Avodah: Priests, Angels, and bestiaries

AVODAH: An Anthology of Ancient Poetry for Yom Kippur (2006) YAHALOM, Joseph, SCHWARTZ, Michael D.

I finally got to read the excellent work Avodah – a beautiful translation of the various versions of the Avodah for Yom Kippur.

The book shows that the avodah piyyut, even though it is based on the Mishnah, makes the avodah a narrative entirely about the priests. It removes the Mishnah’s granting to the Sages the ability to give oversight to the priests. It also removes the Sages’ distrust of priestly groups.

Here we have more theology of 6th to 9th century. The book focuses on tracing these images to DSS and Heikhalot and offers little on the actual 6th-9th centuries

In all the versions, the world was created to worship God in the Temple and they give a history of the world including early creatures. The book points out how the use of  myth and mythos in the piyyut. Adam was originally of great size and appearance and was originally worshiped by the other creatures. The piyyutim describe how the high priest overcame the hostility of the angels, but from a theology perspective I missed any reference to the debates of Scholem, Idel, and Schaffer.

Is this still relevant? Well, we still use the version called Ata Konanta  but we do not use versions like “Az be en Kol” which describe rivers of fire, cosmic ice, demigods, and adam kadmon.

For an alternative reading, see  Rav Soloveitchik on the Avodah

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