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Ma'oz Tzur"

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Published on Dec 13, 2008

is a Jewish liturgical poem or piyyut. It is written in Hebrew, and is usually sung on the holiday of Hanukkah, after lighting the festival lights. The name is a reference to the Hasmonean stronghold of Beth-zur. This Hebrew song is thought to have been written sometime in the 13th century. It was originally sung only in the home, but has been used in the synagogue since the nineteenth century or earlier. Of its six stanzas, often only the first stanza is sung (or the first and fifth). "Ma'oz Tzur" is thought to be have written in the 13th century, during the Crusades, as Zunz ("Literaturgesch." p. 580) is inclined to believe. The first letters of the first five stanzas form an acrostic of the composer's name, Mordechai (the five Hebrew letters מרדכי). He may have been the Mordecai ben Isaac ha-Levi who wrote the Sabbath table-hymn "Mah Yafit" (Majufes), or even the scholar referred to in Tos. to Niddah 36a. Or, to judge from the appeal in the closing verse, he may have been the Mordecai whose father-in-law was martyred at Mayence (now Mainz, Germany) in 1096. Another acrostic is found in the first letters of the opening words of the final stanza. As in many examples of piyyut, they congratulate the poet with the word hazak (meaning "[may you be] strong").

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