The Book of Delight and Other Papers
Part 4 out of 4
birds, beasts, and fishes. I have seen Matzoth made in this way in London,
and have myself eaten many a Matzah sheep and monkey, but, unfortunately, I
cannot recollect whether it was during Passover. In Holland, these shaped
cakes are still used, but in "strict" families only before the Passover.
Limits of space will not allow me to quote some interesting notes with
reference to Hebrew inscriptions on cakes generally, which would furnish
parallels to the Holy! holy! of the Coptic wafers. Children received such
cakes as a "specific for becoming wise." Some directions may be found in
_Sefer Raziel_ for making charm-cakes, which must have been the reverse of
charming from the unutterable names of angels written on them. One such
charm, however, published by Horwitz, I cannot refrain from mentioning, as
it is very curious and practical. It constitutes a never-failing antidote
to forgetfulness, and, for aught I know, may be quite as efficacious as
some of the quack mnemonic systems extensively advertised nowadays.
"The following hath been tried and found reliable, and Rabbi Saadia ben
Joseph made use of it. He discovered it in the cave of Rabbi Eleazar
Kalir, and all the wise men of Israel together with their pupils applied
the remedy with excellent effect:--At the beginning of the month of Sivan
take some wheatmeal and knead it, and be sure to remain _standing._ Make
cakes and bake them, write thereon the verse, 'Memory hath He made among
His wondrous acts: gracious and merciful is the Lord.' Take an egg and
boil it hard, peel it, and write on it the names of five angels; eat such
a cake every day, for thirty days, with an egg, and thou wilt learn all
thou seest, and wilt never forget."
The manuscript illuminated Haggadahs are replete with interest and
information. But I must avoid further observations on these manuscripts
except in so far as they illustrate my present subject. In the Haggadah the
question is asked, "Why do we eat this Matzah?" and at the words "this
Matzah" the illuminated manuscripts contain, in the great majority of
cases, representations of Matzoth. These in some instances present rather
interesting features, which may throw historical light on the archeology of
the subject. Some of these figured Matzoth are oval, one I have seen
star-shaped, but almost all are circular in form. Many, however, unlike the
modern Matzah and owing to the shape of the mould, have a broad border
distinct from the rest of the cake. The Crawford Haggadah, now in the
Ryland library, Manchester, pictures a round Matzah through which a pretty
flowered design runs. Others, again, and this I think a very ancient, as it
certainly is a very common, design, are covered with transverse lines,
which result in producing diamond-shaped spaces with a very pleasing
effect, resembling somewhat the appearance of the lattice work cakes used
in Italy and Persia, I think. The lines, unless they be mere pictorial
embellishments, are, possibly, as in the Leeds cakes, rows of indentations
resulting from the punctuation of the Matzah. In one British Museum
manuscript (Roman rite, 1482), the star and diamond shapes are combined,
the border being surrounded with small triangles, and the centre of the
cake being divided into diamond-like sections. In yet another manuscript
the Matzah has a border, divided by small lines into almost rectangular
sections, while the body of the cake is ornamented with a design in which
variously shaped figures, quadrilaterals and triangles, are irregularly
interspersed. One fanciful picture deserves special mention, as it is the
only one of the kind in all the illustrated manuscripts and printed
Haggadahs in the Oxford and British Museum libraries. This Matzah occurs in
an Italian manuscript of the fourteenth century. It is adorned with a
flowered border, and in the centre appears a human-faced quadruped of
apparently Egyptian character.
Poetry and imagination are displayed in some of these devices, but in only
one or two cases did the artists attain high levels of picturesque
illustration. How suggestive, for instance, is the chain pattern, adopted
in a manuscript of the Michaelis Collection at Oxford. It must not be
thought that _this_ idea at least was never literally realized, for only
last year I was shown a Matzah made after a very similar design, possibly
not for use on the first two nights of Passover. The bread of affliction
recalls the Egyptian bonds, and it is an ingenious idea to bid us ourselves
turn the ancient chains to profitable use--by eating them. This expressive
design is surpassed by another, found in a beautifully-illuminated
manuscript of the fourteenth century. This Matzah bears a curious device in
the centre: it is a prison door modelled with considerable skill, but I do
not suppose that Matzoth were ever made in this fashion.
"THE BOOK OF DELIGHT"
The connection between Zabara's work and the Solomon and Marcolf legend was
first pointed out in my "Short History of Jewish Literature" (1906), p. 95.
I had long before detected the resemblance, though I was not aware of it
when I wrote an essay on Zabara in the _Jewish Quarterly Review._ To the
latter (vi, pp. 502 _et seq._) the reader is referred for bibliographical
notes, and also for details on the textual relations of the two editions of
A number of parallels with other folk-literatures are there indicated;
others have been added by Dr. Israel Davidson, in his edition of the "Three
Satires" (New York, 1904), which accompany the "Book of Delight" in the
Constantinople edition, and are also possibly by Zabara.
The late Professor David Kaufmann informed me some years ago that he had a
manuscript of the poem in his possession. But, after his death, the
manuscript could not be found in his library. Should it eventually be
rediscovered, it would be desirable to have a new, carefully printed
edition of the Hebrew text of the "Book of Delight." I would gladly place
at the disposal of the editor my copy of the Constantinople edition, made
from the Oxford specimen. The Bodleian copy does not seem to be unique, as
had been supposed.
The literature on the Solomon and Marcolf legend is extensive. The
following references may suffice. J.M. Kemble published (London, 1848)
"The Dialogue of Solomon and Saturnus," for the Aelfric Society. "Of all
the forms of the story yet preserved," says Mr. Kemble, "the Anglo-Saxon
are undoubtedly the oldest." He talks vaguely of the intermixture of
Oriental elements, but assigns a northern origin to one portion of the
story. Crimm had argued for a Hebrew souice, thinking Marcolf a name of
scorn in Hebrew. But the Hebrew Marcolis (or however one may spell it) is
simply Mercury. In the Latin version, however, Marcolf is distinctly
represented as coming from the East. William of Tyre (12th cent.) suggests
the identity of Marcolf with Abdemon, whom Josephus ("Antiquities," VIII,
v, 3) names as Hiram's Riddle-Guesser. A useful English edition is E.
Gordon Duff's "Dialogue or Communing between the Wise King Salomon and
Marcolphus" (London, 1892). Here, too, as in the Latin version, Marcolf is
a man from the Orient. Besides these books, two German works deserve
special mention. F. Vogt, in his essay entitled _Die deutschen Dichtungen
won Salomon und Markolf,_ which appeared in Halle, in 1880, also thinks
Marcolf an Eastern. Finally, as the second part of his "_Untersuchungen zur
mittelhochdeutschen Spielmannspoesie_" (Schwerin, 1894), H. Tardel
published _Zum Salman-Morolf._ Tardel is skeptical as to the Eastern
provenance of the legend.
It has been thought that a form of this legend is referred to in the fifth
century. The _Contradictio Solomonis_, which Pope Gelasius excluded from
the sacred canon, has been identified with some version of the Marcolf
A VISIT TO HEBRON
The account of Hebron, given in this volume, must be read for what it was
designed to be, an impressionist sketch. The history of the site, in so far
as it has been written, must be sought in more technical books. As will be
seen from several details, my visit was paid in the month of April, just
before Passover. Things have altered in some particulars since I was there,
but there has been no essential change in the past decade.
The Hebron Haram, or shrine over the Cave of Machpelah, is fully described
in the "Cruise of H.M.S. Bacchante, 1879-1882," ii, pp. 595-619. (Compare
"Survey of Western Palestine," iii, pp. 333-346; and the _Quarterly
Statement_ of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1882, pp. 197-214.) Colonel
Conder's account narrates the experiences of the present King of England at
the Haram in April, 1882. Dean Stanley had previously entered the Haram
with King Edward VII, in January, 1862 (see Stanley's "Sermons in the
East," 1863, pp. 141-169). A good note on the relation between these modern
narratives and David Reubeni's (dating from the early part of the sixteenth
century) was contributed by Canon Dalton to the _Quarterly Statement_,
1897, p. 53. A capital plan of the Haram is there printed.
Mr. Adler's account of his visit to Hebron will be found in his "Jews in
Many Lands," pp. 104-111; he tells of his entry into the Haram on pp.
M. Lucien Gautier's work referred to is his _Souvenirs du Terre-Sainte_
(Lausanne, 1898). The description of glass-making appears on p. 53 of that
The somewhat startling identification of the Ramet el-Khalil, near Hebron,
with the site of the altar built by Samuel in Ramah (I Sam. vii. 17) is
justified at length in Mr. Shaw Caldecott's book "The Tabernacle, its
History and Structure" (London, 1904).
THE SOLACE OF BOOKS (pp. 93-121)
The opening quotation is from the Ethical Will of Judah ibn Tibbon, the
"father" of Jewish translators. The original is fully analyzed in an essay
by the present writer, in the _Jewish Quarterly Review_, iii, 453. See also
_ibidem_, p. 483. The Hebrew text was printed by Edelmann, and also by
Steinschneider; by the latter at Berlin, 1852.
A writer much cited in this same essay, Richard of Bury, derived his name
from his birthplace, Bury St. Edmunds. "He tells us himself in his
'Philobiblon' that he used his high offices of state as a means of
collecting books. He let it be known that books were the most acceptable
presents that could be made to him" ("Dictionary of National Biography,"
viii, 26). He was also a student of Hebrew, and collected grammars of that
language. Altogether his "Philobiblon" is an "admirable exhibition of the
temper of a book-lover." Written in the early part of the fourteenth
century, the "Philobiblon" was first published, at Cologne, in 1473. The
English edition cited in this essay is that published in the King's
Classics (De la More Library, ed. I. Gollancz).
The citation from Montaigne is from his essay on the "Three Commerces" (bk.
in, ch. iii). The same passages, in Florio's rendering, will be found in
Mr. A.R. Waller's edition (Dent's Everyman's Library), in, pp. 48-50. Of
the three "Commerces" (_i.e._ societies)--Men, Women, and Books--Montaigne
proclaims that the commerce of books "is much more solid-sure and much more
ours." I have claimed Montaigne as the great-grandson of a Spanish Jew on
the authority of Mr. Waller (Introduction, p. vii).
The paragraphs on books from the "Book of the Pious," §§ 873-932, have been
collected (and translated into English) by the Rev. Michael Adler, in an
essay called "A Medieval Bookworm" (see _The Bookworm_, ii, 251).
The full title of Mr. Alexander Ireland's book--so much drawn upon in this
essay--is "The Book-Lover's Enchiridion, a Treasury of Thoughts on the
Solace and Companionship of Books, Gathered from the Writings of the
Greatest Thinkers, from Cicero, Petrarch, and Montaigne, to Carlyle,
Emerson, and Ruskin" (London and New York, 1894).
Mr. F.M. Nichols' edition of the "Letters of Erasmus" (1901) is the source
of the quotation of one of that worthy's letters.
The final quotation comes from the Wisdom of Solomon, ch. vi. v. 12; ch.
viii. vv. 2, 16; and ch. ix. v. 4. The "radiance" of Wisdom is, in ch. vii,
26, explained in the famous words, "For she is an effulgence from
everlasting light, an unspotted mirror of the working of God, and an image
of His goodness."
The evidence for many of the statements in this paper will be found in
various contexts in "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," in the Hebrew travel
literature, and in such easily accessible works as Graetz's "History of the
Achimaaz has been much used by me. His "Book of Genealogies" (_Sefer
Yochasin_) was written in 1055. The Hebrew text was included by Dr. A.
Neubauer in his "Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles," ii, pp. 114 _et seq_. I
might have cited Achimaaz's account of an amusing incident in the synagogue
at Venosa. There had been an uproar in the Jewish quarter, and a wag added
some lines on the subject to the manuscript of the Midrash which the
travelling preacher was to read on the following Sabbath. The effect of the
reading may be imagined.
Another source for many of my statements is a work by Julius Aronius,
_Regesten zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland,_ Berlin, 1893. It
presents many new facts on the medieval Jewries of Germany.
The quaint story of the Jewish sailors told by Synesius is taken from T.R.
Glover's "Life and Letters in the Fourth Century" (Cambridge, 1901), p.
A careful statement on communal organization with regard to the status of
travellers and settlers was contributed by Weinberg to vol. xii of the
Breslau _Monatsschrift_. The title of the series of papers is _Die
Organisation der jüdischen Gemeinden_.
For evidence of the existence of Communal Codes, or Note-Books, see Dr. A.
Berliner's _Beiträge zur Geschichte der Raschi-Commentare_, Berlin, 1903,
Benjamin of Tudela's "Itinerary" has been often edited, most recently by
the late M.N. Adler (London, 1907). Benjamin's travels occupied the years
1166 to 1171, and his narrative is at once informing and entertaining. The
motives for his extensive journeys through Europe, Asia, and Africa are
thus summed up by Mr. Adler (pp. xii, xiii): "At the time of the Crusades,
the most prosperous communities in Germany and the Jewish congregations
that lay along the route to Palestine had been exterminated or dispersed,
and even in Spain, where the Jews had enjoyed complete security for
centuries, they were being pitilessly persecuted in the Moorish kingdom of
Cordova. It is not unlikely, therefore, that Benjamin may have undertaken
his journey with the object of finding out where his expatriated brethren
might find an asylum. It will be noted that Benjamin seems to use every
effort to trace and afford particulars of independent communities of Jews,
who had chiefs of their own, and owed no allegiance to the foreigner. He
may have had trade and mercantile operations in view. He certainly dwells
on matters of commercial interest with considerable detail. Probably he was
actuated by both motives, coupled with the pious wish of making a
pilgrimage to the land of his fathers."
For Jewish pilgrims to Palestine see Steinschneider's contribution to
Röhricht and Meisner's _Deutsche Pilgerreisen_, pp. 548-648. My statement
as to the existence of a Jewish colony at Ramleh in the eleventh century is
based on Genizah documents at Cambridge, T.S. 13 J. 1.
For my account of the Trade Routes of the Jews in the medieval period, I am
indebted to Beazley's "Dawn of Modern Geography," p. 430.
The Letter of Nachmanides is quoted from Dr. Schechter's "Studies in
Judaism," First Series, pp. 131 _et seq._ The text of Obadiah of
Bertinoro's letter was printed by Dr. Neubauer in the _Jahrbuch für die
Geschichte der Juden,_ 1863.
THE FOX'S HEART (pp. 159-171)
The main story discussed in this essay is translated from the so-called
"Alphabet of Ben Sira," the edition used being Steinschneider's
(_Alphabetum Siracidis,_ Berlin, 1858).
The original work consists of two Alphabets of Proverbs,--twenty-two in
Aramaic and twenty-two in Hebrew--and is embellished with comments and
fables. A full account of the book is given in a very able article by
Professor L. Ginzberg, "Jewish Encyclopedia," ii, p. 678. The author is not
the Ben Sira who wrote the Wisdom book in the Apocrypha, but the ascription
of it to him led to the incorporation of some legends concerning him. Dr.
Ginzberg also holds this particular Fox Fable to be a composite, and to be
derived more or less from Indian originals.
"MARRIAGES ARE MADE IN HEAVEN"
The chief authorities to which the reader is referred are: _Midrash Rabba_,
Genesis Section 68; Leviticus Section 29; and Numbers Sections 3 and 22.
Further, _Midrash Tanchuma_, to the sections _Ki tissa, Mattoth_, and
_Vayishlach; Midrash Samuel_, ch. v; Babylonian Talmud, _Moed Katon_, 18b,
and _Sotah_, 2a.
In Dr. W. Bacher's _Agada der Tannaiten_, ii, pp. 168-170, will be found
important notes on some of these passages.
I have freely translated the story of Solomon's daughter from Buber's
_Tanchuma_, Introduction, p. 136. It is clearly pieced together from
several stories, too familiar to call for the citation of parallels. With
one of the incidents may be compared the device of Sindbad in his second
voyage. He binds himself to one of the feet of a rukh, _i.e._ condor, or
bearded vulture. In another adventure he attaches himself to the carcass of
a slaughtered animal, and is borne aloft by a vulture. A similar incident
may be noted in Pseudo-Ben Sira (Steinschneider, p. 5).
Compare also Gubernatis, Zool. Myth, ii, 94. The fabulous anka was banished
as punishment for carrying off a bride.
For the prayers based on belief in the Divine appointment of marriages, see
"Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," ch. x.
One of the many sixteenth century Tobit dramas is _Tobie, Comedie De
Catherin Le Doux: En laquelle on void comme les marriages sont faicts au
ciel, & qu'il n'y a rien qui eschappe la providence de Dieu_ (Cassel,
HEBREW LOVE SONGS
From personal observation, Dr. G.H. Dalman collected a large number of
modern Syrian songs in his _Palästinischer Diwan_ (Leipzig, 1901). The
songs were taken down, and the melodies noted, in widely separated
districts. Judea, the Hauran, Lebanon, are all represented. Dr. Dalman
prints the Arabic text in "Latin" transliteration, and appends German
renderings. Wetzstein's earlier record of similar folk-songs appears in
Delitzsch's Commentary on Canticles--_Hohelied und Koheleth_,--1875 and
also in the _Zeitschrift für Ethnologie_, v, p. 287. Previous commentators
had sometimes held that the Song of Songs was a mere collection of detached
and independent fragments, but on the basis of Wetzstein's discoveries,
Professor Budde elaborated his theory, that the Song is a Syrian
This theory will be found developed in Budde's Commentary on Canticles
(1898); it is a volume in Marti's _Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten
Testament_. An elaborate and destructive criticism of the repertory theory
may be read in Appendix ii of Mr. Andrew Harper's "Song of Solomon" (1902):
the book forms a volume in the series of the Cambridge Bible for Schools.
Harper's is a very fine work, and not the least of its merits is its
exposition of the difficulties which confront the attempt to deny unity of
plot and plan to the Biblical song. Harper also expresses a sound view as
to the connection between love-poetry and mysticism. "Sensuality and
mysticism are twin moods of the mind." The allegorical significance of the
Song of Songs goes back to the _Targum_, an English version of which has
been published by Professor H. Gollancz in his "Translations from Hebrew
and Aramaic" (1908).
Professor J.P. Mahaffy's view on the Idylls of Theocritus may be read in
his "History of Greek Literature," ii, p. 170, and in several pages of his
"Greek Life and Thought" (see Index, _s.v._).
The passage in which Graetz affirms the borrowing of the pastoral scheme by
the author of Canticles from Theocritus, is translated from p. 69 of
Graetz's _Schir ha-Schirim, oder das salomonische Hohelied_ (Vienna, 1871).
Though the present writer differs entirely from the opinion of Graetz on
this point, he has no hesitation in describing Graetz's Commentary as a
masterpiece of brilliant originality.
The rival theory, that Theocritus borrowed from the Biblical Song, is
supported by Professor D.S. Margoliouth, in his "Lines of Defence of the
Biblical Revelation" (1900), pp. 2-7. He also suggests (p. 7), that
Theocritus borrowed lines 86-87 of Idyll xxiv from Isaiah xi. 6.
The evidence from the scenery of the Song, in favor of the natural and
indigenous origin of the setting of the poem, is strikingly illustrated in
G.A. Smith's "Historical Geography of the Holy Land" (ed. 1901), pp.
310-311. The quotation from Laurence Oliphant is taken from his "Land of
Gilead" (London, 1880).
Egyptian parallels to Canticles occur in the hieroglyphic love-poems
published by Maspero in _Études égyptiennes_, i, pp. 217 _et seq_., and by
Spiegelberg in _Aegyptiaca_ (contained in the Ebers _Festschrift_, pp. 177
_et seq_.). Maspero, describing, in 1883, the affinities of Canticles to
the old Egyptian love songs, uses almost the same language as G.E. Lessing
employed in 1777, in summarizing the similarities between Canticles and
Theocritus. It will amuse the reader to see the passages side by side.
[Transcriber's Note: In our print copy these were set in parallel columns.]
Il n'y a personne qui, en lisant la traduction de ces chants, ne soit
frappé de la ressemblance qu'ils présentent avec le Cantique des
Cantiques. Ce sont les mêmes façons ..., les mêmes images ..., les mêmes
Immo sunt qui maximam similitudinem inter Canticum Canticorum et
Theocriti Idyllia esse statuant ... quod iisdem fere videtur esse verbis,
loquendi formulis, similibus, transitu, figuris.
If these resemblances were so very striking, then, as argued in the text of
this essay, the Idylls of Theocritus ought to resemble the Egyptian poems.
This, however, they utterly fail to do.
For my acquaintance with the modern Greek songs I am indebted to Mr. G.F.
Abbott's "Songs of Modern Greece" (Cambridge, 1900). The Levantine
character of the melodies to Hebrew Piyyutim based on the Song of Songs is
pointed out by Mr. F.L. Cohen, in the "Jewish Encyclopedia," i, p. 294,
and iii, p. 47.
The poem of Taubah, and the comments on it, are taken from C.J.L. Lyall's
"Translations of Ancient Arabic Poetry, chiefly prae-Islamic" (1885), P.
The Hebrew text of Moses ibn Ezra's poem--cited with reference to the
figure of love surviving the grave--may be found in Kaempf's _Zehn Makamen_
(1858), p. 215. A German translation is given, I believe, in the same
author's _Nichtandalusische Poesie andalusischer Dichter._
Many Hebrew love-poems, in German renderings, are quoted in Dr. A.
Sulzbach's essay, _Die poetische Litteratur_ (second section, _Die
weltliche Poesie_), contributed to the third volume of Winter and Wunsche's
Jüdische Litteratur (1876). His comments, cited in my essay, occur in that
work, p. 160. Amy Levy's renderings of some of Jehudah Halevi's love songs
are quoted by Lady Magnus in the first of her "Jewish Portraits." Dr. J.
Egers discusses Samuel ha-Nagid's "Stammering Maid" in the Graetz
_Jubelschrift_ (1877), pp. 116-126.
GEORGE ELIOT AND SOLOMON MAIMON
The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon (1754-1800) was published in Berlin
(1792-3) in two parts, under the title _Salomon Maimon's Lebensgeschichte._
Moses Mendelssohn befriended Maimon, in so far as it was possible to
befriend so wayward a personality. Maimon made real contributions to
The description of Daniel Deronda's purchase of the volume is contained in
ch. xxxiii of the novel. In Holborn, Deronda came across a "second-hand
book-shop, where, on a narrow table outside, the literature of the ages was
represented in judicious mixture, from the immortal verse of Homer to the
mortal prose of the railway novel. That the mixture was judicious was
apparent from Deronda's finding in it something that he wanted--namely,
that wonderful piece of autobiography, the life of the Polish Jew, Salomon
The man in temporary charge of the shop was Mordecai. This is his first
meeting with Deronda, who, after an intensely dramatic interval, "paid his
half-crown and carried off his 'Salomon Maimon's Lebensgeschichte' with a
mere 'Good Morning.'"
HOW MILTON PRONOUNCED HEBREW
Milton's transliterations are printed in several editions of his poems;
the version used in this book is that given in D. Masson's "Poetical
Works of Milton," in, pp. 5-11. The notes of the late A.B. Davidson on
Milton's Hebrew knowledge are cited in the same volume by Masson (p. 483).
Landor had no high opinion of Milton as a translator. "Milton," he said,
"was never so much a regicide as when he lifted up his hand and smote
King David." But there can be no doubt of Milton's familiarity with the
original, whatever be the merit of the translations. To me, Milton's
rendering of Psalm lxxxiv seems very fine.
The controversy between the advocates of the versions of Rous and
Barton--which led to Milton's effort--is described in Masson, ii, p. 312.
Reuchlin's influence on the pronunciation of Hebrew in England is discussed
by Dr. S.A. Hirsch, in his "Book of Essays" (London, 1905), p. 60. Roger
Bacon, at a far earlier date, must have pronounced Hebrew in much the same
way, but he was not guilty of the monstrosity of turning the _Ayin_ into a
nasal. Bacon (as may be seen from the facsimile printed by Dr. Hirsch) left
the letter _Ayin_ unpronounced, which is by far the best course for
Westerns to adopt.
THE CAMBRIDGE PLATONISTS
Henry More (1614-1687) was the most important of the "Cambridge
Platonists." Several of his works deal with the Jewish Cabbala. More
recognized a "Threefold Cabbala, Literal, Philosophical, and Mystical, or
Divinely Moral." He dedicated his _Conjectura Cabbalistica_ to Cudworth,
Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, of which More was a Fellow. Cudworth
was one of those who attended the Whitehall Conference, summoned by
Cromwell in 1655 to discuss the readmission of the Jews to England.
Platonic influence was always prevalent in mystical thought. The Cabbala
has intimate relations with neo-Platonism.
THE ANGLO-JEWISH YIDDISH LITERARY SOCIETY
The question raised as to the preservation of Yiddish is not unimportant at
this juncture. It is clear that the old struggle between Hebrew and Yiddish
for predominance as the Jewish language must become more and more severe as
Hebrew advances towards general acceptance as a living language.
Probably the struggle will end in compromise. Hebrew might become one of
the two languages spoken by Jews, irrespective of what the other language
might happen to be.
THE MYSTICS AND SAINTS OF INDIA
The full title of Professor Oman's work is "The Mystics, Ascetics, and
Saints of India. A Study of Sadhuism, with an account of the Yogis,
Sanyasis, Bairagis, and other strange Hindu Sectaries" (London, 1903).
The subject of asceticism in Judaism has of late years been more
sympathetically treated than used to be the case. The Jewish theologians of
a former generation were concerned to attack the excesses to which an
ascetic course of life may lead. This attack remains as firmly justified as
ever. But to deny a place to asceticism in the Jewish scheme, is at once to
pronounce the latter defective and do violence to fact.
Speaking of the association of fasting with repentance, Dr. Schechter says:
"It is in conformity with this sentiment, for which there is abundant
authority both in the Scriptures and in the Talmud, that ascetic practices
tending both as a sacrifice and as a castigation of the flesh, making
relapse impossible, become a regular feature of the penitential course in
the medieval Rabbinic literature" ("Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology,"
1909, PP. 339-340).
Moreover, the fuller appreciation of the idea of saintliness, and the
higher esteem of the mystical elements in Judaism--ideas scarcely to be
divorced from asceticism--have helped to confirm the newer attitude. Here,
too, Dr. Schechter has done a real service to theology. The Second Series
of his "Studies in Judaism" contains much on this subject. What he has
written should enable future exponents of Judaism to form a more balanced
judgment on the whole matter.
Fortunately, the newer view is not confined to any one school of Jewish
thought. The reader will find, in two addresses contained in Mr. C.G.
Montefiore's "Truth in Religion" (1906), an able attempt to weigh the value
and the danger of an ascetic view of life. It was, indeed, time that the
Jewish attitude towards so powerful a force should be reconsidered.
LOST PURIM JOYS
The burning of Haman in effigy is recorded in the _Responsa_ of a Gaon
published by Professor L. Ginzberg in his "Geniza Studies" ("Geonica," ii,
pp. 1-3). He holds that the statement as to the employment of "Purim
bonfires among the Babylonian and Elamitic Jews as given in the _Aruch_ (s.
v. [Hebrew: shin-vav-vav-resh]) undoubtedly goes back to this _Responsum_."
On Purim parodies much useful information will be found in Dr. Israel
Davidson's "Parody in Jewish Literature" (New York, 1907). See Index s.v.
Purim (p. 289).
For a statement of the supposed connection between Purim and other spring
festivals, see Paul Haupt's "Purim" (Baltimore, 1906), and the article in
the "Encyclopaedia Biblica," cols. 3976-3983. Such theories do not account
adequately for the Book of Esther.
Schodt _(Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten,_ 1713, ii, p. 314) gives a sprightly
account of what seems to have been the first public performance of a Purim
play in Germany.
JEWS AND LETTERS
Leopold Löw investigated the history of writing, and of the materials used
among the Jews, in his _Graphische Requisiten und Erzeugnisse bei den
Juden_ (2 vols., Leipzig, 1870-71).
On Jewish letter-carriers in Germany, see the article of Dr. I. Kracauer in
the "Jewish Encyclopedia," viii, p. 15. The first Post-Jude is named in
1722. These Jewish letter-carriers received no salary from the Government,
but collected a fee from the recipients of the letters.
The Talmudic _Bê-Davvar_ [Hebrew: beth-yod-(maqqef)-daleth-vav-aleph-resh]
was really a Court of Justice (perhaps a Circuit Court). As, however,
_davvar_ meant a despatch-bearer, the phrase _Bê-Davvar_ passed over later
into the meaning Post-Office. _Davvar_ seems connected with the root _dur,_
"to form a circle"; the pael form _(davvar)_ would mean "to go around,"
perhaps to travel with merchandise and letters.
THE SHAPE OF MATZOTH
In the twentieth chapter of Proverbs v. 17, we find the maxim:
"Bread gained by fraud is sweet to a man,
But afterwards his mouth will be filled with gravel."
The exact point of this comparison was brought home to me when I spent a
night at Modin, the ancient home of the Maccabees. Over night I enjoyed the
hospitality of a Bedouin. In the morning I was given some native bread for
breakfast. I was very hungry, and I took a large and hasty bite at the
bread, when lo! my mouth was full of gravel. They make the bread as
follows: One person rolls the dough into a thin round cake (resembling a
Matzah), while another person places hot cinders on the ground. The cake is
put on the cinders and gravel, and an earthenware pot is spread over all,
to retain the heat. Hence the bread comes out with fragments of gravel and
cinder in it. Woe betide the hasty eater! Compare Lamentations iii. 16, "He
hath broken my teeth with gravel stones." This, then, may be the meaning of
the proverb cited at the head of this note. Bread hastily snatched,
advantages thoughtlessly or fraudulently grasped, may appear sweet in
anticipation, but eventually they fill a man's mouth with gravel.
The quotation from Paulus Aringhus' _Roma subterranea novissima_ will be
found in vol. ii, p. 533 of the first edition (Rome, 1651). This work,
dealing mainly with the Christian sepulchres in Rome, was reprinted in
Amsterdam (1659) and Arnheim (1671), and a German translation appeared in
Arnheim in 1668. The first volume (pp. 390 _et seq._) fully describes the
Jewish tombs in Rome, and cites the Judeo-Greek inscriptions. There is much
else to interest the Jewish student in these two stately and finely
[Transcriber's Note: "Betwen" was corrected to "between" in chapters III
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