Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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in 1888, read the
in Yiddish to the Jewish women
of her Bavarian village. In the late 1960’s an elderly German-
Jewish acquaintance of his in Washington Heights had a copy
of the 1789 Sulzbach
and lent it to Lowenstein only
on condition that he return it before Friday, since the gentleman
read it on the Sabbath.21
I f the mid-nineteenth century German edition of the
did not differ substantially from its earlier versions, the
editions published in Eastern Europe began “modernizing” the
text as early as 1786.22 Shmeruk’s linguistically sophisticated
comparative textual study analyzes the grammatical, structural
and lexical changes in style that were made by publishers to
bring the language of the
closer to the language spo­
ken by Eastern European Jews. He contrasts the 1786 Lemberg
edition which he labels “the galitsyaner redaktsiye” with the Vil-
na edition of 1827 and comments that this later edition is closer
to the archaic, story-telling style of the original.23 He demon­
strates how consecutive word order and the replacement of the
simple preterit by more contemporary verb forms reflect then
current speech conventions. He documents the ideological battle
between Haskalah and Hasidism for the soul of the Jewish peo­
ple which was occurring at the same time as the language was
evolving toward modern Yiddish. He cites specific references
to the maskilic additions that were printed in the Vilna edition
of 1842. For example, when the text refers to fish that are one
hundred miles long, the helpful editors add in a footnote: “Ac­
cording to the old-time meaning. Today we cannot find any
such large fish and the largest fish is the whale.”24 The Vilna
editions of those years attempted to purge the beloved folk mas­
terpiece of its “superstition” and substitute “rationalism.” At the
same time the Hasidim at Josefow and later at Zhitomer were
doing just the opposite. They purged the text of its maskilic
emendations and substituted Hebraisms and other lexical fea­
tures which were in tune with their more pious audience.
Shmeruk differentiates among
galitsyaner, ukrayiner, vilner,
editors. He uses the lexical,
21. Lowenstein, 187.
22. Shmeruk, 331.
23. Shmeruk, 326.
24. Shmeruk, 323.