A scarce pamphlet I came across this week, printed in Prague in 1767, contains a rather unusual prayer, written and led by the Noda B’Yehuda, R. Yechezkel Landau. The prayer was for the recovery of the Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) during her illness, containing a prayer service, chapters of Tehillim, a “mi sheberach,” and the entire prayer service for the empress’s recovery – followed by the thanksgiving prayer for after she recovered from her illness on June 17, 1767.
What is unusual in this order of prayer is that the Empress Maria Theresa is recalled as one of the most antisemitic and hostile rulers in modern Jewish history. In 1744, she ordered the expulsion of Prague Jewry, which was revoked four years later only due to intense international pressure. In 1777 she stated that she knew “no worse plague for the state than this nation, because of its deceitfulness, its usury,” and that the Jews “bring the state more harm than good.” When she did grant an audience to a Jew in her court, she would force them to stand behind a partition. In 1746, she ordered the Jews of Buda and Tmisoara to be expelled, and in 1774 she expelled the Jews of Hodonin (Goeding), her private domain.
In R. Yekutiel Kamlahar’s biography of the Noda B’Yehuda, he noted the rarity of this publication and that in 1903 he was able to find only one or two copies in Prague, where it was printed. He included in his book a translation of the entire text of this order of prayer to preserve it for posterity.