The book of customs A complete handbook for the Jewish year

Scott-Martin Kosofsky

Book - 2004

"Fifteen years ago while researching Jewish imagery, book designer Scott-Martin Kosofsky happened upon a 1645 edition of the Minhogimbukh - the "Customs Book" - a beautifully designed and illustrated guide to the Jewish year written in Yiddish, the people's vernacular." "There are no works quite like the historical customs books available today - none so thorough and concise, intuitive in organization, and beautiful. Inspired by the originals, Kosofsky set out to make his own, adapting the books for modern use, adding historical perspective and contemporary application. The result is the reappearance of the Minhogimbukh after more than a hundred-year absence, and the first complete showing of all the original w...oodcuts - a visual vocabulary of Jewish life - since the 1760s. Faithfully based on the earlier editions, The Book of Customs is an updated guide to the rituals, liturgies, and texts of the entire Jewish year, from the days of the week and the Sabbath to all the months with their festivals, as well as the major life-cycle events of wedding, birth, bar and bat mitzvah, and death. With the revival of this lost cultural legacy, The Book of Customs can once again become every family's guide to Jewish tradition and practice."--Book jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : HarperSanFrancisco c2004.
Language
English
Main Author
Scott-Martin Kosofsky (-)
Edition
1st ed
Item Description
"Inspired by the Yiddish Minhogimbukh, Venice, 1593"--T.p.
Physical Description
xxxiv, 430 p. : ill. ; 23 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 399-410) and index.
ISBN
9780060524371
  • Foreword
  • Introduction: A Discovery
  • A Welcome from 1593
  • Custom and Law
  • Fundamentals of Prayer
  • The Days of the Week
  • Prayers upon Waking
  • Shaharit: The Morning Synagogue Service
  • Blessings of Food and Drink
  • Minhah: The Afternoon Synagogue Service
  • Maariv: The Evening Synagogue Service
  • The Bedtime Shema
  • Sabbath
  • Preparations for the Sabbath
  • Friday Evening: Kabbalat Shabbat
  • Friday Evening Service
  • Friday Evening at Home
  • Saturday Morning
  • Musaf Service
  • The Sabbath Day Meal
  • Sabbath Afternoon Service
  • The Third Sabbath Meal
  • The Conclusion of Sabbath
  • Rosh Hodesh
  • The Prayers for Rosh Hodesh
  • When Rosh Hodesh Falls on Sabbath
  • Shabbat Mahar Hodesh
  • Blessing the New Moon
  • The Month of Nisan
  • Shabbat Hagadol
  • The Preparations for Passover
  • Preparing the Flour for Matzoh
  • Passover
  • The First Night of Passover
  • The Seder
  • The First Day of Passover
  • General Laws of Festivals
  • Forbidden and Permitted Foods on Passover
  • The Second Night of Passover
  • The Counting of the Omer
  • The Second Day of Passover
  • Hol Hamoed: The Intermediate Days of Passover
  • Sabbath During the Intermediate Days of Passover
  • The Last Days of Passover
  • Yom Hashoah
  • The Month of Iyar
  • Yom Hazikaron, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim
  • Lag b'Omer
  • The Month of Sivan
  • Shavuot
  • The First Day of Shavuot
  • The Second Day of Shavuot
  • The Month of Tamuz
  • The Month of Av
  • Tishah b'Av
  • The Customs of Tishah b'Av
  • The Month of Av After the Ninth
  • The Month of Elul
  • Teshuvah and Selihah: Repentance and Forgiveness
  • Tzedakah: Charity as Justice
  • The Day Before Rosh Hashanah
  • The Month of Tishrei
  • The Book of Life and the Book of Death
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • The First Day of Rosh Hashanah
  • The Second Day of Rosh Hashanah
  • The Fast of Gedaliah
  • Shabbat Shuvah: The Sabbath of Return
  • The Day Before Yom Kippur
  • Yom Kippur
  • Kol nidrei: The Eve of Yom Kippur
  • The Morning of Yom Kippur
  • Musaf Service
  • Afternoon Service
  • Neilah: the Last Appeal
  • The Conclusion of Yom Kippur
  • Sukkot
  • The Sukkah
  • The Four Species
  • The First Night of Sukkot
  • The First Two Days of Sukkot
  • The Intermediate Days of Sukkot
  • Sabbath During the Intermediate Days of Sukkot
  • Hoshana Rabbah
  • Shemini Atzeret
  • Simhat Torah
  • The Month of Heshvan
  • The Month of Kislev
  • Hanukkah
  • The Customs of Hanukkah
  • The Synagogue Customs of Hanukkah
  • The Month of Tevet
  • The Tenth of Tevet
  • The Month of Shevat
  • Shabbat Shekalim: The Sabbath of the Shekel Tax
  • The Month(s) of Adar
  • Shabbat Zakhor: The Sabbath of Remembrance
  • Purim
  • The Customs of Purim
  • Shabbat Parah: The Sabbath of the Red Heifer
  • Shabbat Hahodesh: The Sabbath of the Month
  • Wedding
  • Concepts and Artifacts of Betrothal and Marriage
  • Modern Weddings
  • Circumcision
  • Pidyon haben: The Redemption of the Firstborn Son
  • Bar and Bat Mitzvah
  • The Background of Bar and Bat Mitzvah
  • The Customs of Bar and Bat Mitzvah
  • Death and Mourning
  • At the Time of Death
  • Preparation of the Corpse
  • The Funeral and Burial
  • Mourning
  • Notes and Bibliography
  • Transliterations and Translations
  • Page Notes
  • Other Works Consulted
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Beginning in the late fourteenth century, The Book of Customs, a compact guide to the Jewish year, was published in Yiddish, the Jews' vernacular at that time in Europe. For nearly four centuries, elaborate editions were created, and it was among the most popular Jewish books in the European Diaspora until it disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. Using the 1593 Venice edition as a model, Kosofsky added a number of discursive elements, including introductions to the book's major divisions and concepts, descriptions of all of the prayers and many of the Bible readings, a general chapter on Jewish law and custom, and one on Jewish prayer to explain how the daily prayer rituals are performed. Also added are chapters on customs and holidays that weren't mentioned, or didn't exist, in 1593, such as bar mitzvahs and the Holocaust Remembrance Day. This first English translation, as important as it is delightful, includes reproductions of many of the original woodcut illustrations that are housed in the libraries at Oxford and Harvard universities.--George Cohen Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries, popular ?books of customs? brought Judaism down to the level of ?Every Jew.? These books dealt with holidays, life-cycle rituals, weekly Sabbaths and daily prayers. Written in Yiddish, they were illustrated with woodcuts that showed how to observe the rituals and liturgies that composed day-to-day Judaism. Kosofsky, who stumbled upon one of these books while an undergraduate at Harvard, adapts several such guides for modern usage here, including all of the original woodcuts. (He also reproduces the title page from a 1593 edition that promises to teach readers ?how to live like a good person? and boasts its superiority to all previous versions.) Kosofsky?s book is interesting both as a history lesson?12 of the woodcuts depict monthly farming activities, for example, showing how agricultural Jewish life was a few centuries ago?and a spiritual guide for modern readers. As Kosofsky demonstrates, a ?book of customs? does as good a job today of ?helping its readers feel comfortable and competent in the Jewish world? as it did hundreds of years ago. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


Review by Library Journal Review

For over 400 years, The Book of Customs was "among the most popular Jewish books in the European Diaspora, just after the Bible, the siddur (prayerbook), and the Passover haggadah." Originally published in Yiddish in the late 1500s, it was a basic explanation of Jewish customs written for the everyday reader. What made it so visually appealing was the inclusion of many woodcuts, which appeared in versions from 1593 to 1768. Kosofsky, a book designer and editor specializing in Judaica and a trustee of the Associates of the Boston Public Library, has resurrected and updated this commonplace book, which has evolved through the centuries. The book is divided into chapters that address the fundamentals of Jewish custom and law, prayer, Sabbath, the Jewish holidays, weddings, and more. Kosofsky has updated the material with an easy-to-read text, and he has wisely loaded the book with stunning woodcuts. Libraries with strong Judaica or religious studies should definitely consider adding this delightful and accessible little volume.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The Book of Customs A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year Introduction A Discovery Fifteen years ago, while looking for illustrations to use in my first Judaica project, The Harvard Hillel Sabbath Songbook, I came across reproductions of several Renaissance woodcuts in an old Jewish encyclopedia. Their source was given as "Sefer minhagim, Amsterdam, 1645." At the time I had reclaimed only enough of my Hebrew school education to know that sefer means "book"; the other word was familiar, but I couldn't quite remember its meaning. To learn more, I would have to see the book. The Harvard libraries had several books with that name or similar names, and still more on microfilm, including one that matched the particulars given in the encyclopedia. When I saw how minhagim was spelled in Hebrew, I looked it up and found that it means "customs." What I had stumbled upon was the Book of Customs. I was charmed at first sight. I had in my hands something I had never seen before: a compact guide to the Jewish year, complete with over forty delightful illustrations of the main holidays and rituals. I knew this because, despite the Hebrew title by which it was cataloged, the book was in Yiddish with prayers in Hebrew. So rather than a lofty Sefer minhagim or Sefer haminhagim, it was in reality a humble Yiddish customs book, the Minhogimbukh. I grew up in a household in which Yiddish was a principal language, and that I still had some ability in the language gave me an entrée. That it was a fine example of book design brought it into my professional realm. I noticed interesting differences in the six editions I saw at Harvard, which inspired me to ask about the books at other institutions and before long I saw some thirty more at the libraries of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, and Brandeis University and still others from the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Their dates were spread across the range of the book's history, 1566 to 1874. I was surprised to discover that while a few of the illustrations were known, having been reproduced here and there, the book itself had no reputation. It was just one of the myriads of old Jewish books. I learned from a few Judaica librarians that it was especially well neglected because scholars of Judaism have paid little attention to books in Yiddish, written as they were for the unwashed and unlettered; Yiddish scholars, as a rule, are interested in literature, not in religion. That the early editions are in Old Yiddish, before the Slavic influences had become so much a part of the language, placed it even further from mainstream interests. Curiously, this book, which had been so useful for so long, had no successor. I was quite pleased to hear this; the book's outsider status made it available to become my book, my point of departure for a journey into the realm of Jewish learning. From the many editions of the Minhogimbukh I had photocopied, ten of the woodcuts made their way into The Harvard Hillel Sabbath Songbook. The others were pasted into a scrapbook, arranged by theme: Sabbath cuts on one page, Passover cuts on another, whole sets bundled at the back. The thought of preparing a new edition occurred to me early on, but it was years before I felt capable of doing so. Fortunately, the Songbook was a success (it's still in print after all these years), and many more Judaica projects came my way, each an opportunity to become more engaged with Judaism. This wasn't to be a Homeric journey home through rough seas and great perils. Instead, it was an near-accidental discovery that became an ever-increasing influence on my work and life. Perhaps it was bashert -- "meant to be," as one says in Yiddish. My grandmothers would have thought so. A History of the Minhogimbukh For over four hundred years, the Minhogimbukh was among the most popular Jewish books in the European Diaspora, just after the Bible, the siddur (prayer book), and the Passover haggadah. It was published as the people's guide to the Jewish year in dozens of editions from Amsterdam to Venice to Warsaw and Kiev. In addition to its rich presentation of the rituals and prayers, the book's illustrated editions featured the zodiac and the seasons of farm life, giving it an additional role as a kind of Jewish Old Farmers' Almanac. Its roots were in the Hebrew Sefer minhagim written in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century by the Hungarian rabbi Eyzil (Isaac) Tyrnau, one of a number of such works from the late Middle Ages. The Tyrnau text circulated in manuscript for about one hundred fifty years before its first printed edition, still in Hebrew, was published in 1566 in Venice. Eyzik Tyrnau's time was one of tragedy and loss. His book was writ ten in the aftermath of the Black Death (1348-1350) in the belief that there was a kind of symbolic equivalence between a people and it customs. By preserving its customs, even if only in writing, the community would survive the pestilence, expulsions, harsh laws, and persecution that characterized Jewish life of the period. Tyrnau's work was thorough and well organized, setting the pattern for the later books customs... The Book of Customs A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year . Copyright © by Scott-Martin Kosofsky. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Book of Customs: A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year by Scott-Martin Kosofsky All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.