Many of the Shabbat zemirot contain an acrostic of the (part of the) author's name, usually using a letter of his name at the start of each verse. For example, Y-ah Ribon has the name Yisra'el; Yom Ze Leyisra'el is Yitzhak; Akdamut has a long acrsotic at it's end, part of which spells Me'ir b'Rebbi Yitzhak.

I'm unaware if this technique was common in general (non-Jewish) poetic writing during that era. Is this unique or more frequently done in Jewish poetry? Why was this done? Was there a specific reason for embedding the author's name in this fashion, rather than just, say, putting a "signature" or some other ID so people will know who composed the piyut / zemer?

  • Signing one's name in an acrostic poem was commonly done in non-Jewish poetry from much earlier than the period in question. See: The Cambridge Ancint History III part 2 The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries B.C., p. 299.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:51
  • Acrostics were also used in medieval poetry to record the poet's name. The Middle High German poet Rudolf von Ems (13th cent.) for example opens all his great works with an acrostic of his name.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:54
  • 1
    Is this on topic?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:55
  • Has it occurred to you that maybe they did this so that you would know who wrote the zemer? I think you're making this more hard than it actually is.
    – ezra
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 0:57
  • 1
    Yom Zeh L'yisrael actually spells out Yitzchak Luria Chazak (יצחק לוריא חזק); the 9th verse has the ח and the optional 10th verse has the זק. I think Ashkenazic siddurim might omit some verses; the Koren-Sacks, for example, only has verses 1, 2, 3, 4, 9. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:37


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