Page 122 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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e w i s h
o o k
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the edition w ith an informative in troduction in which he describes
D apiera’s colleagues mentioned in the poems. His 163 poems
in the edition are arranged by Bernstein under the following
headings: (1) Self-appraisal of the poet’s talent, (2) Lam en ta tion
upon the death of Benveniste ben Labi, (3) Poems of friendship
and eulogy in honor of Don Vidal Joseph ibn Benveniste ben
Labi, (4) Poetic exchanges between Dapiera, Don Samuel A rrab i
and Moses Abbas, (5) Eulogies of the physicians Meir Alguadez
and Moses Gabay and of the poets Samuel Bonastruc and Don
Vidal Bonafos ben Labi, (6) Poem of solace to Shaltiel ben
Shelomo, (7) Eulogies of Astruch Ramoch and Zerahiah of
Monzon, and (8) Lamentation upon the death of Hasdai Crescas.
T h e brightest star in the galaxy of medieval Hebrew poets
was undoubtedly Jud ah Halevi. In addition to uncovering and
publishing some h itherto unknown poems of the great Spanish
bard, Bernstein prepared an excellent popu lar edition of Jud ah
Halevi’s poetry for Ogen in New York in 1944. In this collection
he presents 311 poems taken from the previous editions of S. D.
Luzzatto, H. Brody, and A. Harkavy. Bernstein’s original con-
tribu tion are his clear explanatory notes in an intelligible modern
Hebrew alongside each poem. T h e notes are complete bo th for
the 236 religious poems and for the 74 secular poems.
Bernstein’s long Hebrew introduction to Halevi’s poetry is
especially interesting and informative. I t aims to give an accurate
biographical account of Halevi, a description of the themes and
elements of his poetry and of the possible influences at work.
His conclusions are based on a critical evaluation of the sources.
Specifically, Bernstein tries to prove tha t Jud ah Halevi did no t
die in Egypt, since no Egyptian Hebrew poet has made mention
of his passing. Such an event would hardly have gone unnoticed.
T h e supposition is tha t the poet must have proceeded to Palestine
and realized his dream of settling in the Holy Land.
Th rough the assistance of the late Professor Alexander Marx,
distinguished librarian of the Jewish Theological Seminary of
America, who accidentally discovered the existence of a un ique
manuscript of lamentations in the Lisbon National Library,
Bernstein was able to ob tain a photostatic copy of the Ms. and
to make an intensive study of its contents. Th is resulted in a
scholarly edition of the collection of poetry under the title
,Al Naharot Sefarad
(“By the Rivers of Spain”), a name sug-
gestive of Psalm 137. T h e book was published in T e l Aviv in
1956 and contains 107 poems, mostly composed during the years
1391-1421 in Spain. Bernstein discovered tha t this Ms. served
as the source for the p rin ted Venetian edition of a similar work
in 1508, for the use of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish exiles in
Italy. The volume contains contributions from as many as
twenty-two different authors, among whom are well-known poets