This illustrated volume contains the blessings recited before and after reading the Book of Esther on Purim, as well as selections from the liturgical hymn Mi ka-mokha ve-ein ka-mokha
, essentially a poetic paraphrase of the Purim story, which is traditionally recited in some communities on Shabbat zakhor
, the Sabbath before the holiday. The piyyut
was composed by the preeminent Jewish physician, poet, and philosopher Rabbi Judah Halevi (ca. 1075-1141) – the acrostic includes both the letters of the alphabet and his name twice – and each stanza incorporates at least one biblical verse. The legend associated with this poem contends that Halevi was unable to complete the work and left it unfinished for a time. When an itinerant pauper slipped into the poet’s study and provided the missing strophes, Halevi demanded that the man identify himself. The mysterious collaborator turned out to be Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1167), a distinguished scholar in his own right. The traditional story maintains that, as a reward, Halevi gave Ibn Ezra his daughter’s hand in marriage.
The manuscript concludes with a summary of the laws and liturgy pertaining to the rituals of the search for, and destruction of, leavened foods that takes place on the day before Passover. Each page of text is decorated or illustrated by the artistic hand of the skilled scribe.