Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) online

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Prophecy eral instruction and moral edification

and Wis- was instituted among the Jews in very

dom Lit- early times. This gave rise to the

erature. Haggadah, which did for the spirit
what the Halakah did for the practise
of Judaism. Just as the Halakah embraces various
kinds of law, so does the Haggadah embrace differ-
ent forms of thought. In a restricted sense, bow-
ever, the Haggadah may be said to deal with ethics
and metaphysics, and it is in this sense that it may
be regarded as the natural issue of the earlier proph-
ecies. In its ethical characteristics the Haggadah
was greatly influenced by the Wisdom literature of
the Bible, but in its metaphysical tendencies it shows
the influence of Hellenistic philosophy. To the
ethical Haggadah belong a few apocrj^phal books,
such as Ben Sira, the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel,
and the Wisdom of Solomon, and the still more im-
portant works Pirke Abot, Abot de-Rabbi Natan,
and Masseket Derek Erez. The metaphysical Hag-
gadah did not develop into a separate literature until
a much later date. See Midrash ; Targum.

About the middle of the eighth century Arabic
philosophy began to exercise a strong influence over
the Jewish mind, and owing to the rationalistic
character of that philosophy the Midrash ceased to
grow, and its place was taken by theological and
philosophical works of a systematic nature. The
prophetic spirit is no longer so clearly discernible as
before, owing to the large intermixture of foreign
thought, but, on the other hand, the prodigious de-
velopment of Hebrew literature in the Middle Ages
must be ascribed to this foreign influence, for its
presence is felt in almost every branch of thought
cultivated in those days. It is seen in the rise
of Karaism, in the development of philology and
exegesis, as well as in the cultivation of general sci-
ences among the Jews. Later, again, when Jewish
thought came in touch with Christian mysticism,
the developed Cabala sprang into existence in place
of the metaphysical Haggadah (see Cabala). Fi-
nally, a great part of the large controversial liter-
ature owes its existence to the conflict between Ju-
daism and Mohammedanism.

The theological literature previous to the twelfth




century is very fragmentary, and consists mostly of
partial translations from the Arabic. Though the
beginning of this literature dates from
Philo- the days of Saadia Gaon, there is
sophic no independent work of the kind in
Haggadah. Hebrew until a much later date, and
even the eailiest among the prominent
men in this field, Ibn Gabiuol (11th cent.), Jldaii
ha-Levi and Maimonides (12th cent.), wrote in
Arabic, as had Saadia. The first important theo-
logical writers in Hebrew were Levi ben Gekshon
(14th cent.), Joseph Albo (15th cent.), and Elijah
Delmedigo (15th cent.).

The ethical literature was continued in the works
of Gabirol and Bahya ben Joseph (11th cent.),
Halevi (12th cent.), Isiiac Aboab and Eleazar ben
JuDAH (13th cent.), Jedaiah Bedersi (14th cent.),
Leon of Modena (16th cent.), and Moses Hayyim
LuzzATTO (18th cent.), as well as in tlie large litera-
ture of ethical Wills and correspondence current
throughout the Middle Ages.

The metaphysical Haggadah assumed under the
influence of Arabic philosophy the aspect of a sys-
tematic philosophy, and through the influence of
Christian mysticism it became a sort of theosophy
which looked for the hidden and disregarded the
evident meaning of the Law, and which, under the
name of Cabala, began to develop an extensive lit-
erature, first in Italy and in Provence, and later in
the East. The founder of the Cabala was R. Isaac
the Blind (12th cent.), who was followed, in the
thirteenth century, by a host of eminent scholais.
To the same century undoubtedly belongs the most
famous cabalistic work, the ZoJiar, which is ascribed
by all critics to Moses de Leon. The cabalistic lit-
erature of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is
mostly anonymous and not original. But a new
epoch opens with the teacliings of K. Isaac Luria in
the sixteenth century. He inaugurated the "prac-
tical " Cabala. No longer content to be restricted
to the world of thought, this Cabala assumed to in-
terfere in the world of action and to direct man's
conduct in life. Luria's chief disciple was Hayyim
Vital, who committed the teachings of his master
to writing. In the latter part of the seventeenth
century this " practical " Cabala was at the root of
the Shabbethaian movement, and in the eighteenth
century it was the cause of the extravagances of
the Hasidim, the chief of whom were Israel Ba'al
Shem, Bilr of Meseritz, and Salman of Liadi.

With the rise of systematic theology there came
into existence an extensive literature of controversy.
For altliough traces of this literature may be found
in the Talmud, it was not until Juda-
Polemical ism came into conflict with its two
Literature, sister religions and with Karaism
that religious controversy became a
significant part of Hebrew literature. The first
great work of this kind is the " Cuzari " of Judah
ha-Levi, which is directed mainly against Moham-
medanism and Karaism. But the most fruitful
period for religious controversy was the fourteenth
and fifteenth centuries, and tlie leading authors of
that period were Profiat Diuan, Joseph Albo, Isaac
Abuavanel, and Yom-Tob Lipmunn Hellkr. In
the sixteenth century two strong polemics were

written Christianity: the "Hoda'at Ba'al
Din " of Joseph Nasi and the " Hizzuk Emunali " of
Isaac ben Abraham Tuoki. In modern times Isaac
Baer Levinsohn wrote many controversial Avorks.

Another product of the influence which Arabic
philosoiihy exerted over Judaism is Karaism. It
took its origin in the latter part of the eighth cen-
tury and came early under the influence of Moham-
medan dogmatism. Its literature dates from the
same period, and consists mainly of dogmatics, exe-
gesis, and grammatical works; its most prominent
authors are: Judah Hadassi (13th cent.); Aaron the
Elder (13th cent.); Aaron be.\ Elijah, author of
"'Ez ha-Hayyim" and "Gan 'Eden" (14th cent.);
Elijah Bashyazi (15th cent.); and Zarah Troki
(17th cent.). In the nineteenth century the most
prominent Karaitescholar was Abraham ben Samuel
Firkovich. To the influence of Arabic literature
must be ascribed also the scientific development of
Hebrew grammar, which in turn greatly afl'ected
Biblical exegesis; both form important branches of
Hebrew literature, but they can not be discussed here.
"The meager achievements of the Jews in the
province of history do not justify the conclusion

that they are wanting in historic per-
History. ception. The lack of Jewish writings

on these subjects is traceable to the
sufferings and persecutions that have marked their
path. Before the chronicler had had time to record
past aflflictions, new sorrows and troubles broke upon
them" (G. Karpeles, "Jewish Literature, and Other
Essays," p. 23). Though real historical works, in
the modern sense of the term, are a very late product
in Hebrew literature, the elements of history were
never absent therefrom. The traditional nature of
the Halakah created a demand for chronology and
genealog}', while the Haggadah often enlarged upon
the historic material of the Bible for purposes of its
own. The most important historic documents of
the Talmudic period are the Seder '01am Rabbah
(1st cent.) and the MegillatTa'anit(2d cent. ; though
in its present state, however, perhaps the product
of the eighth century). From the geonic period
there are a number of historic documents, e.rj.. Seder
'01am Zuta, Seder Tannaim we-Amoraim, and the
Letter of Sherira Gaon. From the tenth century
there is the " Yosippon," and from the eleventh the
"Sefer ha-Kabbalah " of Abraham ibn Daud. Be-
sides these there are some notable books of travel to
be mentioned, as the "Sefer Eldad ha-Dani " (11th
cent.), the " Sibbub Rab Petahyah " (12th cent.), and
the "Massa'ot" of Benjamin of Tudela (12th cent.).
The fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries
produced noUxble chroniclers like Solomon Ibn
Verga (15th cent.), Abraham Zaci'to (16th cent.),
Joseph ha-Koiien (16th cent.), David GANs(16th
cent.), David Conkorte (17th cent.), and Jehiel
Heilprin (17th cent.). Azariah dei Rossi (16th
cent.) may be regarded as the first critical literary
historian, and his work is authoritative even to-day.
In the eighteenth century Hayyim Joseph David
Azulai is the most prominent literary historian,
while in the nineteenth century the ciiicf works on
history and the history of literature are those of
Rapoport, Schorr, I. H. Weiss, Frankel, and Isaac
Halevy. See Historiography.





Tlie literature devoted to the liturgy of the Syna-
gogue extends over a long period. Although in the
Bible there is no mention made of any
Psalmody, composition specially written for the
purpose of prayer, it is not unlikely
that many Psalms were recited in the Temple serv-
ice and then adopted as prayers. And inasmuch as
the oldest prayers are largely mosaics, made up of
quotations from the Scriptures, the liturgy may
justly be regarded as a development of the Psalm
literature. It was due to this Biblical origin also
that the language of the old prayers was in most
cases Hebrew and the style fluentand forcible. The
later development of the liturgy, however, was
closely connected with the development of the Mid-
rash. This is evident from the fact that the addi-
tions which grew up around the old nucleus of the
prayer were in the spirit of the Midrash, until
finally the Midrash itself entered into the liturgy.
Under the influence of the new forms of poetry in
the Arabic period the daily prayers, and still more
those of the festivals, assumed various forms. Litur-
gical poems adapted for special occasions were pro-
duced and new technical names invented. By de-
grees even dogmatic theology and halakah were
versified and introduced into the liturgy. The im-
portant occasions of life — birth, marriage, and death
— were made the subject of synagogal poetry. The
literature of the liturgy is so large that no attempt
is made to record names. It will be sufficient to
state that although a skeleton of much of the ritual
was already fixed in Talmudic times additions to it
were made as late as the sixteenth century. See
Liturgy; Piyyut.

From religious to secular poetry is but a step, yet

it was only in the middle of the tenth century that

secular poetry began to flourish. In

Secular this as in other branches of literature,

Poetry. Arabic influence was strongly felt from
the daj'S of Hasdai (10th cent.) down
to those of Immanuel of Rome (14th cent.). From
the fifteenth to the seventeenth century inclusive,
Hebrew poetry declined, and was not revivified until
the beginning of the eighteenth century, when it
came imder the influence of modern literatures. The
period from Moses Hayyim Luzzatto to that of
Naphtali Wessely may be called the Italian period,
and that from Wessely to Abraham Biir Lebensohn,
the German period. Judah Lob Gonlon, though he
came under the influence of foreign literatures, made
the foreign taste subservient to the Jewish spirit.
He is also the first poet to deal with real life, while
the recent school of poets, under the influence of the
national movement, shows a tendency to return to
romanticism. Owing also to the influence of mod-
ern literatures, Hebrew has developed a literature
of fiction and essays which deserves general recog-

Finally, a word must be said of the works written
in Hebrew that deal witli the arts and sciences.
Originally, the sciences developed among the Jews
as a branch of Halakah, receiving recognition only
by virtue of some religious function which they
were made to serve, as, for example, astronomy in
connection with the fixing of the calendar, iipon
which depended the observance of the festivals.

Later, however, when the Jews came in contact with
Arabic civilization, the sciences came to be cultivated
for their own sake, and since the middle of the tenth
century many books have been written on the vari-
ous arts and sciences, irrespective of their religious
bearing. See also Dictionaries; Drama; Fables;
FoLK-SoNGS; Folk-Tales; Grammar, Hebrew;
Hebrew L.\nguage; Poetry, Didactic; Se.mitic
Languages; Translators.

Bibliography: Abrahams, Chaptertt on Jewixfi Literature,
Philadelphia, 18i»9; D. (assel, Lehrbuch der Jlhii>tc)ien
Gesch. und Litcr-atur, Leipsic, 1879 (2d ed., Frankfort-on-
the-Main, 1896) ; Idem, Manual of Jewish History and Lit-
erature, London, 1883; J. VV. Etheridge, Jerusalem and Ti-
heriax: Sora and Cordova, an introduction to the study of
Hebrew literature, London, 185C; A. S. Freidus, A Scheme
of Classification for Jewish Literature in the New York
Public iibrary. New York, 1901 ; Gratz, Gesch. passim; G.
Karpeles, Gesch. der Jlldischen Litcratur, Berlin, 1886;
idem, Ein Blick indie Jildische Literatur, Prague. 1895;
idem, Jewish Literature, and Other Essays, Philadelphia,
1895 ; S. Levy, is There a Jewish Literature 1 in J. Q. R. xv.
583-603; M. Steinschneider, JU(ii,sc/ie Iyi(e»nYi<J-, InErschand
Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 27 ; idem, Jewish Literature,
London, 1857; H. L. Strack, DilAi^t^iraph'ischer Abri.'<s der
NeuhebrUischen Literatur (C. Siegfried and H. L. Strack,
Lehrbuch des NeuhebrUischen Sprache, pp. 93-132, New
York, 1884); Weiss, Dor; Winter and Wunsche,Die Jildisclie
Litteratur ; Zunz, G. S.; What Is Jewish Literature 1 by W.
Bacher, A. Wolf, and S. Levy, in J. Q. R. xvi. 300-329; 'He-
brew) Literature, Translations from the Talmud, Midrash,
and Kabhala, with introduction by M. H. Harris, in Uni-
versal Classic Librari/, Washington and London, 1901 ; He-
brew Literature, ComprisinQ Talmudic Tieatises, Hebrew
Melodies, and the Kabbalah Unveiled, with introduction
by E. Wilson, In The World's Great Classics, New York and
London, 1901. See also Jew. Encyc. iii. 199, s.v. Bibliogra-

J. I. D.

ern Hebrew literature (174ti-1904), in distinction to
that form of Neo-Hebraic literature known as rab-
binical literature (see Literature, Hebrew), which
is distinctly religious in character, presents itself
under a twofold aspect: (1) humanistic, relating to
the emancipation of the language by a return to the
classical models of the Bible, leading to the subse-
quent development of modern Hebrew; (2) human-
itarian, dealing with the secularization of the lan-
guage with a view to the religious and social
emancipation of the Jews of the ghetto. These two
tendencies are expressed by the word Haskalah,
a term denoting the movement which predominated
in Hebrew literature from the second half of the
eighteenth century down to the death of Smolenskin
in 1885.

Beginning with the seventeenth century, many at-
tempts were made to emancipate Hebrew from the
forms and ideas of the Middle Ages.

Period of Italy, with critics and poets like Aza-
Transition riah dei Rossi, Leon of Modena, Fran-

in Italy, cis, etc., who were inspired by the Ital-
ian Renaissance, led in this period of
transition in Hebrew literature. But it was not until
the appearance of Moses Hayyim Luzzatto that He-
brew poetry shook off the medieval fetters which
hindered its free development. His allegorical
drama " La-Yesharim Tehillah" (1743), which may
be regarded as the first product of modern Hebrew
literature, is a poem that in its classic perfection of
style is second only to the Bible. In the less ad-
vanced countries especially it has contributed to
the regeneration of Hebrew and has stimulated a
host of imitators among writers removed from mod-
ern literary centers.




At Amsterdam, Luzzatto's pupil, David Franco
Mendes (1713-92), in his imitations of Kacine (" Gc-
mul 'Atalyah ") and of Motastasio ("' Yehudit "), con-
tinued liis master's work, without, however, equal-
ing Luzzatto's poetic inspiration and originalit}'.
In Germany, where, in consequence of the ideas
promulgated by the encyclopedists, the Jews de-
veloped more normally, and where, moreover, in
the middle of the eighteenth century, Hebrew was
still almost the only literary language accessible to
the masses, another successor of Luzzatto, Naphtali
Hartwig Wessely (1725-1805), inaugurated the has-
kalah movement. His "Shire Tif'eret," or "Mo-
siade," which, though falling short of poetic inspira-
tion, is written in a pure, oratorical style and is
marked by a lofty, moral tone, made him, so to
speak, poet laureate of the period.

Under the stimulus of Mendelssohn, literary soci-
eties were formed by the Maskilim in the large com-
munities, which undertook to propa-
First gate modern ideas among the Jews

German and to familiarize them with modern
Maskilim. secular life. Two schools or parties,
which were more or less distinct, un-
dertook this work : (1) the Biurists, a group of com-
mentators and translators of the Bible who, under
the leadership of Mendelssohn, desired to replace the
Judaeo-German dialect with pure German and to
provide a more rational interpretation of the sacred
text; (2) the Me'assefim, scholars connected with
the first literary collection in Hebrew, "Ila-Me'as-
sef," which was established in 1785 at Breslau by
Isaac Eichel and B. Lindau, and which became the
organ of the haskalah and a bond of union among
the Hebraists.

Wessely may be regarded as the spiritual leader
of the Me'assefim. Although a devout believer him-
self, he did not hesitate to meet the objections wliich
the Orthodox rabbis of Austria and Germany op-
posed to all educational and civic reforms advocated
by the government of Joseph 11. In his eight mes-
sages (1784), "Dibre Si)alom we-Emet," he empha-
sized the necessity, even from the standpoint of the
Talmud, of these reforms as well as of secular stud-
ies, especially the study of modern languages and
classical Hebrew and of manual training. Despite
the oppo.sition of tlie Orthodox rabbis of Germany
and Austria, the aid of the liberal Italian rabbis
enabled him to arouse public opinion in favor of tlie
haskalah, and thus to prepare the way for the Me'as-
sefim. "Ha-Me'assef " was discontinued after an
existence of seven years, the French Revolution and
the downfall of the old order of things destroying
the interest in the Hebrew language, which was the
only relic left to the emancipated Maskilim. The
literar}' and scientific value of " Ha-Me'assef " is very
doubtful. In their instinctive aversion to every-
thing medieval and rabbinic, the Me'assefim went to
the other extreme and adopted the affected style of
the "meli:fah," which was cultivated by their suc-
cessors, and which often ended in mere artificial
juggling with words. As regards their content
most of the pieces in the collection have only a
slight interest, being merely puerile imitations of
German pseudo-romanticism. Having broken with
the Messianic ideal of traditional Judaism, and being

unable to replace it with another ideal more in con-
formity with modern ideas, the Me'assefim ended in
advocating assimilation with the surrounding peo-
ple. But the importance of this first secular period-
ical in Hebrew was such that it imposed its name
upon the entire literary movement of the second
half of the eighteenth century, which is called "the
period of the Me'assefim."

Among the Me'assefim, I. Eichel is notewortny
for his imcomproniisiug attitude, unusual at that
time, toward rabbinism, and Baruch Lindau is known
for his works on the subject of natural science and
written in Hebrew. The most influential, however,
was the rabbi Solomon Pappeuheim (1776-1814),
an eminent philologist, whose sentimental elegy,
"Arba' Kosot," was the book of the day and con-
tributed much to the dis.semination of the melizah.
The most valuable contributors to "Ha-Me'assef"
were, perhaps, the Me'assefim of Polish origin, espe-
cially the grammarian and stylist S. Dubno; S.
Maimon, the commentator of Maimonides; the ec-
centric but gifted Isaac Satanow, author of the
maxims " Mishle Asaf " ; and the grammarian Judah
Ben-Zeeb (Bensew) of Cracow.

In short, altliough the Me'assefim lacked original-
ity, they accomplished the double task which they
had set themselves. Hebrew, wliich
Influence had been almost entirely neglected in
of the the Slavic countries, was again stud-
Me'assefim. ied, giving rise to a literature more or
less worthy the name and producing
the Maskilim, a class of secular scholars who were
active during the following century in awakening the
masses from their medieval slumbers and in dispu-
ting, '" the name of science and modern life, the au-
thor- i the Rabbis over the people (see Haskalah).

The nineteenth century did not open auspiciously
for Hebrew literature, especially in western Europe.
Hebrew disappeared more and more as a living lan-
guage among the emancipated Jews, who had bro-
ken with their national ideals and were ambitious of
assimilating themselves entirely with their neigh-
bors. It is true that the Napoleonic wars gave
birth to a whole literature of odes and hymns, manj'
of Avhich were sung in the synagogue, the most
poetical and characteristic being Elie Hal fan Ha-
levy 's " Ha-Shalom" (Paris, 1804) ; but the few rabbis
who continued to use Hebrew did not influence
the masses. In Italy, however, there was still an
ardent band of Hebrew scholars, among them the
poet E. Luzzatto. About this time the center of liter-
ary activity was definitively transferred to the Slavic
countiies, where was witnessed a remarkable revival
of Hebrew letters. Tlie lead which Austria, fol-
lowed by Italy, took in the movement at the begin-
ning of the nineteenth century was later yielded to
Russia; and that country has maintained its leader-
ship down to the present time.

At the close of the eigliteenth century Polish Ju-
daism, which for a long time had been politically
isolated and had devoted itself en-
Poland and tirely to pious observance and to the

Austria, study of the Talmudic law, came in
contact with modern ideas, and awa-
kened from its centuries of slumber. Galicia be-
came a center for the haskalah. The "Me'assef,"




which had been edited in a new series in Ger-
many by Solomon ha-Kohen (Dessau, 1809-11), but
without much success, was revived at Vienna and
later in Galicia, and succeeded, first under the title
of "Bikkure ha-'Ittim " (1820-31), and then under
that of "Kerem Hemed" (1833-42), in gathering to-
gether many writers, the larger proportion of whom
were Polish. In Poland, however, where the Jewish
population lived apart, and could not even aspire
to the dreams of equality and liberty of the German
writers, the Maskilim were confronted Avith very
complicated problems. On the one hand, political
upheavals, modern instruction, and military serv-
ice had paved the way for the mysticism of the
Hasidim, which seized the masses despite the efforts
of the liberal rabbis aided by writers like D. Samoscz
and Tobias Feder.

On the other hand, light literature and romantic
imitations could not satisfy scholars saturated with
Talmudic study. In order to meet these needs He-
brew literature descended from its heights to devote
its attention to the necessities of daily life. Joseph
Perl, a Maecenas and himself a scholar, encouraged
this movement, and published the parody "Megal-
leh Temirin," directed against the superstitions and
the cult of the Hasidic zaddikim. Solomon Judali
Rapoport (1790-1867), who began by translating
Racine and Schiller, now turned to the critical study
of the past. By his able reconstruction of the lives
and the scientific work of the masters of the Middle
Ages, by his careful critical method, and by his de-
votion to the Law and the Jewish spirit, Rapoport
created the Science of Judaism.

But this science, which was warmly received espe-
cially by the cultivated minds of western Europe,
could not satisfy the poor Polish scholars, living in
entirely Jewish surroundings, and, no longer con-
tented with the reasons advanced by the medieval
masters, anxiously questioning the wherefore of the
present and future existence of Israel. Then a mas-
ter mind arose, to give an answer at once ingenious
and adapted to the time. Nachman
Nacliman Krochmal, teaching gratuitously in
Krochmal his obscure corner of Poland, suc-
(1785- ceeded in uniting the propositions of
1840). modern critics with the principles of

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) → online text (page 29 of 169)