Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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115
B
lum berg
— S
im o n
B
e r n s t e in
a controversial figure. As sp iritual leader of the Jewish com-
munity of Venice, he became embroiled in strife because of his
indulgence in games of chance; also because on the one hand
he opposed traditionalism, and on the other attacked the Kab-
balah on the ground tha t it was unscientific. Bernstein edited
Leon’s collection of poems on the basis of a un ique manuscript
in the Bodleian Library a t Oxford. Professor Israel Davidson,
well-known authority on medieval Hebrew poetry, wrote a fore-
word and brief comments to this edition, in which Bernstein
edited more than three hundred poems and supplied a scholarly
historical and analytical introduction in English together with
explanatory notes to the individual poems in Hebrew. T h e
range and scope of Leon’s poetry can be discerned from Bern-
stein’s n ine classifications: (1) Youthful poems, (2) Poems of
commendation, (3) Eulogies of distinguished Christians, (4)
Poems of friendship and complaint, (5) Epigrams, (6) Wedding
poems, (7) Liturgical poetry, (8) Lamentations, and (9) Epitaphs.
Bernstein’s next significant contribution was an edition of the
poetry of Immanuel ben David Frances, an Ita lian Hebrew poet
born around the year 1630 in Livorno. A vigorous opponent of
Kabbalism, Immanuel Frances aroused the ire of certain rabbis
in Italy who belonged to the sect of mystics. He also denounced
Shabbetai Zebi’s messianic movement as a fraud. Dr. Heinrich
Brody had edited some of Frances’ poems in 1892 under the title
Hebraische Prosodie von Immanuel Frances,
bu t Bernstein’s
edition contains a fuller collection taken from a Ms. of the Jewish
Theological Seminary in N. Y. (Halberstam 437), compared with
a Ms. of the British Museum. T h e text of Frances’ divan is
completely vocalized and a Hebrew commentary on the individual
poems is appended to the text. T h e 184 poems are arranged in
eight sections: (1) Poems of friendship and complaint, (2) Love
poems, (3) Lamentations, (4) Epitaphs, (5) Disputations, (6)
Religious poems, (7) Poems contra Shabbetai Zebi, and (8) Sup-
plementary poems.
Following this, Bernstein busied himself for a number of
years with a close study of the poetry of Solomon ben Meshullam
Dapiera of Saragossa, Spain (1340-1420). He produced an edition
of Dapiera’s works in 1938, bu t later published a revised and
more ample collection in 1942. For the accuracy of this edition,
Bernstein made use of Adler Ms. 1381 in the library of the
Jewish Theological Seminary, Bodeian Hebr. Ms. 2769 and
Berlin Ms. 1059. Solomon Dapiera was an original, prolific writer
of secular and religious poetry and the leading light of the school
of poets tha t flourished in Saragossa at the end of the fourteenth
century. He wrote numerous poems about his friends and con-
temporaries; his poetry therefore serves as source material for
the history and background of the period. Bernstein has supplied