The Jewish attitude towards the playing of music in the Tripartite Mahzor

Guy Shaked

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1 Scopus citations


The Tripartite Mahzor (Lake Constance, Southern Germany, ca. 1322) is an illuminated manuscript of an Ashkenazi Hebrew prayer book used on special Sabbaths (Saturdays) and festivals. The Tripartite Mahzor gets its name from the fact that it is divided into three manuscripts housed in three distinct libraries. This mahzor includes numerous illustrations of the playing of musical instruments. It is suggested that the illustrations in the Tripartite Mahzor may express disapproval of the use of instrumental music in certain instances, akin to the numerous prohibitions of vocal music in some circumstances also found in the contemporary Hebrew book: Sefer Hasidim. Thus the musical illustrations may be regarded as visual additions to the textual halakhot (Jewish religious laws) made by the medieval German Jewish pietists, which forbade vocal music in certain contexts. These illustrations, which suggest that music was central to at least some medieval German Jews’ culture, were made at a time when instrumental music was being incorporated into the Catholic liturgy in the churches of the Gentile population amongst whom the Jews were living. They may therefore be read as a Jewish response to developments within Christianity, too.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1740539
JournalCogent Arts and Humanities
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.


  • Ashkenaz
  • Jewish Art
  • Jewish Music
  • Medieval Music
  • Tripartite Mahzor


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