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Prayer in the Vernacular During the Middle Ages / התפילה והפיוט בלשון-לעז בימי-הביניים
פרי חירם, ח. פרי (פלאום) and H. Peri (Pflaum)
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך כד, חוברת ד (תמוז תשט"ו), pp. 426-440
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23588459
Page Count: 15
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The custom of translating the Scriptural readings and synagogue prayers into the vernacular for those who did not understand Hebrew is found in various periods in different countries. The Mishnah permits translation, and many rabbis from the Gaonic period through the 9th century expressed their approval of this custom. Such indeed was the practice as well. There are attestations in different communities to the use of the vernacular for the Scriptural readings and prayers. This article gives a detailed list of ancient prayer books in the vernacular, according to language: Aramaic, ancient Greek, Arabic, Persian, middle and new Greek, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalonian, Provençal, French, and German. From this it can be learned that prayers in translation from as early as the 13th century have been preserved. A Judeo-French text from the same period has been preserved in manuscript in Heidelberg (to be published shortly by the author). It is distinguished by the fact that it is not simply a collection of piyyutim and isolated prayers, but is indeed a remnant of a full prayer book. The material dealt with in the article includes: Halakhik citations beginning with the Mishnah and concluding with the latest of the codifiers; testimony from various countries regarding the use of the vernacular for prayer and Scriptural reading; a list of the piyyutim and prayers which have been preserved. All these prove that at all times there existed Jewish communities where the vernacular held a place beside the Hebrew for the ignorant and women. This use of the vernacular made it possible to have all parts of the community participate in the Divine service. An appendix to the article deals with references in Talmudic literature which show opposition to permitting the vernacular for the reading of the Scriptures and public prayer. It is shown that two schools of thought existed during the Talmudic period with reference to the permission of the vernacular.
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ © 1955 Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל