Amnon of Mainz

Amnon of Mainz or Amnon of Mayence is the subject of a medieval legend that became very popular. It treats of Rabbi Amnon, a wealthy and respected Jew of Mainz, whom the Archbishop of Mainz, at various times, tried to convert to Christianity. On one occasion Amnon evasively asked to be given three days' time for consideration. When he failed to appear on the appointed day, the archbishop had him brought guarded into his presence. Amnon, rebuked for his failure to keep his promise, pleaded guilty, and said that his tongue should be amputated, because it had expressed a doubt as to the truth of Judaism. The archbishop, however, pronounced the sentence that Amnon's feet, which had refused to come, and his hands should be cut off. This was accordingly done.

Amnon gave orders that he be carried into the synagogue, where Rosh HaShannah was being celebrated. The reader was about to begin the Kedushah, when he was asked by Amnon to wait. The latter then recited the prayer called, from its initial words, "U-netanneh Tokef," which is a description of the Day of Judgment. No sooner had he finished the prayer than he expired; and his body immediately disappeared. Three days later he appeared to Rabbi Kalonymus in a dream, taught him the prayer, and asked him to spread it broadcast in Israel.

The oldest mention of this story seems to be found in the notes on Asheri, written by Israel of Krems or Kremsier, about 1400. [Rosh Hashannah i. § 4, in the Vilna edition of the Talmud, folio 36a] Israel of Krems merely says: The "U-netanneh Tokef" was written by Amnon of Mayence with reference to his own history. He gives Isaac ben Moses of Vienna's work, "Or Zaru'a," as his source. The story, as given above, is found in the Mahzor of the Roman rite for the New-year's day, published 1541. From it Gedaliah ibn Yahya ben Joseph took it; and the other historians followed him. The Mahzor editions reprinted it; and so the story became very popular. The Russian poet Semyon Frug took it as the subject of an epic; and Schakschansky wove it into a drama in Yiddish.



** [ Deutsch, Gotthard. "Amnon of Mayence".] "Jewish Encyclopedia". Funk and Wagnalls, 1901-1906, which cites to the following bibliography: :* Heilprin, "Seder ha-Dorot", ed. Maskileison, p. 218, where older sources are quoted;:* Heidenheim's edition of the "Mahzor", introduction, where an alphabetical index of the liturgical poets is given;:* Landshuth," 'Ammude ha-'Abodah," 1857, i. 45.
* [ Chabad site on Amnon]

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