Worms Machzor, Wurzburg, Germany, 1272
This is the Worms Machzor open at a page that contains the following prayer:
“רְצֵה ה' אֱלהֵינוּ בְּעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלִתְפִלָּתָם שְׁעֵה. וְהָשֵׁב הָעֲבודָה לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶךָ. וְאִשֵּׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּתְפִלָּתָם מְהֵרָה בְּאַהֲבָה תְקַבֵּל בְּרָצון. וּתְהִי לְרָצון תָּמִיד עֲבודַת יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ:
תֶחֱזֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ בְּשׁוּבְךָ לְצִיּוֹן בְּרַחֲמִים. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' , הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן."
Look with favor, Lord our God, on Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to Your Sanctuary and accept with love and favour Israel's fire-offerings and prayer; and may the service of Your people Israel always find favour.
May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy. Blessed are You Lord, who restores His Divine Presence to Zion"
This prayer is part of the Amidah which is recited three times a day on a weekday and at least four times on Shabbat and festivals. Zion, meaning Jerusalem, is mentioned in the prayer.
Interestingly, the word Israel ישראל is not written in full here; it is missing the last two letters (aleph, lamed) which make up the name of God and in its place is an apostrophe. This probably stems from the prohibition of erasing the full name of God. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen, some people are careful to never write the full name of God.
The text is mainly written in black ink, while words that indicate the beginning of a new prayer are written in red ink. The Worms Machzor contains what is thought to be the first written Yiddish text. It can be found on page 55 and is written inside the large letters of the text of part of the Pesach prayer services. It reads:
גוּט טַק אִים בְּטַגְֿא שְ וַיר דִּיש מַחֲזוֹר אִין בֵּיתֿ הַכְּנֶסֶתֿ טְרַגְֿא
A good day will be available (or lit up) for he who carries this machzor to the synagogue
According to the inscription written in the front of the Worms Machzor, it was written by “Simchah ben Yehudah the Scribe for his uncle Baruch ben Yitzchak for use in the synagogue for the sake of his soul.” This machzor was originally used in the Wurzburg community in Bavaria. The first volume of the book was originally written in 1272 and the second in 1280. It is thought that the machzor was brought to Worms by refugees from Wurzburg after the community’s destruction in the Rindfleisch persecutions of 1298. It was used for centuries in the Worms Synagogue until its destruction on Kristallnacht, November 1938, when the city’s archivist hid the machzor in the cathedral. In 1957, the manuscript was transferred to the National Library in Jerusalem.
The Jewish community of Worms dates back to 1034. The community suffered from various pogroms and bouts of anti-Semitism. Despite the hardships, great Jewish scholars such as Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), a famous commentator on the Bible and Talmud, lived and studied in Worms.
A machzor is a prayer book which contains the specific prayers for the High Holidays. This machzor is unique as it contains prayers for all of the festivals, as well as for Shabbat, and it is, as a result, particularly large and heavy.
Teachers of Jewish Studies can use relevant pages from this machzor when discussing the Jewish calendar and the various festivals. It can also be used to discuss the use of Yiddish and other Jewish languages by Jews in the Diaspora.
It can also be used in Jewish History classes on medieval Ashkenazi Jewry and the community of Worms in particular.
Art teachers can compare the machzor with other illustrated manuscripts and have students create their own versions of an illuminated prayer.
What is this?
What was it used for?
When was it used?
Where was it created?
What language is it written in?
it is it handwritten or printed?
What characteristics of the writing and style do you notice?
Reading Between the Lines
Find the name of God in the text. What is interesting about the way in which it is written?
This book was large and heavy and written by hand.
Was it common for people in the Middle Ages to own books?
Do you think that regular people would have such a book in their possession?
Who could purchase such a book?
How does this machzor differ from other machzors you have seen?
Your job is to illustrate this page in a new machzor.
What would you choose to depict and why?