Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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that persists in our own time. Tsinberg stresses the major in­
fluence of the old Hebrew literature, and that of the Middle
Ages upon Yiddish literature, but at the same time he is aware
of the social, political and generally outside forces that helped
shape Yiddish literature.
Israel Tsinberg’s major concern in his history is with Hebrew,
Aramaic and Yiddish writing. He also includes those Jewish
writers who wrote in foreign tongues on Jewish themes, from
a Jewish point of view. He discusses the works of Moses Men­
delssohn, Berthold Auerbach, Heinrich Heine, and Aaron Bern­
stein (who wrote books on popular science as well as stories about
Jewish li fe ) . Several times he mentions, not as a Jew but as a
democrat, the baptized Ludwig Borne who struggled for Jewish
emancipation. Tsinberg even analyzes Karl Marx’s essay on the
Jewish problem, which many consider to be anti-semitic. He
criticizes Marx from a Marxist position, and employs Marxist
methods to rebuke him.
Tsinberg includes Spinoza, although he points out his limited
influences on Jewish thought. He indicates the Jewish elements
of Spinoza’s philosophy, but also analyzes its non-Jewish content.
“Unfortunately,” he wrote, “Spinoza himself, that honest and
idealistic person, who so thoroughly analyzed human affectations
(shortcomings), did not always conduct himself as a person
should according to him, a man whose constant guide should
be reason.”
As was previously emphasized, Tsinberg is both a literary his­
torian and a literary critic with an original style and a gift for
proportion. He is precise in his evaluations and his critique is
based upon careful reading of the texts. Since he is concerned
primarily with the literature, he gives only the pertinent biogra­
phical data about each writer, for the purpose of orientation.
When there are more than two texts of a specific work, he analyzes
the variants minutely in the supplements. Thus, Tsinberg has
given us a scholarly, critical and intensely absorbing study of the
European period of Jewish literature from its early beginning in
Spain to the end of the Haskalah period in Russia.
Tsinberg’s history went through three editions in the Yid­
dish original. It was also translated into Hebrew and published
in six volumes in Israel. The Hebrew edition, which has im­
portant supplements and additions by a number of Israeli scholars,
was also reprinted. The additional notes refer to some new dis­
coveries and publications in the field. It is remarkable that, al­
though Tsinberg was isolated from the Jewish world while he
wrote, he mastered the subject; and the additions and supple­
mentary notes, while important, do not add to the history. On