Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 19

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— T
h e
un z
8 7
Haggadah, and the homiletic literature that continues the hag-
gadic tradition in the various countries of the medieval and early
modern Diaspora. Zunz was the first scholar to present this vast
and complex literature in its historical development, stressing
the internal relationhips between its parts and the unity of the
Yet, in writing this book, Zunz did not merely have scholarly
objectives in mind. In the Preface, he emphasized his hope that
a better knowledge of Judaism would help to improve the Gen­
tile’s attitude to the Jews and encourage more liberal legislation.
The concluding chapter, on the other hand, urges modern Jewry
to renew contact with the surrounding world and its culture, a
contact so strongly in evidence in earlier periods of Jewish
history and interrupted only during the last two centuries of
cultural and scholarly decline. Thus, by turning to scholarship
Zunz purposed to serve the cause both of emancipation and of
religious reform, and to advocate closer cooperation between
Judaism and Europeanism for the sake of the humanistic aim
common to both.
The soundness of the book’s ideological tendency could well
be questioned; Zunz himself later rejected reform. What remained
was the high standard of scholarship, of literary criticism, and
of historical analysis. A second edition of the work appeared in
1892, and a Hebrew translation (
Haderashot be-Yisrae\)
in 1947.
In the period following the publication of the
Liturgical Ad­
Zunz showed an increasing interest in the liturgic poetry
and rites of the Synagogue, whose centrality he had indicated in
that work. In 1855 appeared the first part of what was to become
a trilogy on the subject,
Th e Synagogue Poetry of the Middle
(“Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters”). Here Zunz at­
tempted to demonstrate the organic structure of medieval Hebrew
liturgic poetry, to determine the laws that governed it, and
to establish the place this poetry held in the intellectual history
of Israel. Within the mass of his material, he focused his atten­
tion on the
the penitential poetry that grew out of the
suffering of the medieval Jews. This theme fascinated not only
the scholar in Zunz; it moved the Jew in him to the depths of
his heart. He prefaced the body of the book with the following
lines, later quoted by George Eliot in her
Daniel Deronda
: “If
there is a scale in suffering, Israel has reached the last step. If
there is nobility in patiently enduring pain, then the Jews may
vie with the noblemen of all lands. If a literature which includes
a few classical tragedies is called rich, what place should be
accorded to a tragedy that lasts over fifteen centuries, written
and enacted by the heroes themselves?”
This book enumerates the persecutions inflicted upon Jews
from the time of Constantine in the fourth century up to Charles