Page 105 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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Israel.2 Among these were some editions which varied stylisti­
cally and ideologically as will be seen. Further, the popularity
o f the
resulted in a number of translations and ad­
aptations which exploited the name without much reference to
the original text, and many of these “adaptations” were also
ideologically motivated. Modern Hebrew and English transla­
tions based on the original Yiddish have appeared in recent
A confluence of circumstances contributed to the popularity
of the
not the least of which was the invention of
the printing press. Although some rabbis had decried the trans­
lation into the vernacular of traditional Hebrew sources, other
members of the religious establishment encouraged translations
of women’s commandments and ritual slaughter laws as many
Yiddish manuscripts from the sixteenth century attest.4But with
the advent of printing the religious establishment viewed with
trepidation the flooding of the Jewish quarter with “foolish and
ungodly” books in Yiddish from German secular sources.5 To
counteract such pernicious influences an extensive homiletical,
exegetical and devotional literature began appearing in the mid­
dle of the 16th century. As Max Weinreich notes, “Ashkenaz
had no loshn-koydesh belles lettres,....The place that Yiddish
literature came to occupy had previously been vacant.”6But the
sources of
belles lettres
were already extant in the aggadic liter­
2. Rhone Shmeruk, “Di mizrekh eyropeyishe nuskhoes fun der
ForMax Weinreich on his Seventieth Birthday
(The Hague, 1964).
3. Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi o f Janow,
Ze’enah U-re’nah,
trans. Israel M.
Hurwitz, ed. Joseph P. Schultz (Philadelphia: Dropsie College, 1984);
Tz’enah ure’nah,
trans. Miriam Stark Zakon, introd., Meir Holder (Brooklyn,
N.Y.:Mesorah Publications, in conjunction with Hillel Press, Jerusalem,
4. Agnes Romer Segal “Yiddish Works on Women’s Commandments in the
16th Century,”
Studies in Yiddish Literature and Folklore
(Jerusalem: Hebrew
University Press, 1986) 37-59.
5. Israel Zinberg,
Di Geshikhte fun der Literatur bay Yidn,
vol. 6, (Vilna: Tomor
Press, 1935) 104.
6. Max Weinreich,
History of the Yiddish Language,
trans. Shlomo Noble (Chi­
cago: University o f Chicago Press, 1980) 274.