A machzor (from mahzor, meaning "cycles") contains the Jewish equivalent of a Christian breviary: prayers to be spoken and/or sung at the seven special Hebrew Shabbat services and other annual Jewish festivals. It also includes various liturgical poems (piyyutim). The oldest known Ashkenazic machzor, the so-called Worms machzor (located today in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, Heb. 4° 781/1-2), dates back to 1272/1273.
This Ahkenazic machzor, which is kept in two parts (in Dresden and in Wrocław, Poland), was written ca. 1290 by Reu'ben, a pupil of Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg (died 1293), in Southwest Germany (probably Esslingen). A Gentile artist created the illustrated miniatures. The impressive size of the volume (58 x 38 cm; 293 resp. 300 parchment pages), the large Hebrew block letters and relatively generous line spacing, the lavish embellishments (miniature illustrations in gouache and gold, architectural frames, decorated initials), as well as liturgical comments made by another hand all indicate that these illuminated manuscripts were used in the synagogue. As with other machzorim, this machzor was bound in two volumes due to its great size. The first volume (SLUB Dresden, Mscr.Dresd.A.46.a) contains liturgical texts for the special Sabbath services on Purim (Festival of Lots), Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). The second volume (UB Wrocław, Ms.Or.I 1) contains prayers for Sabbath services on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
Mscr.Dresd.A.46.a, Bl. 202v: Miniature for the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot): At the top, Moses, on the burning Mount Sinai, receives the two stone tablets of commandments from God’s hand (accompanied by trombones), and passes them on to Aaron. Below, priests and representatives of the people of Israel are depicted with raised hands beside an open Torah shrine.