Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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110
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
'Evaluation of Achievements
W. Bacher, in his scholarly evaluation of Levita’s achievements
(ZDMG, vol. XLIII, 1889, 206-72), lists the following areas:
(1) elucidation and critique of his predecessors, (2) grammar,
(3) lexicography, (4) research into Targumim, (5) into Maso­
rah, (6) Bible exegesis. Missing here is Levita’s contribution
in the field of Judeo-German (the early form of Yiddish). B.
Suler, in
Encyclopedia Judaica
, lists it as a separate category, men­
tioning by name the
Bovobuch
and translations of Job and the
Psalms. M. Griinbaum, in his
Jiidischdeutsche Chrestomathie
(Leipzig, 1882), brings samples of Levita’s use of Judeo-German.
In 1949 Judah A. Joffe published
Elia Bachur’s Poetical Works.
Vol. I represents a facsimile of the
Bovobuch
published in Isny.
In Levita’s preface we read that since he already has “ eight or
nine” Hebrew books to his name, he now plans to publish “all
my books and songs . . . one after the other,” and he begins the
intended series with the
Bovobuch.
There is no speculating how many Judeo-German MSS may
have been ready for the press. Certain contemporary Judeo-Ger­
man works, among them a translation of the Pentateuch with
Haftarot
and
Megillot,
and the rhymed
Paris and Vienna
tale, are
ascribed to him by some, while others doubt it. Definitely known
to come from his pen are some smaller poems, the Psalms trans­
lation and the
Bovobuch.
The latter is a knight’s tale in
ottava
rima,
a Judaized version of the Italian
Buovo d’Antona
which
goes back to the thirteenth century English
Sir Bevis of Hampton.
It became one of the most popular stories in Judeo-German lit­
erature and gave us — probably through some fusion with
bobe
‘grandmother’ — the Yiddish word
bobe-maise
‘fantastic tale.’
Levita’s significance is a dual one: his work forms the link
between the last great mediaeval Hebrew linguists personified by
David Kimhi, and the first modern ones exemplified by Wilhelm
Gesenius. And, living at a critical time in history, when “ a teacher
of cardinals and bishops . . . and of the originators and leaders of
the Reformation” (Ginsburg) held in his hand considerable
power for good or for bad, Elijah Bahur used it for the good of
his people.