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The Prayer-Book of Joseph Messias, 5481

Rev. M. Rosenbaum

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Prayer-book of Joseph Messias, 5481 By the Rev. M. Rosenbaum When, in the year 5500 (1739-1740) Haham Isaac Nieto printed in London a Spanish translation of the Sephardic liturgy for the New Year and Kippur, he stated in a prefatory address (p. 4) " To the pious and devout reader " that all previous versions were unfitted to be the vehicle of prayer to the Eternal and Almighty God, being replete with unsuitable, barbarous, uncouth and archaic expressions, couched in a jargon that was neither Castilian nor Hebrew. The Haham evidently had in mind the translations then current in England, printed at Amsterdam presses without the Hebrew text. His purpose was to replace these by a Spanish translation more in consonance with the needs of educated worshippers, and he resumed this task some thirty years later by publishing a translation of the daily prayers and those for the New Moon, Hanucah and Purim. It was generally held that these were the earliest translations of the Sephardic ritual printed in London. Selections from the Machzor, however, had appeared here in Spanish, being the work of Haham David Nieto, in pamphlet form; whilst Dr. W. Wotton had printed an English version of the paragraphs preceding and following the Shema both in the morning and evening services, in the first volume of his Miscellaneous Discourses, 1718 (pp. 179-185), the Hebrew text being that contained in a Seder Tephilloth, printed at Amsterdam by Manasseh ben Israel, in 16 ?, in 1636, collated with another printed at Venice in 1544 (p. 186). But as a matter of fact, a translation of the week-day ritual had been printed in 95</page><page sequence="2">q6 miscellanies in honour of e. n. adler London some twenty years before the first of Isaac Nieto's volumes left the press. A copy of this came into my possession more than twenty-five years ago, being a lucky find in a " two? penny box," and is now listed on page 362 of the Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judiaca published by the Jewish Historical Society of Eng? land under the editorship of Dr. Cecil Roth. It is an octavo book of 364 pages, containing no preface, the translation beginning on the page numbered 3, immediately following the title-page which forms page 1, its verso being left blank. The existence of such a work was quite unsuspected and my copy appears to be unique for no mention of it was to be found anywhere. The late Israel Solomons sent rotostats of several pages to Amsterdam and was informed that none of the prayer-books amongst the large collections in that city contained pages identical with those submitted for comparison. The title-page reads as follows (I make no attempt to reproduce the type or the printer's layout): " Orden de las Oraciones cotidianas. Por estilo siguido, y corriente, Con las de Hanucah, Purim y Ajuno del solo. En Londres. A costa de R. Yoseph Messias. Impreso en casa de William Osborn, en Fenchurch-Street, 5481." It will be seen that it was produced in 1720-1721 at the expense of a certain Rabbi Joseph Messias; and that it does not bear the " imprimatur " of the Mahamad. Both volumes of Isaac Nieto's translation and his father's Matteh Dan (1714) were printed " Con Licencia de los Senores del Mahamad." Sarmento's Exemplar de Penitencia (1724) and the addresses given on the occasion of Haham David Nieto's death, received the licence of the Gentlemen of the Mahamad, and it is believed that Isaac Pinto's English translation of the Sephardic Prayer-book was printed at New York (1766) because the Mahamad of Bevis Marks declined to authorise its publi? cation in this country. How R. Joseph Messias succeeded in ignor? ing the jurisdiction of that august body remains a mystery. Dr. Gaster informed me that about the year 1721 Joseph Messias was in trouble with the Mahamad, and he agreed with me that this may</page><page sequence="3">THE PRAYER-BOOK OF JOSEPH MESSIAS 97 have been due to his flaunting its authority by printing this book. I have, however, failed to discover that Messias was ever taken to task for this. But we do find that he was one of those who attempted to get someone in trouble with the Mahamad, and Dr. Gaster probably had this in mind, and had forgotten the exact facts. He recites the incident in his History of Bevis Mar\s Synagogue (pp. 128, 129). The name of Joseph Messias is the first amongst those of twelve advanced students of the Medrash who, in EUul 1725, presented a report to the Mahamad regarding the heretical views expressed by a certain Isaac Baryentes. Evidently Messias was a well to-do man who devoted his time to study and part of his means to the diffusion of knowledge in the form of this Prayer-book. I am inclined to the opinion that the Mahamad had authorised the publi? cation but afterwards withdrew the licence, and that the title-page bearing its imprimatur was cancelled and replaced by another. This opinion is based upon the fact that the title-page in my copy is printed upon paper of a different texture than that of the remainder of the volume. The rarity of the work thus becomes explicable. I suggest that having issued it against the expressed wish of the Mahamad, Messias was ordered to call in every copy of which he had disposed, and under threat of dire penalties he made an attempt to do so. Some few copies he may have been unable to recover, and mine is one of these, and the only copy now existing. Having thus made his humble submission to the august body, Messias was again received into favour and permitted to study at the Medrash. The translation is undoubtedly copied from an Amsterdam edition. Literary piracy was rife in regard to these prayer-book versions, which in fact were all based upon the Usque editions published at Ferrara between 1552 and 1555. Thus Solomon Proops issued at Amsterdam in 1717 a translation of the liturgy for the High Festivals, using as printer's copy a similar publication of Isaac de Cordova in 1706, for although the type in the two works is different, every page without exception of the Proops edition begins and ends with the same word as the corresponding page of the earlier edition, or with the preceding or following word. Similarly, William</page><page sequence="4">98 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER Osborn, of Fenchurch Street was in all likelihood supplied with a copy of an Amsterdam book and instructed to reproduce it page by page. The volume was perhaps the ' new translation' issued by David de Castro Tartas in 1695, for according to Gr?nbaum's J?disch-Span? ische Chrestomathie (p. 24), Psalm 150 appears there on page 42, and in my edition, also, it is to be found on the page so numbered. The title-pages of the two editions are also similar in their phraseology, both containing the words " por estilo seguido y corriente " with mention of the Maecenas who had defrayed the cost of publication. Messias, however, printed only a portion of that work, for the Amsterdam volume contained not only a translation of those por? tions of the liturgy which are reproduced in the London edition, but also the ritual for the Three Festivals with the Parasioth and Aftarot. This was done probably to reduce the cost of publication. Unfortunately I have been unable to examine a copy of the 1695 work. As is customarv in these translations, the Hebrew text of the liturgy is not printed. They were intended for those unable to read - Hebrew, both for private devotion and for use in the synagogue. The latter is evident from the fact that certain portions of the Hebrew are transliterated into Latin characters. Such are: che response to the call to prayer, Baruh Adonai Ameborah Leholam Vahed; the first verse of the Sema with the following Baruh Sem Kebod Malchuto Leolam Vahed; the response Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh, etc., and such sentences as Vayahabor Adonai hal panav vaycra, and Bedil Vayahat/or, which are recited repeatedly in certain penitential prayers. It is often stated that these sentences had been transmitted orally from one generation of Marranos to another, and were incorporated in this form in these Spanish prayer books as being the only Hebrew portions familiar to the worshippers. But this does not explain why we have transliterations of the Yigdal and Lecha Dodi in their entirety. As Dr. Roth states (History of the Marranos, p. 327), these transliterations were made in order that even the most ignorant could join in those portions of the liturgy which were recited aloud or were sung congregationally. In order</page><page sequence="5">THE PRAYER-BOOK OF JOSEPH MESSIAS 99 to enable the men to recite the benedictions if they were called to the Reading of the Law, these, too, appear in transliteration. The dialect of these translations has often been described, but so far as I am aware, nothing has been written regarding the nature of these translations. The idiom is entirely of a Hebraic cast, following the original word by word, a Hebrew grammatical form being rendered by the corresponding grammatical form in Spanish. Thus, in the Sema we are bidden that " the words these shall be upon thy heart"; that they shall be spoken of "in thy sitting in thy house, and in thy walking by the way, and in thy lying down and in thy rising up," and that disobedience will entail perishing " from upon the land the good which Adonai is giving to you." If the verb has an accusative pronominal suffix the Spanish pro? noun is often attached to the verb as a suffix: " And thou shalt repeat them unto thy children." If, however, the pronoun is a separate entity following the verb, the same construction is retained : " And thou shalt teach them," etc. Hebrew idioms are rendered literally into Spanish: "by the mouth of the sword," " into the hands of sin." The verb "to be " is never inserted if not in the Hebrew. Thus, the Alenu prayer commences : " Upon us to praise the Lord of all," and the short form of the Kedushah appears as: " Thou holy and thy name holy . . . Blessed thou, the God the holy." Hiphil forms of the verb, being factitive in meaning, are trans? lated by forms of the Spanish verb " to make " followed by an infinitive representing the Kal sense of the verb. Thus God " will make?it (the soul) to turn to me "; " He is the (one) making sleep to pass " and " The making (one) to prepare man's steps." The curious phrasing in the last two examples is due to the fact that Hebrew often uses a participle as a noun and therefore prefixes to it the definite article, but the translation renders Hebrew nouns and participles by the corresponding Spanish forms. Thus we pray that " We may all be knowing Thy name and learning Thy law," and we invoke God as " King, helping, saving and shielding," because the last three designations are taken as participles whilst the first is a</page><page sequence="6">100 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER noun. Similarly, in the Amidah the benedictions conclude with a series of participles sometimes with and sometimes without the definite article prefixed. Thus we have: " Be Thou blessed, Adonai, the delighting in penitence " . . . " gracious and the multiplying to pardon " . . . " loving righteousness " . . . " building Jerusalem." Examples of these methods of translation may be quoted in hundreds and thousands. It is a kind of schoolboy version in which every turn of the Hebrew is imitated in a Spanish jargon, and the schoolboy might easily discover from the Spanish rendering the grammatical form of the Hebrew original. It is to this prayer-book sponsored by our Rabbi Messias in England and to the Amsterdam editions imported into this country that Haham Isaac Nieto refers in his address " To the pious and devout Reader," and we must agree that they well deserve the strictures and condemnation he passed upon them. It remains only to state that my copy bears the inscription : " Rachael De Crasto, 1763." She was a daughter of Reyna Syprut and Abraham Namias de Crasto. Her mother's sister, Sarah Syprut, became the second wife of Benjamin D'Israeli, the elder, and was the mother of Isaac D'Israeli. Thus the book had been in the owner? ship of a cousin of Lord Beaconsfield's father. It shows signs of constant use, more particularly the pages containing the earlier portions of the daily service and the prayers recited on retiring to rest. The history of the Spanish prayer-book in England does not end with Messias and Nieto. Dr. Roth calls my attention to a late edition, hitherto unknown, which is listed in J. S. da Silva Rosa's supplementary Catalogue of Spanish and Portuguese Judaica in the Ets Haim Library in Amsterdam : Orden de oraciones contidianas . . . con Hanuc?, Purim, Ayuno de Solo, y las tres Pascuas, con sus Parasioth, Aphtarot, Asaharot, Nuevamente Traduzidas . . . Londres, en Caza de Aaron Nodnarb, Ano 5532 (582 pp., 8vo). That there is no mistake as to the date is clear from the fact that</page><page sequence="7">the prayer-book of joseph messias 101 there is appended a Calendar for the years 5531-5551 (1770-1790), with its own tide-page. That this substantial work (fifty years later than Joseph Messias' translation) should have virtually disappeared is remarkable. But the name of the Publisher helps us to understand why. " Nodnarb " is obviously a palindrome for " Brandon "; and no one is likely to have introduced a cheap witticism into the title-page of a prayer book without good cause. Presumably, Aaron Brandon (who figures in the list of Yehidim of the London congregation in 1764) also had difficulties with the Gentlemen of the Mahamad. h</page></plain_text>