Jewish Prayer Books

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If there is one book that defined Jewish behavior and believe, it was the Jewish Prayer Book. The earliest prayer books appeared in the 8th and 9th century. They were produced in Babylonia by rabbis. There is no standard prayer book. Every community might produce its own prayer book. There are common prayers that everybody shares. There is a basic structure to the prayer, but otherwise, different communities would have different traditions.

Not only that, there are other books of liturgy that cannot be defined as prayer books, but are part of the religious liturgical activity. One in particular stands out. The Passover Haggadah. This is the text that is recited by Jews on the eve of Passover, describing the events of the exodus. It became not just an important text. These Haggadahs were often lavishly designed. The artwork was as impressive as the text itself. Since the invention of the printing press, thousands of Haggadahs had been produced. These became books that every Jewish household would have.

Haggadahs, by the way, became extremely popular among bibliophiles. They actually became collectors’ items.