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Amnon of Mainz


AMNON OF MAINZ (tenth century), martyr and legendary figure. Amnon is known mainly through *Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (12th–13th century) who quotes *Ephraim b. Jacob (12th century) as speaking of Amnon as "a leader of his generation, wealthy, of distinguished ancestry, and pleasing appearance." The legend is that after Amnon resisted repeated attempts by the bishop of Mainz to persuade him to accept Christianity, he was barbarically mutilated. He was brought back to his home, and on Rosh Ha-Shanah was carried into the synagogue. As the Kedushah prayer was about to be recited Amnon asked the ḥazzan to wait while he "sanctified the great name (of God)," and thereupon recited the hymn "U-Netanneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom" ("Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day"), after which he died. Three days afterward, he appeared in a dream to *Kalonymus b. Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer, asking him to circulate it throughout the Diaspora for recital in synagogues on Rosh Ha-Shanah. This legend, which gained wide credence during the time of the Crusades, inspired many to martyrdom. In Johanan *Treves' commentary on the Roman maḥzor (Bologna, 1540) and in various editions of the Ashkenazi rite, the story is repeated with slight changes. In the Ashkenazi liturgy of Rosh Ha-Shanah (and in its eastern branch, of the Day of Atonement also), the recital of the hymn is invested with great solemnity. It has been adapted by many Sephardi communities of the Mediterranean, in some of which it is recited before Musaf in a Ladino translation. U-Netanneh Tokef is actually older; for it is found in old liturgical manuscripts and in genizah fragments. It apparently derives from a very early Palestinian prayer which was later attributed to Amnon.


Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 204. add. bibliography: I.G. Marcus, in: Studien zur juedischen Geschichte und Soziologie (Festschrift Carlebach, 1992), 97–113.

[Abraham Meir Habermann]

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