Page 118 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
work which was to become the most popular among Jews, if
primarily due to the often humorous illustrations which accom­
panied the manuscripts and then the various printed versions.
This is the
Meshal ha-qadmoni
(“parable of the ancient one”).
However popular the work became, nevertheless the quality in
fact is rather poor. There is no real story, but rather moral
teachings, with frequent biblical and rabbinical allusions. The
occasional poems are short and also of poor quality.
Of an altogether different level of quality is the work of Jacob
b. Elcazar of Toledo, at about the same period. Unfortunately,
again only a few chapters have survived. This is enough, how­
ever, to demonstrate that the work is a masterpiece, both in
terms of the excellent Hebrew style and the wit and develop­
ment of the content.
The fourteenth century saw the continuation of the genre,
if on a somewhat deteriorated level, including a satirical version
of the
Aphorisms
of Hippocrates by En-Maimon Galipapa (one
of a family of physicians), a pietistic work by Samuel Ibn Sason
of Carrion (the same small town which produced the far more
important Shem Tov de Carrion, who also wrote a Hebrew
maqama
in addition to his more famous work discussed below).25
Vidal Benvenist (not Benveniste), around 1400, wrote the
very popular
Melitsat cOfer ve-Dinah,
which his own conversion
to Christianity did not cause to diminish in fame (with an oth­
erwise unknown Judah de Aranda he wrote also another
maqama).
Vidal Alrabi was another author of a similar work at
this time, and the Matityahu who wrote
Ahituv ve-Tsalmon
as
well as
Begidat ha-zeman
may or may not be the same as
Matityahu ha-Yitshari who participated in the Tortosa dispu­
tation.
IN LIGHTER VEIN
Humor and satire, independent of the
maqama
genre, rep ­
resents yet another aspect of Hebrew literature (with similar
development in the Arabic models). Provencal scholars such as
Abraham and Yedacyah Bedersi, as well as Catalans like
25. Ibn Sason’s
Avnei ha-shoham
(Jerusalem, 1954) was reprinted in 1968. Shem
Tov’s
M acaseh ha-rav
was published as a separate work (Tel-Aviv, 1980); cf.
my review in
Hebrew Studies
24 (1983): 217-19.