Page 98 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

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MOSHE PELLI
Haskalah Literature
Trends
and Attitudes
H
e b r ew
L
i t e r a t u r e
will mark next year two major anniversaries
in the annals o f Haskalah in Germany. T h e first, and probably the
more important, is the 200th anniversary o f the publication o f
Naphtali Herz Wessely’s
Divrey Shalom Ve-Emet
(Words o f Peace
and T ru th ). Published in 1872, this educational pam ph let by the
acclaimed poet o f early Haskalah in Germany heralds the advo­
cacy of a new ideology o f Hebrew Haskalah — though it is by no
means altogether an innovation from an educational po in t o f
view. T he second observance is the 150th anniversary o f the b irth
o f Isaac Satanow (1732), ano ther major p roponen t o f early H e ­
brew Enlightenment in Germany .1
Rather than dwell on each w riter’s contribution to the Hebrew
Haskalah, I propose to make some observations on this literary
movement o f which they were a part. It is, I believe, app rop r ia te
to offer such an evaluation at this jun c tu re , for the beginning of
the 1980’s marks two hund red years since the advent o f the
Hebrew Enlightenment movement in Germany which u she red in
modern Hebrew letters. This assessment will point to some o f the
general features o f Hebrew Haskalah and offer a num be r of
insights into the na tu re , role and impact o f the movement at its
inception.
Haskalah rep resen ts the collective effo rt o f Hebrew writers
du r ing the 18th and 19th centuries. These
maskilim
p resen ted
the ir literary works in a language which they sought to revive for a
people they wished to rejuvenate. T h e ir efforts can be reviewed
according to th ree major areas o f endeavor: a. Language and
literature; b. Social and educational activities; and c. Ideological,
cultural and religious trends.
1 On both Wessely and Satanow, see the respective chapters in my book
The Age of
Haskalah
(Leiden, 1979).