Page 183 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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BARZILAY / LEOPOLD ZUNZ
175
ish education, Jewish history and literature were expanding. A
great deal o f translation from foreign languages to Hebrew and
vice versa was going on . . . A new mysticism was also spreading
in Poland.
(Ibid.,
pp. 110-111)
Obviously, Zunz was well aware of the new developments in
Hebrew letters, both in Germany as well as in Lithuania, Galicia,
Poland and Prussia. Indeed, he mentioned most of the writers
of the
Meassef, Bikkurei Ha-Ittim
and those who wrote only in
German. It appears, this new phase did not impress him too
much, and he predicted a short life span for it. In 1818 he
wrote:
Since the German Jews of our time devote themselves more se­
riously to the German language and education, without perhaps
even wanting it, they will see Hebrew literature being carried
to its grave.
At the same time, he noted:
Jewish scholarship made its appearance demanding an account
of the concluded [literary period]. Moreover, now that the great­
er culture may expect a more friendly treatment, and Hebrew
books are not as yet as difficult to obtain anno 1819 as they
might become anno 1919, the elaboration of our scholarship in
the grand style must become our duty.
ATTITUDE TO HEBREW
Obviously, Zunz was no great admirer of modern Hebrew
literature. He did not consider it a match for the secular lit­
erature of Germany. His great appreciation of the works of
Shir, Ranak
and
Shadal
notwithstanding, I doubt whether gen­
erally he had a more positive opinion of the scholarly works
in Hebrew. He himself rarely wrote Hebrew. In his youth he
was of the opinion that Jewish youngsters should not spend
too much time on the study of Hebrew. A rudimentary knowl­
edge would suffice. Yet, as he grew older, and more deeply
immersed in past Jewish culture, his emotional ties with it gained
in depth and strength. Each
piyut
became a historical document
to him, a testimony of the terrible suffering and martyrdom
of the Jewish people. Moreover, his absorption with the
piyut,
and his great interpretative contribution to it, kept alive Jewish