ḲALIR, ELEAZAR (more correctly Eleazar be-Rabbi Ḳalir, or Ḳallir, or Ḳillir; later called also ha-Ḳaliri [] and less correctly the Ḳalir []):

Place and Date Doubtful.

One of the earliest and the most prolific of the payyeṭanim or liturgical poets. In the acrostics of his hymns he usually signs his father's name , but three times he writes . Eleazar's name, home (), and time have been the subject of many discussions in modern Jewish literature, and some legends concerning his career have been handed down. The author of the "'Aruk" (s.v. , 3) derives the name "Ḳalir" from the Greek κολλνρα = "a small cake," and reports that the poet obtained his name from a cake, inscribed with Biblical verses, which was given him to eat as a talisman for wisdom when he began to go to school. His scholarship having been attributed later to that talisman, he was called "Eleazar the Cake." While such a custom is known to have existed among the western Syrians and the Jews, the explanation put forward by the "'Aruk" is not acceptable, since "Ḳalir" is not the name of the poet, but that of his father. Others see in the name that of the Italian city Cagliari, or the Latin name "Celer." The city has been identified both with Cagliari (Civitas Portus), in Italy, and with the Babylonian Sippara. In addition to Italy and Babylonia, Mesopotamia and Palestine have been claimed by different scholars as Ḳalir's native land. His time has been set at different dates between the end of the seventh and the end of the tenth century of the common era. Older authorities consider him to have been a teacher of the Mishnah and identify him either with Eleazar b. 'Arak or with Eleazar b. Simeon. He has been confounded with another poet by the name of Eleazar b. Jacob; and a book by the title of "Kebod Adonai" was ascribed to him by Botarel.

Ḳalir's hymns early became an object of study and of cabalistic exegesis, as his personality was a mystery. It was related that heavenly fire surrounded him when he wrote the "Ḳedushshah"; that he himself ascended to heaven and there learned from the angels the secret of writing alphabetical hymns; and that his teacher Yannai, jealous of his superior knowledge, placed in his shoe a scorpion, which was the cause of his death. Modern research points to the probability that he and his teacher were Palestinians; and since Yannai is known to have been one of the halakic authorities of Anan, the founder of Karaism, and must therefore have lived a considerable time earlier than Anan, Ḳalir's time may be fixed with some probability as the second half of the seventh century.

Sources and Style.

Ḳalir was the first to embellish the entire liturgy with a series of hymns whose essential element was the Haggadah. He drew his material from the Talmudim and Midrashim, some of which latter are now probably lost. His language, however, is not that of his sources, but Biblical Hebrew, enriched with daring innovations. His predilection for rare words, allegorical expressions, and haggadic allusions makes his writings hard to understand. His linguistic peculiarities were followed by many a succeeding payyeṭan; and they influenced to some extent even early prose, especially among the Karaites. With the awakening of linguistic studies among the Jews and with the growing acquaintance of the latter with Arabic, his linguistic peculiarities were severely criticized (e.g., by Abraham ibn Ezra on Eccl. v. 1); but the structure of his hymns remained a model which was followed for centuries after him and which received the name "Ḳaliric" (). While some of his hymns have been lost, more than 200 of them have been embodied in the Maḥzorim, i.e., prayer-books for the cycle of the festivals.

The earliest references to Ḳalir seem to be in a responsum of Naṭronai Gaon (c. 853; Weiss, "Dor," iv. 118), in the "Yeẓirah" commentary of Saadia (see Gräber, in "Oẓar ha-Sifrut," i., v.) and in his "Agron" (Stade's "Zeitschrift," 1882, p. 83), as well as in the writings of Al-Ḳirḳisani (Harkavy, in "Ha-Maggid," 1879, No. 45, p. 359a). The early"Hekalot Rabbati" of the Merkabah Riders were used by Ḳalir, traces of their mystic ideas and even of their language being found in his poetry ("Monatsschrift," xxxvii. 71). The theory that he lived in Italy is based upon the fact that he wrote double "Ḳerobot" for the festivals(Berliner, "Gesch. der Juden in Rom," ii. 15; Einstein, in "Monatsschrift," xxxvi. 529).

A peculiar development of the Ḳalir legend is seen in the story that Saadia found in the tomb of Ḳalir a recipe for making "ḳame'ot" in the form of cakes (Goldziher, in "Berliner Festschrift," p. 150). On a piyyuṭ found in the Maḥzor Vitry and ascribed by Brody ("Ḳonṭres ha Piyyuṭim," p. 67, Berlin, 1894) to Ḳalir, see Max Weisz in "Monatsschrift," xli. 145. Solomon Delmedigo warns the student against the writings of Ḳalir because "he has cut up the Hebrew language in an arbitrary way" (Geiger, "Melo Chofnajim," p. 15). Translations of some of Ḳalir's hymns into German will be found in Zunz, "S. P." pp. 75 et al. (Berliner, "Synagogal-Poesieen," p. 24; De Lagarde, "Mittheilungen," ii. 138), in Sachs's edition of the prayer-book, and in Karpeles' "Zionsharfe," pp. 10-17; some have been rendered into English by Nina Davis in "J. Q. R." ix. 29, and by Mrs. Lucas in "Songs of Zion," p. 60.

  • J. Derenbourg, in R. E. J. xii. 298;
  • P. F. Frankl, Fragment einer Kalir'schen Keroba, reprint from Zunz Jubelschrift, Berlin, 1884;
  • A. Harkavy, Leben und Werke Saadia Gaon's, i. 109, Berlin, 1891;
  • Israelitische Annalen, i. 85, ii. 320;
  • Landshuth, 'Ammude ha-'Abodah, i. 27-44, Berlin, 1877;
  • S. L. Rapoport, in Bikkure ha-'Ittim, x. 95-123, xi. 92-102;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 913;
  • Zunz, Literaturgesch. pp. 29-64.
G. C. L.
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