MAḤZOR (Heb. מַחֲזוֹר, maḥazor; "cycle"), festival prayer book. The word is similar to the term Maḥzarta of the Syrian Church, which means a breviary, and was originally applied to the poetical insertions to be recited in prayers throughout the yearly cycle. In Ashkenazi usage, it came to refer distinctly to the festival prayer book, as distinct from the siddur (the daily prayer book). The term is also used by Sephardi Jews.
Illuminated maḥzorim flourished in the Ashkenazi world throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, mainly in southwest Germany, in the Rhine valley, making their appearance soon after an authoritative "cycle" of prayers emerged. In the 15th century the fashion moved to northern Italy, where many Ashkenazim had settled, and influenced Italian Jewish illumination. While the Ashkenazi siddur contained the daily and personal prayers, both for home and synagogue, the maḥzor contains the synagogal communal prayers for the festivals and the seven special Sabbaths of the Jewish year. In the Italian rite, the term maḥzor embraced both the daily and festival prayers. Primarily intended for the use of the ḥazzan, the German maḥzorim are usually large – written in clear, bold letters – and contain a large selection of piyyutim ("liturgical poems") for each festival, offering the cantor a variety of choice. A large number of German maḥzorim are illuminated with initial-word panels and with illustrations of a ritual and textual nature. These maḥzorim were executed over a period of some 100 years, from the mid-13th to the mid-14th century.
The earliest surviving illustrated maḥzor manuscript of the 13th century is the two-volume codex of the Michael Collection in the Bodleian Library (Mss. Mich. 617 and Mich. 627), written in 1258 by Judah b. Samuel, called Seltman. Though it is not extensively illustrated it is important, since it proves that illuminated maḥzorim existed prior to this date. It was probably illuminated by a gentile, since the first initial-word panel was painted upside down, as though it was a Latin manuscript. However, despite this, the manuscript contains motifs which became traditional in later maḥzorim and which could not have been invented by gentiles. The finest examples of maḥzorim from the south of Germany are the first volume of the Worms Maḥzor of 1272 (see below); the Laud Maḥzor of about 1290 (Bodleian Library, Ms. Laud Or. 321); the Leipzig Maḥzor of about 1300 (see below); the Double
These maḥzorim illustrate both the development of style in southern Germany and the use of a special Jewish *iconography. An example of such development in both style and in motif is found in the distortion of human figures. In all manuscripts before 1300, the use of animal-headed people is consistent; in the Leipzig Maḥzor, people have birds' beaks instead of a nose and mouth; but the artists of the later Tripartite Maḥzor did not understand the reason for such distortions, and painted all the male figures with ordinary human heads and all the females with animal heads.
Southern German maḥzorim have a very wide range of text illustrations. Most of them begin with the prayers for the four special Sabbaths before Passover, continuing with Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the New Year, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Four of the megillot ("scrolls") are also usually included in the maḥzor – sometimes placed together, at other times appended to the particular celebrations with which they were associated. The Book of Esther was usually written separately on a scroll, to be read at the festival of Purim.
Most German maḥzorim have illustrations of the signs of the zodiac for each of the verses of a piyyut in the prayer for dew recited on the first day of Passover (Leipzig Maḥzor, vol. 1, fol. 133; Worms Maḥzor, vol. 1, fol. 95v.; Ms. Mich. fols. 49–51). The signs of the zodiac are depicted in small medallions in the margin. In the Worms and the Tripartite manuscripts, the labors of the months are depicted in medallions next to the signs of the zodiac. Some specifically Jewish elements have developed in the zodiac illustrations, such as a bucket instead of Aquarius; in some cases a draw well is depicted instead of a mere bucket, and in some maḥzorim a kid is shown next to the well to illustrate both Capricorn and Aquarius, which are referred to in one verse of this piyyut. In one maḥzor (Bodleian Library, Ms. Opp. 161, fol. 84), 11 signs of the zodiac are depicted in one large roundel divided into 12 sections, similar to the arrangements of the signs of the zodiac in floor mosaics of early synagogues (e.g., Bet Alfa). This example may be an indication of a traditional way of depicting the astronomical zodiac circulus, which survived into the Middle Ages.
The illustration for the Feast of Weeks traditionally depicts Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law and giving them to the Israelites, who are standing at the foot of Mount Sinai (e.g., Leipzig Maḥzor, vol. 1, fol. 130v.; British Museum, Ms. Add. 22413, fol. 3v.; Worms Maḥzor, vol. 1, fol. 151). In the Land Maḥzor (fol. 127v.) the giving of the Law is combined with an illustration of Moses sprinkling the blood of the Covenant over the Israelites. In the Leipzig Maḥzor (vol. 1, fol. 130) the Israelites are standing as though within the mountain, illustrating the Midrash which states that God erected a mountain over the Israelites until they agreed to accept the Torah.
The second volume of an Ashkenazi maḥzor normally starts with the prayers for Rosh Ha-Shanah, illustrated by the sacrifice of Isaac, with the ram caught in a thicket by his horns. The sounding of the ram's horn (shofar) on New Year's day is a commemoration of God's covenant with Abraham at the time of the sacrifice (e.g., Leipzig Maḥzor, vol. 2, fols. 26v., 66; Bodleian Library, Ms. Laud Or. 321, fol. 184, and Ms. Reg. 1, fol. 207v.; Double Maḥzor, Breslau, fol. 46v.). In some maḥzorim, a horned and claw-footed devil is depicted next to a shofar blower, who sometimes supports his right foot on a three-legged stool in order to ward off the earthly influence of evil. This is in accordance with the common superstition that a three-point object keeps evil spirits away (e.g., Budapest, Ms. A. 388, vol. 2, fol. 12v.; Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Alliance Israélite Universelle). Openings of prayers from the Day of Atonement are usually illustrated by initial words and by parts of prayers written within full-page arches resembling doors, an allusion to the Gates of Mercy, now opened to accept the individual prayers of every Jew (e.g., Leipzig Maḥzor, vol. 2; Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Ms. Or. Fol. 388, fol. 69; Worms Maḥzor, vol. 2; Double Maḥzor, Breslau, fol. 89).
The prayers for the Feast of Tabernacles are sometimes illustrated by a man holding the fruits of the Holy Land: the lulav ("palm branch"), the etrog ("citrus fruit"), Hadas ("myrtle"), and aravah ("willow").
Some maḥzorim are merely decorated and contain no illustrations at all. An example is the Nuremberg Maḥzor of 1331, which for six centuries was owned by the municipality of Nuremberg and is now in the Schocken Library in Jerusalem (Ms. 24100). Its large initial-word panel for the first day of Passover is decorated with foliage scrolls, grotesques, and an architectural top. In the 15th century, the illumination of large-sized maḥzorim was no longer fashionable. The smaller-sized illuminated prayer book which became more common continued to be called a maḥzor. One such example is the Maḥzor of Rabbi Friedman of Ruzhin. This mid-15th century eastern German prayer book was probably intended for use in the synagogue and at home by a wealthy member of the Jewish community. Though the system of illustration remained Ashkenazi, the decoration shows the influence of Italian motifs, evident in the marginal miniatures, initial-word panels, and human busts emerging from flowers. An example of the fusion of the two traditions is the Schocken Italian Maḥzor of 1441 (Ms. 13873), which is a large volume, written and decorated in Roman style, of the Roman rite, but with illustrations following the Ashkenazi tradition.
Most of the 15th-century Italian maḥzorim are personal rather than synagogal prayer books, stressing the daily prayers, and containing a Haggadah which was recited at home. They are therefore small, handy to carry to and from the synagogue, with the prayers arranged for the individual, starting with the daily and Sabbath prayers and the Festival ones. These illuminated small maḥzorim were not usually extensively illustrated;
The same system of illustration was also used by the Ashkenazi scribe and illuminator Joel b. *Simeon. Of the three maḥzorim executed in his workshop in the third quarter of the 15th century, the last was probably made for a woman, since it contains several marginal pen drawings of a ritual nature in which a lady called Maraviglia is the main character. Closely related to the Florentine style of Joel b. Simeon are some more elegant maḥzorim which have pen and colored decorations on almost every page. Such is the Rothschild Maḥzor of 1492 from Florence (Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Ms. 03225), which was illuminated in three different styles and techniques, with elaborate illuminated opening pages, illustrations to each section, and tinted decorations on each page. Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law illustrating the opening to the mishnaic tractate Avot (fol. 139) is an example of the second kind. Other maḥzorim with a similar system of illustration are fairly common, though some are richer than others.
The maḥzor in the Rothschild Miscellany, Ms. 24, Israel Museum, Ms. 180/51, which has sumptuous Ferrarese illuminations from about 1470, consists of textual illustrations for each festival and prayers for special occasions. In fact, it contains a wealth of material illustrating almost every custom of daily life in a rich Jewish Renaissance household. No other manuscript equals the richness and scope of the illumination of this miscellany, though only a portion of its 473 leaves is a maḥzor. The Pesaro Maḥzor of 1480 (Sassoon Ms. 23), containing almost as many pages as the Rothschild Miscellany, consists only of a prayer book of Roman rite. Its borders are very richly decorated by a Ferrarese artist, but there are fewer text illustrations, mostly within a wreath in the lower part of the border.
Two of the outstanding Ashkenazi Maḥzorim are described in detail below.
The Leipzig Mahzor
(Leipzig, University Library, Ms. V. 1102) is the most sumptuous of the south German illuminated maḥzorim and has the most extensive array of text illustrations. Almost all the special Sabbaths, feasts, and festivals are illustrated. The first volume was written by Menahem, who decorated his name (fols. 113, 137) in the same way as Menahem the scribe who copied the Birds' Head Haggadah (see Illuminated *Haggadot). The second volume was copied by a scribe called Isaac. The two volumes were wrongly bound with additions and corrections in later dates. The giant manuscript was probably intended initially for a ḥazzan of a very rich community on the Upper Rhine. The first volume of the Leipig Maḥzor opens with a frontispiece representing Samson rending the lion, possibly an allusion to the phrase "Grow strong like a lion to fulfill the will of your Maker," sometimes referring to the ḥazzan (vol. 1, fol. 19). At the end of the short introductory prayers, there is a miniature depicting the ḥazzan standing covered with his tallit ("prayer shawl") in front of a marble pulpit, on which a large open book rests. This probably represents the first volume of the Leipzig manuscript. The second volume is shown in the hands of a young man wearing a Jewish hat, who is standing behind the ḥazzan accompanied by a bearded Jew (vol. 1, fol. 27). A man holding a scale is a common illustration for the Sabbath of Parashat Shekalim, referring to the payment of the annual half-shekel for the Temple sacrifices (Ex. 30:11–16).
Most illustrations in the Leipzig Maḥzor are common to other south German maḥzorim, such as the tall tree from which Haman and his ten sons are hanging (vol. 1. fol. 51v.), illustrating a piyyut for Purim; a red heifer illustrates Parashat Parah (1, 53v); the sun and moon illustrate Parashat ha-Ḥodesh (1, 59); a betrothed couple sitting on a bench illustrates a piyyut for the "Great Sabbath" before Passover, alluding to the Torah as the bride of the people of Israel (1, 64). The Egyptians pursuing the Israelites illustrate the Passover Eve prayer (1, 72v.–73), the signs of the zodiac the prayer for dew recited on the first day of Passover (1, 85–87), and Moses receiving the tablets of the Law illustrating Shavuot (1, 130v.). An additional illustration (1, v. 131) depicts the contemporary custom of initiating children into the study of the Torah. The child is brought to his teacher's lap to lick the honey-covered alphabet tablet in order to sweeten his introduction to the study of the Torah, while the other children, in celebration of his initiation, receive eggs and cakes. The first volume ends with the kinot ("dirges") for the Ninth of Av, which are hardly ever illustrated. As is common in Ashkenazi maḥzorim, the second volume begins with the prayers for Rosh Ha-Shanah, with illustrations of the *akedah and the ram caught in a thicket. The opening prayers for the Day of Atonement are illustrated with the customary arches resembling doors, alluding to the Gates of Mercy (2, fols. 74v., 85, 164v.), but one of the arches has in the lower margin the additional midrashic illustration of Abraham being saved from the fire of the Chaldeans because of his belief. The feast of Sukkot is illustrated by a man holding the prescribed "four species," and in the lower margin the legendary beasts, the leviathan and behemoth are fighting, an event which is supposed to take place before the end of time. The style of the Leipzig Maḥzor is related to south German illumination around 1300. A fascimile of 68 illuminated pages
The Worms Mahzor
(Jerusalem, Jewish National and University Library, Ms. Heb. 4781/I–II) consists of two unrelated volumes, which were kept together in the Worms Synagogue from 1578. The fact that the page size, text area, and style of script are different in each volume, and that Ecclesiastes is repeated in both, indicates that they were executed independently. Only the first volume is dated, through a colophon (fol. 34v) stating that it was completed on Jan. 1, 1272, written by Simhah b. Judah for his uncle R. Baruch b. Isaac. Another entry mentions the scribe, his father Judah of Nuremberg, and Shemaiah the Frenchman, who may have been the artist. Neither volume was intended for the Worms community, since they both contain piyyutim and prayers which are not included in the Worms rite while one piyyut was common in the rite of Mainz. The first volume of the Worms Maḥzor is one of the earliest dated illuminated maḥzorim from southern Germany. Associated with the colored initial-word panels are many text illustrations for the special Sabbaths, Passover, and Shavuot. The illustration for Parashat Shekalim depicts a man holding a balance, weighing the half-shekels for the payment in the Temple (fol. 39v.) Although the illumination of the Worms Maḥzor is somewhat crude, it resembles south German Latin illumination of the second half of the 13th century. Another link with the south German Jewish school of illumination is the style of the animals, birds, and distorted heads of human figures. The second volume contains a very few decorations of a somewhat later south German style.
M. Steinschneider, Jewish Literature (1857, 1965), 165ff.; Idelsohn, Liturgy, xiiif. ILLUMINATED MAḤZORIM: Mayer, Art, 1792 (J. Mueller); 1496 (J. Leveen); 2246 (S. Rothschild); 2846, 2876 (R. Wischnitzer-Bernstein); 857 (E.D. Goldschmidt); 2239, 2240 (E. Roth); 2969 (J. Gutmann); 1222A (B. Narkiss); 2232 (C. Roth); 58 (Z. Ameisenowa); 2933 (B. Ziemlich); 393 (N. Bruell, p. 115–8); 2074 (Recklinghausen); 730 (Frankfurt); 523 (Monumenta Judaica); J. Gutmann, in: Art Journal, 27 (1967/68), 172; B. Narkiss, in: Haaretz (May 15, 1957); idem, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts (1969), 30–33, 37–39, pls. 26, 27, 33, 34, 35, 44, 49, 52, 53, 56; idem, in: Papers of the Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2 (1968), 129–33; idem, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts from Jerusalem Collections, The Israel Museum, Exhibition Catalog no. 40 (1967), nos. 5, 10; M. Beit Arié, in: Leshonenu, 29 (1965), 27–46, 80–102; Margoliouth, Cat, 2 (1899), 285–8, no. 662; A. Wurfel, Historische Nachrichten von der Judengemeinde Nuernberg (Nuremberg, 1755), 97–105; D.S. Sassoon, Ohel David, 1 (1932), 289–93; Neubauer, Cat, no. 2373; I. Levi, in: REJ, 89 (1930), 281–92.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.