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Dr Michael Rand

Jewish liturgical poetry (piyyut) in Hebrew and Aramaic from Byzantine period Palestine; Hebrew codicology


I was born in Leningrad, USSR in 1972, and was brought at the age of eight to New York, where I grew up until my emigration to Israel in 2007. I am a graduate of New York’s Stuyvesant High School, the University of Chicago (BA, MA), and the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University (PhD), where I studied Northwest Semitic philology and wrote a dissertation on the language of the Hebrew liturgical poetry of Byzantine-period Palestine. After a few years spent on post-docs of various sorts, I settled down in Jerusalem, where I met my wife, had two children, and worked as a researcher in the medieval poetry section of the Historical Hebrew Dictionary Project of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.  In 2013, I arrived with my family to Cambridge to take up a position at the University. 

Subject groups/Research projects

Hebrew & Semitic Studies:

Research Interests

My research specialty is the Jewish liturgical poetry (piyyut) that was composed—mostly in Hebrew, but some also in Aramaic—in Byzantine-period Palestine. This poetry is preserved in two types of manuscript sources: Jewish liturgical books (mahzorim) from various areas in medieval Europe, and an enormous cache of manuscripts discovered in the second half of the 19th century in Old Cairo, known as The Cairo Genizah. The majority of the manuscripts originating in the Genizah are now held by the Cambridge University Library. As a result of prolonged close contact with manuscripts I have also come to learn a lot about Hebrew paleography. Within the field of piyyut, I am particularly interested in the work of Eleazar be-rabbi Qillir, a poet who flourished during the first half of the 8th century. Qillir is one of the great geniuses of medieval Hebrew literature, and the corpus of his surviving works has been expanded significantly with the discovery of the Genizah. Some of these newly-added materials have been edited, while many others still await publication.

Key Publications

“New Data on Aramaic in Classical Piyyut­ – תשמיע ניחומים ללישה, a Silluq for Shabbat Shim‘u by Yoḥanan ha-Kohen,” Aramaic Studies 13 (2015) 128-60 [see link to PDF]


“An Anti-Christian Polemical Piyyut by Yosef ibn Avitur Employing Elements from Toledot Yeshu,” EJJS 7 (2013) 1-16 [see link to PDF]


Ha-im ‘Mahzor Eretz Israel – Kodeks ha-Genizah’ akhen shimesh be-Eretz Israel? Qeta‘im hadashim shel ha-kodeks u-trumatam le-havanat tiv minhago” [Was Mahzor Eretz Israel – A Geniza Codex Indeed Used in Eretz Israel? New Fragments of the Codex and their Contribution to an Understanding of the Nature of its Liturgical Rite], Tarbiz 82 (2014) 529-47 Hebrew[see link to PDF] 

B. Loeffler and M. Rand, “Piyyut Commentary in the Genizah,” EJJS 5 (2011) 173-203 [see link to PDF]



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