Some 600 years ago there lived in Spain a great Jewish scholar who became famous for his book on Jewish prayers and blessings. His name was Rabbi David ben Joseph Abudraham (or Abudarham), and he lived in the city of Seville.

Very little is known about the personal life of the author of this famous work. He was a descendant of a distinguished family. An ancestor of his who lived about one hundred years before him, and whose name was also David, was the head of the Jewish community of Seville, and Tax Collector under King Sancho the Great (1258-95). The name Abudarham is believed to be derived from the Arabic words "Abu-darhamin," meaning "Head of the Taxes."

Rabbi David ben Joseph Abudraham is believed to have been a disciple of the great Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, author of the Turim, who died in Toledo in the very same year when Rabbi David Abudraham completed his book (5100-1340). At that time, Jewish religious life and Talmud scholarship in Spain was still on a high level, thanks to the influence of Rabbenu Asher (ROSH) and his son Rabbi Jacob in Toledo, and of Rabbenu Shlomo ben Abraham ibn Adret in Barcelona, and other great luminaries who lived a generation or two earlier. The famous Talmud scholar Rabbi Yom Tov ben Abraham (RYTBA), who lived at about the same time as Rabbi David Abudraham, was also a native of Seville.

Since there is little we can tell you about the personal life of Rabbi David Abudraham, we will tell you more about his great work, which is a well-known source of information and learning on the subject of prayers and blessings.

The real name of this work is "Chibbur Perush ha'Brochos VehaT"filos" - a "work on the explanation of the blessings and prayers." But it is better known simply as "Sefer Abudraham." It was printed for the first time in Lisbon in 1489, and since then it has been reprinted many times, often with commentaries by other scholars.

The author had collected all the customs and laws relating to the daily Shabbos and Festival prayers, and arranged them in good order and in good style in his work. He included many explanations, customs and laws relating to this subject from the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, from the books of the Geonim and Poskim of previous generations down to his own time.

After a short Introduction, which was composed in rhyme, the author arranges the material in three sections, or "Gates." The first deals with the Mitzvah of Kerias Shema, which must be recited in the morning and at night, and the laws pertaining to it.

The second section with the Mitzvah of Prayer in general, it being a commandment of the Torah.

The third section discusses the Blessings, such as the blessings over the Torah, Grace after Meals, Tefillin, Tzitzis, Shofar, Succah, Lulav, Mezuzah, Shabbos Candles, Chanukah Candles, B'dikas Chometz, etc. He explains the variation in the text of certain blessings as compared with others (the text of some blessings is "...commanded us to..." and in others "...commanded us concerning..." Then there follows a systematic treatment of the prayers in their order, beginning with the Prayer Before Retiring to Bed, and continuing with the Morning Blessings and Morning Prayer, followed by Minchah and Maariv. After concluding with the Daily Prayers, the author continues with the Sabbath Prayers in a similar order. Here he deals also with the Mitzvah of the Three Meals (Sholosh Seudos) of Shabbos, concluding with the prayer at the termination of the Sabbath.

The Rosh Chodesh prayers come next in order, introduced by a discussion of the custom to "bless" and announce Rosh Chodesh on the preceding Shabbos. Various customs in this connection are cited.

The prayers for Chanukah, Purim and Pesach are discussed next. The Haggadah is discussed at some length. These are followed by the Counting of the Omer and Shavuot, the prayers and laws relating to public fast days, and the prayers for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot. This concludes the section on Blessings and Prayers.

Then follows a section dealing with the weekly reading of the Torah and the Haftorah for each Shabbos. He gives special attention to the customs followed by the Jews of Spain and the South of France (Provence).

The author follows this up with much interesting and useful information about our Hebrew Calendar.

Now comes a section which deals with the laws of Blessings in general. The author begins this part by a general discussion of the duty of every Jew to praise and thank G‑d for everything He created in this world, in each case according to its special blessing. The blessing gives us permission to enjoy the things G‑d created, for everything is His. Without the blessing it would be like using a thing that belongs to someone else without the owner's permission. The author quotes various sayings and teachings of our Sages on this subject.

In discussing the subject of the Blessings, the author divides them into four categories: (a) Blessings we recite in prayer; (b) Blessings recited before performing Mitzvoth, such as putting on Tzitzis, Tefillin, and the like; (c) Blessings recited before eating or drinking, enjoying fragrance of flowers, etc.; (d) Blessings of praise and thanks on special occasions.

As you can see, the author gives us a comprehensive and all-embracing treatment of this very important phase in the daily Jewish life-prayers and blessings, which bring us in daily, and many times daily, attachment to our Creator. Small wonder that this book became a standard work on the subject, and many later codifiers frequently quote the "Abudraham" as their source.