The Discovery and Publication of Joseph Perl’s Yiddish Writings

In: Zutot
Author: Jonatan Meir1
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  • 1 Ben Gurion University

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The attitude of Tarnopol satirist Joseph Perl (1773–1839) towards the Yiddish language has been discussed by a number of scholars. In particular, researchers have examined his views with regard to his most well-known satire, Sefer Megaleh temirin, which was printed in Hebrew in Vienna, 1819, with a partial Yiddish translation of the work appearing in Vilna, 1938. However, there remains much to be said concerning the creative process which guided Perl’s writing in Yiddish, as well as the later discovery and publication of his Yiddish works, both of which are chapters in the wider story of the development of Yiddish literature in the first half of the nineteenth century and the increasing scholarly interest in it at the outset of the twentieth century. This article briefly describes these multifaceted matters and then offers suggestions for the future study of Perl’s writing in particular, and maskilic Yiddish literature in general.

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    S. Katz, ‘Hosafot le-reshimat defusei Tarnopol,’ Kiryat sefer 15 (1938–1939) 516 and n. 31; idem, ‘Targumei tenakh me-et Menahem Mendel Lefin me-Satanov,’ Kiryat sefer 16 (1939–1940) 114–115; idem, ‘Kitvei Perl,’ Davar, Musaf (29 Kislev 1937) 4–5; I. Weinlez, ‘Mendel Lefin Satanover,’ Yivo-Bleter 2 (1932) 345–346. This translation aroused an argument among some of the Galician maskilim, as for example in Tuvia Feder’s work Qol mehatzatzim and the polemic with Yaakov Shmuel Bik, which reflected differences of opinion regarding the future path of the Haskalah and attitudes to Yiddish and German. See Perl, Maʾasiyot ve-iggerot, 65; Shmeruk, Sifrut yiddish, 187; M. Pelli, Sugot ve-sugiyot be-sifrut ha-haskala ha-ʿivrit: ha-zjaner ha-maskili ve-avizareihu (Tel Aviv 1999), 73–90; Y. Friedlander, Be-mistarei ha-satira: perakim ba-satira ha-ʿivrit ha-hadasha be-meʾah ha-y.t., vol. 1 (Ramat Gan 1984) 14–75 (including an additional bibliography). The Perl Archive contains, in addition to a copy of Feder’s Qol mehatzatzim (Joseph Perl Archive, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Manuscript department, 4º1153, folder 136 aleph), a page of satire mocking Feder’s drunkenness entitled ‘Qotzim le-mehatzetz’ (Joseph Perl Archive, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Manuscript department, 4º1153, folder 136). Nancy Sinkoff included reproductions of the title pages of these manuscripts, as well as a comprehensive discussion of this polemical episode, in her book Out of the Shtetl: Making Jews Modern in the Polish Borderlands (Providence 2004) 168–202.

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  • 9

    Shmeruk, Sifrut yiddish, 241. Sadan presumed that the texts were known to Perl’s circle and read in manuscript form. See his comments in M. Pines, Qorot sifrut yiddish, hikdim me-voʾ: Dov Sadan (Ramat Gan 1981) 62.

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  • 11

    Shmeruk, Sifrut yiddish, 239–240; Miron, A Traveler Disguised, 14–15. Levinsohn’s Hebrew and Yiddish satiric writings, which merited a significant number of copies in manuscript form, constitute a perfect example of this. His work ‘Emek refaʾim is common in manuscript form and influenced other works even before it was printed in the 1860s. On this see Sefer Emek refaʾim le-Rival: Critical Edition, by J. Meir and D. Asaf (in preparation).

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  • 12

    Shmeruk, Sifrut yiddish, 259–260; Perl, Maʾasiyot ve-iggerot, 69.

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    I. Weinlez, ‘Antigonus,’ Yidish-literarisher kalendar (Lemberg 1924) 114–126. These manuscripts were listed in the archive catalogue from the beginning of the twentieth century, see the list of Hebrew and Yiddish manuscripts from the Perl collection arranged by Philip Kopler in Tarnopol, Joseph Perl Archive, National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Manuscript department, 4º1153, appendix 2, items 9, 20 and 48.

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  • 17

    S. Tshernovitz, ‘Megule el ha-gola: Tarnopol,’ Ha-tsefira 67 (197) (9 Elul 1928) 2. Perl gave a sermon in Yiddish in the Synagogue he established in Tarnopol about the disagreement regarding the Rabbinate of Rapaport, see above, n. 2.

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  • 18

    C.N. Bialik, ‘Reshamim meha-gola,’ Davar (15 Adar 1, 1932) 2. This article spurred others to speed up the effort to ‘save’ the archive. See A. Schwadron, ‘ʿOd le-shaʿaruriyat ginzei Perl,’ Davar (9 Nissan 1932); A.Y. Braver, ‘Ginzei Joseph Perl (hatzeʿa le-hatzalatam),’ Davar, Musaf le-shabbat (17 Adar 2 1932); D. Sadan, ‘Hiziyonei hitul: ketav-yad mi-ginzei Perl,’ in Mazkeret Levy: sefer zikharon likhvod ha-rav dr. Levy Freund z’l (Tel Aviv 1954) 96–97; S. Werses, ‘Ginzei Joseph Perl bi-yerushalayim,’ Ha-universita 19, vol. 1 (Adar 1974) 38–52; J. Meir, Hasidut meduma: ʿiyunim be-ketavav ha-satiriyim shel Joseph Perl (Jerusalem 2013).

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  • 19

    Y. Shatzky, ‘Naye arbetn tsu der geshikhte fun der idisher literatur,’ Pinkas 1 (1927) 173–174.

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    Ibid., 559 n. 8: ‘the translation of the Hebrew introduction and the footnotes, of which Weinlez was unaware, I found among the discarded manuscripts of the archive’. On this see also Perl, Sefer Megaleh temirin, 38.

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