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Elazar ben Killir

Eleazar ben Killir, also known as Eleazar Kalir, Eleazar Qalir or El'azar HaKalir (c. 570 – c. 640) was a Hebrew poet whose classical liturgical verses, known as piyut, have continued to be sung through the centuries during significant religious services, including those on Tisha b'Av and on the sabbath after a wedding. He was one of Judaism's earliest and most prolific of the paytanim, Hebrew liturgical poets. He wrote piyutim for all the main Jewish festivals, for special Sabbaths, for weekdays of festive character, and for the fasts. Many of his hymns have found their way into festive prayers of the Ashkenazi Jews' nusaḥ. (via wikipedia).


אַלְלַי לִי | Alelai Li (Woe is me!), by Elazar ben Killir (ca. 7th c.)

Contributed on: 26 Jul 2015 by Rachel Salston (translation) | Elazar ben Killir |

Alelai Li” is a ḳinah recited on the morning of Tisha bAv. It was written by HaKalir around the 7th century. According to the Koren Mesorat HaRav Kinot, it is number 17 of 50. The title is the refrain of the poem and is an onomatopoeic whimper (try saying it aloud, focusing on the alliteration). It is difficult to translate the opening word “im” which means “if” or “should”. This is an allusion to Job 10:15, “If I have done evil, then woe unto me.” I have decided to translate the ḳinah not in the conditional tense (which would render “If these horrible things happened, then woe is me!”) but as a lament upon memory; however, the former would be a more accurate (if not more awkward in English) translation. Adding to the awkwardness of the poem’s language is the feminine conditional verb that each line has after the word “im”. I have maintained this strange verb tense and placement in my translation by using the English progressive tense. The ḳinah ends with a collection in lines in a different meter suggesting that the Holy One (and the paytan himself) is angered that the Jewish people announce their sufferings but not their transgressions. . . .

אז בהלוך ירמיהו | Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu: Then As Jeremiah Went, by Elazar ben Killir circa 7th century CE (translated by Gabriel Seed)

Contributed on: 25 Jul 2015 by Gabriel Kretzmer Seed (translation) | Elazar ben Killir |

Az Bahalokh Yirmiyahu is a kinah, “based on Eikhah Rabati Petikhta 24, in which Jeremiah says to God: “I am like a father who prepared to take his only son to be married, and the son tragically died under the wedding canopy. Do you not feel any pain for me or for my son?” God responds: “Go and rouse Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses from their graves, for they know how to cry…” (Daniel Goldschmidt, Seder Kinot le-Tisha b’Av, Jerusalem, 1972, 98). . . .

אֵיךְ תְּנַחֲמוּנִי הֶבֶל | Eikh T’naḥamuni Hevel, a ḳinnah by Elazar ben Killir ca. 7th c. (trans. Jonah Rank)

Contributed on: 16 Feb 2022 by Jonah Rank | Elazar ben Killir |

The qinah, Eikh T’naḥamuni Hevel, in Hebrew with an English translation. . . .

אוֹמֶץ גְּבוּרוֹתֶיךָ | Omets G’vuratekha, a piyyut by Eleazar ben Qalir for the second night of Pesaḥ in its Latin translation by Johann Stephan Rittangel (1644)

Contributed on: 20 Mar 2021 by Aharon N. Varady (editing/transcription) | Isaac Gantwerk Mayer (transcription & naqdanut) | Johann Stephan Rittangel (Latin translation) | Elazar ben Killir |

The piyyut, Omets G’vurotekha by Elazar ha-Qalir, in its Latin translation by Johann Stephan Rittangel. . . .

אוֹי נָא לָֽנוּ כִּי חָטָֽאנוּ | Oy Na Lanu Ki Ḥatanu (Woe alas unto us, for we have sinned), a ḳinah possibly by Elazar ben Killir (ca. 7th c.)

Contributed on: 26 Jul 2023 by Jonah Rank | Elazar ben Killir |

This anonymously authored ḳinah (קינה, song of “lamentation”) begins with the line “אוֹי נָא לָֽנוּ כִּי חָטָֽאנוּ” (oy na lanu ki ḥatanu, “Woe—alas—unto us, for we have sinned”). Although the ancient Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus blames the Roman Empire for the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE—and Roman art even celebrates the Roman capture of the Temple’s candelabrum—this ḳinah suggests that the destruction of Jerusalem was, at least partially, the result of Jewish discord. The ḳinah, which was long part of the Romanian prayer service for Tish’ah b’Av, appears in few other traditional prayerbooks for Tish’ah b’Av. It seems that the author of this ḳinah was El’azar ben Kallir (ca. 570–640 CE), who composed approximately half of the kinot most commonly inserted into contemporary Tish’ah b’Av prayerbooks that include the 40-odd most common kinot (קינות, plural of ḳinah) Jews sang throughout Europe during much of the early modern period. The author did not sign their name but left us with an alphabetical acrostic listing of often-concrete reasons to mourn today. . . .

קרובות לתשעה באב | Ḳerovot for Tishah b’Av, by Elazar ben Kilir (ca. 7th c.)

Contributed on: 04 Apr 2021 by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer (transcription & naqdanut) | Isaac Gantwerk Mayer (translation) | Elazar ben Killir |

Many communities recite a series of poems interwoven with the Amidah on Purim. These poems, known as the “krovets,” were written by Elazar b. Rabbi Kalir, the greatest of the early paytanim. But lesser known than the krovets for Purim are the krovets for Tisha b’Av, written as well by Elazar b. Rabbi Kalir. A fine example of Elazar’s intricate poetry, the krovets for Tisha b’Av is rife with Biblical citations, finally culminating with the prayer for Jerusalem. Each stanza begins with five tightly rhymed lines beginning with a constant א followed by a quintuple half-acrostic on the second letter, then a poetic volta on the word אֵיכָה, followed by a Biblical citation, a verse starting with the last word in the citation, a letter from Elazar’s name, and a final Biblical citation. The krovets for Tisha b’Av is meant to be part of the morning service, tied into the cantorial repetition for Tisha b’Av. . . .

תפילת גשם כולל אמהות | Tefillat Geshem including the matriarchs with stanzas in a backwards acrostic, an adaptation by Eliran Sobel

Contributed on: 03 Oct 2023 by Eliran Sobel | Elazar ben Killir |

On Shemini Atseret, one is supposed to begin mentioning rain in the second blessing of their Amidah prayers (Ta’anit 2a). In many communities, this is liturgically marked by a poetic introduction in the repetition of the Amidah, called Geshem, specifically with the piyyut “Zekhor Av” written by Rabbi Eleezer BeRabbi Kalir, which alludes to the references of our forefathers’ relations to water. One feature of this poem is that it utilizes an alef-bet-ical acrostic, and while there are various modern adaptations that include biblical women, those break the acrostic. This is my attempt to compose a version including stanzas for our foremothers, while maintaining the acrostic by writing the women’s stanzas as a backwards acrostic (i.e. starting from tav and going to alef). This backwards acrostic containing the foremothers is then interspersed with Kalir’s original. . . .