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A: Worms, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

The Oldest Surviving Dated Text in Yiddish

Page from the Mahzor Worms
Page from the Mahzor Worms

Folio 54r of the Worms Mahzor, upon which, in the interstices of the first word in the Prayer for Dew, is inscribed the oldest known Yiddish text: a small blessing in the form of a rhymed couplet, directed towards those who are charged with the seemingly onerous task of carrying the heavy Mahzor from the house of the owner to the synagogue. (View Larger)

Yiddish originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in the Rhineland, and then spread to Central and Eastern Europe, and eventually to other continents. The oldest surviving literary document in Yiddish dates from 1272. It is a blessing in the Mahzor Worms, a festival prayerbook in Hebrew according to the Ashkenazi rite of the Jews in Worms, Germany, for the use of hazanim (cantors) in the synagogue.

"According to the colophon (217v) it was completed on 28 Teveth 1272, by Simhah ben Yehudah the Scribe, apparently in Würzburg, Germany.  In the prayers for 7th day of Passover, a marginal note reads: “This is said aloud on that day, such is the rite of Würzburg.”  Elsewhere in the margins there is a drawing of a scribe holding a book which says: "Judah, the scribe of Nürnberg, Simhah the scribe, Shema’yah the French." Nürnberg, apparently the scribe’s native city, is not far from Würzburg. Scholars have found similarities between the Mahzor's illustrations and Latin manuscripts from Würzburg.
"The Mahzor was probably brought to Worms by refugees from Würzburg, after the destruction of this community in the Rindfleisch persecution of 1298.

"On folio 54r, there is rhymed blessing in the vernacular German spoken by Jews (early Yiddish) for anybody who carried this heavy book to the synagogue. This is the oldest dated Yiddish text known to us" (, accessed 9-2020).

The manuscript is preserved in the Jewish National and University Library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In February 2014 a digital facsimile of the Mahzor Worms was available from the Jewish National and University Library at this link.

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