Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tobias and Raphael in an 18th century Siddur

APOCRYPHA WATCH: The story of Tobias and Raphael, from the Book of Tobit, appears in the Siddur of an eighteenth-century Mohel:
The siddur, currently in the Braginsky Collection (reviewed in the Jewish Press, February 26, 2010), is called "Sefer Sod Adonai im Sharvit ha Zahav (Book of the Lord's Mystery with the [commentary] Golden Scepter." It was copied and illuminated by Aryeh ben Judah Leib of Trebitsch in 1716 and features a title page showing three men and two women in a synagogue setting. After that is the prayer Adon Olam illuminated with two rampant lions unfolding a cartouche with the Hebrew word Adon inscribed. Next are the first morning blessings: "Blessed are you Hashem regarding washing the hands. Blessed are You Hashem who heals all flesh and is wondrous in His acts." The blessing on washing the hands is surrounded by an illumination that depicts an angel on the left and a young man carrying a big fish on his shoulder on the right. Rather surprisingly the subject is from the Book of Tobias, part of the Catholic cannon and known as a book of the Apocrypha (from the Greek meaning "hidden things").

What's this subject doing in a pious Jew's siddur?
Read on, and enjoy the illumination as well.

(Niggles: It's the Book of Tobit, not the Book of Tobias. Tobias is the son of Tobit and one of the characters in the book. And there is still some debate on whether the original language of the book is Aramaic or Hebrew.)