A piyyut or piyut (plural Piyyutim or Piyutim) is a Hebrew word for Poetry or Poem ( פִּיּוּטִים / פיוטים, פִּיּוּט / פיוט ) Piyutim are Jewish liturgical poems, usually designated to be sung, chanted, or recited during religious services. Piyyutim have been written since Temple times. 

Most piyyutim are in Hebrew or Aramaic, and most follow some poetic scheme, such as an acrostic following the order of the Hebrew alphabet or spelling out the name of the author. 

Many piyyutim are familiar to regular attendees of synagogue services. For example, the best-known piyyut may be Adon Olam ("Master of the World"), sometimes (but almost certainly wrongly) attributed to Solomon ibn Gabirol in 11th century Spain. Its poetic form consists of a repeated rhythmic pattern of short-long-long-long (the so-called hazaj meter), and it is so beloved that it is often sung at the conclusion of many synagogue services, after the ritual nightly saying of the Shema, and during the morning ritual of putting on tefillin. Another well-beloved piyyut is Yigdal ("May God be Hallowed"), which is based upon the Thirteen Principles of Faith developed by Maimonides.

In the Chassidic world a Nigun or Niggunim are added to some Piyutim

What’s a Nigun?

A nigun is a Hebrew word for : ( ניגון ) "tune" or "melody", pl. nigunim) or niggun (pl. niggunim) is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as "Bim-Bim-Bam", "Lai-Lai-Lai", "Yai-Yai-Yai" or "Ai-Ai-Ai" instead of formal lyrics. The word Nigun derives from the root word Neginah.

What is a Neginah or Neginot?

What is Neg'inah? It is the art of Producing or playing music using a tool designed for this purpose. Menagen Musika (to play music or melody), Neginah is a sound producer that creates a melody. Also NEGINAT ( נגינת ), often occurs in the title of Psalm 61, "to the chief musician upon Neginah (Neginot in plural are basically Musical Instruments). 

Neg'inot (נגינוֹת), The Neginot are songs with instrumental accompaniment; These are hymns often found in the titles of Psalms (i. e. 4; Ps 6; Ps 54; Ps 55; Ps 67; Ps 76) , and the margin of Hab 3:19 (text "stringed instruments"), and there seems but little doubt that it is the general term denoting all stringed instruments whatsoever, whether played with the hand, like the harp and guitar, or with a plectrum. It thus includes all those instruments which in the A.V. are denoted by the special terms "harp," "psaltery" or "viol," "sackbut," as well as by the general descriptions "stringed instruments" (Ps 150:4), "instruments of music" (1Sa 18:6), or, as the margin gives it, "three-stringed instruments," and the "instrument of ten strings" (Ps 33:2; Ps 92:3; Ps 144:9).

נַגָּנִית - נַגָּן

Player - female Player : A person who plays musical instruments as a profession or as a hobby

Chabad Chassidic Nigunim / Niggunim

Nigunim of the Chabad dynasty are admired across Hasidism for their intellectual depth. The aim of Chabad Hasidic thought is to articulate Hasidic philosophy in philosophical investigation, in order to awaken inner emotional ecstasy. Chabad writings talk of two types of Hasid, the practical "Oveid" (from the word to serve God-Avodah), and the intellectual "Maskil" (from the word to intellectually study-Haskalah). Both are united in the mystical dveikut fervour of Hasidism, but the primary aim of the Oveid is to bring their inspiration into practical action, while the primary aim of the Maskil is to reach deeper understanding of Hasidic thought. This differentiation enables the intellectual aims of Chabad to be holistically united with emotional joy and soul-searching. The second Rebbe of Chabad, Dovber Schneuri, distinguished between mainstream Hasidic "enthusiasm", and the Chabad aim of intellectually created "ecstasy". Enthusiasm expresses itself in emotional exuberance, reflected in emotional nigunim. Ecstasy is an inner emotional perception, and may be restrained in outward expression when suited. The meditative nature of many Chabad nigunim expresses this. 

Among them: 
Niggun Shamil, Niggun of Four Stanzas, Tzomah Lecha Nafshi, 
Hachanah Niggun, Anim Zemirot, Stav Ya Pitu, Hu Elokeinu


Zemirot or Z'mirot (Hebrew: זמירות‎) (Yiddish: Zmiros; Biblical Hebrew: Z'miroth; singular: zemer/z'mer) are Jewish hymns, usually sung in the Hebrew or Aramaic languages, but sometimes also in Yiddish or Ladino. The best known zemirot are those sung around the table during Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Some of the Sabbath zemirot are specific to certain times of the day, such as those sung for the Friday evening meal, the Saturday noon meal, and the third Sabbath meal just before sundown on Saturday afternoon. In some editions of the Jewish prayerbook (siddur), the words to these hymns are printed after the opening prayer (kiddush) for each meal. Other zemirot are more generic and can be sung at any meal or other sacred occasion. 

The words to many zemirot are taken from poems written by various rabbis and sages during the Middle Ages. Others are anonymous folk songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. The words generally focus on the themes of the Sabbath or the specific holiday being celebrated. 

The melodies vary greatly from one Jewish community to another, as local tunes and styles of music are adapted to the same liturgical poems. One famous hymn, Adon Olam, (Ruler of the Universe) has been set to countless tunes. Jews of different backgrounds enjoy sharing the various versions when they meet around the Sabbath table. New tunes continue to be written today for the same ancient lyrics. It is now rare, however, for new zemer-type lyrics to be written. 

The term zemirot is used by Spanish and Portuguese Jews to refer to the sequence of psalms in the morning service, known to other communities as pesuke de-zimrah.


To Chant, it is mostly known from the Psalms (Mizmor Le David)

מִזְמוֹר • (mizmór) m (plural indefinite מִזְמוֹרִים‎, plural construct מִזְמוֹרֵי־‎)  a psalm (sacred song) or (hymn collected into one book of the Hebrew Bible)

[ROOT WORD   זמר   ]

[Infinitive - לְזַמֵּר   lezamer Present - מְזַמֵּר mezamer Past - זִימֵּר zimer ]


The Baqashot (or "bakashot", Hebrew :( שירת הבקשות) are a collection of supplications, songs, and prayers that have been sung by the Sephardic Syrian, Moroccan, and Turkish Jewish communities for centuries each week on Shabbat mornings from the early hours of the morning until dawn. They are usually recited during the weeks of winter, from the Jewish festival of Sukkot through Purim, when the nights are much longer. The baqashot services can last for three to four hours. The Ades Synagogue in Jerusalem is the center of the Syrian practice today, and communities in Ashdod and Montreal are the center of the Moroccan practice.

The custom of singing Baqashot originated in Spain towards the time of the expulsion, but took on increased momentum in the Kabbalistic circle in Safed in the 16th century. Baqashot probably evolved out of the tradition of saying petitionary prayers before dawn and was spread from Safed by the followers of Isaac Luria (16th century). With the spread of Safed Kabbalistic doctrine, and coffee consumption—which allowed devotees to stay awake through the night[1]—the singing of Baqashot reached countries all round the Mediterranean and became customary in the communities of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Rhodes, Greece, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Turkey and Syria. It also influenced the Kabbalistically oriented confraternities in 18th-century Italy, and even became customary for a time in Sephardic communities in western Europe, such as Amsterdam and London. (In Amsterdam the Shabbat service still begins with a small number of baqashot. In London the tunes for one or two of them have been preserved in the literature but the practice no longer exists.) By the turn of the 20th century Baqashot had become a widespread religious practice in several communities in Jerusalem as a communal form of prayer.

In communities such as those of Aleppo, Turkey and Morocco, the singing of Baqashot expanded to vast proportions. In those countries special books were compiled naming the tunes and maqamat together with the text of the hymns, in order to facilitate the singing of Baqashot by the congregation. In these communities it was customary to rise from bed in the night on Shabbat in the winter months, when the nights are longer, and assemble in synagogue to sing Baqashot for four hours until the time for the morning service.

Each country had its own collection of baqashot, and there is often little or no overlap between the collections of different countries.[2] The Moroccan collection is known as "Shir Yedidot" (Marrakesh 1921): unlike in the Aleppo tradition, where the baqashot service is fixed, the Moroccans have a different set of baqashot for each Sabbath. The Amsterdam collection is set out in the first part of Joseph Gallego's Imre No'am: the contents of this were probably derived from the Salonica tradition.


Pizmonim (Hebrew פזמונים, singular pizmon) are traditional Jewish songs and melodies sung with the intention of praising God as well as learning certain aspects of traditional religious teachings. They are sung throughout religious rituals and festivities such as prayers, circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, weddings and other ceremonies. Probably originating from Hebrew words such as Zman and Zmanim (Time), pertaining to serving God in time or ocasions / events and on time (not delaying the due service).

Pizmonim are extra-liturgical, as distinct from Piyyutim, which are hymns printed in the prayer-book and forming an integral part of the service. Similar songs sung in the synagogue on the Shabbat morning between midnight and dawn are the Bakashot (שירת הבקשות). Probably from the Hebrew word Mevakesh (to look for, to seek, to supplicate); Bevakasha (Please)

Geographical Background
Pizmonim are traditionally associated with Middle Eastern Sephardi Jews, although they are related to Ashkenazi Jews' zemirot. The best known tradition is associated with Jews descended from Aleppo, though similar traditions exist among Iraqi Jews (where the songs are known as shbaḥoth, praises) and in North African countries. Jews of Greek, Turkish and Balkan origin have songs of the same kind in Ladino, associated with the festivals: these are known as coplas.

The History of the texts for the Pizmonim
The texts of many pizmonim date back to the Middle Ages or earlier. Many have references from the Tanakh, while others were composed by poets such as Yehuda Halevi and Israel Najara of Gaza. Some melodies are quite old, while others may be based on popular Middle Eastern music, with the words composed specially to fit the tune.[1] A prolific composer of pizmonim of this last kind was Hakham Rephael Antebi Tabbush (Aleppo 1830?[2]-Cairo 1919), who is regarded as the founder of the tradition in its present form. The tradition has since been exported to Syrian Jewish communities in the Americas by his pupils, principally Moses Ashear in New York. Pizmonim are composed for special occasions such as weddings and bar mitzvahs by Cantors in the past, as well as the present, by Ezekiel Hai Albeg, Gabriel A. Shrem, Eliahou Menaged (a student of Tabbush), Rabbi Raphael Yair Elnadav, and others. Most pizmonim are in Hebrew, though a few are in Judaeo-Aramaic or Judaeo-Arabic.

Mizrachi Jews Singing in Beit Keneset (Synagogue)

Maqamat (Maqams)
All pizmonim can be classified under different Maqams (musical modes), of which there are about ten in common use. Maqam ajam, which sounds a little like a Western major scale, is the thematic maqam that contains many holiday melodies. Maqam hijaz, which corresponds to the Phrygian dominant scale, is the thematic maqam that contains many sad melodies. Maqam sikah (or sigah), containing many three-quarter-tone intervals, is used for the cantillation of the Torah. Maqam saba is the maqam used for circumcisions.

Origins of tradition
The origin of the tradition must be seen in the context of certain rulings of the Geonim discouraging the use of piyyutim in core parts of the prayer service. These rulings were taken seriously by the Kabbalistic school of Isaac Luria, and from the sixteenth century on many hymns were eliminated from the service. As the community did not wish to lose these much-loved hymns, the custom grew up of singing them extra-liturgically. Thus, the original core of the pizmonim collection consists of hymns from the old Aleppo ritual (published in Venice in 1560) and hymns from the Sephardic service by Yehuda Halevi, Solomon ibn Gabirol and others. A few hymns were also taken from the liturgy of the Romaniotes.

Further Pizmonim were composed and added to the collection through the centuries. This practice may have arisen out of a Jewish prohibition of singing songs of the non-Jews (due to the secular character and lyrics of the songs). This was true in the case of Arabic songs, whereby Jews were allowed to listen to the songs, but not allowed to sing them with the text. In order to bypass the problem, many composers, throughout the centuries, wrote new lyrics to the songs with the existing melodies, in order not to violate the tradition of not singing non-Jewish songs.

Liturgical and Non-Liturgical Use
During typical Shabbat and holiday services in the Syrian tradition, the melodies of pizmonim are used as settings for some of the prayers, in a system of rotation to ensure that the maqam suits the mood of the holiday or the Torah reading. Each week there is a different maqam assigned to the cantor according to the theme of the given Torah portion of the week. A pizmon may also be sung in honour of a person called up to the Torah, immediately before or after the reading: usually this is chosen so as to contain some allusion to the person's name or family.

Pizmonim, or any melodies, are generally not applied throughout the week during prayer services.

Another occasion for their use is at the gatherings some individuals would hold in their homes on Shabbat afternoons. A gathering of this kind, which may take the form of an extended kiddush, and is known as a "Sebbet" (from the Syrian Arabic for "Saturday").


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