Little Sister – Achot Ketana

This poem was written in the 13th century by Abraham Hazzan Gerondi of the Catalonian town of Herona. The poem consists of eight metrical stanzas; the acrostic gives the name of the author “Abram Ḥazzan.”

The opening words of the hymn are taken from the Shir Ha sherim (Song of Songs 8:8)”We have a little sister”: “We have a little sister, and as yet she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister on the day when she is spoken for?” Verse 8:8, as for that matter the whole of Shir Hasherim is full of ambiguities, double meanings, and circular references that exploit numerous meanings. Here is the opening stanza of Abraham Hazzan’s poem “Little Sister”. Perhaps would it help you to formulate your own connection between the Little Sister of the poet Abraham Hazzan and the Little Sister in the Song of Solomon if I told you that Achot Ketanah is sung on erev Rosh Hashanah? The “Little Sister” is perhaps a symbol of the soul of the world or the children of Israel. The little sister prepares her prayers And intones her praises. O G-d, we beseech Thee, Heal now her infirmities. May the year and its misfortunes Now cease altogether.

Jacques Abourbih