A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview

15
Gaon Amram sends the Model of the First Prayer Book to Spain

To Rabbi Amram bar Shechna, Gaon of Sura from 846 to 864, belongs the historic merit of having prepared the first Jewish Prayer Book. There were two main reasons why no Hebrew book of that kind had existed until then. One was a ban on writing down the sacred blessings, the other was that no need for such records was felt in the East, where an uninterrupted liturgical tradition had kept alive the memory of the prayers and their order since ancient times. The lack of such continuous tradition created, however, in the Western countries an urgent desire for liturgical guidance. Thus it came about that the suggestion for the compilation of the Prayer Book came from the Iberian Peninsula. Isaac bar Simeon, the head of a Jewish community in Spain, probably of Barcelona, put to Amram so many questions concerning liturgy that the Gaon made up his mind to compose a written Seder, i.e. order (of prayers), containing a complete sequence of prayers and liturgical rules for the whole year. He sent this manuscript to Rabbi Isaac with the following letter:

GAON AMRAM BAR SHECHNA TO ISAAC BAR SIMEON

'We have composed it according to the preserved traditions... as Heaven has enlightened us'

[Sura, between 846 and 864]

Amram bar Shechna, head of the Academy in the city of Sura, to Rabbi Isaac, son of the Master and Rabbi Simeon, who is beloved and esteemed by our whole school.

By God's mercy may there be much peace on you and your children, on all scholars and students, as well as on all our Israelitish brethren living there. Greetings from us and from R. Zemah, the president of the judicial court, from the teachers and sages of the Academy, from its pupils and from the city of Sura! All are well, scholars and students, and all Israelitish

-75-

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