Page 115 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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SHLOMO HARAMATI
Hebrew Textbooks: Their Origin and
Development
for
m a n y
g e n e r a t io n s
no textbooks were employed in Jewish
education. T h e study o f Hebrew read ing was based on aleph
bet charts tha t were portable o r that were included in the Sid-
du r, which itself served as a text for reading. At times the Pen­
tateuch was used for this purpose as well. Beginning with the
period o f the Maharal (1512/1526-1699), who was the first to
develop a comprehensive educational theory, there began to
appear various textbooks, grammars and dictionaries, including
bilingual ones, to enable parents to transm it a basic Hebrew
vocabulary to their children. The best known o f these diction­
aries was
Hinukh Katan
(Krakow, 1640), which enjoyed contin­
ued popularity and there fo re eclipsed similar works that had
appeared previously. A number o f prayer books also contained
bilingual vocabularies for the use o f parents.
Actual textbooks are known to have appeared beginning with
the end o f the 16th century. Abraham Yagel’s
Lekah Tov
(Venice,
1595) was written in Hebrew in the form o f a dialogue on the
principles o f Judaism between a teacher and his pupils. Follow­
ing the pa ttern o f the catechism that was popu lar in Christian
circles, it went into various editions. It was translated into Yid­
dish, German and even Latin. A second textbook dating from
this period and intended for seven- and eight-year-olds, was
Em ha-Yeled
(Prague, 1597) by Joseph Heilprin. Written to teach
the gramm ar and correct usage o f Hebrew, it earned the “ap ­
probations” o f leading rabbis, including the Maharal. During
the 17th century various grammars appeared in Holland that
were in tended for school use as indicated on their title pages.
T h e educational needs o f Jewish communities from the 17th
century on gave rise to the publishing o f various textbooks. At
first there appeared books on mathematics in Hebrew and Yid­
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