An Exquisite 15th-Century Prayer Book Becomes Available to the Public—Online

February 14, 2020 | National Library of Israel
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Illustrated in the 1400s by Joel ben Simon, one of the great Jewish artists of his day, the Moskowitz maḥzor—a book containing prayers for the entire calendar year—reflects the liturgy of Roman Jewry, which is neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. It gets its name from Harry and Rose Moskowitz, who donated it to the National Library of Israel in 1970. After carefully restoring it, the library has made it available in digital form online:

Joel ben Simon was a scribe and illuminator active in Germany and Northern Italy. The manuscript is considered exceptional due to the stunning illustrations and illuminations found throughout, including images of rabbits, bears, fish, squirrels, and birds, as well as such imaginary creatures as a unicorn, and a diverse range of mythological, religious, and astrological symbols.

It [contains] prayers according to the Jewish Roman rite for the entire year, including weekdays—the Sabbath, and holidays, Torah readings—the Passover Haggadah, Pirkey Avot [the Talmudic tractate known as Ethics of the Fathers] with Maimonides’ commentary, various blessings, and rulings related to Jewish law. It is also exceptionally full of piyyutim (liturgical poems), sliḥot (special penitential prayers), as well as rare formulae of other prayers.

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