A Rare 18th-Century Hebrew Prayerbook Becomes the Star of an Auction

Sept. 15 2023

Susan and Martin Wilson, two retired schoolteachers from northern England, recently took an edition of a book from the Harry Potter series for appraisal. As an afterthought, they also inquired about a book in Hebrew that they had inherited from Susan’s uncle. Fine Books & Collections reports:

The book states it belonged to Abraham ben [son of] Meir Emden, and the date given is Thursday, the 13th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, 517 (i.e., 5517), which corresponds to February 3, 1757. Though hard to prove, it is possible Abraham was the son of Meir Emden whose father was the prominent German rabbi and talmudist Jacob Emden (1697–1776). Meir Emden (1717–1795) had been a rabbi and av beit din (senior jurist) in Konstantin in the Ukraine.

The manuscript contains Sabbath hymns, the prayer for the new moon, and Perek Shirah, an ancient hymn of praise in which every created thing—from the animate to the celestial—thanks God for its existence.

Featured on the decorated title page are Moses holding the Tablets of the Law, and Aaron, his brother, dressed in vestments of the high priest. This is a frequent motif in 18th-century Hebrew manuscripts and has its roots in the ornamented pages of earlier imprints from Amsterdam and other European printing centers. The animal, celestial, and vegetal illustrations enclosed within mauve and blue ink medallions are part of the Perek Shirah hymn. Several illustrations show families around a table celebrating the Sabbath.

The siddur sold at auction this month for over £70,000 (about $88,000).

Read more at Fine Books & Collections

More about: Rare books, Siddur


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy