Page 92 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

Basic HTML Version

8 6
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
The traditional form of Jewish learning was no longer rele­
vant to the modern Jew. Both as authors and readers, the Jews
had abandoned Hebrew literature with the rise of European
literature, which engrossed them more and more. True, the
Hebrew language was still being used by Jewish scholars and
writers (Zunz is speaking of the second half of the eighteenth
century), but the ideas they expressed in that language aimed
“at preparing for the time in which rabbinic literature will have
ceased to exist.” We are indeed, Zunz continued, “witnessing the
funeral of the neo-Hebraic literature,” therefore now is the time
for scholarship to render the account of a literature that has
come to an end. No new publication of import is likely to dis­
turb the view of the scholar. In speaking of Jewish literature as
an object of research, Zunz maintained that it was not the concern
of the Jews whether its content “should become, or could become,
a norm for our own judgment.” He himself did not follow this
bold proposal of a liquidation of Judaism and of its replacement
by scholarly pursuits. But the intricate problem of the relation­
ship between traditional Judaism and the spirit of modern
Europe remained with him for the rest of his life.
On behalf of the youthful
Verein fuer die Cultur und Wissen-
schaft der Juden
(Association for the Culture and Science of the
Jews), of which the poet Heinrich Heine was a member, Zunz
edited the association’s journal
Zeitschrift fuer die Wissenschaft
des Judentums.
Here he published (1823) his monograph on
Rashi (“Salomon ben Isaac, genannt Raschi”), the first scholarly
presentation of a Jewish sage.
In this essay Zunz indicated the rich possibilities the Rashi
theme offered to various branches of Jewish scholarship: to a
future history of Jewish Bible exegesis, of rabbinic Judaism, of
the Hebrew language and of general Jewish literature. He claimed
further that research in general history, too, could make use of
the many references in Rashi’s works to historical and geograph­
ical facts. Though Zunz had no immediate disciples, his studies
stimulated research for many years to come.
From 1825 on, Zunz planned to execute at least a part of his
program of 1818; he made preparations for a comprehensive
“Introduction to the Science of Judaism.” This plan did not
crystallize, but the material he collected in those years went
into the writing of his
magnum opus
that appeared in 1832:
The
Liturgical Addresses of the Jews
(“Die gottesdienstlichen Vor-
traege der Juden”) .
Pioneer Work of Judaic Research
This pioneer work of Judaic research presents Hebrew liter­
ature from its origins in the Bible through the Targumim, the
ethical, historical, and mystical parts of the talmudic-midrashic