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RECENT JEWISH LITERATURE 

Judische Privatbriefe aus dem Jahre 1619. Nach den Originalen 
des k. u. k. Haus- Hof- u. Staatsarchivs im Auftrage der 
historischen Kommission der isr. Kultusgemeinde in Wien 
herausgegeben von Dr. Alfred Landau u. Dr. Bern hard 
Wachstein. Wien u. Leipzig, 191 1. pp. xux + 133 + 60. 
with 8 fcss. 

The work under the above title forms the third volume of 
the "Quellen und Forjchungen zur Geschichte der Juden in 
Deutsch-Oesterreich," a serial publication undertaken three years 
ago by the historical commission of the Jewish community of 
Vienna. It contains, in the first place, a collection of 46 (or rather 
54, since 8 of the numbers contain 2 letters each) letters written 
by various Jews and Jewesses of Prague in November 1619? 
shortly after the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. Only six 
of the letters are written in the Hebrew language, the rest are 
composed in Judeo-German, which was spoken by nearly all the 
Jews of Europe at that time. They are all addressed to relatives 
and acquaintances who resided in Vienna, but, as we see now, 
were not delivered probably because they were intercepted in the 
search for political documents. How the bundle of letters hap- 
pened to come into the state-archives of the Austrian govern- 
ment, where they remained unnoticed nearly 300 years, is a ques- 
tion to which the learned editors confess to have no answer. 
Certain it is that for a very long time the letters were left un- 
touched until the worms had done their work in eating away the 
material out of which some of the seals were prepared. 

The contents of these letters are of the utmost interest from 
many a point of view. They represent, to begin with, the first 
and, perhaps, the only collection of Jewish family-letters of 



271 



272 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

mediaeval times. In the variety of content, in the diversity of 
human relations that are uncovered before our wondering eyes, 
in the amazing richness of genuine sentiment displayed by the 
various writers, revealing to us their loves and petty quarrels, 
their hopes and fears in their political, religious, social, com- 
mercial, and private life — these letters can hardly be equaled by 
any historical document that has been brought to light through 
the researches of any Jewish historical commission, with the ex- 
ception, perhaps, of the documents published by the Deutsche 
hist. Commission. We stand here, as it were, before a series of 
rapidly moving pictures, in which all classes of the Jewish com- 
munity of Prague in the year 1619 are vividly presented. We 
see their business transactions, their social joys and sorrows, we 
see the cakes they like, the clothes, and — I beg your pardon- 
even the petticoats they wear. Forgetting ourselves for a moment 
we feel deeply moved in reading of the sufferings of the brave 
Roesel Theomim, daughter of a prominent representative of the 
Jewish community in Vienna, who had died three years before 
(1616). For some reason she was left with her children in 
Vienna, where the cholera had broken out, while her husband, 
Dr. Aaron Lucerna, or, as he is called in Hebrew, Aaron Maor- 
Katan, was practicing medicine and very busy in trying to fight 
off small-pox which was ravaging Prague at that time. She 
implores him to take her to Prague, as she would prefer to die 
near him, but owing to the insecurity of the roads in the times 
of war this was impossible. In a long affectionate letter, beginning 
with the words "Hersliebes Weib, ich hab deine Kines-brief 
erhalten, ich hab trerin driber gelosen," and so forth, he explains 
to her the great dangers of a journey at the present time and 
begs her to wait until spring. At the end he does not forget to 
admonish her that she should not go out in the evenings alone, 
for, her husband being far away, people might talk evil about 
her. What happened afterwards we do not know, except that 
Dr. Lucerna died in Vienna in 1643. It would lead us too far to 
indicate the contents even of a small portion of these letters, that 
cover sixty pages in print. As mentioned before, they are written 
by men and women from all classes of the Jewish community. 
Of particular interest are two letters because they are written 



RECENT JEWISH LITERATURE — MASTER 273 

by no less a man than the famous Yomtob Lipman Heller, the 
author of the Tosefot Yomtob on the Mishnah, and his wife 
Rechle, born Theomim. The great Rabbi who writes here in plain 
"Judisch Teitsch" to his sister-in-law is very anxious to marry 
off his daughter. He promised to pay 1000 gulden for a son-in-law 
but would like now to reduce this sum if possible to 800 gulden. 
I do not know how far the miscarriage of his letter had interfered 
with the "Shidduch" and whether he succeeded in his attempt to 
lower the price of his future son-in-law. A conspicuous feature 
in all these letters is the spirit of love and cordiality in which 
they are written, the earnestness and religious piety that is 
discernible even in the ordinary business-letter. Though they 
were destined to be read only by the nearest relatives, there is 
nowhere an obscene word as is often the case in private letters 
written by Germans of that time. Nor is there to be found 
any harsh expression used by one member of the family against 
the other. Enoch Hamerschlag, a prominent citizen of Prague, 
rebukes his son Aaron who had married in Vienna, for devoting 
too much time to business, neglecting the study of the Torah 
which is more important than making money. "Had I known 
that your father-in-law was going to engage you in business 
instead of making you study the Torah, as he had promised to 
do, he might have offered me all his fortune, I would never 
have consented to that marriage. I did not bring you up for 
business and am afraid that God will punish you for neglecting 
the study of the Torah. Therefore come back to Prague and I 
shall engage here the best teacher in town to assist you in your 
studies" (letter 3a). It is also noteworthy that two letters (Nos. 
28 and 29) are written partly in cipher, an enigmatic combination 
of Hebrew characters contrived for the safe transmission of 
secrets. No clue whatever could at first be offered by the editors 
to this cryptography. Several months after the publication of the 
work, however, Dr. Wachstein renewed his efforts, and this time 
was rewarded by discovering the device used by the writer and 
getting thus behind his secrets. In a "Nachtrag" ( = Supplement) 
to the work under discussion published separately during the same 
year (Leipzig 1911) he betrays them also to the reader, repro- 
ducing the two letters in a fully deciphered form. Those, how- 



274 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

ever, who have suspected some extraordinary secret behind the 
occult letters will perhaps feel somewhat disappointed upon 
now learning their content. For the writer of letter No. 28 only 
inquires whether he could get in Vienna a loan of a thousand 
Schock (= about 1200 dollars) at "a low rate of interest for a 
whole year," while; letter No. 29 (by the same writer) again 
shows us the flourishing business of match-making in the Jewish 
community of Prague. The writer, Judah Katz, obviously anxious 
to get the mediator's fee, very solicitously recommends to his 
uncle Abraham Katz in Vienna, a "good-looking learned boy of 
a fine German family of rabbis, not over fifteen years old" as a 
prospective bridegroom for the daughter of Abraham's father- 
in-law. In case the latter should not care for the match, the 
uncle should approach with the proposal a certain Aaron b. 
Solomon [Theomim]. The uncle is further requested not to 
initiate anybody else in the matter, which gives us a hint why 
the letter was written in cypher. The deciphered portion of the 
letter is, however, of historical importance, inasmuch as it throws 
some light on the genealogy and relationship of several prominent 
rabbis, among them Yomtob Lipman Heller, mentioned therein. 

A few words must be said also about the work of the two 
editors. Aside from a splendid general introduction, in which 
the historical importance of the documents is pointed out and the 
idiomatic as well as grammatical peculiarities of their language 
are minutely discussed, they give also a carefully prepared 
transliteration of the Hebrew characters with explanatory notes 
and very learned bio- and bibliographical discourses on most of 
the persons mentioned in the letters. Of great importance not 
only for the historian but also for the student of mediaeval 
German philology is the elaborate glossary in which the most 
difficult words are traced to their origin. The addition of eight 
tables showing the facsimiles of twenty letters, in full or in part, 
and of the seals with their inscriptions (in Latin and Hebrew 
characters) as they were used in the various families deserves 
special mention. Among the facsimiled letters is also the one 
written by Lipman Heller and the one written in cipher (No. 29). 

The learned editors evidently realized the great importance 
of their material and therefore felt justified in spending so much 



RECENT JEWISH LITERATURE— MAIMER 275 

time and labor on its analysis and scientific fructification for the 
scholarly world. This view will be shared and their labor appre- 
ciated by every one who is interested in the history of mediaeval 

Jewry. 

Talmudic Sayings. Selected and arranged under appropriate head- 
ings by Rabbi Henry Cohen. 2d edition. Bloch Publishing 
Company, 1910. pp. vm + 72. 

The purpose of this compilation is "to show the purity of 
Jewish moral teachings and to bring home to the uninitiated some 
of the beauties of Jewish Ethics, as is contained in the Talmud." 
The selections are arranged under headings and follow the style 
of the current quotation-books. The translations are acceptable. 
The first edition appeared in 1894. 

Tales and Maxims from the Talmud. Selected, arranged and 
translated, with an introduction by Rev. Samuel Rapaport. 
Together with an essay on the Talmud by the late Emanuel 
Deutsch. London: George RoutlEdge & Sons. 1910. pp. 
237. 

The author seems to have been conscious of the small value 
of his compilation, when he found it necessary to include in his 
publication the famous essay on the Talmud of Emanuel Deutsch. 
The latter covers the first 70 pages which is followed by an in- 
troduction (pp. 72-88), in which the author undergoes the trouble 
of repeating things generally known. The rest of the book con- 
sists of the Tales and Maxims, a compilation of talmudic-haggadic 
passages in which the author gives rather the sense than a literal 
translation. The arrangement of the content follows the order of 
the talmudic tractates. The work may have some value for 
English readers unacquainted with the original. It is obvious 
that the author is inexperienced in doing literary work- in this 
department. He has a novel method for indicating a page in the 
Talmud using a Roman II for verso, while his phonetic translit- 
eration of proper names are certainly unacceptable. A few 
instances of his spelling will show it: Hanassa (for ha-Nasi), 
Beseira, Shotach, Zockai, Shishes, R. Eloser, Brocoth, Shab- 
both, etc. 



276 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, 

Altjiidische liturgische Gebete. Ausgewahlt und mit Einleitungen 
herausgegeben von Prof. D. W. StsaERK. Bonn . 1910. 32 

pages. 

Der Misnatraktat Berakhoth. In vokalisiertem Text, mit sprach- 
lichen und sachlichen Bemerkungen. Von Prof. D. StaErk. 
Bonn 1910. 18 pages. 

Under the title "Kleine Texte fiir theologische und philo- 
logische Vorlesungen und "Obungen" Professor Hans Lietzmann 
has been editing for several years past a series of small text- 
books for the use of professors and students of the respective 
branches. The texts are usually taken from the Old and New 
Testament or from the apocryphal and Grseco-Roman theological 
literature. The two publications of Prof. Staerk are Nos. 58 and 
59 in the collection The first contains a selection of the most 
important Jewish prayers, as the Shema' with the preceding and 
following benedictions, the ))"£> in its earlier Palestinian version 
as published by Schechter in the JQR., X, 654 ff., from a MS. of 
the Genizah, and in the Babylonian version which is in common 
use, as well as the Sabbath and festival prayers. The arrange- 
ment is rather peculiar. After the Musaf-prayer for the Festivals 
comes the Habdalah (but no ICiddush .') , then the prayer for 
Friday evening, Abinu Malkenu, and two versions of the Aramaic 
faddish which conclude the book. Each prayer is preceded by a 
short introduction giving the history of the prayer and defining 
its place in Jewish liturgy. The prayers are vocalized throughout 
(though not always correctly) ; short philological and explanatory 
notes are given under the text only in cases where the respective 
words are not found in the Hebrew-Aramaic dictionary of 
Gesenius-Buhl. 

The second work is, as its title indicates, a vocalized edition 
of the Mishnah Berakot. It is worked on the same plan as the 
preceding number. The notes, however, are here divided into 
two sections. The upper section is purely philological, explaining 
(I have noticed a number of errors) Mishnic terms and words not 
found in the biblical dictionaries, while in the second lower 
division the attempt is made to acquaint the beginner with the 



RECENT JEWISH LITERATURE — MALTER 277 

content of the Mishnah and with the principle underlying the 
divergent views of the authorities in question. Both publications 
will on the whole serve their purpose. 

The Significance of Judaism for the Progress of Religion. Address 
delivered by Hermann Cohen, professor of philosophy in 
Marburg. Berlin-Schoeneberg 1910. 18 pages. 

Prof. Cohen tries to define the place of Judaism among the 
world's religions. He designates morality as the goal towards 
which religion is advancing, or, as he terms it, the idealization 
of religion. It, therefore, remains to show that Judaism in its 
fundamental thoughts is striving after this idealization. The 
author thus takes up the most important principles of Judaism 
for a philosophical discussion and examination, arriving at the 
conclusion, that "the genuine living God, whom the prophets 
of Israel made to be God of Israel and God of mankind, breathes 
only in social morality and in cosmopolitic humanity." 

Dr. Umberto Cassuto, La Famiglia Da Pisa. Estratto dalla 
Rivista Israelitica, anni V-VII. Firenze 1910. 82 pages. 

The history of the famous Italian family of Da Pisa has 
been treated by various authors, especially by the late David 
Kaufmann in a series of interesting articles in the RBJ., V, 26-34, 
recently republished in the Gesammelte Schriften, vol. II, from 
the original German MS. The author of this work, however, has 
made use of fresh materials, which he discovered in various 
Italian archives. Cassuto begins his work with the earliest known 
progenitor of the family, a certain Mattathiah (surnamed DD33n }D 
or i>X TVOD i. e. de Synagoga) of Rome (fourteenth century). 
The famous banking house of this family had its beginnings in 
S. Miniato in 1393, when Mattathiah b. Shabbethai da Roma first 
settled there and engaged in the banking business which in 1406 
was considerably extended by his youngest son Jehiel, who opened 
the main branch of the firm in the city of Pisa. Hereafter the 
family becomes known under the name of Da Pisa, and the 
bank established by them takes rank as one of the most important 
financial institutions of the time and plays no small role in the 



278 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

history of Italy. The author devotes considerable space to the 
activities and vicissitudes of the bank under the various princi- 
palities of Italy. Of greater importance, however, is the fact, 
brought out prominently by the author, that the members of the 
family for a period of nearly two centuries were not only leaders 
in the world of finance but were also very prominent Jewish 
scholars and communal workers. Especially known as a talmudist 
was Abraham b. Isaac da Pisa (died 1554), while Jehiel Nissim 
da Pisa (died 1574) attained prominence through his defense of 
religion against philosophy in a work entitled fllSOp JinjD, which 
was published by Kaufmann in 1898. Cassuto briefly reviews the 
history of the family down to the present time, and includes at 
the end of the work (pp. 59-61) a genealogical tree reaching to 
the year 1665, and, what is more valuable, a reproduction of 
Hebrew, Latin, and Italian documents drawn from archives (pp. 
62-82). 

Une Mission de I' Alliance au Yemen. Par Yomtob Semach. Paris 
(1910). 122 pages. 

The book is a diary describing minutely the author's observa- 
tions during his travels among the Yemen Jews, covering a period 
of five months (January to May, 1910). He includes in his 
account facts of interest bearing on the beliefs and superstitions, 
religious observances, social customs, and general conditions of 
the Yemen Jews. Towards the end of the volume is a carefully 
prepared statistical table showing the number of Jews residing in 
the various cities and villages of the province as well as their 
occupations. He visited 150 towns totaling a Jewish population 
of 12,026. The whole diary proves interesting reading. 

Jiidisches und Heidnisches itn christlichen Kult. Eine Vorlesung 
von Gerhard EoESCHE. Bonn 1910. 36 pages. 

Jesus did not intend to bring a new religion and, therefore, 
did not create any new system of religious rites and ceremonies 
(Kult). When in spite of this a new religion was promulgated 
under his name, this religion had of necessity to create for itself 
also a system of ceremonies. A careful examination of this 



RECENT JEWISH LITERATURE — MAETER 279 

Christian system of rites by the author reveals to him the fact 
that it contains nothing original, that the most important religious 
institutions of the Church— calendar, week, festivals, liturgy, hours 
of worship, Christmas, Communion services, worship of saints, 
etc., were borrowed either from the Jews or the heathen. Having 
thus stripped the church of all originality, he does not draw any 
practical consequences, but concludes with the ominous remark 
that the church began as a Jewish sect and subsequently became 
a world-religion only through assimilating also the elements of 
heathendom. 

Dropsie College Henry Mai/ter