Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So you want to cantillate a Hebrew text yourself? R. Samson Rafael Hirsch's approbation to Seligmann Baer's Thorath Emeth, and Franz Delitzsch

Here is a haskama by R. Samson Rafael Hirsch to the book תורת אמת by Seligmann Baer.

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In addition to being a complete guide to the masoretic accents and cantillation of the 21 prose books of the Bible, and including an important letter by Shadal on the accents, there is a section which purports to teach the rules for cantillating a free standing Hebrew text:

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This comports well with Baer's methodology, which earned him the designation as a latter-day Massorete in the evaluation of critics, that the way to edit a biblical text was not to reproduce a manuscript, but to freshly apply the massoretic rules, whether as found in massoretic manuals or as discovered by experts like him, to the text anew. Interestingly, he published his editions of the Tanakh, complete with lengthy introductory essays in Latin, in conjunction with Franz Delitszch, the great Christian Hebraist, Judeophile and missionary.

This last point is particularly interesting, because one simply cannot imagine a Jewish editor of a Bible collaberating with a Christian missionary today, and one simply can't imagine one such as R. Samson Rafael Hirsch thinking warmly of the person that did so. (Granted, this part is speculative, as the collaberation was later. However, it seems difficult to conceive of Seligmann Baer of Thorath Emeth being essentially different from the more mature Seligmann Baer, who was certainly still highly regarded as a religious scholar of the highest caliber.) My guess is that at the time in Europe, a friendly figure such as Delitzsch whom, moreover, tended to accord respect and sympathy to Judaism and to actual, living Jews (even while he hoped and worked for the conversion of the Jews) was of sufficient rarity that such a figure was appreciated rather than shunned. In addition, today, whether in America or Israel, there is a certain amount of independence and self confidence which circumstances affords today's Jews who might be more discriminating in who it sees as its friends or people worthy of being acquainted with.

(As an example of the kind of warm feelings for Judaism and Jewish texts that Deltzsch had, see the following excerpt from his Iris: Studies in Colors:

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Truly it takes a sincere אוהב ישראל to look for and see the beauty in בדיקות.

Franz Delitzsch:


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