Title: Translation of the Jewish prayer book (Siddur) into Judaeo-Provençal (i. e. Provençal in Hebrew characters). At the end, there is a register of the Montel family, 1587-1614. 14th-15th century manuscript.
Classmark: MS ROTH/32
Date: 14th-15th century
1 volume (165 ff.); 146 x 107mm; 15-16 lines to a page; vellum. Judaeo-Provençal; Tiberian vocalization where legible. 14-15th century with additions. Worn, but fairly well-preserved. The Tetragrammaton is referred to as sant e benezet (which translates Hebrew: הקדוש ברוך הוא).
There is an illuminated title-page with the words אחותי את היי לאלפי רבבה (a variant of Gen 24:60 indicating that the volume was prepared as a wedding-gift for a bride) and numerous other decorations in gold and colour. The volume is bound in brown half-leather with marbled paper pasted on to both outside covers and on the spine gilt-embossed lettering which reads, ‘Preces/ Hebr.- Prov./ MS. In membr.’ It is held in a custom-made box covered with brown cloth. This manuscript is probably the most important Judaeo-Provençal text extant. For a fuller evaluation of it see E. Frojmovic in Hebraica and Judaica from the Cecil Roth Collection [exhibition catalogue], Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, 1997, item 21.
The first to make the existence of the Hebrew-Provençal Siddur publicly known was Moshe Lazar in 1970. Lazar dates the manuscript to the 15th century (according to him, originating from the area of the Four Communities, of Comtat Venaissin, probably from Avignon). However the author assumes a prior oral model going back possibly even to the 13th century. Lazar also includes a demonstration of the highly literal translation traditions with a brief comparison to similar Siddurim from Catalonia and Italiay. Lazar adds the transcription of few fragments with its translation into French as a preface for his “upcoming edition”. However, this edition has never been published. See Lazar, Moshé. 1970. 'La Traduction hébraïco-provenç ale du rituel. (Manuscrit inédit du XVe siècle)'. In Melanges de langue et de litterature du Moyen age et de la Renaissance: Offerts a Jean Frappier. Geneve: Geneve : Librairie Droz, 1970, 575-590.
One of the main features of the siddur that has intrigued researchers the most are the morning benedictions (Birkhot ha-Shaḥar) which confirm that the book was prepared for the use of women. Moreover, this specific version of the benediction is unknown from any other Hebrew or non-Hebrew sources,. p.329 (in the digital version = fol. 4v) reads (See in Jochnowitz, 1981, 63):
'Benedich Tu Sant Benezet nostre Diew rey dal segle he non fis mi serventa.
Benedich Tu Sant Benezet nostre Diew rey dal segle ke non fis mi goya.
Benedich Tu Sant Benezet nostre Diew rey dal segle ke fis mi fena'.
And the English translation from Jochnowitz: Blessed art Thou Lord our God king of eternity who did not make me a slave (feminine). Blessed art Thou . . . who did not make me a Gentile (feminine). Blessed art Thou ... who made me a woman. See Jochnowitz, George. 'Who Made Me a Woman'. Commentary 71, 4 (April), 1981: 63-64.
Linguistic comment: final -a is mostly represented by an aleph (א) (שרוינטא /šrwynṭ’/, בוקא /bwq’/ etc. However, there are some examples of a final he ה which could imply some influences from the Hebrew transcription traditions of Spain, see ארמה /’rmh/, מלה /mlh/, etc.
We would like to thank Ilil Baum of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, for amending and significantly expanding this catalogue entry.
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