Why Medieval Jewish Liturgy is not Dull—by Prof. Stefan Reif
By Hebrew and Jewish Studies, on 27 November 2015
In a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Why Medieval Jewish Liturgy is not Dull” (18.11.2015), Professor Stefan Reif, Emeritus Professor of Medieval Hebrew Studies and Fellow of St John’s College, in the University of Cambridge, discussed eight manuscript fragments of Jewish liturgy from the eleventh and twelfth centuries discovered among the literary treasures of the Cambridge Genizah Collections. He explained how their contents could be analysed for the manner in which they illuminated the evolution of medieval Jewish prayer. At the same time, a close study of each of them also yielded important information for historians of Jewish language and literature, theology, and broader culture, as well as for the serious student of Hebrew codicology and bibliography. Among the items that he explained were a Passover Haggadah with an Aramaic tale of the Exodus, a Qaddish from pre-Crusader Eretz Yisrael, a special collection of biblical verses for use on Shemini ‘Aṣeret, and a previously unidentified version of Saadya’s prayer-book text. He also provided intriguing information about how scholars could be misled by the earlier errors of others. All these fragments are fully transcribed, translated and annotated in his volume Jewish Prayer Texts from the Cairo Genizah which is scheduled for publication by Brill early in 2016.