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

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

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy