha Yeineinu, Lemaancha tirosheinu, lemaancha gafneinu…  The second Hoshana plays on the fact that even shtiya can have a dual meaning, and can be translated as “The stone of drinking” rather than the foundation stone of the Beit Hamikdash. These “Hoshanot” conclude with: Kol meshaker meshaker veomer, a play on the concluding piyyut of Hoshana Rabba. This is followed by a parody of the Simḥat Torah piyyut: Sisu vesimḥu besimḥat Purim.
  • Shir Hamaalot for Purim.
  • Akdamut for Purim: Unlike the other piyyutim included in this set of parodies, the theme does not revolve solely around drinking and drunkenness. The long piyyut, rivaling the length of the true Akdamut, also tells over the story of Purim (e.g. the opening line mentions Ahasueros Melech Tipshata). The complex Aramaic verses go through all the letters of the alphabet, followed by the acronym of the author Mohr. Each verse ends with ta or sa. A commentary in Rashi script is also included.
  • Yetziv Pitgam for Purim: There are 15 verses, each ending with rin, just like the original. The theme revolves solely around the concept of drinking.


According to one source [115], Mohr did not write the entire book. The Tractate of Purim had more ancient origins, having been written by Kalonymus the son of Kalonymus (1286-1328). This is also acknowledged in the Wikipedia article on Kalonymus [116]. The Haggadah was written by Zvi Hirsch Sommerhausen (1781-1853), and the parody of Seliḥot was written by Yehuda Leib ben Zeev (1764-1811). The other piyyutim were authored by Mohr. Clearly, the concept of a Purim parody of the sacred has lightened the hearts of our people for many centuries.

I personally only own some partial photocopies of this booklet, given to me many years ago during a shiur by Rabbi Avishai David (formerly the Rosh Yeshiva of Or Chaim / Ulpana of Toronto, currently a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva in Beit Shemesh). A quick search of Google reveals that one can purchase copies of the entire booklet for a relatively low price [117].

Despite the over-stress on drinking, one must admit that the level of scholarship and creativity needed to produce such brilliant parodies is very high indeed. Studying these piyyutim, tongue-in-cheek though they are, can help us appreciate the style of the respective genre of piyyutim in general.


Professor Eliezer Lorne Segal [118], a Judaic studies professor at the University of Calgary, has published a parody of the Haggadah in rhyme, entitled “Uncle Eli’s Haggadah.” Excerpts of this Haggadah can be found on his website [119]. His four questions, which extend for several pages, are written in Dr. Seuss style, and often make the email rounds prior to Pesaḥ. He has also published a parody of the Maḥzor, entitled “Uncle Eli Repents.” Excerpts of this parody can also be found on his website [120]. I have often quipped that on Yom Kippur afternoon, we merit a visit with Murray Cohen, who likes to be told how wonderful he looks. My quip is not original, as Uncle Eli picks up on this pun as well. There are also chapters on Baila the Bunny dipping apples in honey, Hineni (I am the lowest.. a zero, a nothing, an utter negation…) [121], The Sniggle-Fish (Tashlich), Vidui (I did it! I’m sorry! Next year I’ll be good.), Skippy the Scapegoat, and much more. These lighthearted renditions of the most serious portions of our annual liturgical cycle are certainly irreverent, but nevertheless delightful.


Several years ago, I wrote a brief set of Yotzrot for the Shabbat Project. My aim was not to mock the Shabbat Project, but rather to try my skill at composing something that resembled that genre of piyyut. Since the Shabbat Project is a non-liturgical occasion, it seemed like a reasonable target for my creativity on that front. I include the results here, along with explanatory notes. This parody was written in transliteration.




To be recited by chazzan and then congregation, responsively, before kedusha of Shaḥarit on Shabbat Project.

Misod ḥachamim unevonim, umilemed da’at manhigei haprojectim, efteḥa pi leechol kuglim, uleḥanot ulehitaneg lifnei melech ohev kidushim, vebaal haprojectim.

Nikneh crockpot lemitbaḥeinu, venaaseh cholent gadol leshulḥaneinu, Venakdishach beShabbat Projectecha Kadosh.

Nelech lebakeathon laasot challah, venevarech hamotzie be peh maleh, Venakdishach beProject Projecton Kadosh.

Nevashel kugel vePtcha leseudateinu, venazmin orḥim lebeiteinu, Venakdishach beShabbat Projectcha Kadosh.

Naaroch kiddush gadol beBeit Knesset, venemaleh koseinu beGlenlivet, Venakdishach beProject Projecton Kadosh.

Rak single malt yafeh lach, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, uGlenmorangie bekosot lekvodcha, Venakdishch beShabbat Projectecha Kadosh.

Uvechein ulecha taaleh kiddush, venevarech leḥahyim bekiddush gadol be Shabbat Project.



  1. The author of this piyyut has great respect for the Shabbat Project. These Yotzrot were written as an exercise in creativity (admittedly a poor attempt at such), and not as a mockery of the concept itself.
  2. Nevertheless, there may be some undertone of social commentary of the occasion here as well. I found my way to Orthodox Judaism at a young age through intellectual questioning. Therefore, the apparent stress on gastronomic aspects of Shabbat as a means of Kiruv, which seems to be a hallmark of the Shabbat Project, seems a bit awkward to me. Nevertheless, I understand the motivation. If it encourages people to enjoy the concept of Shabbat and aspire toward deeper observance, it is worthwhile.
  3. The author of this piyyut also means to show no disrespect to the founder of the Shabbat Project, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein of South Africa. In fact, the author, being an ardent genealogist (many would say a far better genealogist than paytan), is aware that Rabbi Goldstein and my wife Tzippy share a large cadre of cousins. For the fascinating story of this discovery, see
  4. Although far from a teetotaler, the author of this piyyut does not condone overdrinking on any occasion, including Purim, let alone a Shabbat Kiddush. The references to alcoholic beverages in this piyyut, perhaps modeled after the aforementioned Purim parodies, are to be considered as referring to one or two shots at most. Furthermore, the author prefers wine to whisky, and is unable to differentiate between the various Glens – although when offered a shot, he will gladly oblige.
  5. There are obvious puns and double meanings here. Rather than opening one’s mouth in prayer (as is usual in the Misod reshut), one opens one’s mouth here to eat a good Kiddush. (The aforementioned Purim parody does the same thing, albeit with drinking rather than eating.) Furthermore, there is a pun on the words Kiddush and Kedusha, both based on the same root. The term Kiddush has morphed from the original meaning of the blessings recited before eating on Shabbat, to the ofttimes sumptuous pre-meal feast celebrated on Shabbat following services – and which at times spoils one’s appetite for Shabbat lunch.
  6. The term Project Projecton is based on the term Shabbat Shabbaton, another term for Yom Kippur (and the inspiration was likely the Kadosh phrases of Yom Kippur Musaf).
  7. Although termed Yotzrot, these piyyutim should be more accurately described as Kerovot. Yotzrot here is used in the more generic sense of the term.
  8. Most of the time, Kadosh phrases of the Kerovot are refrains of a longer piyyut. Fortunately, the author did not make the effort to compose such a longer piyyut.
  9. The author of these Yotzrot would be well advised to stick to commentary on piyyutim rather than writing parodies.



The Kinot of Tisha B’Av also lend themselves to creativity. Our modern history is still overshadowed by the Shoah, and I have dealt with the Kinot for the Shoah in the preceding chapter. After the Shoah, formalizing any tragedies in more recent times may seem anticlimactic. Nevertheless, there have been attempts, some of them by me.

The Gaza disengagement took place in August and September 2005. The deadline for voluntary evacuation was August 15, 2005, the day following Tisha B’Av. While no lives were lost directly, and the wisdom of this disengagement is open to controversy, there is no question that the uprooting of settlements, the dislocation of the residents from their homes, and the subsequent terrorism perpetrated from the Gaza area by the wicked Hamas regime are all causes for sadness. This does not imply that the disengagement should not have happened – that is open to debate, and it is easy to make opinions in hindsight – but it does allow for expressions of sadness. I have a copy of a Kina written by Yehoshua Buch (signed: written with tears, awaiting the salvation, Buch Yehoshua) lamenting the destruction of 25 settlements in the Land of Israel, (there were 21 in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank involved in this disengagement), and the deportation of the residents by their Jewish brethren. It is written in the style of the Kina אֵיכָה יָשְׁבָה חֲבַצֶּלֶת הַשָּׁרוֹן, which laments the loss of the 24 Mishmarot [watches] of the Beit Hamikdash. It opens with the same phrase as the original Kina. As with the original, each stanza concludes with the name of one of the evacuated settlements [122].

The COVID pandemic, ongoing at the time of writing, has changed our lives, wreaked much havoc, caused the deaths of many people, both Jewish and gentile – including far too many rabbis and sages, removed sources of livelihood for many people, and has generally sown chaos and disruption in the world. I have found online the following set of dirges, lamenting the disruption of the pandemic:  .  These dirges are based on Eicha and the Kinot. The source of this is not Orthodox, and it is questionable whether it is appropriate to liturgize the pandemic when there are so many other problems in the world. Nevertheless, the pandemic has taken many lives, including some people from our own community, and the attempt to lament the situation is very sincere.

The wars of the State of Israel over the years have caused significant loss of life. This has been marked liturgically through a special Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer inserted by many congregations in the Yizkor service four times a year, as well as on Yom Hazikaron, the day prior to Yom Haatzmaut. The Israeli Poet, Yehudah Amichai (1924-2000) [123], wrote a set of poems called “Kinot al hametim bamilkhama” [Lamentations for the War Dead]. Secular Israeli songs have also been written lamenting the wars that the country endured, most notably: אנחנו שנינו מאותו הכפר: We’re both from the same town [124], and המלחמה האחרונה: The Last War (written after the Yom Kippur War) [125]. The famous song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav [Jerusalem of Gold] was originally written as a song of pining for the Old City of Jerusalem, which was inaccessible to Jews from the years 1948-1967. After the Sixth Day War, a fourth verse was added, expressing joy over the reunification of the city. None of these songs are Kinot in the true sense of the word, and they were not written with religious intent, but all express the Jewish sorrow for the modern tragedies of our people.

On a similar vein, the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 spurred a memorial DVD [126]. It should be noted that the murder of Yizhak Rabin was the first assassination of the leader of a Jewish State since the murder of Gedalia ben Aḥikam shortly after the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash, an event which is marked on our calendar by an annual fast day. Internecine hatred among our people, especially when it results in bloodshed, is certainly a cause for grief and introspection.

I have written two Kinot. The first was written during the time of the Second Intifada, almost 20 years ago. This was during the early days of widespread internet availability, and I recall looking up the names of the victims on a regular basis, reading their life stories, and lamenting the ongoing tragedy of loss of innocent life. The second Kina was written during the Bein Hametzarim period of 2017, during what what is known as the Temple Mount Crisis [127] was taking place. Neither is written in poetic form (I do not possess that skill), and both are rather raw and rough. Yet they both reflect the agony of a sensitive Jewish heart to the ongoing tribulations that I have witnessed in my own lifetime. I present them both as originally written.




(Written by Jerrold Landau for Tisha B’Av 2002, and revised for Tisha B’Av 2003 – used during Tisha B’Av Kinot programs that I led during that period, and through several subsequent years.)


Eicha. How is it that less than two years ago, the restraint in Eretz Yisrael broke down, and our beloved Land turned into a battleground which grew out of control?

A few days before Rosh Hashanah, rocks rained down onto the worshippers at the Kotel. How is it that the Arabs show no respect for innocent people engaged in prayer?

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, a young American teenager, studying at a yeshiva in Israel for the year, was savagely beaten by an Arab mob. And when a photo of this boy appeared in the newspaper, with an Israeli soldier standing over him to defend him, the caption indicated “An Israeli soldier prepares to beat an Arab”. How is it that the world press has turned against our people?  Could this be another reminder that the concept of “Esav Soneh Yaakov” is still alive and well?

Two Israeli men, apparently having lost their direction, ended up in the middle of Ramallah. They were captured by a group of Arabs, taken the police station, beaten savagely, and then tossed out the window to be mauled by a mob of wild animals, disguised as humans. How can human beings, created in the image of Gd, sink so low?

An Arab sniper in Hebron, the resting place of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, takes aim with his  gun at a 10-month-old baby, Shalhevet Pass, out on a peaceful stroll with her parents. Do the murderers have no mercy on babies?

A mother and father, driving their five girls home after spending Shabbat in Yerushalayim, are shot and killed. This family, the Kahane family, while we might not agree with all of their thoughts, certainly always had love of Klal Yisrael at the forefront of all their actions. Six  young orphans will never see their mother and father again. All this after their grandfather was savagely murdered even before they were born.

How is it that a human being, created in the image of Gd, can tie explosives around his waist, march nonchalantly into a supermarket or a bus, and blow himself to smithereens, taking along all the bystanders?  How can this be done in the name of religion, and how can this be sanctioned by so-called religious leaders?

How is it that a bus driver, trusted by Israel for many years, can decide to plough his bus into a busy bus stop, killing eight soldiers and civilians, and injuring numerous others?.

A rabbi in Kever Yosef,  a young boy on a tiyul in Tekoah, some two dozen teenagers at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv, soldiers on the line of duty, civilians going about their business:  those filled with hate hit indiscriminately and without warning. Funerals have been taking place and families have been sitting shiva on a weekly basis for the past 2 years.

The Schijveschuurder family in the Sbarro restaurant, a mother and father with three of their eight children, who died with Shma Yisrael on their lips.

A group of Jews, many of them survivors of the Holocaust, cut down as they were conducting the Pesach Seder in Netanya.

Many, many others, over 500, all who died al Kiddush Hashem.

Our homeland is on fire, we here in the galut go about our business as usual as if nothing is happening, the world sits by and watches, blaming the victims and confusing self-defence with malice. The world press has turned against us. Our country of Israel is becoming a pariah, even among so-called enlightened academics. The European continent is reverting to its traditional anti-Semitism. We live in a topsy turvy world, where truth is falsehood, and falsehood is truth. Hashem, look at this tragic situation, and put an end to the tribulations of Klal Yisrael!




(written by Jerrold Landau, July 30, 7 Av, 2017. Based on the kina Alelai Li recited on Tisha B’Av morning [128].)


If a human being can murder a family in cold blood at the Shabbat table, and claim that it is honour of Al Aksa, Woe is me!

If his mother and father can publicly declare their pride in his actions, Woe is me!

If the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the United Nations can justify the slaughter, Woe is me! [129]

If Islam cannot recognize that the Temple Mount / Haram el Sharif is a holy spot for other religions as well (and is in fact built upon the holiest spot of Judaism), Woe is me!

If Jews visiting the Temple Mount are hounded by the wakf with shouts of Allahu Akbar. Woe is me!

If a Jew visibly uttering words of prayer on the holiest spot of Judaism is arrested on the spot, Woe is me! [130]!

If the Temple Mount is used to stash weapons to murder Israelis (even non-Jewish Israelis), Woe is me!

If legitimate security measures are twisted and turned into supposed malevolent acts, Woe is me!

If Israel is accused of preventing Muslim worship on the Temple Mount, when exactly the opposite is true (except when there is a security emergency), Woe is me!

If the Palestinian Authority pays lifetime salaries of over $3000 per month to the families of those who have murdered or attempted to murder Israelis, Woe is me!

If the Palestinian Authority school curriculum includes textbooks containing the crudest of anti-Semitic canards, Woe is me!

If anyone thinks there is a chance for peace at this current juncture, given the reality of the previous two stanzas, Woe is me!

If a chant of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) is used as a call to murder, Woe is me!

If the obvious solution of sharing places that are holy to multiple religions can only be seen by one of the two sides, Woe is me! [131]

If the world at large turns a blind eye to the realities that Israel faces, Woe is me!





114. See

115. See

116. See


Google Books - Kol Bo LePurim

118. See

119. see

120. See

121. Probably based on the popular joke, with the theme that you have to be a something to be a nothing:  See . While this is meant as a joke, the undertone is very serious. It takes a fair amount of intellectual and spiritual honesty to internalize the lowly state of a human being in comparison to the Divine.

122. I have been unable to find a copy of this Kina online, but I have one paper copy. If interested, contact me, and I will send you a scanned copy.


124. See Lyrics of Anachnu Meoto Hakfar -- we are of the same village  for the lyrics, and for the haunting melody.

125. See Lyrics of Hamilchama Haachrona - the Last War

126. See

127. See

128. For a full translation of Alelai Li, see . See'Av_(Ashkenaz)%2C_Kinot_for_Tisha_B'Av_Day.17.2?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

129. See

130. See

131. For the Jewish view of the Temple Mount and multiple religions, see Isaiah 56:7 (incidentally, the reading for Tisha B’Av afternoon), “For My house will be considered a house of prayer for all nations.”


 © 2020 by Jerrold Landau