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The Scales In The Leipzig Mahzor Penance And Eschatology In Early Fourteenth-Century Germany

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Chapter Summary

In accord with a common custom that developed in the mid-thirteenth century for the design of festival prayer books, Mahzorim, it was this type of liturgical poem, the yotsrot, the poetic embellishments of the Shema Israel prayer, that received most of the artistic decoration, normally in the form of initial panels. The Leipzig Mahzor, written and illuminated around 1310 in southern Germany, is a two-volume prayer book and one of the most elaborately decorated extant Ashkenazic Mahzor manuscripts. What at first sight appears to be a simple reproduction and juxtaposition of common Christian messianic motifs emerges as a rather sophisticated image of the Ashkenazic pietists? penitential system. The pietistic campaign of penance prepares the world for one of the preconditions for arrival of the Messiah: a balance between sin and virtue. This balance, measured by God himself on the Throne of Glory is indicated in the image by even scales.

Keywords: Ashkenazic Mahzor manuscripts; Christian messianic motifs; eschatology; festival prayer books; Germany; Leipzig Mahzor; Mahzorim; penance; Shema Israel prayer



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