The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part I

The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part I

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 131. Liturgy for the Counting of the Omer and the Blessing of the New Moon, Written on Behalf of Rabbi Joseph Oppenheim, [Holešov, Moravia?]: 1717.

Liturgy for the Counting of the Omer and the Blessing of the New Moon, Written on Behalf of Rabbi Joseph Oppenheim, [Holešov, Moravia?]: 1717

Auction Closed

December 15, 09:26 PM GMT


25,000 - 35,000 USD

Lot Details


Liturgy for the Counting of the Omer and the Blessing of the New Moon, Written on Behalf of Rabbi Joseph Oppenheim, [Holešov, Moravia?]: 1717

A charmingly decorated miniature liturgical text, with distinguished rabbinic provenance.

David Oppenheim (1664-1736), who served as Chief Rabbi first of Moravia and then of Prague and Bohemia, was a learned halakhist, gifted yeshiva dean, and munificent philanthropist. He was also one of the first great private Jewish collectors of antique Hebrew books and, as a supporter of Jewish scholarship, made his enormous library in Hannover available to fellow rabbis and researchers. Following his passing, his collection was put up for sale and was eventually purchased by the Bodleian Library in Oxford, where it constitutes the bulk of that institution’s rare Hebraica and Judaica holdings.

Oppenheim’s only son, Joseph (ca. 1690-1739), shared his father’s passion for Jewish scholarship and book collecting and, indeed, served as one of the library’s caretakers following his father’s death. In 1710 or 1712, after his Elul [5]467 (1707) marriage to Tolze, daughter of the wealthy Viennese court Jew Rabbi Samson Wertheimer, he became head of the rabbinic court and yeshiva dean in Holešov (Holleschau), an important Jewish community in Moravia, where he developed a reputation as a great Talmudist, preacher, and supporter of charitable causes. He served in these capacities until 1714, and by August 1719 (and possibly as early as 1714) he had relocated to Hannover, where he worked as an imperial court factor, financier, and banker until his premature passing twenty years later.

The present lot is a miniature manuscript apparently created for Rabbi Joseph Oppenheim in 1717. Interestingly, Oppenheim is referred to here as “the head of the rabbinic court and yeshiva dean” (f. [1v]), perhaps indicating that he in fact remained in Holešov beyond 1714. The liturgy contained within is that of the counting of the omer. For seven weeks, beginning with the second day of Passover and concluding just before Shavuot, Jews mark each new day by reciting a special blessing and counting how many days and weeks have passed. This manuscript includes the text of the blessing (f. 2v), the formulas to be said on each of the forty-nine days (ff. 3r-14r), and assorted related prayers and kabbalistic intentions meant to enhance the ritual (ff. 14r-15v). These are followed by the text of birkat ha-levanah, the blessing recited over the appearance of the New Moon each month, along with its associated psalms and supplications (ff. 16r-21v). 

Given its elegant decoration and distinguished provenance, the present volume should be seen as part of the revival of luxury Hebrew manuscript production that took place in the eighteenth century, primarily in German lands and on behalf of affluent court Jews and their families.


J/I.G. (gilt on upper board and monogrammed on silver clasp)

Moses & Jacob (front flyleaves)

Ester & Mate (front flyleaves)

Sae & Dine (front flyleaves)

M.J. Cohen (front flyleaves)

J.J. Cohen (front flyleaves)

Rabbi Joseph Oppenheim (f. [1v])

Moses Kauber Katz (f. 21v)

David Fisher (rear flyleaves)

Das Omerel[?] ist mir lieb / Wer es st[i]ehlt ist ein Dieb / Es mag sein Herr oder Knecht / Hängen ist sein Recht [This little omer book is dear to me / He who steals it is a thief / Whether master or slave / He deserves to be hanged] (inscription in Hebrew characters on rear flyleaves)

Physical Description

22 folios (3 3/8 x 2 1/2 in.; 85 x 62 mm) on parchment (final folio blank); modern foliation in pencil in Arabic numerals in upper-outer corner of rectos; written in elegant Ashkenazic square (text body) and semi-cursive (some rubrics) scripts in black ink; varying number of lines per page; ruled in blind; justification of lines via dilation or contraction of letters, use of anticipatory letters, and insertion of space fillers; no catchwords or headers; selected texts vocalized. Title within finely executed ornamental archway including images of Moses holding the Tablets of the Law on the right and Aaron holding a censer on the left, with red highlights throughout and Hebrew date below; ownership inscription within decorated cartouche surmounted by a crown on f. [1v]; almost all pages framed in red, sometimes bisected with one or more horizontal green lines; enlarged incipits; initial word panel featuring delicately drawn flower motifs on f. 3r; rubricated incipit on f. 16r; incipit applied with gold leaf (largely abraded) on f. 17r. Slight scattered staining and dampstaining; margins closely cropped at times; ff. [1], 13 loose; some paint transferred to facing pages; some text smudged on ff. 9v, 15r. Eighteenth-century (“1796” gilt on lower board) gilt-tooled light brown leather over wooden board, scuffed and worn, especially on upper board, around the edges, and on spine; monogrammed silver clasp catching on the fore-edge; spine in three compartments with raised bands; all edges gilt; eighteenth-century marbled paper flyleaves and pastedowns.


Max Grunwald, “Handschriftliches aus der Hamburger Stadtbibliothek,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 40,9 (June 1896): 422-429, at pp. 426-428.

David Kaufmann, Urkundliches aus dem Leben Samson Wertheimers (Vienna: Carl Konegen, 1892), 123-124 (no. IV).

Eugen Mayer, “A German-Jewish Miscellany,” The Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 3,1 (January 1958): 202-223, at p. 222.

Joshua Teplitsky, Prince of the Press: How One Collector Built History’s Most Enduring and Remarkable Jewish Library (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019).

M. Wiener, “Die Geschichte der Familie Oppenheim,” Magazin für jüdische Geschichte und Literatur 1,19 (September 18, 1874): 81-84, at p. 83.

Albert Wolf, “Etwas über jüdische Kunst und ältere jüdische Künstler,” Mitteilungen zur jüdischen Volkskunde 1,1 (n.s.) (1905): 1-58, at p. 36.