(2) Acquired by the Valmadonna Trust Library from the Estate of Sholem Asch (d. 1957);
(3) Valmadonna Trust Library, MS 20.1
Vivian B. Mann , "A Court Jew's Silver Cup": Metropolitan Museum Journal, v. 43 (2008). Pp. 131-140.
Vivian B. Mann & Richard Cohen, eds. From Court Jews to the Rothschilds. Art, patronage, and power 1600-1800. (New York: 1996)
Selma Stern, The Court Jew: A Contribution to the History of Absolutism in Europe, (Philadelphia: 1950)
Max Grunwald, The Jews of Vienna (Vienna: 1936)
Benjamin Richler, The Hebrew Manuscripts in the Valmadonna Trust Library (Jerusalem, 1998), no. 173, p. 95, pl. 11
The early eighteenth century witnessed a flowering of the production of splendidly decorated Hebrew manuscripts. These books were primarily liturgical texts created for personal use and included daily and Sabbath prayerbooks, prayers for the New Month, and haggadot for use at the Passover Seder. One of the foremost genres within this revival were miniature books of occasional blessings, also known as Seder Berakhot. These petite manuscripts, comprising blessings recited before and after eating various foods and upon retiring to bed at night, were frequently commissioned by wealthy grooms as a gift to their brides. Accordingly, they often included the prayers and blessings to be recited when fulfilling the three commandments most commonly associated with women; Hallah (separating out a small portion of dough while baking bread) Niddah (ritual immersion) and Hadlakah (kindling of Sabbath and festival lights). This manuscript also includes tekhinot—or supplications— which were written in Yiddish lettering called Wayber-Taytsh (literally, women's script), and which accompanied the performance of the above commandments. This same distinctive style of lettering was used by printers for the popular exegetical Yiddish paraphrase of the Pentateuch, Ze'enah u-Re'ena, also designed primarily for a female reading audience.
The initials on the cover of the book, S.L.B. provide an intriguing hint as to the identity of the original owner. Among the most important of the Court Jews who was active in the early eighteenth century, was Berhend Lehmann (1661-1730). Berhend Lehmann served Fredrick Augustus I of Saxony and assisted him in obtaining the Polish crown by raising ten million Polish gulden. In Jewish circles, he was celebrated for his generous philanthropy, founding a Klaus (a center for Jewish scholarship) in Halberstadt and for sponsoring the publication of 5000 sets of the Talmud printed 1697-1699 in Frankfurt an der Oder. His brother, Herz Naftali Lehmann, was also a Court Jew in Dresden. The marriage of Herz’s daughter Sarel, to Berhend Lehmann’s son, Lehmann Behrend served to solidify the important intra-family ties that were so important to the successful Court Jew in the early eighteenth century. It would also leave the bride with the married name of Sarel Lehmann Behrend. In addition to the matching initials on the binding, a further clue linking this book to Sarel Lehmann Behrend, is the image of the deer depicted in the crest on the title page – likely an allusion to her father’s name, Herz (lit. deer or stag). That this superb manuscript was created for the wife, daughter and daughter-in-law of one of the wealthiest and most influential Jewish families of the era is emblematic of the high regard in which such beautifully decorated Hebrew books were held.
1. Title within an architectural frame flanked by Aaron and Moses, surmounted by a cartouche, containing a leaping stag, supported by two putti. (1r)
2. A menorah formed from the words of Psalm 67 (7v)
3. Decorated initial word panel, barukh, within an elaborately decorated cartouche (8r)
4. A man and a woman dining. An illustration accompanying the blessings of Grace after Meals (12r)
5. A family dining, an illustration accompanying the blessings recited prior to, and after, eating various foods (15r)
6. Two women kneading dough. An illustration for the blessing recited when separating out a small portion of dough while baking bread (17r)
7. A woman at her ablutions attended by two maidservants. An illustration for the blessing recited when a women immerses in a mikvah (18r)
8. One woman lighting Sabbath candles as another woman stands nearby, holding a prayer book. An illustration for the blessing recited when lighting candles for the Sabbath or festivals (19v)
9. Woman at her bedstead holding a book in her lap and reciting the Shema, with an attending servant. An illustration for the prayers recited before retiring (20v)
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