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Seyder Tkhines

The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women

Authored by Devra Kay

Publication Year: 2004

The Seyder Tkhines, translated from its original Yiddish by noted tkhines scholar, Devra Kay, and centerpiece of this groundbreaking work, was a standard Yiddish prayer book for women. It first appeared in Amsterdam in 1648, and continued to be published for the next three generations, usually inside the Hebrew synagogue prayer book. A product of an age when mysticism pervaded mainstream Judaism, the Seyder Tkhines provided women with newly composed, alternative daily prayers that were more specific to their needs. Included in this volume is a unique Yiddish manuscript dating from the 17th century – a collection of prayers written specifically for a rich, pregnant woman, which Kay discovered among the rare books of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Now, for the first time, these prayers have been skillfully translated and brought to public view. In addition to her translations, Kay presents her own extensive commentary, providing a deeper understanding of the historic, religious, and cultural background of this period in Jewish history. This unparalleled book will have special appeal to those interested in the social, literary, and religious history of women, as well as the history of the Yiddish language and literature. The interest in these forgotten prayers and their significance to the lives of women has now been revived, and these tkhines are ready to be rediscovered by a modern readership.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Front matter

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-

My grateful thanks to Professor Lewis Glinert for urging me to write this book and for all his help and encouragement. I also wish to thank Gabbie, Anthony and Gemma Asher, Rebecca, Eliahu and Ruchama, Rick Lecoat, Isabel Kosky, Ged Dixon, Cathryn Scott, Lee O’Rourke, Tom Goldsmith, Anne-Marie Douglas, and Amanda Epstein for their...

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Introduction

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pp. xi-xii

It was in Oxford in 1988 that I read the late, and much missed, Professor Chone Shmeruk’s classic book on Yiddish literature in which he wrote that “the many-faceted tkhines literature in Yiddish has not been accorded a detailed and comprehensive study.” I was delighted because I was in the middle of writing my doctoral thesis on that very...

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Pronunciation of Yiddish and Hebrew Words

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pp. xiii-

The Yiddish words that appear in this book follow the international standard YIVO Yiddish pronunciation rules as they appear below:...

PART ONE. Commentary

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Chapter 1. INTRODUCING TKHINES

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pp. 3-13

The Seyder Tkhines,1 which first appeared in print in Amsterdam in 1648, is a landmark in the history of women. It represents an age of religious, sexual, linguistic, and literary revolution within the Jewish community across Europe, an age when mysticism pervaded mainstream2 Judaism. Yet this exceptional episode, along with its literature, has disappeared...

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Chapter 2. PROFIT AND PRAYER: WOMEN AND A UNIQUE PAN-EUROPEAN PRINTING INDUSTRY

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pp. 15-32

The advent of Yiddish printing began in earnest in Europe in the 1540s, enabling publication and circulation of cheaply produced, vernacular books for a mass Jewish audience of both men and women. Its success was due, in part, to the uniquely high level of literacy in the Ashkenazic community. There were other distinctive aspects to...

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Chapter 3. THE SEYDER TKHINES: A BOOK FOR A MESSIANIC AGE

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pp. 33-47

An analysis of the Seyder Tkhines could fill an entire book. The three chapters I have devoted to it merely scratch the surface of a rich seam of available evidence. In this chapter, I will attempt to set the book in its historical context; in Chapter 4, I proffer some definitions; and in Chapter 5, I claim that the Seyder Tkhines provided a new Yiddish...

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Chapter 4. SEYDER TKHINES: DEFINITIONS

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pp. 49-69

The Seyder Tkhines began life as a standard prayer book. There is a fixed core that contains thirty-seven tkhines divided into five sections: (1) those to be recited daily; (2) those to be recited on the Sabbath (related to two of the three women’s commandments of khale and candle lighting); (3) those related to the third women’s commandment of...

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Chapter 5. SIDE BY SIDE BY SEYDER

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pp. 71-86

The social and religious roles of men and women in the seventeenth century were clearly and separately defined, as seen from the popular Yiddish ethical books of the time that instructed the community on correct forms of behavior, such as Lev Tov and Brantshpigl.The women’s commandment of nide dictated that although husband and...

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Chapter 6. A RARE MANUSCRIPT LOST AND FOUND: BOOK OF TKHINES FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN

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pp. 87-93

The absence of extant manuscripts of the Seyder Tkhines suggests they were a phenomenon of the age of print and did not, like many early printed works of literature, originate from earlier handwritten versions. There is, however, a manuscript of a single, anonymous collection of tkhines stored away in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.1 It...

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Chapter 7. OTHER YIDDISH PRAYERS AND RELIGIOUS SONGS AND THEIR AUTHORS

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pp. 95-112

At the same time that the Seyder Tkhines was being printed throughout Europe, other Yiddish prayers and religious songs entitled tkhine, tfile, or lid appeared in print. These were usually single works, either newly composed or adapted into the tkhine style and language from Hebrew models. While the Seyder Tkhines was exclusively for...

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Chapter 8. SEYDER TKHINES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: THE MESSIANIC INHERITANCE

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pp. 113-122

Scarcely a trace of the tkhines that were an integral part of Ashkenazic prayer life three hundred and fifty years ago survives today in mainstream Judaism. By the middle of the eighteenth century, when the messianic movement had played itself out on center stage, all the things that the tkhines had come to represent were no longer relevant...

PART TWO. Prayers in Translation

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The Seyder Tkhines

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pp. 125-184

The Yiddish Seyder Tkhines was printed for all Ashkenazic women across Europe. I have been asked if it was intended for “religious women,” but such a concept would not have existed. Some women may have been more naturally pious than others, and a few better educated. In fact it was the better educated who might have chosen to...

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Book of Tkhines for a Pregnant Woman

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pp. 185-216

A prayer book for an unknown,pregnant woman. From a manuscript written in Germany in the seventeenth century....

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Single Prayers and Songs in Tkhine Language

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pp. 217-246

This section presents to the twenty-first-century reader, six women who are virtually unknown today, whose works were published around 350 years ago in Yiddish. I have included among them a male author, Yankev ben Elyohu, because of his vivid, though disparaging depiction...

Glossary

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pp. 247-251

Bibliography

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pp. 253-264

Index

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pp. 265-269


E-ISBN-13: 9780827610125
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827607736

Publication Year: 2004