Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Real Old Amidah

So I’m looking at the Esslingen Machzor, a German manuscript from 1290, on the JTS Library Treasures site. A few pages in we come to the first Amidah, and I’m looking at the page. The site is protected with “do not download or copy “ notices, so I can’t show it to you.

Here’s an approximation (the real lettering is like 16th-century Prague fonts)


And it continues as usual in the High Holidays nusach. But in that smudged area, there is written in small letters, the rest of what we think of as the continuation of that paragraph: gomeil chasadim tovim, etc. The aleph-apostrophe is really the one-character E-l ligature.

But the smudged area intrigues me. I do see erased letters under there, and what looks like it could be a tzadi-sofit at the end of the smudge. Could the hidden words be “qoneh shamayim va’aretz”? That phrase, which survives in the abbreviated amidah at the end of our Friday night services in Ashkenazi prayerbooks, is supposedly the old conclusion of the paragraph in nusach Ashkenaz, before the prayers were updated to match the Eastern prayerbooks, particularly after the AriZal.

The interpolation is clearly in a different hand, with more shaky lines, without the ligatures of the original text on the page. The small lettering in the first line, however, is in the same hand as the rest of the page, and does use the A-l ligatures.

We appear to have physical evidence of the shift in text from the old Ashkenazi nusach imported from Eretz Yisrael via Italy, to the current text, literally, in this palimpsest.

3 comments:

Joe in Australia said...

They just don't get the interwebs, do they? They have this whole complicated interface that's slower and less useful than just rendering the page in people's browsers. And why? I guess because they think it would stop piracy. It's the sort of thing that makes me want to, e.g, take screen captures of each page or use Greasemonkey to rewrite their handy-dandy applet to grab the page directly.

david said...

hi
just stumbled over this very interesting blog ..
if you look further on in the machzor, in the YOM KIPUR liturgy, where nothing has been written over the erased words, one can see quite clearly the words 'koneh berachamov shomayim va'arets'

thanbo said...

Thanks! That validates my idea. Wish I had thought to look further.