Saturday, April 07, 2007

Przemysl Slicha

JewishGen has again added to their English translation of the Sefer Przemysl - the Przemysl Memorial (Yizkor) book. For those of you who have not seen it, this is THE source for first-person history of Jewish Przemysl from the middle ages through the shoah.

What caught my eye was the Przemysl Slicha. According to the book: The Slichot Scroll that is recited in the city of Przemysl on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the fast day in memory of the libels against and the martyrdom (Sanctification of the Divine Name) of the aforementioned Rabbi Moshe. Was March 19, this year.

The first stanza:
{Alef} Oh G-d and G-d of our fathers
You are the G-d of gods and the L-rd of lords
Unique, you are first among the early ones and last among the latter ones
Where is your zealousness and might about which our forefathers have told
The great, mighty and awesome G-d who does not play favorites?
Read the whole Slicha here.

It is a beautiful and instructive scroll. But what really amazed me about the recitation can be found in the translator's footnotes:
# This Slicha is a fourfold acrostic (i.e. each stanza has four lines that start with the same letter of the alef-beit. I notated each stanza with the appropriate letter. After tav, there are other stanzas starting with various letters, forming an acrostic with the name of the author

# These 8 letters seem to be a cryptic, poetic reference to a year. In this genre, years are often coded with a hidden message. The 8 letters can be read as Mehuma Tzara – which stands for “confusion and distress” and may be a reference to “The year of confusion and distress”. The numerology of these 8 letters adds up to 390. This could be the year 5390, which would be 1630 (the millennium is often assumed).

# After the alphabetic acrostic concludes, the next verses begin with the following letters: shin beit tav yud samech beit reish yod tzadi chet kuf zayin tzadi lamed chet zayin kuf vav alef mem tzadi alef vav. This type of acrostic is usually the signature of the author. This is similar to the Akdamut poem, which is a twofold acrostic, and then ends with the letters of the author. If I put these letters together, I get the statement (extraneous letters which I could not fit in are in parentheses): Shabtai (samech) the son of Reb Yitzchak zatzal chazak vematz (alef vav). This would mean: Shabtai the son of Reb Yitzchak of holy blessed memory, may he be strong and mighty.
Kind of makes the New York Times Acrostic Puzzle look like a snap!

[JewishGen's Translation Fund Donation Form provides a secure way to make donations, either on-line or by mail, to help continue this project. Donations to JewishGen are tax-deductible.]

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