Page 115 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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BILIK /
TSENE-RENE.
A YIDDISH LITERARY SUCCESS
107
analysis, singles out Isaac Meir Dik as the inheritor of this par­
ticular style. Dik, like the author of the
Tsene-rene,
was a pop-
ularizer, a preacher and a folklorist. Shmeruk ends his exem­
plary analysis by posing the following problem: “Since we can
find the thread that ties the Vilna-maskilic
Tsene-rene
to the
daytshmerish-
maskilic style of I.M. Dik, can we not also ascertain
through research where the hasidic style manifested itself in
later Yiddish literature?”32
Perhaps we can point in the direction of Shmeruk’s thirty-
year-old suggestion by citing the informative work of Chaim
Lieberman who was for many years the head of the Lubavitcher
library. He demonstrated that
Sefer hamaggid,
a Yiddish work
on the Prophets and Writings, had been incorrectly attributed
to Ashkenazi. In fact the author of the
Tsene-rene
had perhaps
written the introduction and perhaps had a manuscript but he
died in 1623 before the book was published. The publishers,
mindful of the fame of the author, kept his name on the title
page but substituted another translation and didn’t let their
readers know about the substitution until the middle of the third
volume in another “introduction,” thus anticipating the German
maskilim’s attempt to fool the public with a fake
Tsene-rene.
What
is relevant to the present discussion is that the relative of the
author who wrote the “hidden” introduction indicates that
Yankev ben Yitskhok didn’t have the books to complete his task
and that because of his great humility he intended to help only
poshite kleyne un mitele mentshn
[simple lower and middle-class
people] and that he [Ashkenazi] did not worry about upper-class
people. The publishers believe that it isn’t worth it to undertake
such a huge and expensive task for the sake of the simple little
people. They will not become any more intelligent from it any­
way. Therefore we have decided to make this edition useful
to the higher classes as well.33 Although Lieberman chides the
secular Yiddish scholars and bibliographers for being too tired
to read beyond the title-page, the insight the introduction offers
into the character of Yankev ben Yitzkhok and the extent of
class conflict and snobbery of some his colleagues would have
supported many of the ideas of those very critics. My citation
32. Shmeruk, 320.
33. Chaim Lieberman, “Vegn dem
Sefer hamaggid
un zayn mekhaber,”
Yidishe
shprakh,
vol. 26 (1966) 33-38.