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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Judaism by the bond of nationalism,
as it were, thus creating a Jewish philosophy in
conformity with modern thought. Starting with
Hegel's axiom of real and of absolute reason, Kroch-
mal sets forth in his essays and in his ingenious Bib-
lical and philosophic studies that the Jewish people
is a concrete national organism, a separate unity,
whose existence is justified, as the existence of all
other nationalities is justified. But, at tlie same
time, as the people of the Prophets, it has in addi-
tion a spiritual reason for its existence, which tran-
scends national boundaries, and will join the entire
human race in one bond.

Many poets, scholars, and popular writers besides
Rapoport and Krochmal contributed to the dissemi-
nation of Hebrew and to the emancipation of the
Jews of Galicia. The .satirical poet Isaac Erter
(1792-1841), whose collection of essays, " Ila-Zofch
Ic P)ct Yisrael," is one of tlie purest works of mod-
ern Hebrew literature, attacked Hasidic supersti-
VIII.— 8

tions and prejudices in a vigorous and classical style,
marked by bright fancy and a cutting sarcasm
which heaped ridicule upon the rabbi and satire
upon the zaddik.

Meir Ilalevy Letteris acquired merited renown and
was for a long time considered poet laureate of the
period by reason of his numerous translations, both
in prose and in poetry, including " Faust " and works
by Racine and Byron, and also on account of origi-
nal lyric poetry, his song " Yonah Homiyyah " being
a masterpiece. The popularizer of Galician history
and geography, Samson Bloch, also
The won a reputation, although his insipid

Galician and prolix style does not warrant the
School. success achieved by his works. The
Galician scholar Judah Mises is noted
especially for his violent attacks on rabbinical tradi-
tion and for his extreme radicalism, his work being
continued by I. A. Schorr, the daring editor of "He-

Outside of Galicia, where the scholars issued their
works, and where periodicals multiplied, some of
which were published at Vienna, as "KokebeYiz-
hak " (ed. Stern), " Ozar JSIehmad " (ed. Blumenfeld),
kerem Hemed, etc., groups of Maskilim or indi-
vidual scholars were to be found toward the middle
of the century in all the countries of Europe. In
Germany the campaign for and against religious
reform gave opportunity to certain scholars and
rabbis to conduct their polemics in Hebrew. Zunz,
Geiger, Z. Frankel, Jellinek, Carmoly, Flirst, J.
Schwarz, and others, also published part of their
works in Hebrew. Moses Mendelssohn of Hamburg,
a pupil of Wessely and author of the makamat
"PeneTebel" (Amsterdam, 1872), may be considered
as the epigone of the Me'assefim. In the Nether-
lands, especially at Amsterdam, there was also a
circle of epigones, including the poet Samuel Mol
der (1789-1862). In Austria, Vienna was the de-
pot for publishing Hebrew books and periodicals,
and Prague became an active center for the haska-
lah. The best known among tiie Maskilim here is
J. L. Jeiteles (1773-1838). author of witty epigrams
("Bene ha-Ne'urim") and of works directed against
the Hasidim and against superstition, and director of
the "Bikkure ha-'Ittim." There were scholars in
Hungary also, the most gifted among them being
Solomon Lewisonof Moor (1789-1822), a remarkable
stylist, whose classical "Melizat Yeshurun " places
him above all the poets of the period.
Decadence Gabriel Sudfeld, father of Max Nor-
of the dau, and Simon Bachek, may also be
School. mentioned. The reflex of this move-
ment was felt even in Rumania (J.
Barasch, etc.). Galicia, however, the center of the
haskalah, finally succumbed to Hasidism, while the
moderns gave up Hebrew, and ended by more or
less openly advocating assimilation. A few circles
of Maskilim barely succeeded in perpetuating the
Hebrew tradition, but had no influence on the masses.
The Italian school exercised a more pronounced
influence. I. S. Reggio (1784-1854) endeavored in
his"Ha-Torah weha-Filosofiah " to reconcile mod-
ern thought with the Jewish law, while in his nu-
merous writings and publications he openly sided
with the German religio\is reformers. Joseph Al-




manzi, Hayyim Salomon, S. LoUi, and others
wrote poems on the grandeur of the Law and tlie
glory of Israel; these contained, however, not a
spark of originality. More interesting perhaps is the
only poetess of the period, Rachel Morpurgo (1790-
1860), whose poems evince religious piety and a
mystic faith in Israel's future. The most original
and gifted Italian writer of the period is Samuel Da-
vid Luzzatto (SHeDaL, 1800-65), whose influence
reached beyond Italy and beyond his time. Gifted
with an encyclopedic mind, Luzzatto did good work
alike in poetry ("Kinnor Na'im"), in philology
("Bet ha-Ozar" and "Betulat Bat Yehudah "), in
philosophy, and in general literature. At the same
time Luzzatto was the first modern writer to intro-
duce religious romanticism into He-
Italy : brew and to attack northern rational-
Luzzatto. ism in the name of religious and
national feeling. "True Jewish sci-
ence is founded on faith. . . . Faith is the only ar-
biter of supreme morality which gives us true hap-
piness. The happiness of the Jewish people, the
people of morality, does not depend on its political
emancipation, but on faith and on morality. . . ."
These ideas led Luzzatto into polemics with his
northern friends, but they also helped to familiarize
the believers in Russia with modern literature.
Luzzatto thus found the key to the heart of the
masses; and it was due to him that the work of the
Maskilim, which had failed of permanent results in
the West, in the East led to the development of a
national literature. But in Italy also Hebrew de-
clined more and more, even among scholars; and by
the second half of the century it was almost entirely
forgotten in the civilized countries of Europe.

The large bodies of Jews in the Polish districts
annexed to Russia were entirely removed from all
political and social life, and vegetated in a kind of
profound resignation or in mystical piety. At the
Europeanized city of Odessa, however, Galician
Jews formed a circle of Maskilim, which, though
active, was restricted in its influence. Here in the
middle of the century were the scholars S. Pinsker
and S. Stern, who were soon joined by the Karaite
Firkovich and by the poet Jacob Eichenbaum.
The acknowledged leader of these Maskilim of
southern Russia was Isaac BUr Levinsohn, the apos-
tle of humanism in Russia, whose influence pene-
trated even into government circles, but whose lit-
erary work has been overestimated. His personal
endeavors, as well as his books ("Te'udah be-Yis-
rael " and " Bet Yehudah "), in which he recommends
to the Orthodox tiie study of the sciences and the
pursuit of manual employments, con-
Russia, tributed to general emancipation
rather than to tliat of Hebrew litera-
ture in particular. Lithuania, an eminently Jewish
country, was more favored by circumstances; and
here tlie haskalah was destined to lead to the unfold-
ing of a literature. At Shklov, the first city to
come in contact witli the outside world, a group of
humanists arose as early as the beginning of the cen-
tury. But it was at Wilna, the capital of tlie coun-
try, abandoned by its native population and entirely
removed from outside influence, that the Hebrew
language flourished to an extraordinary degree. It

was due to the enlightened tolerance of the gaon
Elijah Wilna and the zeal of his pupils that Wilna
became, toward the end of the eighteenth century,
the home of excellent grammarians and stylists.
About 1820 or 1830 a circle of Maskilim, called " Ber-
liner," and evidently inspired by the writers of Ger-
many, was formed, which assiduously cultivated
modern Hebrew literature. Two eminent scholars
lent special luster to this new literary movement.
M. A. Gf NZBURG well deserves his title "the father
of prose," which he won for himself through his
numerous translations, histories, and scientific com-
pilations, his picturesque narration of the ritual
murder at Damascus, his realistic autobiography
"Abi'ezer" (a glowing criticism of customs of the
past), and especially through his style, which is at
once temperate, realistic, and modern. At the same
time Abraham Bar Lebensohn, called "the father
of poetry," lent new radiance and vig-

A. Bar or to Hebrew verse. The touching
Xiebensohn. lyric quality of some of his poems, the
profound pessimism, the plaint over
life, and the fear of death, which betray the feelings
of the Jew tried by the ordeal of ghetto life, all
stamp him as the veritable poet of the ghetto. The
simplicity of his ideas, his rabbinical dialectic and
even his frequent prolixity only added to his popu-
larity. His poems " Shire Sefat Kodesh " were ex-
traordinarily successful; and his elegant, limpid,
and often energetic style is still justly admired.

It was due to these two masters that modern He-
brew literature was widely disseminated throughout
Lithuania, circles devoted to the haskalah being
formed nearly everywhere. Hebrew became the lan-
guage of daily life, the literary language, and, what
is still more characteristic, the language of folk-lore.
In fact, the list of popular Hebrew poems by known
or unknown " "hors is too long to be noted here.
The unhapf iitical situation of the Russian Jews
under Nicho .j I. — a period of persecutions of all
kinds and of terror — had particularlj' contributed to
produce this state of mind in the harassed people ; and
while Hasidism completed its work of producing in-
tellectual obscurantism -and hopeless resignation in
the province of Poland and in southern Russia,
mysticism found in Lithuania a redoubtable enemy
in the sentimentality of the unfolding Hebrew liter-

The diffusion of the afl'ected style of the melizah
and the return to the language of the past awakened
among this unhai)py people a regret for the glori-
ous Biblical times and a romanticism that was to
bear rich fruit. Popular Hebrew poetry had be-
come fundamentally Zionistic, as is

Popular evident from the anonymous })oems
and Liter- then written (" Shoshannah,""Ziyyon,

ary Ro- Ziyyon,"etc.). Literary romanticism
manticism. soon followed upon this romantic tend-
ency. The Lithuanian writers, shar-
ing the life and patriotic thoughts of the people,
and encouraged by the example of S. D. Luzzatto,
who united modern culture with ardent patriotism,
turned to romanticism. The prolific popularizer
Kalman Schulman (1826-1900) inaugurated roman-
tic fiction and introduced the romantic form into
Hebrew through his Hebrew version of " Les Mys-




t^res de Paris " (" Mistere Paris ") ; and he became one
of the civilizersof the ghetto through his numerous
popular scientific works and especially through his
studies of the Jewish past. His pure, flowing, me-
lizah style, his extreme sentimentalism as well as his
naive romanticism in all matters touching Judaism,
won for him great influence. For fully half a cen-
tury he, in spite of his lack of originality, ranked as
a master. The young and gifted Avriter Micah Jo-
seph Lebensoiin (1828-52), the first true artist and
romantic poet in Hebrew, has left poems that are
perfect in style, including an admirable translation
of the "^neid," lyrics of love, of nature, and of
sorrow. But his masterpieces are romantic poems
("Moses," "Judah ha-Levi") dealing with Israel's
glorious past.

The creator of the Hebrew novel was Abraham
Mapu (1808-67), whose historical romance " Ahabat
Ziyyon" exercised an important influence on the
development of Hebrew. This novel, which deals
with the golden age of Judah, that of Isaiah, and is
couched in the very language of that prophet, is
rather a succession of poetic pictures reconstruct-
ing the civilization of ancient Judea than a con-
nected story. Simple and primitive in his thoughts,
Mapu was so imbued with the spirit of the Bible
that, although unconsciousl}', he was translated to
ancient times, and, guided by a marvelous intui-
tion, he succeeded in reconstructing the free, agri-
cultural life of ancient Judah. in the laud of the
prophets, of justice, and of truth, the land of love
and of the joy of life. This past, to renew which
was the ambition of scholars and people, superim-
posed itself upon the present, and it was due to Ma-
pu 's novel that an entire people came forth from its
long lethargy, to be reborn. Another novel ("Ash-
mat Shomeron ") by Mapu served to increase his

Many imitators of these leaders of Hebrew roman-
ticism appeared, and at a time when the political
outlook checked all hopes of a better life: the
Maskilini demanded, in the name of the prophetic
past, the rights of civilization and progress. Manj^
persons, also, were won over to the reading of secu-
lar literature. When in 1856 Silbermann founded
at Lyck the first political journal in Hebrew, "Ha-
Maggid," he met with unexpected success and had
many imitators. In Austria, Russia, and even in
Palestine, periodicals, more or less successful, ap-
peared, furthering the cause both of Hebrew and of
emancipation. Among these journals were " Ha-
Karmel," founded by the scholar Samuel Joseph
Fuenn ; "Ha-Zefirah," founded by the popularizer of
science C. Z. Slonimsky; and "Ha-Meliz," founded
by A. Zederbaum.

The accession of Alexander II. radically changed
the condition of the Russian Jews. A wave of lib-
erty and radicalism swept through the

Ofl&cial empire, and for the first time the Rus-
Liberalism sian Jews could hope for a lot similar
and Radi- to that of their western coreligionists.

calism. Awakened from their century-long

sleep, the backward people of the

ghetto began to shake off religious and other fetters,

becoming imbued with modern ideas and adopting

modern modes of life. In the large centers there

was no serious opposition to emancipation, and the
Jews flocked in masses to the schools and sought
secular employments. The scholars themselves, en-
couraged by the government and by the notables of
the great cities, decided to attack all the "domains
of darkness" of the past, and to occupy themselves
with the affairs of the day ; and wiieu the small
provinces, less disturbed by the economic and moral
upheavals, bitterly opposed this social emancipa-
tion — which led to of the Law and
endangered the faith — the Maskilim knew no limits
to their fury against the fanatics of the ghetto.
Hebrew literature, at first realistic, attacking cus-
toms and superstitions in the name of utility and
the reality of things, became more and more anti-
rabbinical as it opposed religious tradition. ]\Iapu
led the way in his novel " 'Ayit Zabua'," which,
though a failure from a literary point of view, de-
picts the backward types of the ghetto, the Tar-
tuffes, and the enemies to progress, with a realism
intentionally exaggerated. Abramowitsch, then
a young man, described in his novel "Ha-Abot
we-ha-Banim " the customs of the Hasidim and the
struggles of their progressive sons. The aged poet
Abraham Bar Lebensohn published his drama, " Emet
we-Emunah" (written twenty -five years previously),
in which he satirized cabalistic hypocrisy and mys-
ticism. The number of popularizers of science,
critics of belated customs, and belittlers of the relig-
ious past became legion.

The most distinguished among these writers was

the poet Leon Gordon, an implacable enemy of the

Rabbis, who personified in himself this

lieon realistic epoch. He began by writing

Gordon romantic poems in imitation of the
(1830-92). two Lebensohns. But when the hori-
zon widened for the Russian Jews, he
was filled with pity for the deplorable state of the
Orthodox masses, to whom he addressed his "Haki-
zali 'Ammi" — "Awake, my people, to a better life,"
i.e., "to the life of those about you." Of a mettle-
some spirit, he unmercifully attacked the rabbinical
law, the dead letter, the religious yoke weighing
upon the masses. He regarded rabbinism as the
greatest misfortune of the Jewish people, which
killed the nation by delivering it up to the more sec-
ular Romans, and which hindered its participation
in the realities of modern life. Gordon's activity
covered all branches of literature. He ranks fore-
most in Hebrew literature as a satirical poet and
critic of manners; and as a writer of fables he has
no equal. But in spite of his apparent severit}' and
his extreme skepticism, he remained at heart a pa-
triot; and when he criticizes he does so in order to
elevate the social life of the Jews, while grieving
for the misery of the Messianic nation. Even in his
historical poems, "Zidkiyahu be-Bet ha-Pekudot"
and "Bi-Mezulot Yam," he displays all his love for
his people, which became more pronounced during
the years of persecution and misery in Russia. But
even then he believed that rabbinism was the enemy
which prevented a national renascence. Gordon
was among the first successfully to introduce Tal-
mudisms into poetry.

The liopes of the ^laskilim were not realized:
Russia did not continue its radical reforms; and a




reaction began between 18(55 and 1870. Disappointed
in tlieir dreams of equality, writers now bent all
their energies to the work of the emancipation of
individuals from among the masses, by dissemina-
ting instruction and by advocating the pursuit of
trades as being necessary to fit the Jews to deal
with the exigencies of life and to take part in the
battle for subsistence incident to the economic
changes of tlie time.

In Galicia a circle of scholars, under the leader-
ship of Schorr, director of "He-Haluz," and A.
Krochmal, advocated religious reforms, boldly at-
tacking tradition and even the law of Moses. But
in Russia, especially in Lithuania, the scholars did
not go so far. The ideology of the Maskilim was
not accepted by the scholars who came in closer
contact with the masses; and instead of attacking
principles, they advocated practical reforms and
changes in conformity witii the needs of daily life.
Utilitarianism succeeded to the ideology of the ear-
lier scholars. Abraham Kowner in his
TJtilitari- pamphlet " Heker Dabar," etc. (1867)
anism. attacked the masters of Hebrew for
being idealists, and the press because
it ministered neither to the strict necessities of daily
life nor to the material well-being of the masses.
Paperna and others were also pronounced realists.
Moses Lilieublum inaugurated a campaign in favor
of the union of life and faith— an endeavor perilous to
its author and his emulators, but noteworthy as be-
ing the last attempt of rabbinic Judaism to adapt
itself to the needs of modern life without giving up
its minute observances. In his instructive volume
"Hattot Ne'urim," Lilieublum has left a curious doc-
ument describing the inner conflicts of a young Tal-
mudist of the ghetto who has passed through all
the stages between the simple life of an Orthodox
believer and that of a skeptical freethinker. View-
ing the life of the modern Jew, emancipated and in-
different to all tiiat is Jewish, he is shaken in his
highest convictions and cries out, "Tlie Law will
never go hand in hand with life." Lilicnblum liim-
self at last became a utilitarian, seeking in Jewish
life nothing but individual nmterial well-being, and
testifying regretfully to the downfall of the haska-
lah by reason of an excess of ideology. " Young
men must think and work for their own lives only."
This became the watchword of the last Maskilim
toward 1870.

The ghetto, however, had not yet spoken its final
word. Within the confines of traditional Judaism
itself the modernization of Hebrew and of the relig-
ious spirit was accentuated, leading to a compro-
mise between faith and life. Orthodox journals
were beginning to I)e the mouthjiieces of a conserva-
tive party more in touch with modcin ideas. Sid(>
by side with the realistic press— • Ha-.Meliz," the
organ of the realists; " Ha-Zefirah." a popular scien-
tific journal; "He-Haluz." an antireligious paiier;
and others— there were " Ha-Maggid" and " Ha-Liba-
non," in which Orthodox rabbis enthusiastically
advocated tlie cultivation of Hebrew and bohlly
offered plans for its rejuvenation as well as for the
colonization of P.ilcstinV. Michol Pines, the antag-
onist of Lilienblum. ]iul)lished in 1M72 liis " Yalde
Ruhi," a treatise di'^iilayinsx deep faitii. and in which

he bravely defends traditional Judaism, insisting that
ritual and religious observances are necessary to a
maintenance of the harmony of faith,
M. Pines, which influences the mind as well as
the morals. Reforms are unneces-
sary, because believers do not feel the need of them,
and freethinkers no longer cherish any beliefs. Like
the mfiss of believers, Pines does not share the pes-
simism of the realists, but he firmly believes in the
national renascence of Judaism. Any \inderstand-
iug between the two parties seemed impossible, tiie
realists no longer believing in the future of Ju-
daism, and the conservatives refusing all attempts
at religious reform. Even skeptics like Gordon
were alarmed to see " the young people leave without
returning. " Then, once again, a man arose to under-
take the work of mingling the humanistic and the
romantic currents and of leading the haskalah back
to tiie living sources of national Judaism. This was
Perez Smolenskin, the initiator of the
P. Smolen- progressive national movement. He.

skin also, began his career, in 1867, with a

(1842-85). critical article of pronounced realism,
"Bikkoret Tehiyyah." But, disheart-
ened by the fanaticism of the ancients and by the
indifference and narrowness of the moderns, he left
Russia and traveled first through Austria and later
through the other western countries, sorrowfully
noting the decadence of Judaism and of his patriotic
ideal. At Vienna he issued in 1868 "Ila-Shahar,"
whose object it was to attack medieval obscurantism
and modern indifference. For eighteen years Smo-
lenskin continued this laborious campaign. In his
" 'Am '01am " (1872) he appears as the champion of
the national preservation of Israel and of the realiza-
tion of the rabbinical ideal freed from all mysticism.
This secularization of an ideal which had consti-
tuted Israel's power of resistance had important re-
sults. In the first place it restored to Judaism and to
Hebrew the best among the young men, who, while
still profoundly attached to Judaism and to the life
of the masses, had no longer any faith. This pre-
pared the way for Zionism. But this was not all.
Smolenskin recognized that one of the chief factors
in tiie process of assimilation was the idea set forth
by Mendelssohn and especially by his disciples (Gei-
ger and others) that does not constitute a
nation but a religious confession, an idea which
would naturally induce the assimilation of the free-
tliinkers. Smolenskin attacked tliis idea in a series
of articles, which, though violent and often unjust,
were yet needed to point out the priority of the
national factor over the religious factor in the con-
servation of Judaism.

For eighteen years "Ha-Shahar" was the rally-
ingpoint for daring ideas and campaigns against
tlie obscurantists and the moderns. It was especial-
ly noted forthe realistic novels of Smolenskin, which,
despite their tecimical siiortcomings, take a high
place in Hebrew literature. Side by

"Ha- side with character sketches of the
Shahar." ghetto and violent attacks on obscu-
rantism appear a profound love for
the masses and an ardent faith in Israel's future and
in the apotheosis of young scliolars endoAved with
the soul of projihecy, veritable dreamers of the




ghetto. For the tiist time tlie Hebrew lauguage,
as modernized by Smoleuskin, took immense strides.
"Ha-Shahar'" published only original work; and
through the support and influence of its editor
there arose a whole school of realists who wrote in
Hebrew. In addition to Gordon and Lilienblum,
there were Jirandstiidter (the clever creator of the
shoVt story in Hebrew), S. Mandelkern, J. L. Levin,
Ben Zebi, M. Colin, Silberbusch, ^landelstam, and
others. Science was represented by S. Rubin, D.
Kohan, Heller, D. MiiUer, etc.

The influence of " Ha-Shahar " was felt through-
out Hebrew literature. The popular poet and
scholar of the south, A. B. Gottlober, founded his
review " Ha-Boker Or " (1876) for the purpose of de-

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 30 of 169)