The Printing of Yiddish Books in Frankfurt-on-the-Main (17th and 18th Centuries)
Afin de mesurer l’évolution du livre et de la lecture en Europe au xviiie siècle, nous analyserons trois ouvrages représentatifs de la production imprimée à Francfort : un traité éthique contenant des sources mystiques, le Kav ha-yashar, de Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover, imprimé en 1709 chez Matthaüs Andreae ; une adaptation en yiddish des parties narratives et éthiques du Zohar, le Nahalat Tsvi par Tsvi Hirsh ben Yerahmiel Chotsch, imprimée en 1711 chez Anton Heinscheidt ; un ouvrage édifiant le Derekh ha-yashar le-olam ha-ba de Yehiel Mikhl ben Abraham Epstein, imprimé en 1717 chez Anton Kellner. L’étude de la phase préparatoire à l’impression, l’analyse de l’espace visuel du livre, entre autres, la mise en textes, les choix techniques, et de la réception des ouvrages permet, en fait, de collecter de précieux témoignages sur les habitudes culturelles propres à la société juive traditionnelle et sur les mutations religieuses qui accompagnèrent la diffusion de l’imprimerie.
Keywords :Cultural History of the Ashkenazi Jewry, History of the book in Frankfort , History of the Yiddish book
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- 1 Two classic works on the history of printed books: L. Febvre, H-J. Martin, L’apparition du livre, (...)
- 2 Among the early works: H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-defus ha-ivri, 4 volumes, Antwerp, 1932-37. Amon (...)
- 3 L. Fontaine, Histoire du colportage en Europe, Paris, 1993.
- 4 Ch. Shmeruk, Ha-Iyurim le-sefer yidish ba-meot 16-17, Jerusalem, 1986.
1In the 16th century, printed books1 were circulated mainly within the restricted circles of scholars, learned Jews and Hebrew-speaking Christians. The early 17th century saw a greatly increased production of Jewish books, and Yiddish books in particular, to satisfy an ever-growing demand, be it local or farther afield. Books now reached a wider circle of readers who had previously remained distant from the realm of book production2. This evolution was accompanied by the consolidation of a body of book professionals, needed to cater to the growing demand for more books. There developed, between the author and the reader, an organized network of agents, printers, typographers, and merchants in the form of bookshop owners, representatives and itinerant peddlers3. Fairs served as centers for the sale and exchange of raw materials such as reams of paper and printing material – moulds, Hebrew fonts and engraved plates – many of which had previously served Christian books and were re-used for Jewish books.4 With the expansion of the market, production techniques and sales improved, beginning with the financing, printing and storage of books and ending with shipping and distribution as far afield as small village communities. In the same way, the growing book market promoted economic partnerships between authors, printers and booksellers, both Christians and Jews. Each side was aware of the importance of this type of tactical partnership, which was limited in time and based not only on financial considerations but also on the transmission of knowledge.
- 5 Jewish books (Judisch buchere) are mentioned in Frankfurt official records at the end of the 15th (...)
- 6 In Frankfurt, booksellers and printers were able to store their books in warehouses between one fa (...)
- 7 Frankfurt enjoyed an excellent geographic location, at the junction of many commercial and strateg (...)
2Frankfurt on the Main constituted a remarkable example of the development of a merchant economy and of the expansion of Jewish books in Europe in the pre-modern era5. This Rhineland city became one of the foremost printing centers of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, in large part due to the Frankfurt book fair (Buchmesse), which was a main center for the European book trade. Twice each year, in Spring and Fall, the city transformed itself into a center for the creation, fabrication, storage6 and distribution of books at a local, national and even international level, reaching France, Belgium, Italy and Holland, among others7. The fair also represented a privileged moment for encounters between book trade professionals, whatever their technical skill or intellectual knowledge. At the Fair, authors could present their manuscripts, and publishers and booksellers could meet to buy and sell books and materials, exchange information, titles and settle accounts.
- 8 Frankfurt had a large Jewish community which, in 1462, centered around the Jewish street (Judengas (...)
- 9 According to Y. Vinograd, 185 Hebrew titles can be found for the period 1640 to 1739, See Y. Vinog (...)
- 10 See, I. Krakauer, Op. cit., 1927, vol. 2, 1927, p. 101-103. A. Dietz, Frankfurter Handelsgeschicht (...)
- 11 According to a statistical source of 1694, one Jew was active in the old book trade and seven more (...)
- 12 On printing in Augsburg, see Augsburger Buchdruck und Verlagswesen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenw (...)
- 13 On the history of Hebrew printing in Basel, see L. Prijs, Die Basler hebräischen Drucke (1492-1866 (...)
3In this context of intellectual encounters, technical innovation and capitalist expansion, Jews8 occupied a paradoxical position, which stemmed from the tension created by the legal situation governing Jewish minorities in many German cities at the time9. Upper class German families and craft guilds put pressure on municipal authorities to prohibit Jewish printshops, particularly from the beginning of the 17th century, when competition by Leipzig threatened the Frankfurt book trade10. Yet the impossibility of establishing print workshops and obtaining licenses and privileges in no way impeded the expansion of Hebrew and Yiddish book production. This situation tells a lot about survival strategies and the circumventing devices developed by Jewish printers to avoid head-on clashes with city authorities and guilds and violation of municipal regulations, while continuing to produce a great quantity of books for local, national and international markets. In order to circumvent guild restrictions, Jewish printers11 negotiated contracts with Christian printers whom they used as a cover. This explains why Jewish books are most often identified by the names of Christian printers and the names of the Jewish printers are omitted from the title pages. A similar situation was seen in a number of other large printing centers in Europe, such as Augsburg12 and Basel13 where, although Jews were not permitted to live in these cities, a book industry in Hebrew and Yiddish succeeded in developing.
- 14 On Yiddish printing in Frankfurt, see Ch. Turniansky, “Yiddish Literature in Frankfurt am Main”, i (...)
- 15 A first edition was printed in Frankfurt in 1703 by Johann Wust, see M. Steinschneider, Catalogus… (...)
4To assess the growth of books and reading in Europe in the 18th century, we have chosen to analyze three representative works of the printing output of Frankfurt14. Two are morality books typical of a major genre of old Yiddish literature. The first is an instructive treatise containing many mystical sources, Kav ha-yashar by Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover published in 1705-1706 by the Christian printer Johann(es) Wust, a second edition of which was printed in 1709 by Matthaüs (Matthias) Andreae. The second work is a Yiddish adaptation of narrative and ethical portions of the Zohar entitled Nahalat Tsvi by Tsvi Hirsh ben Yerahmiel Chotsch, printed in 1711 by the Christian printer Anton Heinscheidt. This work illustrates a change in Ashkenazi culture. Until this time, the Zohar had circulated mainly in learned circles; henceforth, it entered, at least partially, the middle levels of Jewish society. This transformation reflects the evolution of teaching frameworks, study methods and the cultural role played by less educated readers, both men and women, in the propagation of knowledge. Lastly we cite the edifying work, Derekh ha-yashar le-olam ha-ba by Yehiel Mikhl ben Abraham Epstein, printed in 1717 by the Christian printer Anton Kellner15.
- 16 The Christians who took part in the publication of Yiddish works were at the same time printers, p (...)
- 17 We know the names of some correctors (magie, magiim), typesetters (zetser) and pressmen (presn tsi (...)
- 18 He worked for Heinrich Friese who printed catalogues for the book fair. According to H. Zafren, Jo (...)
- 19 The names of these Jewish printers also appear in the edition of Tsenerene, (Frankfurt, 1726), pub (...)
- 20 Balthasar Christoph Wust the elder married the daughter of the printer Kaspar Rötels. He took over (...)
- 21 He also printed an edition of the Mayse bukh (Frankfurt, 1702) and Sefer ma’amadot (Frankfurt, 170 (...)
- 22 Johann David Zunner the elder died in 1653 and his son took over until his death in 1704. Between (...)
- 23 At the end of the 17th century Jewish booksellers dominated the market of Hebrew and Yiddish books (...)
- 24 Johann Andreae the younger, who came from a Strasbourg family, practiced from 1666 until his death (...)
- 25 Matthias Andreae printed an edition of Yosippon, Tsenerene and the Book of Job with a Yiddish tran (...)
- 26 This excerpt is mentioned in A. Yaari, “L-yatsa sreifa franqfurt d-mayn veha-sefer ha-ivri”, Mehqe (...)
- 27 J. Benzing, Op. cit., 1982, p. 138.
- 28 Also spelt Hainscheid or Einscheit.
- 29 He worked from 1709 to 1711. See J. Benzing, Op.cit., 1982, p. 239 and H. Zafren, Op. cit., 1997, (...)
5The production of books in Yiddish depended upon a commercial arrangement between, on the one hand a Christian printer16, owner of a workshop that could provide a technical infrastructure with machines and tools and, on the other, a Jewish printer with typesetters and, most importantly, correctors17. We have some information concerning the production and financing of the three works mentioned above. Firstly, concerning the publishers of Derekh ha-yashar le-olam ha-ba (1717) by Yehiel Mikhl Epstein printed in the workshop of Anton Kellner (Koelner), of the family of Johann Kellner18. The work, as indicated on the title page, was prepared for publication, composed, corrected and printed by Shlomo Zalman Aptrod and Moshe Gamburg19. Kav ha-yashar was printed in two publishing houses. The bilingual first edition of Kav ha-yashar (1705) was produced in the workshop of Johann Wust, a business founded by Christian Wust of Wittenberg, followed by Balthasar Christoph the elder, and taken over by his two sons, Balthasar Christoph Wust the younger, who married the daughter of publisher Johann Beyer20, and Johann Wust, who owned a number of Hebrew fonts, which enabled him to print, among others, the works of Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover21. Johann Wust played a role in the development of Jewish book printing, particularly following the agreement he made with the publisher Johann David Zunner22 and with the principle Jewish booksellers who controlled the market at the time23. This type of profitable commercial partnership enabled a Christian publisher to begin a venture with the assurance of being able to sell his production. The second edition of Kav ha-yashar (1709) was printed by Matthäus (Matthias) Andreae, the son of Johann Andreae, who took over his father’s shop24 and carried on the trade from 1681 to 1722. After having helped produce a number of Jewish books, Johann Andreae led a fight against Jewish printers, accusing them of twisting the laws of the market25. As for Nahalat Tsvi, the Yiddish adaptation of the Zohar, its publisher, Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, began by collecting haskamot from great rabbis of the period in order to encourage people to contribute money. In the preface to the book26, Chotsch explains that he collected the donations needed for the book’s publication from donors such as Moshe Schiff and Itshak Homel. In addition, to hasten the production of the book, the task was divided among three different printers. This plan was thwarted, however, by the fire in the Jewish quarter in 1711, which delayed printing. Whole passages of the translation were destroyed and the edition is therefore incomplete. The name of the first printer is mentioned on the title page. He is the son of Johann Einscheidt27 de Cologne, Anton Einscheidt28, who printed several books in Yiddish between 1711 and 1719, including the Iggeret ha-teshuva by Jonah Gerondi (1711) and the Sefer Yehudit, Yehuda Makabi ve-toviah (1714). The second printer was Nikolaus Weinmann, whose name is cited at the end of the work29. The name of the third printer is unknown.
- 30 See L. Löwenstein, “Zur Geschichte der Juden in Fürth”, Jahrbuch der jüdisch-literarischen Gesells (...)
- 31 Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, Nahalat Tsvi, Frankfurt, 1711, See introduction in Hebrew non paginated.
6We know some details regarding the financial arrangements for the printing of the three books. Concerning, Kav ha-yashar, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover prepared the manuscript to give to the printer and the work was paid for by his family. His wife Gutel was the daughter of Isaac Kohen Gans of Frankfurt who, with his son Yehuda Loeb, advanced the money for the printing of works edited by Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover30. According to the preface in Hebrew, we know that Nahalat Tsvi was financed by donations collected by Tsvi Hirsch Chotsch to help pay the printer31. We have no precise information regarding the production costs for the book by Yehiel Mikhl Epstein.
- 32 After the introduction to Sefer tam ve-yashar, Fürth,1768, these lines are quite representative: “ (...)
7Concerning haskamot, these three works are representative of two divergent attitudes toward the internal control of book production in Yiddish. Two of the books include rabbinic approval, which is relatively rare for Yiddish publications, the great majority of which were published without rabbinic appproval32. Kav ha-yashar contains two letters of authorization, one by the chief rabbi and av beit din of Frankfurt, Naphtali Ha-Kohen, and the other by Shmuel Katz, av beit din of Darmstadt, permitting the printing of the book and prohibiting anyone from reproducing it without permission for an unlimited period. As for Taytsh-Zohar, it contains the authorizations of thirteen rabbis from Germany, Bohemia and Moravia, including, once again, Naphtali Ha-Kohen, who authorizes the “great preacher” (darshan ha-gadol) Tsvi Hirsch ben R. Yerahmeel, versed in the “wisdom of the kabala” (hokhmat ha-Kabbalah), to print “simple commentaries and edifying words of the Sefer ha-zohar which he has assembled and written in Yiddish (loshn Ashkenaz) for the good of all, great and small, women and the ignorant. Shimeon bar Yohai himself wrote it (the Zohar) in the vernacular (bilshon la’az), in the language of the Targum, which was spoken by all the people. (Likewise) Moses received the holy Torah from the mouth of God and he explained it in sixty languages for women and unlearned men.” Another rabbi was the Landrabbiner of Bohemia and av beit din of Prague, R. David ben Abraham Oppenheim. All of them gave their permission to print the work and prohibited its reproduction for a period of 15 years from the date of publication. As for the moral treatise by Yehiel Mihkl Epstein, it is part of a great number of works in Yiddish which were published without haskamot. The increased production of books, which made it impossible for the rabbis to control every book and write their haskamot, the secondary status accorded to vernacular books, and the mediocre quality of popularized works intended for less educated readers explain why authors and printers deemed it unnecessary to include rabbinic authorizations. Furthermore, the dispersion of printing centers in Germany and the lack of a supra-community control enabled printers to re-edit works in Yiddish, without taking into account possible prohibitions. Most of the time, they merely changed a title page or introduction and reproduced texts from earlier versions.
- 33 It was not until the late 18th century that printers and collectors began to preserve authors’ man (...)
8Before presenting a work to the printer the editor prepared a manuscript copy for printing. In the 17th and 18th centuries it was rare to find specimens of this sort,which served as matrices to prepare the printed version, since the printers usually destroyed them as soon as a book was printed and the authors did not keep them33. For the three works in question, we can reconstitute some aspects of the writing, editing and organization of the texts. Their printing illustrates the cultural changes which took place among Ashkenazi communities in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The expansion of education, personal reading and individual study, the increase in written documents, and thus of the paper market, gave greater importance to scribes and producers of texts who were able to draw up handwritten documents on request. At the same time, books for personal use increasingly penetrated Jewish homes. Our three authors, who were aware of the pedagogic function of books, the increased demand for books by popular readers and the need for the moral instruction of the Jewish masses, ventured to publish inexpensive works in the vernacular language for didactic ends. Each seems animated by the same wish to distribute edifying works to a community threatened by ignorance, lack of knowledge of canonic texts and slackening of moral standards. Thus, on the title page of Nahalat Tsvi, the author explains that the book consists of “moral words (divrei musr), stories (sippurei mayses) and simple revelations translated and assembled in the Yiddish tongue”. Similarly, the title page of Kav ha-yashar states that it is an excellent work “useful for the soul and body, that all may meditate on from year to year, (which includes) good literal commentaries, parables and moral passages. Anyone (who reads them) will feel joy and delight”. Derekh ha-yashar le-olam ha-ba by Yehiel Mikhl Epstein states that it is intended for “simple readers, women and young girls.” Its preface notes that:
9“Those who live in large communities where there is one or more rabbis, learned men or doctors of the law, can pose a question to the rav. But (this is not the case for) those who live in small communities and yeshuvim, where there is no one to teach (unter rikhtn) or advise (unter vayzn) them from time to time. That is why I have produced this book, so that people may learn from it… I hope it will be of use to them, that they will follow what they find in it, and will read other books in Yiddish (taytsh) in which they will find laws (dinim), like Lev tov, Brantshpigl or Sefer ha-yire”
- 34 Ch. Turniansky, “Les Serments oraux et écrits comme medium entre la culture canonique et les fidèl (...)
- 35 E. Tcherikower, “Di geshikhte fun a literarishn plagiat: ver iz des emeser mekhaber fun Kav ha-yos (...)
- 36 On methods of translating Hebrew sources into the vernacular and differences between the Hebrew an (...)
- 37 Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover, Kav ha-yashar, Frankfurt, 1709, introduction in Hebrew (Henceforth KHY foll (...)
- 38 Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover’s precise date of birth, in the mid-17th century, is unknown. He spent his c (...)
- 39 Born in Vilna in 1614, died in 1676. In his lifetime, he published a Talmudic commentary, Birkat h (...)
- 40 The work was printed in Sklov in 1785, nearly a century after his death, in 1700.
- 41 Lit. shelo ekah atarah le-atsmi as in TB Kiddushin 48b.
10On the structure and page lay-out of popular Jewish books, there have, so far, been few analyses focusing on the complemenarity between the content, technical characteristics and writing styles of these works. Our three texts do, however, show signs of reflection and search for an appropriate form for this type of work, intended for less educated readers. They contain much information on the cultural and religious role of the “authors” of vernacular works, who combined the functions of compiler, translator, commentator, educator and transmitter of canonic texts and who acted as intermediaries between the High Culture in Hebrew and popular readers34. In his analysis of Kav ha-yashar, Elias Tcherikower regards Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover as a “plagiarist”35, who simply assembled existing sources and assumed authorship of the text. In basing his comment on the modern notion of attributing a work to a sole creator, Elias Tcherikower misunderstands the process of producing popular books in a vernacular language. This has nothing to do with an “author” in the modern sense of the term, that is, a “creator” (auctor) who composes an original work. Such a designation is not applicable to the process of producing popular Jewish texts in Yiddish. In these cases, the author is, above all, a transmitter who transposes Hebrew sources into the vernacular, augmenting or enriching an already existent work with personal commentaries36. Thus, in his introduction37, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover38 describes the methods he used to prepare the text. He recalls the two masters who had a decisive influence on his education and on the composition of his ethical treatise: first, his father, Aaron Samuel Koidanover, rabbi, preacher, and author of a number of ethical works39; second, his master, Yosef ben Yehuda of Dubno, a kabbalist, ascete, and author of Yesod Yosef, a moral work with kabbalistic references 40. When Yosef of Dubno passed away, in 1700, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover inherited a manuscript that served as the basis for the composition of Kav ha-yashar. In 1705, while Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover was living in Frankfurt, he decided to print this work and he explains in the preface, in Hebrew, that: “The book was composed on the basis of what I heard from my father, R. Aaron Samuel and other great rabbis of our province, among them the famous rabbi, may he rest in peace, the righteous, Rav ha-Gaon R. Yosef of Dubno.” In another extract, we read: “In some chapters I have reproduced their exact words… Elsewhere, on the contrary, I have added my own words to theirs and, at still other times I have omitted some things…Thus I do not take the crown for myself alone41.”
- 42 On Tsvi Hirsh ben Yerahmiel Chotsh, Kabbalist and preacher (ha-darshan ha-gadol as on the title pa (...)
11An identical process of collective creation can be observed in Nahalat Tsvi, by Tsvi Hirsh ben Yerahmiel Chotsh42. Fragments of the Zohar had already been translated by Aviezer Zelig, a Kabbalist and rosh yeshiva in Korev near Lublin, and the great grandfather of the editor. In 1601, Aviezer Zelig began to translate the Zohar into Yiddish, but he was unable to publish his translation before his death. One of his four sons, Yosei of Vienna, collected Haskamot to enable the publication of this translation, but the gezerot tat"het (1648) upset this plan, mainly because the authorizations written by the rabbis had been destroyed. Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, a descendent of Aviezer Zelig, agreed to publish the text but introduced several changes, firstly because he judged the translation too literal, secondly because the manuscript had been damaged, and thirdly because certain esoteric passages had been translated into the vernacular. Just like the author of Kav ha-yashar, the adaptor of the Zohar considered it unthinkable to reveal to ordinary Jews the secret aspects of Kabbalistic doctrine. Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch therefore undertook to rewrite his ancestor’s translation, eliminating passages deemed too obscure or speculative, or which he believed should be hidden from the mass of simple readers. He completed defective passages, reorganized the structure, added quotations from mystical texts, such as the Tikkunei Zohar, and adapted the style so as to render it closer to the common language. Publication was delayed several times, often because of financial difficulties but mainly due to the fire that ravaged the Frankfurt community in 1711. The book was finally printed that same year by the Christian printer Anton Einscheit with the collaboration of Nikolaus Weinmann.
- 43 On Yehiel Mikhl Epstein see, among others, M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, publ. by J. Unna, Je (...)
- 44 On the importance of this type of abridged re-writing (kitsurim), see Z. Gries, Sifrut hanhagot, J (...)
- 45 On texts in Yiddish by Yehiel Mikhl Epstein, see S. Noble, “R. Yehiel Mikhl Epstein, a dertsier un (...)
12Even if the writing style of the book by Yehiel Mikhl ben Abraham ha-Levi Epstein43 seems different, the construction is similar to that of the other two works. Let us recall that Yehiel Mikhl Epstein, a German rabbi, was mainly the author of compendiums (kitsurim44), notably Kitsur Shelah (Fürth, 1693 and 1696), which was translated into Yiddish by Wolf Gershels of Prague under the title Ets Hayyim (Frankfurt, 1720)45. This was an abridged version of Shnei Luhot ha-Brit by Isaiah Horowitz (first edition, Amsterdam, 1649) to which Yehiel Mikhl Epstein added glosses, laws, customs, as well as his own reflections on education and the process of study. Yehiel Mikhl Epstein intervened on three different levels. first as a compiler, selecting from the vast body of ethical and mystical texts fragments containing fundamental ideas, then as a translator putting into the vernacular a limited number of Hebrew sources, and finally as a commentator, adding new references and interpretations to existing sources.
13This common profile helps us to define the figure of the “author” of popular texts in Yiddish. Sometimes he is content to translate without changing anything and to link together texts composed by others. Sometimes, he takes traditional texts as his basis and adds limited commentaries, which aim to make difficult passages more specific or more explicit. On other occasions, he is an author, when his additions go beyond mere clarification or when traditional sources are integrated with personal statements in order to support original interpretations (hiddushim). Our three “authors” alternate between the functions of translator, compiler, interpreter and commentator, but they have no ambition to create an original work. What they want above all is to disseminate ethical texts and fragments of mystical tradition in the vernacular language, to complete people’s education and enhance the moral attributes of popular readers.
- 46 This aspect is not addressed in our presentation. On the language features of printed works in Yid (...)
- 47 H. Zafren, “Variety in the Typography of Yiddish, 1535-1635”, HUCA, 1982, p. 137-163; id., “Early (...)
14 The material presentation of the works presumes linguistic and technical choices intended to make the texts more intelligible. The books are written, as the prefaces indicate, in a “clear and simple language” (safa berura, leshon tseha, bilshon kalila) in order to clarify the often complex meaning of the Hebrew sources46. Particular attention is paid to the material presentation, in order to facilitate a visual and mental grasp of the texts. The popular works were, in general, printed in a smaller format, so that they could be put in a pocket or a bag when traveling. Another important aspect was the choice of characters. One of the most remarkable features of these works is the adoption of the cursive writing style known as Mashait Ashkenaz, which has the particularity of being clear and easy for the eye to grasp47. The compact appearance of the pages, as in the works of Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover and Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, without blanks or pauses, implies an intensive oralized type of reading, where the reader deciphers the text, pronouncing it in a low voice, either one word at a time or more rapidly. One may also imagine a type of silent reading by readers with more training or experience. The printers also introduced, in these pages, particularly in the case of prayer books, differences between the characters in order to separate the Hebrew texts from those in the vernacular. This hierarchy between the cursive and block characters makes it possible to insert markers or indications, especially in translations of the Bible, between the verses of the Torah and translations or commentaries in Yiddish.
- 48 Except for translations of the Bible, bilingual prayer books and certain works such as Menorat ha- (...)
- 49 There are significant differences between the Hebrew and Yiddish texts. On this question, see J. B (...)
15A feature of Kav ha-yashar is that it is bilingual, which is quite rare for popular works48 of the time. At the top of each page is a text in Hebrew, printed in small block rabbinic characters in two columns, and underneath is the Yiddish text in which we find an alternation of cursive Ashkenazi and block rabbinic writing, mainly used for citing biblical verses. The printer makes the beginning of each chapter coincide in the Hebrew and Yiddish portions, to make it easier to pass from one language to the other. Thanks to this dual page lay-out, the printer increased his readership, and thus his financial profit, since the work could be read by the learned as well as by Jews whose knowledge of Hebrew was imperfect49.
16Another important element is the writing style of these texts, which contains special features that differ from those of scholarly works in Hebrew. The editorial strategies of the printers combined the writing styles of the compilers, translators and commentators. Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover mixes and assembles a multitude of sources, such as the oral teachings of his masters, original or re-written quotations from printed works, and personal additions. One distinctive feature is the nearly exclusive use of previous sources, which are re-written and combined to form new statements in the vernacular. The fragments, furthermore, are not connected to each other, which explains why we find heterogeneous fragments, or even divergent opinions placed side by side with no apparent logic. Very rarely does the author intervene in the first person. He remains in the background, merely assembling a great diversity of old sources. He seeks to anthologize and recapitulate more than to be systematically consistent, or to organize a logical discourse around a precise theme or present an original thought.
- 50 One could use the French word “bricolé” in the sense defined by C. Lévi-Strauss in Lapensée sauvag (...)
- 51 G. Scholem, “Ba’al Shem”, Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 4, col. 5-7; T. Preschel, “Temerls, Jac (...)
- 52 KHY, chap. 90.
17Yet another element is the simplification or “popularization” of “sources”. Kav ha-yashar is “put together”50 with excerpts from a multitude of ethical and mystical traditions. We find occasional fragments of the literature of the Heykhalot, the Merkaba, the book of Enoch or quotations from Midrashim such as Alfabeta d-Rabbi Akiba. There are many passages from the Zohar, mainly the ethical or aggadic portions. The author excludes philosophic and speculative references, such as those concerning the divine throne and cosmogonic speculations on the creation (ma’aseh bereshit), the eyn sof or the sefirot. The tradition most commonly used is ethical and mystical literature, such as Sefer Hasidim, Reshit Hokhmah by Eliah de Vitasor Shnei luhot he-brit by Isaiah Horowitz. We find some allusions to practical kabbala, such as references to the teachings of Joel Ba’al Shem of Zamocz or Jacob ben Eliezer Temerls, a master of the holy name and 17th century Kabbalist51. There are also references to hagiographic traditions, such as that of Isaac Luria and his followers, notably Hayyim Vital. Most often, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover presents the quintessence of a quotation or commentary, without going into the details of reasoning or interpretation. The theoretical and speculative are secondary to the ethical and educational objective and the wish to mark people’s minds, by moralizing, admonishing and warning against deviances and arousing the fear of punishment. The means of exposition are similar to those of sermons or explanations of the law and practices given by the learned to less educated listeners or readers. We must remember that Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover, like Yehiel Mikhl Epstein and Tsvi Hirsch Chotsch, was a preacher (maggid), aware of the need to transmit the essence of Jewish tradition to the Jewish people. As representative examples of the writing of Yiddish texts, we present two excerpts from Kav ha-yashar. The first52, which concerns the feast of Pesah, contains, among others, references to the Zohar, Shnei Luhot ha-Brit, Isaac Luria and the oral teachings of Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover’s master, Yosef of Dubno. The practices connected with the Pesah Seder are clarified through mystical references, gematria and demonology:
- 53 Isaiah Horowitz, Shnei Luhot ha-Brit, Masekhet Pesahim, Bnei Brak, s.d., p. 44.
- 54 See Pesahim 109b and Rosh ha-shana 11b. Sanhedrin 34b, speaks of “a night that is watched (designa (...)
“The Shelah53 writes that it is customary to wash the body with hot water on the eve of a festival, particularly on the eve of Pesah. The Zohar (Vayiqra, 35b) also explains that when we burn the hamets, we must think that we are free men (bnei horin) and when we burn the hamets, we show that the Holy One, blessed by He, has destroyed the inclination to do evil and God is one and His name is one. That is why we burn the hamets on the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, because there is a full moon and the kelipot have no power over little children who could, God forbid, fall victim to epilepsy (nikhpeh). However, when there is no full moon, the kelipot can do harm to children; that is why in Ma’aseh Bereshit, me’orot is written without a vav, meaning malediction(me’érat) and that we have vanquished the kelipot. This night is called a night of watch54 (lail shimurim), as it protects from demons (mazikim). We show by this law that by burning the hamets, we are freed from the evil inclination. Just as when someone is freed from captivity he washes and purifies himself, so when we are freed from the exile of the evil inclination (galut ha-yetser ha-ra), we must wash and bathe on the eve of Pesah…. The Seder is a tikkun for the Shekhina. The coming out of captivity (from Egypt) was led by a Jewish woman. My master said that the coming out of captivity was thanks to a virgin who had not yet had her menses (seder nashim). The Zohar explains a great secret on this subject. We must read the Haggada and recount with great joy the coming out of Egypt and the miracles and wonders that the Holy One, blessed by He, accomplished. Then God assembled all the angels and said to them: See how my children of Israel rejoice and praise me, for I have freed them from Egypt… However, he who reads the Haggada of Pesah without joy will not merit that the Holy One, blessed by He, make miracles but he will send him punishments. When we recite the Ma’aseh be-Rabbi Eliezer, we must be aware that in the heavens there are 370 lights to illuminate those who study Torah for its own sake. We must be aware when we say the word ma’aseh, that it is made up of the letters mem, ayn, shin, hey and that through the merit of R. Eliezer and R. Akiba, the 45 and the 360 lights illuminate us and protect us from evil. The Ari, of blessed memory, says: When we recite ve-hi she-amdah la-avoténu until veha-kadosh barukh hu matsilnu mi-yadam “And the Holy one, blessed be He, saved us from their hands”, we must raise our glass, for the word “and she” (ve-hi) refers to the Shekhina. She is among us and she protects us, just as the divine presence was at our side in the exile in Egypt…”
- 55 KHY, 102.
- 56 G. Scholem, “Zoref, Joshua Heschel ben Joseph”, Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 16, col. 1223.
18A second and quite different excerpt55 recounts oral traditions taught by the prophet and visonary Heschel Tsoref, who was a leader of the Sabbatean movement in Poland. As in his work, Sefer ha-Tsoref56, he offers, based on gematriot, esoteric interpretations and speculations on the date of redemption. Poland, the land of impurity where the Jews must bear the suffering of exile, is compared to the land of Edom and Esau as opposed to Israel, the land of freedom. However, it is from Poland and Lithuania that the messianic redemption will begin, which will then spread southward. This passage, which ends Kav ha-yashar, shows the force of messianic hope in Eastern Europe at the end of the 17th century, particularly in the Sabbatean movement:
- 57 Bereshit Rabba, chap. XX, 12.
- 58 Genesis 3, 21.
- 59 This is a biblical copy established with variants, including glosses by R. Meir, see S. Lieberman, (...)
- 60 See Genesis 36, 15.
- 61 Play on the words Mutter and polis (« the mother-city »).
- 62 Leviticus, 16, 3.
- 63 Jeremiah, 1, 14.
- 64 See Song of Songs 4, 16.
“In Midrash Rabba, Parashat Bereshit57, it is written: “And YHWH Elohim made for Adam and his wife coats of skin (‘or) and clothed them58”. The word ‘or is found in the Torah of Rabbi Meir59 written with an alef(or), not with an ayin. Why did R. Meir change the word, which is written in the Torah with an ayin, and write it instead with an alef? I will give an explanation: the Rabbi could change this letter and not another talmid hakham, for I have heard from a holy man, Heschel of Vilna, may his memory be blessed, a great secret and I will write part of this explanation: One must know that Tsepho ben Eliphaz ben Esav (aluf tsefo60) corresponds to the first kelipa among the 70 nations and its chief Samaël is Satan. Tsefo is a country in the land of Israel, which is called Erets Tsuf, for the letters of tsefo are the letters of tsuf and tsuf is in holiness and tsefo is in impurity. When one wishes to announce to Samaël that such and such a person (peloni) has the same numerical value as tsuf, that is 166, one must know that tsuf founded the country of Poland, whose numerical value is 166, just like tsefo. Poland is the greatest kingdom of Edom. We often find explained in the Gemara and in the Midrash: when one wants to mention the capital of a country, one says this city is meterpolin, namely, the city is the mother of cities61. This is why Poland is called muterpolis, for Poland is the mother of all the kingdom of Edom. This state (polin) is under the domination of this person (peloni) who is Samaël. The Holy One, blessed by He, has decreed that in the country of Poland, the Jews will suffer many exiles, more than in other countries, because Adam ha-rishon committed the sin of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Some wise men say that the fruit of the tree of knowledge is wheat and in the holy tongue wheat is hittah whose numerical value is 22, for Adam ha-rishon spoiled the 22 letters of the alphabet which are the letters of the Torah. The sin of Adam ha-rishon spoiled the eighth measure (midah) of the ten sefirot and eight times twenty-two is 166, just like tsepho and peloni. And because of Hava, sin came to the earth, for she obeyed the primeval serpent (nahash kadmoni). When we write Hava, that is het, vav and hey, if we retain the last letters (of the name of each letter), this gives tav, vav, alef, which equals (together), in gematria, tavhet, that is 408. This reminds us that, in the year tav het (408 that is 1648), the qelipatsepho will triumph in the land of Poland thanks to the sar ha-peloni. In that year the Messiah will come, as it is said in the Zohar Midrash Neelam, where it is written: “With this (zot) Aaron will come into the holy place62”. In 1648, the geula will come. And when in the word zot, written with a zayn, alef and a tav, if we take the last letters of the name of each letter, that is, yud, nun, lamed, feh and vav, this is equal in gematria to tsepho which has the same numerical value as polin and peloni. And that is the secret that the prophet said: From the North will come the evil63, which means the prophet said from the north will come the evil decrees (gezerot) against Israel. The secret that the kingdom of the north (Tsafon) equals Poland and Lithuania, I heard from the mouth of the Holy Rabbi Heschel Tsoref, z’’l, and I have other great secrets to write, but they cannot all be revealed… One should know that the Messiah will come first to the kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, as said in the verse64: Awake, north wind! Come, south wind! which means the redemption (geula) of Israel will come from the north, for tsafon, polin and lita have the same numerical value. And then the redemption will spread to the south.”
- 65 R. Chartier (publ.), Pratiques de la lecture, Paris, 1985; idem, “La circulation de l’écrit”, Hist (...)
- 66 R. Bonfils, “La lecture dans les communautés juives de l’Europe occidentale au Moyen âge”, Histoir (...)
- 67 A. Berliner, Ueber den Einfluss des ersten hebräischen Buchdrucks auf den Cultus une die Cultur de (...)
19Reading, long considered a passive activity, was re-evaluated as a creative act, somewhere between individual experience and social action, that reflected cultural habits, and also a greater autonomy of subjects in relation to the control of the religious authority65. If the study of reading practices in Jewish society has much in common with popular cultural habits, proper to Europe, it nevertheless shows an evolution in the religious lives of Jews, concerning, among other things, the individualization of belief66. Of course, Yiddish books still represented, primarily, a tool for inculcating norms of behavior and preserving traditional values. If the rabbinic authorities praised the technique of printing, it was because they understood all the possible advantages they could reap from the diffusion of books for the propagation of the faith and the edification of simple Jews67. The same was true for morality books (musr sforim), which helped to interiorize norms of conduct, codes of behavior and the transmission of fundamental principles of the law, the Bible and prayers. Thus, on the title page of the edition of Seder tefila derekh yeshara, Yehiel Mikhl Epstein explains the types of readers of this kind of edifying book. It was printed, first of all, for “the ignorant (ameratsim), for old people (zkeynim), simple Jews (gemeyne balebatim), young men (neorim), women (noshim) and young women (psules)… who do not understand the holy tongue”, and also for the learned (lamdonim) so that they should know the laws (dinim) and usages (hanhoges) connected with prayer. The work was intended mainly for Jews living in small communities, (yeshuvim, kfarim), where there was no leader (manheg), rabbi or master (moyre tsedek) with whom to study in a brotherhood (khevre) or bes-medresh.
- 68 Allusion to the courtly romance by Elie Bahur Levita, the Bove bukh (Isny, 1541), which became the (...)
20Above and beyond the commercial rhetoric, commonly found on the title pages of popular books, which aimed to attract as many readers as possible, one can clearly see the multiple uses of this kind of book. First it could serve as a prayer book in the synagogue. It could also be consulted through individual silent reading at home, as a manual to accompany ritual and explain the meaning of the prayers. Lastly, it could be studied with the family when a less educated person wanted to understand the significance of a prayer or explain it to a child or relative. We read, for example, (fol. 8a-b): “It is good that each person (ben odem) should study daily by himself (zelbst lernen) according to his understanding. If he does not know the holy tongue, he must study books in Yiddish (taytsh sforim) which were composed with the fear of God, such as Tsenerene, Sefer lev tov, and Brantshpigl, but not, God forbid, (read) vain and senseless books (sifrei havolim) like books of imaginary stories (Bovebikhlein68) and other impious works”. The struggle against the reading of secular works of entertainment, deemed to divert from the study of the divine word, was one of the aims of edifying literature in Yiddish.
- 69 On this concept, see R. Engelsing, “Die Perioden der Lesengeschichte in der Neuzeit”, Archiv für G (...)
21The change in reading practices was part of a slow cultural mutation which took place between the mid-17th and 18th centuries. The most remarkable change was the diversification in the types of reading. Until this time, “intensive”69 reading was the most widespread type among the popular classes. Readers, both men and women, regularly read and re-read a limited number of works in their possession, and often knew entire chapters by heart. The increased production of inexpensive books and the greater diversity of available works furthered “extensive” reading. Books became more familiar and lost their nearly sacred aura, as they became more familiar objects in the religious lives of simple Jews. The kinds of texts that were printed, whether Bible translations, homiletic commentaries, manuals of piety, moral treatises, collections of prayers of penitence and supplication (tekhines), tell us that reading was organized around the meditation of the revealed word, spiritual exercises and mystical techniques intended to purify the soul and commune with the divine. This form of more intimate relationship with the higher spheres, which no longer required the mediation of representatives of the religious authorities, be they rabbis or other learned men, implied a retreat from society, which often took the form of small holy brotherhoods, while at the same time favoring forms of mystical “dissidence”.
- 70 On the diffusion of mysticism in Ashkenazi culture, see Z. Gries, “Kabbalistic Literature and its (...)
- 71 Ever since the Middle Ages, the rabbis discussed the advisability of transmitting esoteric knowled (...)
- 72 See M. Idel, “Major Currents in Italian Kabbalah Between 1560 and 1660”, Essential Papers on Jewis (...)
- 73 See S. Baruchson-Arbib, La culture livresque des Juifs d’Italie à la fin de la Renaissance, Paris, (...)
- 74 The first edition of Tomar Devorah was printed in Venice in 1589. There was also Or Ne’arav (Venic (...)
- 75 The first edition of Reshit Hokhmah was printed in Venice in 1579. There are abridged versions lik (...)
- 76 J. Dan, Sifrut ha-Musar veha-Derush, Jerusalem, 1975, chap. 11 and 12; idem, Jewish Mysticism and (...)
- 77 Y. Elbaum, Petihut ve-Histagrut, Jérusalem, 1990, p. 183-222.
- 78 L. Zunz, “Druckereien in Prag”, Zur Geschichte und Literatur, New York, 1976 (reprint), p. 261-268 (...)
- 79 For example, Sulzbach, where an edition of the Zohar was printed in 1684, See B. Huss, "Text und K (...)
- 80 L. et R. Fuks, Hebrew Typography in the Netherlands, Leiden, 1987, See the index ("kabbalah"), vol (...)
22Our three works reflect the growing role of mysticism in popular Jewish literature70. As the growth of individual, less directed, reading created a distance from the representatives of religious power and their manner of directing the study of canonic texts, references to mystical beliefs and practices multiplied in Yiddish works. Until the 17th century, nearly all mystical works were published in Hebrew or Aramaic. The choice of these languages implied a circulation of esoteric knowledge among circles of initiates with a high level of religious culture indispensable for reading, studying and interpreting learned works. Kabbalistic sources were hardly, or not at all, read or transmitted among middle levels of Jewish society whose religious culture was insufficient to initiate them into the “secrets of the Torah”71. In this new cultural configuration, marked by the dissemination of doctrines and practices originating in Kabbala, Italy played a leading role.72. The publication of the Zohar in Mantua (1558-1560) and Cremona (1559-1560) was an important step in the diffusion of Kabbalistic literature. Mystical works figured more and more frequently in private libraries73. Ethical treatises, based on mystical traditions, such as the works of Moshe Cordovero74 and Eliya ben Moshe de Vidas75 were often reprinted up to the 18th century76. These works spread, from Italy, to the Jewish communities of the Ashkenazi world via the printing centers of Poland77, Bohemia78, Germany79 and Amsterdam80. Thus, by the beginning of the 18th century, Kabbala, which had previously been restricted to small circles of initiates, became increasingly widespread as a religious reference.
- 81 J. Baumgarten, "La popularisation de la cabale dans des textes éthiques en Yiddish ancien de la fi (...)
- 82 J. Baumgarten, "Textes mystiques en langue Yiddish (XVIIe-XIXe siècles), les traductions des Shivh (...)
- 83 M. Faierstein, “The Influence of Kabbalah on Early Modern Yiddish Literature prior to 1648”, Revue (...)
- 84 These are found, among others, in the collection of Tekhines (Prague 1708). A translation of the V (...)
23An important indication of the transformation of the religious role and social usages of mystical texts is the dissemination of Kabbala through Yiddish, which became a possible vehicle of esoteric traditions81. The rise of the vernacular language resulted in a wider diffusion among new ranks of readers, both men and women, of excerpts from Kabbalistic literature. From the start of the 17th century, we find short fragments of mystical texts in various works in Yiddish82, such as the collection of legends, the Mayse bukh (Basel 1602), the homiletic commentary on the Bible, Tseenah u-renah (Lublin 1622) or the treatise on morals and civility, Brantshpigl (Basel 1602)83. From this period on, mystical themes penetrated different “genres” of old Yiddish literature. They entered translations of ethical treatises such as Kitsur Shelah (Fürth, 1693), an abridged version of Shnei Luhot ha-Brit by Isaiah Horowitz, published in Yiddish under the title Ets Hayyim (Frankfurt, c. 1720). They were also found in liturgical traditions such as the Maymodes (first edition, Verona, 1595), the Tikkunei Hatsot (Poland, 1790), Seder Shomerim la-Boker (Frankfurt, 1704, Hanau, 1719) and the Lurianic prayers84. Kabbalistic lore was also disseminated through narrative traditions, such as hagiographic or edifying collections, notably, Mayse Adonai (Frankfurt, 1691), Abbir Yaakov by Akiba Baer ben Yosef (Sulzbach, 1700) and Mayse ha-Shem (Frankfurt, 1691), which includes multiple adaptations in Yiddish of hagiographic legends taken from Shivhei ha-Ari. This list of titles once again shows the importance of Frankfurt in the dissemination of fragments of mystical sources in the vernacular.
- 85 Tsvi Hirsch Chotsch, Nahalat Tsevi, Frankfurt, 1711, preface non paginated.
24The preface of Nahalat Tsvi85, a Yiddish adaptation of ethical and aggadic portions of the Zohar, attempts to legitimize the popularization of mystical sources in the vernacular. Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch explains that the story of the revelation of the Torah is divided into different phases. On Mount Sinai, God told Moses to reveal the secret meaning of the Law to the wise and learned and the literal meaning to the people. Even though simple Jews could not penetrate the hidden aspects of the Torah, which is compared to a garment wrapped around the heart of the revealed law, their reward will be no smaller as long as their intention during prayer, their fervor (kavone) and their fear of God are sincere. Moses wanted to transmit the Mishnayot,Gemara and Midrashim, but God refused. Only after the destruction of the Temple, when Israel was in exile, and the Law was in danger of being forgotten, did it become necessary to put the oral law in writing. The great secrets (groyse soydes) it contains were nevertheless hidden and ended up by being lost. Then God sent Simeon bar Yohai and his disciples, who are compared to a great light that was hidden during the six days of creation, to reveal these secrets. With regard to the choice of the vernacular language, the author explains:
“In this work, we find many things written in the literal sense. Even if it is in Yiddish, the reward is great, for the Torah was transmitted to Moses in 70 languages… In the land where the language of Targum was spoken, the Zohar was transmitted to everyone (in this language), including to the people. In our country, the language spoken by everyone is Yiddish. Those who are educated must not think it shameful to read holy books (taytshe seforim) in Yiddish. That is why, here (in our country), the language of the Zohar must be Yiddish. I have therefore included, in this book, many fine literal commentaries (peshotim) that appear in the Zohar and I have revealed the hidden meaning of the verses and interpretations so that this holy book may arouse the fear of God in the heart of all.”
- 86 Yehiel Mikhl Esptein was suspected of being a Sabbatean, See Y. Emden, Torat ha-Kenaot, Amsterdam, (...)
25The dissemination of esoteric traditions furthered the new practice of reading in study circles within the holy brotherhoods (khevres). These kinds of books, full of mystical references, began to be read and commented on during collective meetings of groups of male or female readers who would listen, study and offer different interpretations from those imposed by the rabbinic authorities and learned men, for example, in the course of lessons in a house of study. Collective reading favored new forms of social encounters, even meetings of “heretics”. Various indications lead us to believe that Kav ha-yashar and Nahalat Tsvi were studied in small circles of the Sabbatean movement. We do not claim that they were studied exclusively in this marginal type of assembly, but we have reason to believe that they were read and interpreted by prophets, visionaries and itinerant preachers in order to spread religious propaganda related to the return of Shabbatai Tsevi86.
- 87 G. Scholem, Sabbataï Tsevi, le Messie mystique, Lagrasse, 1983, p. 295-296. On the edition of the (...)
- 88 Jacob Sasportas, for example, criticized the fact that Nathan of Gaza suggested that his disciples (...)
- 89 Two editions of daily devotions by Nathan Gaza were published in Frankfurt in 1666. The rabbi of F (...)
- 90 Naphtali Katz was known to be a Ba’al Shem. A story is told that, in 1711, a fire broke out in his (...)
- 91 The title page of Hemdat Tsvi shows two stags (tsvi) carrying a crown with a quotation (Isaiah, 28 (...)
- 92 According to E. Mehlsack and D. Kahana, Tsevi Hirsh Chotsch belonged to the ascetic strand of Sabb (...)
- 93 G. Scholem, « Shabbetai Zevi », La Kabbale, Paris, 1998, p. 414.
- 94 KHY, 102.
- 95 Herschel Tsoref (1663-1700) was at the center of a circle of “believers” to whom he revealed proph (...)
- 96 KHY, 11.
- 97 For example, Naggid u-Metsaveh (Amsterdam, 1712) and the Shulhan arukh shel Ari (Frankfurt on the (...)
26Various types of texts were printed by the Sabbateans and circulated by their followers, among them, works of penitential devotion, spiritual exercises and liturgical collections, the reading of which was part of the purification of the Jewish people, an indispensable condition for the coming of the Messiah87. But above all it was the Zohar, as a receptacle of the “mysteries of the divinity”, of descriptions of redemption, the end of time and the messianic era, that became an essential text in the theology of Shabbataï Tsvi and his disciples88. If sources exist on the reception of Sabbateanism in Frankfurt89, we find little information on the period that followed the apostasy of the false Messiah, undoubtedly due to fear of the rabbinic authorities, which led to silence and dissimulation. One can assume that, in this community as in many others in Europe, there still existed centers of Sabbateanism. Let us recall that, at the time when our three books came out, there lived in Frankfurt the av beyt din and Kabbalist, Naphtali Katz90, whose attitude to Shabbatai Tsvi was certainly hostile, but who nonetheless, gave his approval (haskamot) to various Sabbatean works including Hemdat Tsvi (Amsterdam, 1706) by the author of the Zohar in Yiddish, Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch91. Nahalat Tsvi is a possible example of mystical production in the vernacular, which was disseminated by members of the “sect” to prepare the people for repentance and redemption92. The authors of Kav ha-yashar and Nahalat Tsvi themselves seem to have had connections with Sabbatean circles. The title of Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover’s work may be regarded as an indirect allusion to the Kabbala of Nathan of Gaza, for whom the “light of thought” (or ha-mahshava) rises in the “right quantity” (kav ha-yashar) to the space (tehiru) created after the tsimtsum93. On the title page of the book, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover justifies the title by explaining that it has the same numerical value as Tsvi. Elsewhere in his work, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover explains, based on gematria94: “This I received from the divine man [ha-ish ha-élohi], our master, Rav Heschel Tsoref, z’’l”. We will recall that the latter was a mystical ascetic, a visionary, and a leader of the Sabbatean movement in Poland95. In his text, Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover also mentions Yehuda Hassid, the Maggid of Szylowiec, a Sabbatean prophet in Poland96. But above all, even if the Sabbateans who wrote the ethical works tried to dissimulate direct allusions to the theology of Shabbataï Tsvi, Kav ha-yashar can be considered an example of homiletic literature which might have circulated in Sabbatean circles between 1660 and the first decades of the 18th century. During this period, those whom G. Scholem calls “moderate Sabbateans”, concentrated their reflection on repentance and moral concern. The errors and failures of the previous period aroused the desire for redemption. The will to individual purification and collective liberation favored the publication of treatises that combined ascetic practices, prayers and penitential exercises, messianic speculations and Kabbalistic themes, in particular the use of kavvanot, yihudim and meditation on the letters of the Torah (tserufim). Aside from speculative texts, a more “popular” form of Kabbala was also disseminated, based on certain edifying notions and supplemented by legends from the Talmud, the Midrashim and narrative parts of the Zohar or the Shivhei ha-Ari97. One should also mention Shevet Musar (Constantinople, 1712) by Eliyah ha-Kohen ha-Itamari, which was translated into Yiddish (Amsterdam, 1732).
- 98 Judah Leib ben Jacob Holleschau Prossnitz (c.1670-1730). His Sabbatean sermons provoked the hostil (...)
- 99 L.I. Rabinowitz, "Perlhefter, Isaachar Behr ben Jehudah Moshe", Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 13, col (...)
- 100 Sent to Italy, he lived with the Sabbatean, Abraham Rovigo of Modena. See G. Scholem, "Halamotav s (...)
- 101 He was the son-in-law of the Sabbatean preacher, Yehuda Hassid, with whom he emigrated to the Land (...)
- 102 On Rabbi Zadok, see G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 162-3.
- 103 He was close to Heschel Tsoref and lived in Italy with the Sabbateans, Abraham Ravigo and Benjamin (...)
- 104 B-Z. Dinur, "Aliyatah shel havurat rabi Yehuda Hasid le-Erets Yisrael ke-reshitam shel ha-zmanim h (...)
27The late 17th and early 18th centuries were characterized in Germany, Bohemia and Moravia by the dissemination of Sabbatean themes by preachers, prophets and visionaries from the middle levels of Jewish society. In small clandestine circles of ascetic pietists, the writings of Nathan of Gaza were re-copied and studied, along with the Zohar, ethical treatises and Kabbalistic texts. One can mention, in Moravia and Silesia, the preacher (mokhiah) and peddlerLoebele (Leibele) Prossnitz who, it is said, was “converted” to the Sabbatean doctrine by the editor of Taytsh-Zohar, Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, during a stay in Prosstnitz in 1696. Among his followers was Meir Eisenstadt, who was a rabbi in Prossnitz in the early 18th century98. We know of Issachar Behr Perlhefter99 in Bohemia and Mordekhai ben Hayyim100 in Moravia, Hungary and Poland. Another Sabbatean center was formed in Mannheim with Isaiah Hassid of Zbarach101 who, in his beyt ha-midrash, gave sermons calling for repentance. From Vilna, we have mentioned the goldsmith Heschel Tsoref who became a Sabbatean prophet, and in Grodno, Zadok102 or Hayyim Malakh103 who propagated the ideas of Nathan of Gaza in Poland and Podolia, as did Moshe Meir Kamenker. We also have testimonies, from around 1700, about the holy brotherhood (havruta qedoshah) of Yehuda Hassid, a group of Sabbateans, known as Hassidim, who were opposed to the authority of the rabbis and leaders of the kehilot and were given to extreme ascetism and Messianic speculations104. We also know that some of the most influential preachers and authors of ethical books centering on ascetism were secret followers of Sabbateanism. However, we do not possess any ethical or mystical books reflecting the style of the sermons given in the vernacular at clandestine meetings of “believers”.
- 105 This aspect is dealt with in my article "Eighteenth-Century Ethics and Mysticism in Central Europe (...)
28Kav ha-yashar and Nahalat Tsvi cannot be reduced merely to Sabbatean documents, because, as edifying books, they were read by a great many readers. They can, however, be included among the treatises that were read and interpreted by Sabbatean followers, in individual or collective readings. Although we have no direct testimony concerning these clandestine assemblies and the social usages of the works, their contents have certain points in common with edifying works which centered on purification through ascetism and mortification, as promoted by preachers and moral instructors (maggidim), and which exhorted the Jewish people to self-sacrifice, penitence and confession of sins. In any case, Kav ha-yashar reflects the penetration of Kabbalistic ideas into old Yiddish literature and the incorporation of aspects, even though fragmentary, of Sabbatean “theology” in the form of sermons. The author’s aim was to arouse the fear of sin and transgression, to shed light on the sins of the generation and to call for collective repentance. Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover criticized simple Jews for their deviant conduct and moral imperfection, but also community leaders for their nepotism, corruption, indifference to poverty and quest for money, the consequences of which would strengthen the forces of evil, disturb the cosmic order, prolong the exile of the Shekhina and thus delay redemption105.
- 106 . G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 167. See also his Bibliographica Kabbalistica, Leipzig, 1927, p. 2 (...)
- 107 Shabbataï Tsevi wanted to expunge Adam’s original sin and Eve’s wrongdoing and institute a new law (...)
- 108 The haskamah of R. Naphtali ha-Cohen Katz of Frankfurt gives his approval to the printing of liter (...)
- 109 Moses Hagiz, a bitter opponent of Sabbateanism, was indignant that the Zohar was being taught to t (...)
29The connection with the Sabbatean movement is also seen in Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch and his Yiddish translation of the Zohar. According to G. Scholem, his commentary on the Tikkunei Zohar, Hemdat Tsvi (Amsterdam, 1706), “shows his Sabbatean belief”106. Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch may have belonged to the circle of Heschel Tsoref while he was living in Cracow, and before he fled to Germany, after the scandal caused by the publication of his commentary on the Zohar. According to its preface, Nahalat Tsvi aimed to accelerate the final redemption that could come only “through the study of the Zohar, which each must study according to his grasp and his understanding”. There is another reason to think that the Yiddish translation of the Zohar may have been read in Sabbatean circles. The references to the readers of the book mention less educated men, children and also Jewish women and we know that the Messianic theology of Shabbataï Tsvi assigned a central place to women. This was expressed, in particular, by an appeal to women to read the Torah, the desire to promote equality of the sexes and the participation of women in study circles107. In Taytsh-Zohar, we find various references to women readers108. The title page is encircled with a biblical citation from Exodus (19,3): “you must tell the House of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel”. The Midrash and Rashi comment: “To the house of Jacob, refers to women. To the children of Israel means we must explain to men”. We also find the verse: “Assemble the people, men and women” (Deuteronomy 31,12) and the passage: “secret things [ha-nistarot] belong to the Lord our God, but revealed things [ha-niglot] belong to all, to us and our children, to practice all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29, 28). In Sabbatean study circles, women could read and study, including prayers of supplication (tekhines), morality books (sifrei muser), collections of mystical prayers inspired by Lurianic tradition, hagiographic legends on Siméon bar Yohai and Isaac Luria, and the Zohar in Yiddish. The increase in the reading of Kabbalistic works by women readers bears witness to an evolution in the division of sexual roles in traditional Jewish culture and the dissemination of Kabbala in Europe between the 17th and 18th centuries109.
30Books in Yiddish, long studied mainly from the viewpoint of their content and as translations, have been viewed primarily as vehicles for the transmission of Hebrew sources to general readers. The study of the preparatory phases of printing, and of the visual space, page layout, technical choices, and the reception of Yiddish books provide important testimony on the cultural habits of traditional Jewish society and on the religious mutations that accompanied the growth of the printing industry. If popular Jewish books played a lesser role in the emergence of new doctrines, they nonetheless reflect changes in the transmission of rabbinic sources and in reading practices, at a time when mysticism was taking a greater place in religious life and when new means of appropriating canonic texts were spreading to less educated readers. Yiddish books were both a factor in the conservation of Jewish tradition and a laboratory of Jewish modernity.
1 Two classic works on the history of printed books: L. Febvre, H-J. Martin, L’apparition du livre, Paris, 1958 (English transl. The Coming of the Book, the Impact of Printing 1450-1800, London, 1976; and Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols. Cambridge, 1979. Also worthy of mention: D.C. McMurtrie, The Book, The Story of Printing and Bookmaking, New York, 1943; S.H. Steinberg, Five Hundred Years of Printing, Harmondsworth, 1989; K. Schottenloher, Books of the Western World, a Cultural History, Jefferson, 1989.
2 Among the early works: H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-defus ha-ivri, 4 volumes, Antwerp, 1932-37. Among more recent works: Z. Gries, Ha-Sefer ke-sokhen tarbut, 1700-1900, Tel-Aviv, 2002 (English transl, Oxford, 2007). On technical developments in printing, see: J. Moran, Printing Presses, History and Development from the Fifteenth Century to Modern Times, London, 1973.
3 L. Fontaine, Histoire du colportage en Europe, Paris, 1993.
4 Ch. Shmeruk, Ha-Iyurim le-sefer yidish ba-meot 16-17, Jerusalem, 1986.
5 Jewish books (Judisch buchere) are mentioned in Frankfurt official records at the end of the 15th century, notably in Frankfurter Urkundenbuch aur frühgeschichte des Buchdruckes, publ. by W.K. Zülch et G. Mori, Frankfort, 1920, p. 57 and 59.
6 In Frankfurt, booksellers and printers were able to store their books in warehouses between one fair and the next. See B. Gebhard, Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte, publ. by H. Grundmann, Stuttgart, 1954, vol. 2, p. 395.
7 Frankfurt enjoyed an excellent geographic location, at the junction of many commercial and strategic routes, one of the factors which explain its rapid expansion. The town’s burghers and guilds took good advantage of this situation to extend their privileges and make Frankfurt one of the most important free cities of the empire. See, among others, “Frankfurt-am-Main”, Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, Paris, vol. XVIII, p. 549-69. The autumn fair was increasingly visited by book dealers and professionals. With the growth of printing in Amsterdam, the links between Frankfurt and Holland strengthened. Many booksellers, who were also publishers and printers, such as Menassseh ben Israel, often attended the Frankfurt fairs in order to negotiate contracts and sell their products to shopkeepers. On the history of the fair, see F. Kapp et J. Goldfriedrich, Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels, Leipzig, 1886-1913; A. Dietz, Zur Geschichte des frankfürter Büchermesse, 1462-1792, Frankfurt, 1921.
8 Frankfurt had a large Jewish community which, in 1462, centered around the Jewish street (Judengasse), which was not far from the area of the book trade. The Jewish population was constantly growing. In 1463 the city had 110 Jews and in 1610, around 3,000. On the history of the Jews of Frankfurt, see, among others, I. Krakauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt am Main, 2 vols, Frankfurt, 1925-27.
9 According to Y. Vinograd, 185 Hebrew titles can be found for the period 1640 to 1739, See Y. Vinograd, Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book, Jerusalem, 1995, p. XXIV-XXV. On printing in Frankfurt, see H.B. Friedberg, Toldot ha-defus ha-ivri, Antwerp, 1935, p. 62-69; H.C. Zafren, “Hebrew Printing by and for Frankfurter Jews – to 1800”, in Jüdische Kultur in Frankfurt am Main von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Karl. E. Grözinger (éd), Frankfurt, 1997, p. 231-271.
10 See, I. Krakauer, Op. cit., 1927, vol. 2, 1927, p. 101-103. A. Dietz, Frankfurter Handelsgeschichte, Op. cit., 1923, vol. III, p. 162ff. Jewish works were also printed in various German cities which were growing in importance, such as Hanau, Homburg, Offenbach or Fürth. In 1701, for example, the authorities tried to ban the printing of Jewish books. But as the book trade had become the source of substantial revenues, the ban was lifted. See H.B. Friedberg, Op. cit., 1935, p. 65; A.H. Haberman, Ha-Sefer ha-ivri ve-hitpathuto, Jerusalem, 1968, p. 150; The anti-Jewish insurrection of 1614 during which the mob, led by agitator Vincent Fettmilch, entered the Jewish quarter, burned books, desecrated Torah scrolls, and killed people, is indicative of the violent tensions between Christians and Jews. The history of this pogrom is found in Megilat Vintz (1616) by Elhanan ben Abraham Helen, see R. Ulmer, Turmoil, Trauma and Triumph, the Fettmilch Uprising in Frankfurt am Main (1612-1616) According to the Megilas Vintz, Frankfurt, 2001.
11 According to a statistical source of 1694, one Jew was active in the old book trade and seven more in the commerce of Hebrew and Yiddish books. Cited by I. Krakauer, Op. cit., 1927,vol. 2, p. 109. The names of several Jewish printers, in this period, are known: they include Joseph Trier Cohen, Lesser Schick, Solomon Hanau or Zalman and Abraham Katz. Also known are the booksellers Isaac and Seligman Katz, who printed for Christian publishers. See H.D. Friedberg, Op. cit., 1935, p. 64.
12 On printing in Augsburg, see Augsburger Buchdruck und Verlagswesen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, publ. by H. Gier and J. Janota, Wiesbaden, 1997; M. Rosenfeld, Der jüdische Buchdruck in Augsburg in der 1. Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts, London, 1985.
13 On the history of Hebrew printing in Basel, see L. Prijs, Die Basler hebräischen Drucke (1492-1866), Olten, 1965.
14 On Yiddish printing in Frankfurt, see Ch. Turniansky, “Yiddish Literature in Frankfurt am Main”, in Op. cit., Wiesbaden, 1997, p. 273-285.
15 A first edition was printed in Frankfurt in 1703 by Johann Wust, see M. Steinschneider, Catalogus… Bibliotheca Bodleiana (St CB), Berlin, 1860, p. 1274, n° 6526, 1 and a second edition in 1713 (St CB, 5626, 3). The work discussed here is the third edition, published in 1717, which consists of 104 folios and 40 chapters, see St CB, 5656, 4.
16 The Christians who took part in the publication of Yiddish works were at the same time printers, publishers and booksellers who offered the books they printed for sale and held part ownership. We may assume they sold the books to Jewish booksellers, in Frankfurt, in the region or further afield, in an economic partnership with Jewish peddlers. In Frankfurt, the agreements between Jews and Christians were usually privately arranged, without resort to a notary, as was the case, for example, in Amsterdam or Venice. The agreement stipulated ownership rights, sharing of costs and profits, types of works to be printed, number of copies, methods of sale and distribution, in particular the use of a system of barter (Tauschhandel). The choice of Hebrew characters to be used and the format were the prerogative of the Jewish workers who were hired by the printer for the duration of production of the book.
17 We know the names of some correctors (magie, magiim), typesetters (zetser) and pressmen (presn tsiher). For example, the colophon of Nahalat Tsvi praises the work of Eizik Schayer (Scheyer) who “took care of all printing needs from the beginning to the end and gave advice on the printing”. The 1709 edition of Kav ha-yashar does not include the names of the correctors, nor does the work of Yehiel Mikhl Epstein.
18 He worked for Heinrich Friese who printed catalogues for the book fair. According to H. Zafren, Johann Kellner practiced from 1708 to 1728 (Op. cit., 1997, p. 263) and according to J. Benzing, he practiced from 1698 to 1726. See J. Benzing, Die Buchdrucker des 16. Und 17. Jahrhunderts im deutschen Sprachgebiet, Wiesbaden, 1982, p. 139. He bought his typographic material in Amsterdam. Most of his books bear the mention “be-otiot amsterdam”. His printer’s mark depicts Hermes with a caduceus. See I. Yudlov, Deglei madpisim, Jerusalem, 2001, p. 64.
19 The names of these Jewish printers also appear in the edition of Tsenerene, (Frankfurt, 1726), published by Johann Kellner.
20 Balthasar Christoph Wust the elder married the daughter of the printer Kaspar Rötels. He took over his father-in-law’s printshop and carried on the practice, despite reversals of fortune, between 1656 and 1705, and printed some 200 editions. In 1680, he employed 24 typesetters and pressmen. He specialized in editions of the Bible – hence his nickname Bibel-Wust – as well as sermons and Christian exegetic literature. He too had his ups and downs and went bankrupt in the last decades of the 17th century. He printed works for Jewish agents, to whom, by 1684, he owed the sum of 24,000 gulden. He also owed 2,580 Gulden to the publisher Johann David Zunner. Later his business prospered once again. He died around 1708. See A. Dietz, Op. cit., 1921, p. 151ff; J. Benzing, Op. cit., 1982, p. 135.
21 He also printed an edition of the Mayse bukh (Frankfurt, 1702) and Sefer ma’amadot (Frankfurt, 1703). According to H. Zafren (Op. cit, 1997, p. 263), he worked from 1690 to 1707.
22 Johann David Zunner the elder died in 1653 and his son took over until his death in 1704. Between 1665 and 1704, he published 842 works, many on eastern languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic and, among others, an edition of the Zohar. In 1703, Johann David Zunner entered into partnership with the Jewish bookseller Meyer Abraham Beer, an act which provoked a violent and hostile reaction on the part of local shopkeepers. This was the first time that a Jew became a partner of a Christian publisher.
23 At the end of the 17th century Jewish booksellers dominated the market of Hebrew and Yiddish books in Frankfurt: such as Amschel zur Meise and his son Nathan Amschel Maas at the sign of Zum gueldenen Strauss, who worked with the publisher/bookseller David zum Schiff. See A. Dietz, Op. cit., tome III, 1923, p. 162-164.
24 Johann Andreae the younger, who came from a Strasbourg family, practiced from 1666 until his death in 1693. He worked in the shop of Christian Wust the elder. In 1666, he took over the shop of his brother-in-law Daniel Fievet. Of his five sons Johann Philipp and Johann Matthäus (Matthias) worked in printing. In 1707, Matthias Andrea bought up the typographic material of Johann Wust, the family Andreae worked for between 1666 and 1793. See J. Benzing, Op. cit., 1982, p. 137.
25 Matthias Andreae printed an edition of Yosippon, Tsenerene and the Book of Job with a Yiddish translation. The Andreae family printed many religious works inspired by the pietist movement. According to F. Lübbecke, who gives no precise details, Johann Phillip Andreae took part in the fight against competition from Jewish printers and shopkeepers. Elsewhere in his work, F. Lübbecke explains that the Christian financiers withdrew from the book trade because of low returns from this economic sector due notably to the long periods for the reimbursement of loans and the hazards of the trade of printer and publisher, often faced with losses and forced into bankruptcy. Frankfurt publishers had to turn to Jewish moneylenders, which created tensions. Christian publishers accused the Jews of demanding commissions and imposing too high interest rates. Their representatives made repeated complaints to the City Council and to the Emperor. As the Christian printers could not always repay the sums they borrowed, they paid off their debts in the form of book stocks, which were later resold or sold off cheaply. Although there is some truth in this explanation, it seems simplistic and does not take into account the general context of the German book market at this time. The printing and bookselling trade in Frankfurt saw periods of recession and prosperity, independent of the part played by the Jewish printers. See F. Lübbecke, Fufhundert Jahre Buch und Druck in Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt, 1948, p. 84, 89-90.
26 This excerpt is mentioned in A. Yaari, “L-yatsa sreifa franqfurt d-mayn veha-sefer ha-ivri”, Mehqerey sefer, Jerusalem, 1958, p. 58-9.
27 J. Benzing, Op. cit., 1982, p. 138.
28 Also spelt Hainscheid or Einscheit.
29 He worked from 1709 to 1711. See J. Benzing, Op.cit., 1982, p. 239 and H. Zafren, Op. cit., 1997, p. 263.
30 See L. Löwenstein, “Zur Geschichte der Juden in Fürth”, Jahrbuch der jüdisch-literarischen Gesellschaft, VI, 1908, p. 158-162.
31 Tsvi Hirsh Chotsch, Nahalat Tsvi, Frankfurt, 1711, See introduction in Hebrew non paginated.
32 After the introduction to Sefer tam ve-yashar, Fürth,1768, these lines are quite representative: “As it is not suitable to give a haskamah to a book printed in Yiddish (loshn Ashkenaz), all persons must be on guard that this book should not be printed during all the time that it can still be found in any place, so that there will not be any risk of property violation (hasagat gevul)”.
33 It was not until the late 18th century that printers and collectors began to preserve authors’ manuscripts. This fetishism for handwritten works went hand in hand with the “consecration of the writer”, whose works acquired near sacred value, particularly in relation to the “great writers” of European literature. In popular Yiddish literature, we find no author’s manuscript prepared for printing. On the emergence of the notion of the author in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, see R. Chartier, “Figures de l’auteur”, Culture écrite et société, l’ordre des livres (XIVe-XVIIIe siècle), Paris, 1996, p. 45-80.
34 Ch. Turniansky, “Les Serments oraux et écrits comme medium entre la culture canonique et les fidèles”, in Le Yiddish, langue, culture, société, ed. by J. Baumgarten and D. Bunis, Paris, 1999, p. 21-37 (Translated from, “Ha-derashah veha-derashah bi-ktav ke-metavekhot beyn ha-tarbut ha-qanonit lebeyn ha-qahal ha-rahav”, in Ha-tarbut ha-amamit, ed. by B.Z. Kedar, Jérusalem, 1996, p. 183-195.
35 E. Tcherikower, “Di geshikhte fun a literarishn plagiat: ver iz des emeser mekhaber fun Kav ha-yosher?”, Yivo bleter, 4, 1932, p. 159-167.
36 On methods of translating Hebrew sources into the vernacular and differences between the Hebrew and Yiddish versions of Kav ha-yashar, see, J. Baumgarten, “La popularisation de la cabale, quelques textes éthiques en Yiddish ancien de la fin du XVIIe et du début du XVIIIe siècle”, in, Réceptions de la Cabale, publ. by P. Gisel and L. Kaennel, Paris, 2007, p. 127-159.
37 Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover, Kav ha-yashar, Frankfurt, 1709, introduction in Hebrew (Henceforth KHY followed by the number of the chapter. Ex: KHY, 102).
38 Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover’s precise date of birth, in the mid-17th century, is unknown. He spent his childhood in Kurow near Lublin until 1658, the year the Cossacks burned and pillaged his father’s house and killed his two sisters. The father, Aaron Samuel ben Israel Koidanover, who was a rabbi, settled with his family in various cities: Langenlois (1656-1659) in Austria, Nikolsburg in Moravia, Fürth (1660-1667) and Frankfurt (1667-1674). Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover was an itinerant preacher in Germany, Poland and Lithuania. He returned for a while to Vilna, then came back to Frankfurt where he published the works of his father and a collection of Tekhines by R. Hayyim Raschwitz (Frankfurt, 1709). One of his daughters married Elhanan Hendel Kirschhan, the author of the morality book Simhas ha-nafesh (Frankfurt, 1707 and Fürth, 1727). Tsvi Hirsch Koidanover edited two treatises of the Talmud printed by Matthias Andreae, Gittin (1708) and Pesahim (1710), see M.J. Heller, Printing the Talmud, Leiden, Brill, 1999, p. 37-40. He died in 1712. See L. Loewenstein, “Zur Geschichte der Juden in Fürth”, Jahrbuch der jüdisch-literarischenGesellschaft, 6, 1908, p. 158-163; M. Brann, “Ein Sammlung Fürther Grabschriften”, Gedenkbuch zur Errinerung an David Kaufmann, publ. by M. Brann, F. Rosenthal, Breslau, 1900, p. 395.
39 Born in Vilna in 1614, died in 1676. In his lifetime, he published a Talmudic commentary, Birkat ha-Zevah (Amsterdam, 1669). Three other works were published by his son: sermons, Birkat Shmuel (Frankfurt, 1682), a book of responsa, Emunat Shmuel (Frankfurt, 1683) and a Talmudic commentary, Tifferet Shmuel (Frankfurt, 1696). See M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, publ. by J. Unna, Jérusalem, 1969, p. 87-90 et 293-95.
40 The work was printed in Sklov in 1785, nearly a century after his death, in 1700.
41 Lit. shelo ekah atarah le-atsmi as in TB Kiddushin 48b.
42 On Tsvi Hirsh ben Yerahmiel Chotsh, Kabbalist and preacher (ha-darshan ha-gadol as on the title page of the work), see G. Scholem, “Chotsch, Zevi Hirsch ben Yerahmiel”, Op. cit., 1971,t. V, col. 502-3;I. Zinberg, Di Geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn, vol. VI, New York, 1943, p. 387-390; M. Erik, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur, New York, 1979, p. 239-242.
43 On Yehiel Mikhl Epstein see, among others, M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, publ. by J. Unna, Jerusalem, 1969, p. 267-68; J. Freimann, “Geschichte der Juden in Prossnitz”, Jahrbuch der jüdisch-literarischen Gesellschjaft, 15, 1923, p. 37; B. Wachstein, “Notizen zur Geschichte der Juden in Prossnitz”, Idem, 16, 1924, p. 169-171. In this article, B. Wachstein contests the fact that Yehiel Mikhl Epstein was a rabbi in Prossnitz.
44 On the importance of this type of abridged re-writing (kitsurim), see Z. Gries, Sifrut hanhagot, Jerusalem, 1989, p. 54-70.
45 On texts in Yiddish by Yehiel Mikhl Epstein, see S. Noble, “R. Yehiel Mikhl Epstein, a dertsier un kemfer far yidish in 17tn yorhundert”, Yivo bleter, 35, 1951, p. 121-138; H. Lieberman, “Bamerkungen tsu Shloyme Nobles artikl”, Yivo bleter, 36, 1952, p. 305-319.
46 This aspect is not addressed in our presentation. On the language features of printed works in Yiddish, see Dov-Ber Kerler’s work, The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish, Oxford, 1999.
47 H. Zafren, “Variety in the Typography of Yiddish, 1535-1635”, HUCA, 1982, p. 137-163; id., “Early Yiddish Typography”, Jewish Book Annual, 44, 1986, p. 106-119; S.A. Birnbaum, “Alphabet, Hebrew”, Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 2, col. 705 et 743. Examples given in col. 701-702 (fig. 29-31) and 742 (fig. 33).
48 Except for translations of the Bible, bilingual prayer books and certain works such as Menorat ha-ma’or by Isaac Aboab (Amsterdam, 1701) translated into Yiddish by Moshe ben Simeon Frankfurt or the Sippurei mayses of R. Nahman of Bratslav (first edition Ostrog, 1815).
49 There are significant differences between the Hebrew and Yiddish texts. On this question, see J. Baumgarten, “Between translation and commentary, the bilingual editions of Kav ha-yashar by Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover”, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, 3, 2004, p. 269-287; idem, “Les traductions de textes éthico-mystiques en yiddish et le Kav ha-yashar de Tsvi Hirsh Koidanover (Francfort-sur-le-Main, 1705)”, Sha’arei Lashon, Studies in Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish Languages Presented to Moshe Bar-Asher, A. Maman, S. Fassberg and Y. Breuer (éd.), Jerusalem, Bialik Institute, Tome 3, 2007, p. 1-20.
50 One could use the French word “bricolé” in the sense defined by C. Lévi-Strauss in Lapensée sauvage as “slapping together” (“bricolage”) of elements taken from various mythical traditions. Each myth is fabricated through an assemblage of other mythical fragments. Intertextuality is one of the principal modus operandi of sacred texts, including rabbinic literature in the vernacular. See C. Lévi-Strauss, La Pensée sauvage, Paris, 1962, p. 30-49; Intertextuality, publ. by H. Plett, Berlin, 1991; G. Genette, Palimpsestes, Paris, 1982. Concerning Jewish literature, see M. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, Oxford, 1985; D. Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of the Midrash, Bloomington, 1990.
51 G. Scholem, “Ba’al Shem”, Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 4, col. 5-7; T. Preschel, “Temerls, Jacob ben Eliezer”, Ibid, vol. 15, col. 941.
52 KHY, chap. 90.
53 Isaiah Horowitz, Shnei Luhot ha-Brit, Masekhet Pesahim, Bnei Brak, s.d., p. 44.
54 See Pesahim 109b and Rosh ha-shana 11b. Sanhedrin 34b, speaks of “a night that is watched (designated) for the redemption ever since the six days of creation”. The theme of the night of the watch is thus linked to redemption.
55 KHY, 102.
56 G. Scholem, “Zoref, Joshua Heschel ben Joseph”, Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 16, col. 1223.
57 Bereshit Rabba, chap. XX, 12.
58 Genesis 3, 21.
59 This is a biblical copy established with variants, including glosses by R. Meir, see S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950, p. 20-27.
60 See Genesis 36, 15.
61 Play on the words Mutter and polis (« the mother-city »).
62 Leviticus, 16, 3.
63 Jeremiah, 1, 14.
64 See Song of Songs 4, 16.
65 R. Chartier (publ.), Pratiques de la lecture, Paris, 1985; idem, “La circulation de l’écrit”, Histoire de la France urbaine, vol. III, Paris, 1981, p. 267-282; idem, Lectures et lecteurs dans la France de l’Ancien régime, Paris, 1987; idem, “Stratégies éditoriales et lectures populaires, 1530-1660”, Histoire de l’édition française, Paris, tome I, 1982, p. 585-608; idem, “Lectures populaires”, Histoire de la vie privée, Paris, tome 3, 1986, p. 321-354; idem, Culture écrite et société, Paris, 1996; Histoires de la lecture, un bilan des recherches, publ. by R. Chartier, Paris, Imec éditions, 1995; idem, “Livres bleus et lectures populaires”, Op. cit., Le livre tromphant, 1660-1830, tome 2, Paris, 1984, p. 498-511; R. Chartier et D. Roche, “Les pratiques urbaines de l’imprimé”, Op. cit, tome 2, 1984, p. 402-429.
66 R. Bonfils, “La lecture dans les communautés juives de l’Europe occidentale au Moyen âge”, Histoire de la lecture dans le monde occidental, publ. by G. Cavallo et R. Chartier, Paris, 2001, p. 182-219.
67 A. Berliner, Ueber den Einfluss des ersten hebräischen Buchdrucks auf den Cultus une die Cultur der Juden, Frankfort, 1896.
68 Allusion to the courtly romance by Elie Bahur Levita, the Bove bukh (Isny, 1541), which became the epitome of the secular book, condemned by the rabbis. The name of its hero, Bovo, came to represent a certain literary genre, i.e., fantasy tales and secular works of entertainment often inspired by Christian sources.
69 On this concept, see R. Engelsing, “Die Perioden der Lesengeschichte in der Neuzeit”, Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, X, 1970, p. 945-1002; idem, Der Bürger als Leser: Lesergeschichte in Deutschland 1500-1800, Stuttgart, 1974.
70 On the diffusion of mysticism in Ashkenazi culture, see Z. Gries, “Kabbalistic Literature and its Role in Hasidism”, Op. cit., 2007, p. 69-90.
71 Ever since the Middle Ages, the rabbis discussed the advisability of transmitting esoteric knowledge to the population at large. Some were completely opposed to the revelation of such “secrets”. Others thought that the time had come to lift part of the veil and disseminate the Zohar. In the 16th century, the printing of the Zohar in Mantua and Cremona raised a controversy among Italian rabbis. See, among others, S. Asaf, “Le-Fulmus al hadpasat sifrei ha-qabbalah”, Meqorot u-mehqarim be-toldot Israel, Jerusalem, 1946, p. 238-246; I. Tishby, “Ha-pulmus al sefer ha-Zohar ba-meah ha-shesh esreh be-italyah”, Perakim, I, Jerusalem, 1967-1968, p. 131-182; B. Huss, “Les étapes majeures dans l’histoire de la réception du Zohar” in, Réceptions de la Kabbale, publ. by P. Gisel and L. Kaennel, Paris, 2007, p. 59-72.
72 See M. Idel, “Major Currents in Italian Kabbalah Between 1560 and 1660”, Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy, publ. by D. Ruderman, New York, 1992, p. 345-68.
73 See S. Baruchson-Arbib, La culture livresque des Juifs d’Italie à la fin de la Renaissance, Paris, 2001, p. 137-144; G. Busi, Libri ebraici a Mantova. I. Le edizioni del XVI secolo nella Biblioteca della Comunità ebraica, Fiesole 1996, p. 212 no 333; idem, Edizioni ebraiche del XVI secolo nelle bibliotheche dell’Emila Romagna, Bologna, 1987, n° 537-538.
74 The first edition of Tomar Devorah was printed in Venice in 1589. There was also Or Ne’arav (Venice, 1587), Perush Seder Avodah Yom ha-Kippurim (Venice, 1587) and Sefer Gerushin (Venice, 1602), as well as abridged versions such as Pelah ha-Rimmon (Venice 1600) by Menahem Azariah de Fano and Asis Rimmonim (Venice, 1601) by Samuel Gallico.
75 The first edition of Reshit Hokhmah was printed in Venice in 1579. There are abridged versions like Reshit Hokhmah Katsar (Venice, 1600) or the version of Reshit Hokhmah Katsar (Asti, 1580) by Jacob ben Mordekhay Poggeti. Another example is Tappuhei Zahav by Yehiel Melli (Mantoue, 1623).
76 J. Dan, Sifrut ha-Musar veha-Derush, Jerusalem, 1975, chap. 11 and 12; idem, Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics, Seattle, 1986, chap. 4; Z. Gries, Sifrut ha-Hanhagot, Jerusalem, 1989, p. 41-102.
77 Y. Elbaum, Petihut ve-Histagrut, Jérusalem, 1990, p. 183-222.
78 L. Zunz, “Druckereien in Prag”, Zur Geschichte und Literatur, New York, 1976 (reprint), p. 261-268 et idem, “Annalen der hebräischen Typographie von Prag (1513-1657)”, Op. cit., 1976, p. 268-303.
79 For example, Sulzbach, where an edition of the Zohar was printed in 1684, See B. Huss, "Text und Kontext des Sulzbacher “Zohar” von 1684",Morgen-Glantz 16 (2006) 135-159.
80 L. et R. Fuks, Hebrew Typography in the Netherlands, Leiden, 1987, See the index ("kabbalah"), vol. I, p. 223 and vol. 2, p. 488. We can cite, among others, the edition Zohar Hadash and Sefer Raziel (Amsterdam,1701).
81 J. Baumgarten, "La popularisation de la cabale dans des textes éthiques en Yiddish ancien de la fin du xviie et du début du xviiie siècle”, Op.cit., 2007, p. 127-59.
82 J. Baumgarten, "Textes mystiques en langue Yiddish (XVIIe-XIXe siècles), les traductions des Shivhei Hayyim Vital et des Shivhei ha-Ari", Kabbalah, 2, 1997, p. 65-103.
83 M. Faierstein, “The Influence of Kabbalah on Early Modern Yiddish Literature prior to 1648”, Revue des Études Juives (to be published).
84 These are found, among others, in the collection of Tekhines (Prague 1708). A translation of the Vidui was published in Sefer Tam ve-Yashar by Jacob ben Jeremiah (Frankfurt 1674, Sulzbach 1783).
85 Tsvi Hirsch Chotsch, Nahalat Tsevi, Frankfurt, 1711, preface non paginated.
86 Yehiel Mikhl Esptein was suspected of being a Sabbatean, See Y. Emden, Torat ha-Kenaot, Amsterdam, 1752, fol. 16b (reproduction of the original edition, Jerusalem, 1971); G. Scholem, "Shabbetai Zevi", Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 14, col. 1248.
87 G. Scholem, Sabbataï Tsevi, le Messie mystique, Lagrasse, 1983, p. 295-296. On the edition of the Orders of Devotional and Penitential Prayers of Nathan of Gaza, see idem, p. 908-909.
88 Jacob Sasportas, for example, criticized the fact that Nathan of Gaza suggested that his disciples substitute the study of the Zohar for that of halakhic and Talmudic texts. G. Scholem, Op. cit., 1983, p. 671. On the centrality of the Zohar in Sabbatean circles, see A. Elkayam, "Ha-Zohar ha-kadosh shel Shabbetai Tsvi", Kabbalah 3, 1998, p. 345-347; B. Huss, "Ha-shabbta’ut ve-toldot hitkablut Sefer Zohar”, The Sabbatian Movement and its Aftermath, Messianism, Sabbatianism and Frankism, publ. by R. Elior, Jérusalem, 2001, p. 53-71 (Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 16).
89 Two editions of daily devotions by Nathan Gaza were published in Frankfurt in 1666. The rabbi of Frankfurt, R. Menahem Mendel Bass, gave his approval to the work of Naphtali Bacharah, Emeq ha-Melekh. See G. Scholem, Op. cit., 1983, p. 533-534.
90 Naphtali Katz was known to be a Ba’al Shem. A story is told that, in 1711, a fire broke out in his house. Instead of calling for help, he allowed the fire to burn so as to test to reliability of his amulets, in particular, one with the figure of a stag (Tsvi). The Jewish quarter of Frankfurt was entirely destroyed. Naphtali Katz was imprisoned and had to leave the city. See J.J. Schudt, Juedische Merwuerdigkeiten, Frankfurt, 1715, livre 2, chap. 6, p. 70-131; K.E. Grözinger, "Jüdische Wundermanner in Deutschland", in Judentum im deutschen Sprachraum, publ. by K.L. Grözinger, Frankfurt, 1991, p. 190-221; A. Yaari, "L-yatsa sreifa franqfurt d-mayn veha-sefer ha-ivri", Mehqarey sefer, Jerusalem, 1958, p. 55-61; Y. Liebes, "A profile of R. Naphtali Katz from Frankfurt and his attitude towards Sabbateanism", Mysticism, Magic and Kabbalah in Ashkenazi Judaism, publ. by K.E. Grözinger et J. Dan, Berlin, 1995, p. 208-222.
91 The title page of Hemdat Tsvi shows two stags (tsvi) carrying a crown with a quotation (Isaiah, 28, 5): “In that day, the Lord of Hosts shall become a crown of beauty (la’ateret tsvi) and a diadem of glory for the remnant of His people”. On either side there are two other biblical quotations; “The name of the Lord is a tower of strength” (Prov. 19,10) and “This is the gateway of the Lord-The righteous shall enter through it” (Ps. 119, 10). On the various Sabbatean allusions on this title page, see, A. Yaari, Deglei ha-Madpisim ha-Ivriim, Jerusalem, 1943, n° 89 et p. 154-55. A. Yaari compares this title with that of the Sabbatean work, the Tikkun, Amsterdam, 1666 (Reproduced in A.M. Haberman, Shaarei Sefarim Ivriim, Safed, 1969, n° 40, 40a, p. 54-55. Y. Liebes (Op. cit, 1995, p. 210) also cites Or Israel by the Kabbalist Israel Jaffe of Shklov (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1703) and Abak Seforim by Abraham Cuenque (Amsterdam, 1704). In 1876, at the request of Naphtali Katz, Abraham Cuenque wrote his recollections of souvenirs about Shabbetai Tsevi. Naphtali Katz was in contact with other Sabbateans, including R. Ephraim Ha-Cohen and Shabbetai Tsevi’s son.
92 According to E. Mehlsack and D. Kahana, Tsevi Hirsh Chotsch belonged to the ascetic strand of Sabbateans, See E. Mehlsack, Sefer Ravyah, Ofen, 1827, fol. 27b, paragraph 7, note 2; D. Kahana, Toledot ha-Mekubbalim, ha-Shabbetaim veHa-hasidim, Odessa , vol. 2, 1914, p. 123-126. G. Scholem explains: “During the period indicated, we see a great many publications about such subjects in Judeo-German, and a large part of this production would seem to come from the Sabbatean sect.” See G. Scholem, "Le mouvement sabbatéen en Pologne" in, Aux origines religieuses du judaïsme laïque. De la mystique aux Lumières, Paris, 2000, p. 169.
93 G. Scholem, « Shabbetai Zevi », La Kabbale, Paris, 1998, p. 414.
94 KHY, 102.
95 Herschel Tsoref (1663-1700) was at the center of a circle of “believers” to whom he revealed prophesies and esoteric explanations often based on gematriot. Many can be found in his work, Sefer ha-tsoref. See G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 149-171.
96 KHY, 11.
97 For example, Naggid u-Metsaveh (Amsterdam, 1712) and the Shulhan arukh shel Ari (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1690) by Yaakov Zemah, Yalkut Reuveni (Prague, 1660; Wilmersdorf, 1681) by Reuben Hoeshke, Midrashei ha-Peliah (Poland, 17th century), the works of the preacher Bezalel ben Solomon of Slutsk and of Berakhia Berakh Spira of Poland. See G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 154-158.
98 Judah Leib ben Jacob Holleschau Prossnitz (c.1670-1730). His Sabbatean sermons provoked the hostility of the rabbis in the Jewish communities of Moravia and Silesia where he lived, including Glogau and Breslau. Jonathan Eybeschuetz is thought to have studied with him and with Meir Eisenstadt. In 1724, he proclaimed himself Messiah, son of Joseph, and in 1726, he was forbidden from entering the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt. See G. Scholem, "Prossnitz, Judah Leib ben Jacob Holleschau", Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 13, col. 1240-41.
99 L.I. Rabinowitz, "Perlhefter, Isaachar Behr ben Jehudah Moshe", Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 13, col. 295.
100 Sent to Italy, he lived with the Sabbatean, Abraham Rovigo of Modena. See G. Scholem, "Halamotav shel ha-Shabbatai R. Mordekhay Ashkenazi", Sefer Dinaburg, Jerusalem, 1938; Th. Friedman, "Mordekhay ben Hayyim Eisenstadt", Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 12, col. 311.
101 He was the son-in-law of the Sabbatean preacher, Yehuda Hassid, with whom he emigrated to the Land of Israel in 1700 and a follower of Loebele Prossnitz. See D. Tamar: "Isaiah Hasid of Zbarazh", Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 9, col. 74-75.
102 On Rabbi Zadok, see G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 162-3.
103 He was close to Heschel Tsoref and lived in Italy with the Sabbateans, Abraham Ravigo and Benjamin Cohen. See, G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 171-186; idem, "Malakh, Hayyim ben Solomon", Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, vol. 11, col. 818-19.
104 B-Z. Dinur, "Aliyatah shel havurat rabi Yehuda Hasid le-Erets Yisrael ke-reshitam shel ha-zmanim ha-hadashim be-toldot Yisrael" in, Be-mifneh ha-dorot, Jerusalem, 1955, p. 26-29, 297. See the reply of M. Benayahu, "Ha-Hevra shel Rabbi Yehuda Hasid ve-aliyata le-Erets Yisrael", Sefunot 3, 1960, p. 131-182. We find a description of the members of this circle, known as Chasidim, in J.J. Schudt, Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten, Frankfurt, 1714, vol. II, p. 58-63; P. Beer, Geschichte, Lehren und Meinungen aller bestandenen und noch bestehenden religiösen Sekten der Juden und der Geheimlehre oder Kabbalah, Brünn, vol. II, 1823, p. 297-99.
105 This aspect is dealt with in my article "Eighteenth-Century Ethics and Mysticism in Central Europe: Kav ha-yosher by Hirsh Tsvi Koidanover, Frankfurt, 1709", Studia Rosenthaliana, Between two Worlds: The German-Yiddish Encounters, publ. by Jeremy Dauber and Jerold C. Frakes (to be published in 2009).
106 . G. Scholem, Op. cit., 2000, p. 167. See also his Bibliographica Kabbalistica, Leipzig, 1927, p. 209. G. Scholem mentions, as evidence, the illustration representing a stag that appears at the beginning of the book. See infra note 90. We point out that a short introduction to Kabbala by Zvi Hirsch Chotsch was published in German, See Zvi Hirsch ben Jerahmiel Chotsch, Verzeichnuss der General- und Haubt- Lehr Sätzen der alten Cabbalisten, Cracow, 1698, (Jerusalem, Collection G. Scholem, cote RR 8907). I. Tishby, "Translations of the Zohar" in, Wisdom of the Zohar, vol. 1, Oxford, 2002, p. 101-103, does not mention translations of the Zohar into Yiddish or other Jewish languages.
107 Shabbataï Tsevi wanted to expunge Adam’s original sin and Eve’s wrongdoing and institute a new law giving women equality and freedom. See, on this subjet, G. Scholem, Op. cit., 1983, p. 395-397, et A. Rapoport-Albert, "Al ha-maamad ha-nashim be-shabbta’ut", Op. cit., Jerusalem, 2001, p. 143-327. In his writings, Shabbatai Tsevi clearly explains that all who believe in him – men, women and children – will be saved and rewarded. See notably his letter reproduced in J. Sasportas, Tsitsat novel Tsvi, publ. by I. Tishby, Jerusalem, 1954, p. 129.
108 The haskamah of R. Naphtali ha-Cohen Katz of Frankfurt gives his approval to the printing of literal commentaries and edifying words on the Sefer ha-Zohar in Yiddish (leshon ashkenaz) “for women and the unlearned”. The haskamah of R. Wolf de Dessau also explains that the author has “the pure intention of printing the revealed words of the book of the Zohar, which may be said in every language that women understand”, cited by B. Huss, "Ha-shabbta’ut ve-toldot hitkablut Sefer Zohar", Op. cit., 2001, p. 66-67. A. Rapoport-Albert mentions (see reference note 107) groups of Sabbatean women who study the aggadot and the Zohar in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Altona, among other cities, and in the 18th century in Frankist circles in Prague. In the same article, the author reports the content of letters and responsa, notably by Ezekiel Landau, set in the context of the quarrel between Jacob Emden and Jonathan Eybeschütz, in which he mentions young men and women who study Kabbala without the necessary knowledge (p. 248). See also Ch. Weissler, "Woman as High Priest, a Kabbalistic Prayer in Yiddish for Lighting Shabbat Candles" in, Essential Papers in Kabbalah, publ. by, L. Fine, New York, 1995, p. 400-437.
109 Moses Hagiz, a bitter opponent of Sabbateanism, was indignant that the Zohar was being taught to the broad public, including children and women and, moreover, in the vernacular, in the large communities of Europe. A similar attack came from R. Ezekiel Landau, who stigmatized excesses in the study of Zohar by followers of the Sabbatean sect. We also find texts concerning the Frankists, notably in Prague, who studied esoteric subjects, and the aggadah instead of the Bible, the Talmud and halakhic texts. Interest in the Zohar seems to go back to the 16th century in Poland, and also in Prague, as Moses Isserles gives us to understand in his Sefer Torat ha-Olah (Prague, 1570), where he explains that “ordinary people, who walk in darkness and cannot distinguish right from left, and cannot even understand a chapter of Biblical commentary by Rashi, hasten to study Kabbala.” Cited by Y. Elbaum, Op. cit., 1990, p. 1. I. Tishby, Op. cit., 2002, p. 38-39 et 111-112.Haut de page
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