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YU News

New Patterns of Prayer for a New Year, 1735

Publishers, as both businesses and purveyors of knowledge, have sought novel and model ways to present their publications. Over the centuries, one method of making Hebrew prayer more accessible to worshippers has been to translate it into the vernacular. But beyond the question of language lies the issue of layout. What is the relationship of the original to the translation on the page? What format is best for the reader?

In 1735, Zevi Hersh ben Hayim, a printer in WIhermsdorf, Germany, published a Machzor, a prayer book for the High Holidays and the rest of the year, with a translation into Yiddish. The Yiddish text was placed above the Hebrew, literally one word above another, a linear translation. The publisher explains in his introduction that a Yiddish translation was necessary since the poetic liturgical Hebrew is difficult to comprehend, and the line by line method he adopted leaves worshippers free to “have their eyes look down and their hearts soar up” during prayer.

The page for the prayer “Ha-Melekh,” the King, is reproduced here. The regal emblem of a double-headed eagle was chosen by the publisher to illustrate the reference to God, King of Kings.

Posted by Shulamith Z. Berger