Wing and a prayerWing and a prayer

Oldest siddur headed to Israel

1,200-year-old text, which includes Sabbath prayers and Passover Haggadah, to go on display at the Bible Lands Museum

The oldest Jewish prayer book, dating back to 840 AD. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
The oldest Jewish prayer book, dating back to 840 AD. (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

The oldest book of Jewish liturgy, dating back to the ninth century, was en route to Israel Sunday, and will be on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem until late October.

The 50-page text is written on parchment in archaic Hebrew, and includes portions of the Sabbath morning prayers, liturgical hymns, and the Passover Haggadah.

The 1,200-year-old book was traced back to the Geonic period in Babylon, and is on loan from the Green Collection, a vast collection of biblical artifacts owned by the founders of Hobby Lobby.

“We are very excited about the arrival of the prayer text to the museum,” Amanda Weiss, director of the Bible Lands Museum, told Yedioth Ahronoth. “This is a real treasure for the Jewish people, proof of the communal and cultural life 1,200 years ago, and we are honored to have it displayed at the Book of Books exhibit.”

The exhibit in which the prayer book is displayed, entitled “The Book of Books,” compiles over 200 texts with the ambitious aim of presenting the history of Judeo-Christian texts over the course of Western history through its textual heritage. Among the documents on display are fragments of the earliest Greek translation of the Bible — the Septuagint — early New Testament scriptures, vibrant illuminated manuscripts, rare fragments from the Cairo Geniza and pages from the Gutenberg Bible, the first set to print.

Curators said instead of sticking to illegible, dusty, leather-bound tomes, they combined curious artifacts and exotic documents — such as prayer amulets engraved on silver rolls, 1,500-year-old Iraqi incantation bowls and elaborately illustrated prayer books — to animate the exhibit.

Among the gems of the exhibition is the Green Collection’s Codex Climaci Rescriptus, a 6th-8th century CE palimpsest whose Greek and Palestinian Aramaic Gospels were overwritten with Syriac.

The gallery also has a working reproduction of a Gutenberg-era printing press, replete with period-dress printer.

Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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