In 1938, Menahem Zulay published what is often considered to be the first critical edition of classical piyyutim, Hebrew liturgical poems from late antique Palestine. At the time, scholars had only just begun to publish these long-forgotten works from manuscript fragments rediscovered in the Cairo Genizah. While the edition was nothing less than groundbreaking, Zulay chose to hold off on providing a commentary, such that, in the words of Saul Lieberman, “the book remains closed and sealed in terms of its content.”1 For Lieberman, and for those scholars who came after him, the key to understanding piyyuṭ lies in midrash, rabbinic exegesis, and thus, for the past eight decades, scholars have read piyyuṭ as hierarchically indebted to rabbinic texts. When combined with its baroque aesthetic and the simple fact that much piyyuṭ still remains unpublished, the perception of hierarchy has allowed scholars of late antique Judaism to...

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