Although this manuscript was once assumed to be of Italian origin, Professor Malachi Bet-Arie has shown it to be of the infinitely rarer Romaniote rite. This rite of prayer is an outgrowth of the Palestinian rite and was used by the Jewish communities of the Byzantine Empire.
Distinctive features of the rite that can be seen in this volume include le-Dor va-Dor for the third benediction of the Amidah (instead of Attah Kadosh); Keter for the kedushah in Musaf. Ma'arivim for every festival (including Yom Kippur); kerovot for the Day of Atonement, Rosh Ha-Shanah. Differences between the surviving manuscripts of this rite and the printed editions show that the rite was edited in its final form at a comparatively late date. In use in Greece and in European Turkey, at least until the end of the 16th century, and perhaps even later, it was eventually superseded by the Sephardi rite. The waves of immigration in the wake of the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492 ultimately created a crisis in Romaniote culture as had the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Nevertheless, Romaniote Jewry endured, albeit in diminished capacity, until it fell victim to the tragedy of World War II. Today a small number of Romaniote Jews living in Greece (mainly in Ioannina), in Israel, and New York maintain the use of the ancient Romaniote rite.
The present manuscript comprises festival prayers for Shavuot, Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, with liturgical poems by Joseph Tob 'Elem, Joseph ben Jacob, and Joseph ben Shmuel.
Literature: David Solomon Sassoon, Ohel Dawid, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the Sassoon Library, London, 1932, I, pp. lvi and 298.
Sale of "A Collection of Hebrew MSS. and Books...," Hodgson's, Chancery Lane, 18 April 1918, part of lot 498; David Solomon Sassoon (1880 - 1942), his MS. 492.
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