Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
novel as a literary form appeared in Hebrew litera tu re only in
mid-century, with the publication o f Abraham M apu’s
Ahavat
Zion:
The Haskalah thus adhe red to its ideology which sough t to
propel Jewish cu ltu re and Jewish litera tu re into the ma instream
o f Western civilization. At the same time, it did not ignore its own
unique Juda ic heritage. We note a continuity o f ethical works by
modern En ligh tenmen t writers. T h e tim e-honored title
Sefer
Ha-Middot
(Book o f Ethics), for example, was chosen by a num be r
o f Haskalah au tho rs for the ir own books.5 They experim en ted
with existing styles o f Jewish litera tu re . This fact alone can
perhaps explain the enormous effo rt made by Isaac Satanow to
imitate the biblical style o f wisdom litera tu re in his
Mishley Asaf
(Proverbs o f Asaf) series. These writings were said by Satanow to
have been discovered as ancient manuscripts, to which he added
his own commentary in the traditional exegetical style. A no ther
experiment o f his took the shape o f the
Kuzari.
It was
Divrey Rivot
(Matters o f Dispute), which was pa tterned afte r the medieval
religious disputation between a king, who seeks to find the true
religion, and representatives o f d iffe ren t faiths. Needless to say,
these neo-biblical and neo-medieval formats were sa tu ra ted with
modern en ligh tenm en t ideology.
Ano ther writer, Saul Berlin, a traditionalist rabbi and a
maskil,
attempted a daring , and to some, a distasteful and dishonest
endeavor by composing a new
Shulhan Arukh.
Entitled
Besamim
Rosh,
this new halakhic book, which was attribu ted to the
Rosh,
Rabbi Asher ben Yehiel o f the th ir teen th and fou rteen th cen­
turies, advocated a new approach to Jewish halakhah and some
type o f religious reform .
This preoccupation with some o f the old formats and the h e r i­
tage o f past Jewish literature continued to be evidenced by H e ­
brew writers and pund its for some time. It is one indication tha t
the Hebrew
maskilim
did not desire a complete break with the
heritage o f the past.
Hebrew Enlightenment Literature in Germany,”
Leo Baeck Year Book,
XXIV
(1979), pp. 83-103.
5 Such as: Isaac Satanow,
Sefer Ha-Middot
(Berlin, 1784), and N.H. Wessely,
Sefer
Ha-Middot
(Berlin, 1785).