Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shadal series #4 - disapproving of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch's predilection for German.

One the things which really annoyed Shadal was German. He didn't like it, he claimed that he couldn't read the Blackletter type well, he often said that he never read a complete German book until 1829, and although he wrote hundreds of letters in Italian, French and even Latin, when a Jew sent him a letter in German, he invariably answered in Hebrew. Although he did write articles for publication in German, his attitude was generally negative toward that language, corresponding to his perception that German Jews were becoming too assimilated and too cavalier toward Hebrew (shared by many non-German Jews of a traditionalist orientation all over Europe; indeed, in eastern Europe a modern Jew was often called a דייטשער, that is, a German, in Yiddish; and, ironically, in German).

Having recently posted about Shadal's reception of Hirsch's 19 Letters (written in German; Shadal was impressed by it and expressed love for its author, who was then unknown to him), here is an interesting little poem that he wrote, apparently in response to a letter he received from Rabbi Hirsch written in . . . German.


(Chinor Nahim v.2 pg. 295. Padua 1879.)

Loose translation (forgive me):
What's up with the author of the Letters Ten-Plus-Nine?
Has he switched and become Geiger or Holdheim?
For he wrote to Shadal in the language of Germania,
Not in the language of Jerusalem and Judea.
At the end of the book (compiled by his son Isaia) is an index stating where and if the poems in this collection were written or printed. This one? It was a ditty included in an 1847 letter to Geiger! Unfortunately the letter appears neither in Iggerot Shadal or Epistolario, so I don't know what the rest of the letter was about.

12 comments:

  1. 10 plus 9? which words mean that? tzafon?

    ReplyDelete
  2. None of them. It was my lame attempt at making "19" as in "Nineteen Letters" (the German title of אגרות צפון) rhyme with "Holdheim." Ten PLus Nine, Holdheim, get it? Poetic license.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a fan of both Hirsch and Shadal (and a descendant of the former), I've always been curious about any direct or even indirect links between them. The record is thin: there is Shadal's letter to Hirsch recommending his student Igel, there is Shadal's relatively brief critique of the Nineteen Letters, and now there is this cryptic little snippet (thanks, S., for digging it up). And so far I have seen nothing from Hirsch to Shadal, which is why this snippet is so tantalizing. On the whole, it seems that these two luminaries simply moved in different orbits.

    ReplyDelete
  4. you should've written this post in hebrew

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dan, I'm assuming that R. Hirsch's letter was a response of some kind to Shadal's letter about Igel.

    As for them moving in different orbits, while this is true, there were only degrees of separation between them (although I suppose that's true for pretty much everyone). For example, Seligmann Baer's Toras Elohim has a haskamah from R. Hirsch, as well as a letter from Shadal.

    Zohar, at least it wasn't in German.

    ReplyDelete
  6. abba's rantings12:49 AM, August 14, 2011

    "in eastern Europe a modern Jew was often called a דייטשער"

    my grandfather used to sneak away to daven in a maskilic shul, referred to by the hasidim as the deitscher shil. (ultimately destroyed as a present to hitler to celebrate the liquidation of the warsaw ghetto)

    "language of Germania"

    ok, i see from your previous comment you wanted to preserve rhyme, although here it loses the allusion to the title

    ReplyDelete
  7. Shadal's letter to S.R.H. on behalf of Igel was written in August 1849, two years *after* his little rhymed complaint about Hirsch's German letter. So at least we now have evidence of an earlier direct contact between them. If Luzzatto ever replied to this letter, my guess is that he wrote (reluctantly) in German, which would explain why such a reply would not have been included in Iggerot Shadal or the Epistolario.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good point, Dan! Please be assured that when I write the book "On the Relations Between Samson Raphael Hirsch of the North and Samuel David Luzzatto of the South" I will be sure to double check the dates!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I know this is late, but here is my very free rhymed translation:

    What's up with the author of the Nineteen Letters?

    Has he become a Geiger or Holdheim?

    For he wrote to Shadal in German fetters.

    He should write in Hebrew next time!

    Lawrence Kaplan

    ReplyDelete
  10. Change line 1 to read:


    What's up with the author of the Northern Letters?

    Lawrence Kaplan

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dr. Kaplan, better effort than mine! In my defense, apart for not being a poet by any means, I didn't try very hard. Maybe I should do a rewrite!

    Here's yours:

    What's up with the author of the Northern Letters?
    Has he become a Geiger or Holdheim?
    For he wrote to Shadal in German fetters.
    He should write in Hebrew next time!

    In my head I keep hearing things like "There once was a man named Geiger, the criticism he practiced was higher..."

    ReplyDelete

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