Read A GLANCE AT JEWISH LITERATURE of Jewish Literature and Other Essays , free online book, by Gustav Karpeles, on

In a well-known passage of the Romanzero, rebuking Jewish women for their ignorance of the magnificent golden age of their nation’s poetry, Heine used unmeasured terms of condemnation.  He was too severe, for the sources from which he drew his own information were of a purely scientific character, necessarily unintelligible to the ordinary reader.  The first truly popular presentation of the whole of Jewish literature was made only a few years ago, and could not have existed in Heine’s time, as the most valuable treasures of that literature, a veritable Hebrew Pompeii, have been unearthed from the mould and rubbish of the libraries within this century.  Investigations of the history of Jewish literature have been possible, then, only during the last fifty years.

But in the course of this half-century, conscientious research has so actively been prosecuted that we can now gain at least a bird’s-eye view of the whole course of our literature.  Some stretches still lie in shadow, and it is not astonishing that eminent scholars continue to maintain that “there is no such thing as an organic history, a logical development, of the gigantic neo-Hebraic literature”; while such as are acquainted with the results of late research at best concede that Hebrew literature has been permitted to garner a “tender aftermath.”  Both verdicts are untrue and unfair.  Jewish literature has developed organically, and in the course of its evolution it has had its spring-tide as well as its season of decay, this again followed by vigorous rejuvenescence.

Such opinions are part and parcel of the vicissitudes of our literature, in themselves sufficient matter for an interesting book.  Strange it certainly is that a people without a home, without a land, living under repression and persecution, could produce so great a literature; stranger still, that it should at first have been preserved and disseminated, then forgotten, or treated with the disdain of prejudice, and finally roused from torpid slumber into robust life by the breath of the modern era.  In the neighborhood of twenty-two thousand works are known to us now.  Fifty years ago bibliographers were ignorant of the existence of half of these, and in the libraries of Italy, England, and Germany an untold number awaits resurrection.

In fact, our literature has not yet been given a name that recommends itself to universal acceptance.  Some have called it “Rabbinical Literature,” because during the middle ages every Jew of learning bore the title Rabbi; others, “Neo-Hebraic”; and a third party considers it purely theological.  These names are all inadequate.  Perhaps the only one sufficiently comprehensive is “Jewish Literature.”  That embraces, as it should, the aggregate of writings produced by Jews from the earliest days of their history up to the present time, regardless of form, of language, and, in the middle ages at least, of subject-matter.

With this definition in mind, we are able to sketch the whole course of our literature, though in the frame of an essay only in outline.  We shall learn, as Leopold Zunz, the Humboldt of Jewish science, well says, that it is “intimately bound up with the culture of the ancient world, with the origin and development of Christianity, and with the scientific endeavors of the middle ages.  Inasmuch as it shares the intellectual aspirations of the past and the present, their conflicts and their reverses, it is supplementary to general literature.  Its peculiar features, themselves falling under universal laws, are in turn helpful in the interpretation of general characteristics.  If the aggregate results of mankind’s intellectual activity can be likened unto a sea, Jewish literature is one of the tributaries that feed it.  Like other literatures and like literature in general, it reveals to the student what noble ideals the soul of man has cherished, and striven to realize, and discloses the varied achievements of man’s intellectual powers.  If we of to-day are the witnesses and the offspring of an eternal, creative principle, then, in turn, the present is but the beginning of a future, that is, the translation of knowledge into life.  Spiritual ideals consciously held by any portion of mankind lend freedom to thought, grace to feeling, and by sailing up this one stream we may reach the fountain-head whence have emanated all spiritual forces, and about which, as a fixed pole, all spiritual currents eddy."

The cornerstone of this Jewish literature is the Bible, or what we call Old Testament literature ­the oldest and at the same time the most important of Jewish writings.  It extends over the period ending with the second century before the common era; is written, for the most part, in Hebrew, and is the clearest and the most faithful reflection of the original characteristics of the Jewish people.  This biblical literature has engaged the closest attention of all nations and every age.  Until the seventeenth century, biblical science was purely dogmatic, and only since Herder pointed the way have its aesthetic elements been dwelt upon along with, often in defiance of, dogmatic considerations.  Up to this time, Ernest Meier and Theodor Noeldeke have been the only ones to treat of the Old Testament with reference to its place in the history of literature.

Despite the dogmatic air clinging to the critical introductions to the study of the Old Testament, their authors have not shrunk from treating the book sacred to two religions with childish arbitrariness.  Since the days of Spinoza’s essay at rationalistic explanation, Bible criticism has been the wrestling-ground of the most extravagant exegesis, of bold hypotheses, and hazardous conjectures.  No Latin or Greek classic has been so ruthlessly attacked and dissected; no mediaeval poetry so arbitrarily interpreted.  As a natural consequence, the aesthetic elements were more and more pushed into the background.  Only recently have we begun to ridicule this craze for hypotheses, and returned to more sober methods of inquiry.  Bible criticism reached the climax of absurdity, and the scorn was just which greeted one of the most important works of the critical school, Hitzig’s “Explanation of the Psalms.”  A reviewer said:  “We may entertain the fond hope that, in a second edition of this clever writer’s commentary, he will be in the enviable position to tell us the day and the hour when each psalm was composed.”

The reaction began a few years ago with the recognition of the inadequacy of Astruc’s document hypothesis, until then the creed of all Bible critics.  Astruc, a celebrated French physician, in 1753 advanced the theory that the Pentateuch ­the five books of Moses ­consists of two parallel documents, called respectively Yahvistic and Elohistic, from the name applied to God in each.  On this basis, German science after him raised a superstructure.  No date was deemed too late to be assigned to the composition of the Pentateuch.  If the historian Flavius Josephus had not existed, and if Jesus had not spoken of “the Law” and “the prophets,” and of the things “which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms,” critics would have been disposed to transfer the redaction of the Bible to some period of the Christian era.  So wide is the divergence of opinions on the subject that two learned critics, Ewald and Hitzig, differ in the date assigned to a certain biblical passage by no less than a thousand years!

Bible archaeology, Bible exegesis, and discussions of grammatical niceties, were confounded with the history of biblical literature, and naturally it was the latter that suffered by the lack of differentiation.  Orthodoxy assumed a purely divine origin for the Bible, while sceptics treated the holy book with greater levity than they would dare display in criticising a modern novel.  The one party raised a hue and cry when Moses was spoken of as the first author; the other discovered “obscene, rude, even cannibalistic traits" in the sublime narratives of the Bible.  It should be the task of coming generations, successors by one remove of credulous Bible lovers, and immediate heirs of thorough-going rationalists, to reconcile and fuse in a higher conception of the Bible the two divergent theories of its purely divine and its purely human origin.  Unfortunately, it must be admitted that Ernest Meier is right, when he says, in his “History of the National Poetry of the Hebrews,” that this task wholly belongs to the future; at present it is an unsolved problem.

The aesthetic is the only proper point of view for a full recognition of the value of biblical literature.  It certainly does not rob the sacred Scriptures, the perennial source of spiritual comfort, of their exalted character and divine worth to assume that legend, myth, and history have combined to produce the perfect harmony which is their imperishable distinction.  The peasant dwelling on inaccessible mountain-heights, next to the record of Abraham’s shepherd life, inscribes the main events of his own career, the anniversary dates sacred to his family.  The young count among their first impressions that of “the brown folio,” and more vividly than all else remember

    “The maidens fair and true,
      The sages and the heroes bold,
    Whose tale by seers inspired
      In our Book of books is told.

    The simple life and faith
      Of patriarchs of ancient day
    Like angels hover near,
      And guard, and lead them on the way."

Above all, a whole nation has for centuries been living with, and only by virtue of, this book.  Surely this is abundant testimony to the undying value of the great work, in which the simplest shepherd tales and the naivest legends, profound moral saws and magnificent images, the ideals of a Messianic future and the purest, the most humane conception of life, alternate with sublime descriptions of nature and the sweet strains of love-poems, with national songs breathing hope, or trembling with anguish, and with the dull tones of despairing pessimism and the divinely inspired hymns of an exalted theodicy ­all blending to form what the reverential love of men has named the Book of books.

It was natural that a book of this kind should become the basis of a great literature.  Whatever was produced in later times had to submit to be judged by its exalted standard.  It became the rule of conduct, the prophetic mirror reflecting the future work of a nation whose fate was inextricably bound up with its own.  It is not known how and when the biblical scriptures were welded into one book, a holy canon, but it is probably correct to assume that it was done by the Soferim, the Scribes, between 200 and 150 B.C.E.  At all events, it is certain that the three divisions of the Bible ­the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the miscellaneous writings ­were contained in the Greek version, the Septuagint, so called from the seventy or seventy-two Alexandrians supposed to have done the work of translation under Ptolemy Philadelphus.

The Greek translation of the Bible marks the beginning of the second period of Jewish literature, the Judaeo-Hellenic.  Hebrew ceased to be the language of the people; it was thenceforth used only by scholars and in divine worship.  Jewish for the first time met Greek intellect.  Shem and Japheth embraced fraternally.  “But even while the teachings of Hellas were pushing their way into subjugated Palestine, seducing Jewish philosophy to apostasy, and seeking, by main force, to introduce paganism, the Greek philosophers themselves stood awed by the majesty and power of the Jewish prophets.  Swords and words entered the lists as champions of Judaism.  The vernacular Aramaean, having suffered the Greek to put its impress upon many of its substantives, refused to yield to the influence of the Greek verb, and, in the end, Hebrew truth, in the guise of the teachings of Jesus, undermined the proud structure of the heathen.”  This is a most excellent characterization of that literary period, which lasted about three centuries, ending between 100 and 150 C. E. Its influence upon Jewish literature can scarcely be said to have been enduring.  To it belong all the apocryphal writings which, originally composed in the Greek language, were for that reason not incorporated into the Holy Canon.  The centre of intellectual life was no longer in Palestine, but at Alexandria in Egypt, where three hundred thousand Jews were then living, and thus this literature came to be called Judaeo-Alexandrian.  It includes among its writers the last of the Neoplatonists, particularly Philo, the originator of the allegorical interpretation of the Bible and of a Jewish philosophy of religion; Aristeas, and pseudo-Phokylides.  There were also Jewish litterateurs:  the dramatist Ezekielos; Jason; Philo the Elder; Aristobulus, the popularizer of the Aristotelian philosophy; Eupolemos, the historian; and probably the Jewish Sybil, who had to have recourse to the oracular manner of the pagans to proclaim the truths of Judaism, and to Greek figures of speech for her apocalyptic visions, which foretold, in biblical phrase and with prophetic ardor, the future of Israel and of the nations in contact with it.

Meanwhile the word of the Bible was steadily gaining importance in Palestine.  To search into and expound the sacred text had become the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob, of those that had not lent ear to the siren notes of Hellenism.  Midrash, as the investigations of the commentators were called, by and by divided into two streams ­Halacha, which establishes and systematizes the statutes of the Law, and Haggada, which uses the sacred texts for homiletic, historical, ethical, and pedagogic discussions.  The latter is the poetic, the former, the legislative, element in the Talmudic writings, whose composition, extending over a thousand years, constitutes the third, the most momentous, period of Jewish literature.  Of course, none of these periods can be so sharply defined as a rapid survey might lead one to suppose.  For instance, on the threshold of this third epoch stands the figure of Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, who, at once an enthusiastic Jew and a friend of the Romans, writes the story of his nation in the Greek language ­a character as peculiar as his age, which, listening to the mocking laughter of a Lucian, saw Olympus overthrown and its gods dethroned, the Temple at Jerusalem pass away in flame and smoke, and the new doctrine of the son of the carpenter at Nazareth begin its victorious course.

By the side of this Janus-faced historian, the heroes of the Talmud stand enveloped in glory.  We meet with men like Hillel and Shammai, Jochanan ben Zakkai, Gamaliel, Joshua ben Chananya, the famous Akiba, and later on Yehuda the Prince, friend of the imperial philosopher Marcus Aurelius, and compiler of the Mishna, the authoritative code of laws superseding all other collections.  Then there are the fabulist Meir; Simon ben Yochai, falsely accused of the authorship of the mystical Kabbala; Chiya; Rab; Samuel, equally famous as a physician and a rabbi; Jochanan, the supposed compiler of the Jerusalem Talmud; and Ashi and Abina, the former probably the arranger of the Babylonian Talmud.  This latter Talmud, the one invested with authority among Jews, by reason of its varying fortunes, is the most marvellous literary monument extant.  Never has book been so hated and so persecuted, so misjudged and so despised, on the other hand, so prized and so honored, and, above all, so imperfectly understood, as this very Talmud.

For the Jews and their literature it has had untold significance.  That the Talmud has been the conservator of Judaism is an irrefutable statement.  It is true that the study of the Talmud unduly absorbed the great intellectual force of its adherents, and brought about a somewhat one-sided mental development in the Jews; but it also is true, as a writer says, that “whenever in troublous times scientific inquiry was laid low; whenever, for any reason, the Jew was excluded from participation in public life, the study of the Talmud maintained the elasticity and the vigor of the Jewish mind, and rescued the Jew from sterile mysticism and spiritual apathy.  The Talmud, as a rule, has been inimical to mysticism, and the most brilliant Talmudists, in propitious days, have achieved distinguished success in secular science.  The Jew survived ages of bitterness, all the while clinging loyally to his faith in the midst of hostility, and the first ray of light that penetrated the walls of the Ghetto found him ready to take part in the intellectual work of his time.  This admirable elasticity of mind he owes, first and foremost, to the study of the Talmud.”

From this much abused Talmud, as from its contemporary the Midrash in the restricted sense, sprouted forth the blossoms of the Haggada ­that Haggada

    “Where the beauteous, ancient sagas,
    Angel legends fraught with meaning,
    Martyrs’ silent sacrifices,
    Festal songs and wisdom’s sayings,

    Trope and allegoric fancies ­
    All, howe’er by faith’s triumphant
    Glow pervaded ­where they gleaming,
    Glist’ning, well in strength exhaustless.

    And the boyish heart responsive
    Drinks the wild, fantastic sweetness,
    Greets the woful, wondrous anguish,
    Yields to grewsome charm of myst’ry,

    Hid in blessed worlds of fable. 
    Overawed it hearkens solemn
    To that sacred revelation
    Mortal man hath poetry called."

A story from the Midrash charmingly characterizes the relation between Halacha and Haggada.  Two rabbis, Chiya bar Abba, a Halachist, and Abbahu, a Haggadist, happened to be lecturing in the same town.  Abbahu, the Haggadist, was always listened to by great crowds, while Chiya, with his Halacha, stood practically deserted.  The Haggadist comforted the disappointed teacher with a parable.  “Let us suppose two merchants,” he said, “to come to town, and offer wares for sale.  The one has pearls and precious gems to display, the other, cheap finery, gilt chains, rings, and gaudy ribbons.  About whose booth, think you, does the crowd press? ­Formerly, when the struggle for existence was not fierce and inevitable, men had leisure and desire for the profound teachings of the Law; now they need the cheering words of consolation and hope.”

For more than a thousand years this nameless spirit of national poesy was abroad, and produced manifold works, which, in the course of time, were gathered together into comprehensive collections, variously named Midrash Rabba, Pesikta, Tanchuma, etc.  Their compilation was begun in about 700 C. E., that is, soon after the close of the Talmud, in the transition period from the third epoch of Jewish literature to the fourth, the golden age, which lasted from the ninth to the fifteenth century, and, according to the law of human products, shows a season of growth, blossom, and decay.

The scene of action during this period was western Asia, northern Africa, sometimes Italy and France, but chiefly Spain, where Arabic culture, destined to influence Jewish thought to an incalculable degree, was at that time at its zenith.  “A second time the Jews were drawn into the vortex of a foreign civilization, and two hundred years after Mohammed, Jews in Kairwan and Bagdad were speaking the same language, Arabic.  A language once again became the mediatrix between Jewish and general literature, and the best minds of the two races, by means of the language, reciprocally influenced each other.  Jews, as they once had written Greek for their brethren, now wrote Arabic; and, as in Hellenistic times, the civilization of the dominant race, both in its original features and in its adaptations from foreign sources, was reflected in that of the Jews.”  It would be interesting to analyze this important process of assimilation, but we can concern ourselves only with the works of the Jewish intellect.  Again we meet, at the threshold of the period, a characteristic figure, the thinker Sa’adia, ranking high as author and religious philosopher, known also as a grammarian and a poet.  He is followed by Sherira, to whom we owe the beginnings of a history of Talmudic literature, and his son Hai Gaon, a strictly orthodox teacher of the Law.  In their wake come troops of physicians, theologians, lexicographers, Talmudists, and grammarians.  Great is the circle of our national literature:  it embraces theology, philosophy, exegesis, grammar, poetry, and jurisprudence, yea, even astronomy and chronology, mathematics and medicine.  But these widely varying subjects constitute only one class, inasmuch as they all are infused with the spirit of Judaism, and subordinate themselves to its demands.  A mention of the prominent actors would turn this whole essay into a dry list of names.  Therefore it is better for us merely to sketch the period in outline, dwelling only on its greatest poets and philosophers, the moulders of its character.

The opinion is current that the Semitic race lacks the philosophic faculty.  Yet it cannot be denied that Jews were the first to carry Greek philosophy to Europe, teaching and developing it there before its dissemination by celebrated Arabs.  In their zeal to harmonize philosophy with their religion, and in the lesser endeavor to defend traditional Judaism against the polemic attacks of a new sect, the Karaites, they invested the Aristotelian system with peculiar features, making it, as it were, their national philosophy.  At all events, it must be universally accepted that the Jews share with the Arabs the merit “of having cherished the study of philosophy during centuries of barbarism, and of having for a long time exerted a civilizing influence upon Europe.”

The meagre achievements of the Jews in the departments of history and history of literature do not justify the conclusion that they are wanting in historic perception.  The lack of writings on these subjects is traceable to the sufferings and persécutions that have marked their pathway.  Before their chroniclers had time to record past afflictions, new sorrows and troubles broke in upon them.  In the middle ages, the history of Jewish literature is the entire history of the Jewish people, its course outlined by blood and watered by rivers of tears, at whose source the genius of Jewish poetry sits lamenting.  “The Orient dwells an exile in the Occident,” Franz Delitzsch, the first alien to give loving study to this literature, poetically says, “and its tears of longing for home are the fountain-head of Jewish poetry."

That poetry reached its perfection in the works of the celebrated trio, Solomon Gabirol, Yehuda Halevi, and Moses ben Ezra.  Their dazzling triumphs had been heralded by the more modest achievements of Abitur, writing Hebrew, and Adia and the poetess Xemona (Kasmune) using Arabic, to sing the praise of God and lament the woes of Israel.

The predominant, but not exclusive, characteristic of Jewish poetry is its religious strain.  Great thinkers, men equipped with philosophic training, and at the same time endowed with poetic gifts, have contributed to the huge volume of synagogue poetry, whose subjects are praise of the Lord and regret for Zion.  The sorrow for our lost fatherland has never taken on more glowing colors, never been expressed in fuller tones than in this poetry.  As ancient Hebrew poetry flowed in the two streams of prophecy and psalmody, so the Jewish poetry of the middle ages was divided into Piut and Selicha.  Songs of hope and despair, cries of revenge, exhortations to peace among men, elegies on every single persecution, and laments for Zion, follow each other in kaleidoscopic succession.  Unfortunately, there never was lack of historic matter for this poetry to elaborate.  To furnish that was the well-accomplished task of rulers and priests in the middle ages, alike “in the realm of the Islamic king of kings and in that of the apostolic servant of servants.”  So fate made this poetry classical and eminently national.  Those characteristics which, in general literature, earn for a work the description “Homeric,” in Jewish literature make a liturgical poem “Kaliric,” so called from the poet Eliezer Kalir, the subject of many mythical tales, and the first of a long line of poets, Spanish, French, and German, extending to the sixteenth or seventeenth century.  The literary history of this epoch has been written by Leopold Zunz with warmth of feeling and stupendous learning.  He closes his work with the hope that mankind, at some future day, will adopt Israel’s religious poetry as its own, transforming the elegiac Selicha into a joyous psalm of universal peace and good-will.

Side by side with religious flourishes secular poetry, clothing itself in rhyme and metre, adopting every current form of poesy, and treating of every appropriate subject.  Its first votary was Solomon Gabirol, that

    “Human nightingale that warbled
    Forth her songs of tender love,
    In the darkness of the sombre,
    Gothic mediaeval night.

    She, that nightingale, sang only,
    Sobbing forth her adoration,
    To her Lord, her God, in heaven,
    Whom her songs of praise extolled."

Solomon Gabirol may be said to have been the first poet thrilled by Weltschmerz.  “He produced hymns and songs, penitential prayers, psalms, and threnodies, filled with hope and longing for a blessed future.  They are marked throughout by austere earnestness, brushing away, in its rigor, the color and bloom of life; but side by side with it, surging forth from the deepest recesses of a human soul, is humble adoration of God.”

Gabirol was a distinguished philosopher besides.  In 1150, his chief work, “The Fount of Life,” was translated into Latin by Archdeacon Dominicus Gundisalvi, with the help of Johannes Avendeath, an apostate Jew, the author’s name being corrupted into Avencebrol, later becoming Avicebron.  The work was made a text-book of scholastic philosophy, but neither Scotists nor Thomists, neither adherents nor detractors, suspected that a heretical Jew was slumbering under the name Avicebron.  It remained for an inquirer of our own day, Solomon Munk, to reveal the face of Gabirol under the mask of a garbled name.  Amazed, we behold that the pessimistic philosopher of to-day can as little as the schoolmen of the middle ages shake himself free from the despised Jew.  Schopenhauer may object as he will, it is certain that Gabirol was his predecessor by more than eight hundred years!

Charisi, whom we shall presently meet, has expressed the verdict on his poetry which still holds good:  “Solomon Gabirol pleases to call himself the small ­yet before him all the great must dwindle and fall. ­Who can like him with mighty speech appall? ­Compared with him the poets of his time are without power ­he, the small, alone is a tower. ­The highest round of poetry’s ladder has he won. ­Wisdom fondled him, eloquence hath called him son ­and clothing him with purple, said:  ’Lo! ­my first-born son, go forth, to conquest go!’ ­His predecessors’ songs are naught with his compared ­nor have his many followers better fared. ­The later singers by him were taught ­the heirs they are of his poetic thought. ­But still he’s king, to him all praise belongs ­for Solomon’s is the Song of Songs.”

By Gabirol’s side stands Yehuda Halevi, probably the only Jewish poet known to the reader of general literature, to whom his name, life, and fate have become familiar through Heinrich Heine’s Romanzero.  His magnificent descriptions of nature “reflect southern skies, verdant meadows, deep blue rivers, and the stormy sea,” and his erotic lyrics are chaste and tender.  He sounds the praise of wine, youth, and happiness, and extols the charms of his lady-love, but above and beyond all he devotes his song to Zion and his people.  The pearl of his poems

    “Is the famous lamentation
    Sung in all the tents of Jacob,
    Scattered wide upon the earth ...

    Yea, it is the song of Zion,
    Which Yehuda ben Halevy,
    Dying on the holy ruins,
    Sang of loved Jerusalem."

“In the whole compass of religious poetry, Milton’s and Klopstock’s not excepted, nothing can be found to surpass the elegy of Zion,” says a modern writer, a non-Jew. This soul-stirring “Lay of Zion,” better than any number of critical dissertations, will give the reader a clear insight into the character and spirit of Jewish poetry in general: 

O Zion! of thine exiles’ peace take thought,
The remnant of thy flock, who thine have sought! 
From west, from east, from north and south resounds,
Afar and now anear, from all thy bounds,
And no surcease,
“With thee be peace!”

In longing’s fetters chained I greet thee, too,
My tears fast welling forth like Hermon’s dew ­
O bliss could they but drop on holy hills! 
A croaking bird I turn, when through me thrills
Thy desolate state; but when I dream anon,
The Lord brings back thy ev’ry captive son ­
A harp straightway
To sing thy lay.

In heart I dwell where once thy purest son
At Bethel and Peniel, triumphs won;
God’s awesome presence there was close to thee,
Whose doors thy Maker, by divine decree,
Opposed as mates
To heaven’s gates.

Nor sun, nor moon, nor stars had need to be;
God’s countenance alone illumined thee
On whose elect He poured his spirit out. 
In thee would I my soul pour forth devout! 
Thou wert the kingdom’s seat, of God the throne,
And now there dwells a slave race, not thine own,
In royal state,
Where reigned thy great.

    O would that I could roam o’er ev’ry place
    Where God to missioned prophets showed His grace! 
    And who will give me wings?  An off’ring meet,
    I’d haste to lay upon thy shattered seat,
          Thy counterpart ­
          My bruised heart.

    Upon thy precious ground I’d fall prostrate,
    Thy stones caress, the dust within thy gate,
    And happiness it were in awe to stand
    At Hebron’s graves, the treasures of thy land,
    And greet thy woods, thy vine-clad slopes, thy vales,
    Greet Abarim and Hor, whose light ne’er pales,
          A radiant crown,
          Thy priests’ renown.

    Thy air is balm for souls; like myrrh thy sand;
    With honey run the rivers of thy land. 
    Though bare my feet, my heart’s delight I’d count
    To thread my way all o’er thy desert mount,
          Where once rose tall
          Thy holy hall,

    Where stood thy treasure-ark, in recess dim,
    Close-curtained, guarded o’er by cherubim. 
    My Naz’rite’s crown would I pluck off, and cast
    It gladly forth.  With curses would I blast
    The impious time thy people, diadem-crowned,
    Thy Nazirites, did pass, by en’mies bound
          With hatred’s bands,
          In unclean lands.

    By dogs thy lusty lions are brutal torn
    And dragged; thy strong, young eaglets, heav’nward
    By foul-mouthed ravens snatched, and all undone. 
    Can food still tempt my taste?  Can light of sun
          Seem fair to shine
          To eyes like mine?

    Soft, soft!  Leave off a while, O cup of pain! 
    My loins are weighted down, my heart and brain,
    With bitterness from thee.  Whene’er I think
    Of Oholah, proud northern queen, I drink
    Thy wrath, and when my Oholivah forlorn
    Comes back to mind ­’tis then I quaff thy scorn,
          Then, draught of pain,
          Thy lees I drain.

    O Zion!  Crown of grace!  Thy comeliness
    Hath ever favor won and fond caress. 
    Thy faithful lovers’ lives are bound in thine;
    They joy in thy security, but pine
          And weep in gloom
          O’er thy sad doom.

From out the prisoner’s cell they sigh for thee,
And each in prayer, wherever he may be,
Towards thy demolished portals turns.  Exiled,
Dispersed from mount to hill, thy flock defiled
Hath not forgot thy sheltering fold.  They grasp
Thy garment’s hem, and trustful, eager, clasp,
With outstretched arms,
Thy branching palms.

Shinar, Pathros ­can they in majesty
With thee compare?  Or their idolatry
With thy Urim and thy Thummim august? 
Who can surpass thy priests, thy saintly just,
Thy prophets bold,
And bards of old?

The heathen kingdoms change and wholly cease ­
Thy might alone stands firm without decrease,
Thy Nazirites from age to age abide,
Thy God in thee desireth to reside. 
Then happy he who maketh choice of thee
To dwell within thy courts, and waits to 聳ee,
And toils to make,
Thy light awake.

On him shall as the morning break thy light,
The bliss of thy elect shall glad his sight,
In thy felicities shall he rejoice,
In triumph sweet exult, with jubilant voice,
O’er thee, adored,
To youth restored.

We have loitered long with Yehuda Halevi, and still not long enough, for we have not yet spoken of his claims to the title philosopher, won for him by his book Al-Chazari.  But now we must hurry on to Moses ben Ezra, the last and most worldly of the three great poets.  He devotes his genius to his patrons, to wine, his faithless mistress, and to “bacchanalian feasts under leafy canopies, with merry minstrelsy of birds.”  He laments over separation from friends and kin, weeps over the shortness of life and the rapid approach of hoary age ­all in polished language, sometimes, however, lacking euphony.  Even when he strikes his lyre in praise and honor of his people Israel, he fails to rise to the lofty heights attained by his mates in song.

With Yehuda Charisi, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, the period of the épigones sets in for Spanish-Jewish literature.  In Charisi’s Tachkemoni, an imitation of the poetry of the Arab Hariri, jest and serious criticism, joy and grief, the sublime and the trivial, follow each other like tints in a parti-colored skein.  His distinction is the ease with which he plays upon the Hebrew language, not the most pliable of instruments.  In general, Jewish poets and philosophers have manipulated that language with surprising dexterity.  Songs, hymns, elegies, penitential prayers, exhortations, and religious meditations, generation after generation, were couched in the idiom of the psalmist, yet the structure of the language underwent no change.  “The development of the neo-Hebraic idiom from the ancient Hebrew,” a distinguished modern ethnographer justly says, “confirms, by linguistic evidence, the plasticity, the logical acumen, the comprehensive and at the same time versatile intellectuality of the Jewish race.  By the ingenious compounding of words, by investing old expressions with new meanings, and adapting the material offered by alien or related languages to its own purposes, it has increased and enriched a comparatively meagre treasury of words."

Side by side with this cosmopolitanism, illustrated in the Haggada, whose pages prove that nothing human is strange to the Jewish race, it reveals, in its literary development, as notably in the Halacha, a sharply defined subjectivity.  Jellinek says:  “Not losing itself in the contemplation of the phenomena of life, not devoting itself to any subject unless it be with an ulterior purpose, but seeing all things in their relation to itself, and subordinating them to its own boldly asserted ego, the Jewish race is not inclined to apply its powers to the solution of intricate philosophic problems, or to abstruse metaphysical speculations.  It is, therefore, not a philosophic race, and its participation in the philosophic work of the world dates only from its contact with the Greeks.”  The same author, on the other hand, emphasizes the liberality, the broad sympathies, of the Jewish race, in his statement that the Jewish mind, at its first meeting with Arabic philosophy, absorbed it as a leaven into its intellectual life.  The product of the assimilation was ­as early as the twelfth century, mark you ­a philosophic conception of life, whose broad liberality culminates in the sentiment expressed by two most eminent thinkers:  Christianity and Islam are the precursors of a world-religion, the preliminary conditions for the great religious system satisfying all men.  Yehuda Halevi and Moses Maimonides were the philosophers bold enough to utter this thought of far-reaching significance.

The second efflorescence of Jewish poetry brings forth exotic romances, satires, verbose hymns, and humorous narrative poems.  Such productions certainly do not justify the application of the epithet “theological” to Jewish literature.  Solomon ben Sakbel composes a satiric romance in the Makamat form, describing the varied adventures of Asher ben Yehuda, another Don Quixote; Berachya Hanakdan puts into Hebrew the fables of AEsop and Lokman, furnishing La Fontaine with some of his material; Abraham ibn Sahl receives from the Arabs, certainly not noted for liberality, ten goldpieces for each of his love-songs; Santob de Carrion is a beloved Spanish bard, bold enough to tell unpleasant truths unto a king; Joseph ibn Sabara writes a humorous romance; Yehuda Sabbatai, epic satires, “The War of Wealth and Wisdom,” and “A Gift from a Misogynist,” and unnamed authors, “Truth’s Campaign,” and “Praise of Women.”

A satirist of more than ordinary gifts was the Italian Kalonymos, whose “Touchstone,” like Ibn Chasdai’s Makamat, “The Prince and the Dervish,” has been translated into German.  Contemporaneous with them was Suesskind von Trimberg, the Suabian minnesinger, and Samson Pnie, of Strasburg, who helped the German poets continue Parzival, while later on, in Italy, Moses Rieti composed “The Paradise” in Hebrew terza-rima.

In the decadence of Jewish literature, the most prominent figure is Immanuel ben Solomon, or Manoello, as the Italians call him.  Critics think him the precursor of Boccaccio, and history knows him as the friend of Dante, whose Divina Commedia he travestied in Hebrew.  The author of the first Hebrew sonnet and of the first Hebrew novel, he was a talented writer, but as frivolous as talented.

This is the development of Jewish poetry during its great period.  In other departments of literature, in philosophy, in theology, in ethics, in Bible exegesis, the race is equally prolific in minds of the first order.  Glancing back for a moment, our eye is arrested by Moses Maimonides, the great systematizer of the Jewish Law, and the connecting link between scholasticism and the Greek-Arabic development of the Aristotelian system.  Before his time Bêchai ibn Pakuda and Joseph ibn Zadik had entered upon theosophic speculations with the object of harmonizing Arabic and Greek philosophy, and in the age immediately preceding that of Maimonides, Abraham ibn Daud, a writer of surprisingly liberal views, had undertaken, in “The Highest Faith,” the task of reconciling faith with philosophy.  At the same time rationalistic Bible exegesis was begun by Abraham ibn Ezra, an acute but reckless controversialist.  Orthodox interpretations of the Bible had, before him, been taught in France by Rashi (Solomon Yitschaki) and Samuel ben Meir, and continued by German rabbis, who, at the same time, were preachers of morality ­a noteworthy phenomenon in a persecuted tribe.  “How pure and strong its ethical principles were is shown by its religious poetry as well as by its practical Law.  What pervades the poetry as a high ideal, in the application of the Law becomes demonstrable reality.  The wrapt enthusiasm in the hymns of Samuel the Pious and other poets is embodied, lives, in the rulings of Yehuda Hakohen, Solomon Yitschaki, and Jacob ben Meir; in the legal opinions of Isaac ben Abraham, Eliezer ha-Levi, Isaac ben Moses, Meir ben Baruch, and their successors, and in the codices of Eliezer of Metz and Moses de Coucy.  A German professor of a hundred years ago, after glancing through some few Jewish writings, exclaimed, in a tone of condescending approval:  ’Christians of that time could scarcely have been expected to enjoin such high moral principles as this Jew wrote down and bequeathed to his brethren in faith!’”

Jewish literature in this and the next period consists largely of theological discussions and of commentaries on the Talmud produced by the hundred.  It would be idle to name even the most prominent authors; their works belong to the history of theologic science, and rarely had a determining influence upon the development of genuine literature.

We must also pass over in silence the numerous Jewish physicians and medical writers; but it must be remembered that they, too, belong to Jewish literature.  The most marvellous characteristic of this literature is that in it the Jewish race has registered each step of its development.  “All things learned, gathered, obtained, on its journeyings hither and thither ­Greek philosophy and Arabic, as well as Latin scholasticism ­all deposited themselves in layers about the Bible, so stamping later Jewish literature with an individuality that gave it an unique place among the literatures of the world.”

The travellers, however, must be mentioned by name.  Their itineraries were wholly dedicated to the interests of their co-religionists.  The first of the line is Eldad, the narrator of a sort of Hebrew Odyssey.  Benjamin of Tudela and Petachya of Ratisbon are deserving of more confidence as veracious chroniclers, and their descriptions, together with Charisi’s, complete the Jewish library of travels of those early days, unless, with Steinschneider, we consider, as we truly may, the majority of Jewish authors under this head.  For Jewish writers a hard, necessitous lot has ever been a storm wind, tossing them hither and thither, and blowing the seeds of knowledge over all lands.  Withal learning proved an enveloping, protecting cloak to these mendicant and pilgrim authors.  The dispersion of the Jews, their international commerce, and the desire to maintain their academies, stimulated a love for travel, made frequent journeyings a necessity, indeed.  In this way only can we account for the extraordinarily rapid spread of Jewish literature in the middle ages.  The student of those times often chances across a rabbi, who this day teaches, lectures, writes in Candia, to-morrow in Rome, next year in Prague or Cracow, and so Jewish literature is the “wandering Jew” among the world’s literatures.

The fourth period, the Augustan age of our literature, closes with a jarring discord ­the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, their second home, in which they had seen ministers, princes, professors, and poets rise from their ranks.  The scene of literary activity changes:  France, Italy, but chiefly the Slavonic East, are pushed into the foreground.  It is not a salutary change; it ushers in three centuries of decay and stagnation in literary endeavor.  The sum of the efforts is indicated by the name of the period, the Rabbinical, for its chief work was the development and fixation of Rabbinism.

Decadence did not set in immediately.  Certain beneficent forces, either continuing in action from the former period, or arising out of the new concatenation of circumstances, were in operation:  Jewish exiles from Spain carried their culture to the asylums hospitably offered them in the Orient and a few of the European countries, notably Holland; the art of printing was spreading, the first presses in Italy bringing out Jewish works; and the sun of humanism and of the Reformation was rising and shedding solitary rays of its effulgence on the Jewish minds then at work.

Among the noteworthy authors standing between the two periods and belonging to both, the most prominent is Nachmanides, a pious and learned Bible scholar.  With logical force and critical candor he entered into the great conflict between science and faith, then dividing the Jewish world into two camps, with Maimonides’ works as their shibboleth.  The Aristotelian philosophy was no longer satisfying.  Minds and hearts were yearning for a new revelation, and in default thereof steeping themselves in mystical speculations.  A voluminous theosophic literature sprang up.  The Zohar, the Bible of mysticism, was circulated, its authorship being fastened upon a rabbi of olden days.  It is altogether probable that the real author was living at the time; many think that it was Moses de Leon.  The liberal party counted in its ranks the two distinguished families of Tibbon and Kimchi, the former famed as successful translators, the latter as grammarians.  Their best known representatives were Judah ibn Tibbon and David Kimchi.  Curiously enough, the will of the former contains, in unmistakable terms, the opinion that “Property is theft,” anticipating Proudhon, who, had he known it, would have seen in its early enunciation additional testimony to its truth.  The liberal faction was also supported by Jacob ben Abba-Mari, the friend of Frederick II. and Michael Scotus.  Abba-Mari lived at the German emperor’s court at Naples, and quoted him in his commentary upon the Bible as an exegete.  Besides there were among the Maimunists, or rationalists, Levi ben Abraham, an extraordinarily liberal man; Shemtob Palquera, one of the most learned Jews of his century, and Yedaya Penini, a philosopher and pessimistic poet, whose “Contemplation of the World” was translated by Mendelssohn, and praised by Lessing and Goethe.  Despite this array of talent, the opponents were stronger, the most representative partisan being the Talmudist Solomon ben Aderet.

At the same time disputations about the Talmud, ending with its public burning at Paris, were carried on with the Christian clergy.  The other literary current of the age is designated by the word Kabbala, which held many of the finest and noblest minds captive to its witchery.  The Kabbala is unquestionably a continuation of earlier theosophic inquiries.  Its chief doctrines have been stated by a thorough student of our literature:  All that exists originates in God, the source of light eternal.  He Himself can be known only through His manifestations.  He is without beginning, and veiled in mystery, or, He is nothing, because the whole of creation has developed from nothing.  This nothing is one, indivisible, and limitless ­En-Sof.  God fills space, He is space itself.  In order to manifest Himself, in order to create, that is, disclose Himself by means of emanations, He contracts, thus producing vacant space.  The En-Sof first manifested itself in the prototype of the whole of creation, in the macrocosm called the “son of God,” the first man, as he appears upon the chariot of Ezekiel.  From this primitive man the whole created world emanates in four stages:  Azila, Beria, Yezira, Asiya.  The Azila emanation represents the active qualities of primitive man.  They are forces or intelligences flowing from him, at once his essential qualities and the faculties by which he acts.  There are ten of these forces, forming the ten sacred Sefiroth, a word which first meaning number came to stand for sphere.  The first three Sefiroth are intelligences, the seven others, attributes.  They are supposed to follow each other in this order:  1. Kether (crown); 2. Chochma (wisdom); 3. Beena (understanding); 4. Chesed (grace), or Ghedulla (greatness); 5. Ghevoora (dignity); 6. Tifereth (splendor); 7. Nezach (victory); 8. Hod (majesty); 9. Yesod (principle); 10. Malchuth (kingdom).  From this first world of the Azila emanate the three other worlds, Asiya being the lowest stage.  Man has part in these three worlds; a microcosm, he realizes in his actual being what is foreshadowed by the ideal, primitive man.  He holds to the Asiya by his vital part (Nefesh), to the Yezira by his intellect (Ruach), to the Beria by his soul (Neshama).  The last is his immortal part, a spark of divinity.

Speculations like these, followed to their logical issue, are bound to lead the investigator out of Judaism into Trinitarianism or Pantheism.  Kabbalists, of course only in rare cases, realized the danger.  The sad conditions prevailing in the era after the expulsion from Spain, a third exile, were in all respects calculated to promote the development of mysticism, and it did flourish luxuriantly.

Some few philosophers, the last of a long line, still await mention:  Levi ben Gerson, Joseph Kaspi, Moses of Narbonne in southern France, long a seat of Jewish learning; then, Isaac ben Sheshet, Chasdai Crescas, whose “Light of God” exercised deep influence upon Spinoza and his philosophy; the Duran family, particularly Profiat Duran, successful defender of Judaism against the attacks of apostates and Christians; and Joseph Albo, who in his principal philosophic work, Ikkarim, shows Judaism to be based upon three fundamental doctrines:  the belief in the existence of God, Revelation, and the belief in future reward and punishment.  These writers are the last to reflect the glories of the golden age.

At the entrance to the next period we again meet a man of extraordinary ability, Isaac Abrabanel, one of the most eminent and esteemed of Bible commentators, in early life minister to a Catholic king, later on a pilgrim scholar wandering about exiled with his sons, one of whom, Yehuda, has fame as the author of the Dialoghi di Amore.  In the train of exiles passing from Portugal to the Orient are Abraham Zacuto, an eminent historian of Jewish literature and sometime professor of astronomy at the university of Salamanca; Joseph ibn Verga, the historian of his nation; Amatus Lusitanus, who came close upon the discovery of the circulation of the blood; Israel Nagara, the most gifted poet of the century, whose hymns brought him popular favor; later, Joseph Karo, “the most influential personage of the sixteenth century,” his claims upon recognition resting on the Shulchan Aruch, an exhaustive codex of Jewish customs and laws; and many others.  In Salonica, the exiles soon formed a prosperous community, where flourished Jacob ibn Chabib, the first compiler of the Haggadistic tales of the Talmud, and afterwards David Conforte, a reputable historian.  In Jerusalem, Obadiah Bertinoro was engaged on his celebrated Mishna commentary, in the midst of a large circle of Kabbalists, of whom Solomon Alkabez is the best known on account of his famous Sabbath song, Lecho Dodi.  Once again Jerusalem was the objective point of many pilgrims, lured thither by the prevalent Kabbalistic and Messianic vagaries.  True literature gained little from such extremists.  The only work produced by them that can be admitted to have literary qualities is Isaiah Hurwitz’s “The Two Tables of the Testimony,” even at this day enjoying celebrity.  It is a sort of cyclopaedia of Jewish learning, compiled and expounded from a mystic’s point of view.

The condition of the Jews in Italy was favorable, and their literary products derive grace from their good fortune.  The Renaissance had a benign effect upon them, and the revival of classical studies influenced their intellectual work.  Greek thought met Jewish a third time.  Learning was enjoying its resurrection, and whenever their wretched political and social condition was not a hindrance, the Jews joined in the general delight.  Their misery, however, was an undiminishing burden, yea, even in the days in which, according to Erasmus, it was joy to live.  In fact, it was growing heavier.  All the more noteworthy is it that Hebrew studies engaged the research of scholars, albeit they showed care for the word of God, and not for His people.  Pico della Mirandola studies the Kabbala; the Jewish grammarian Elias Levita is the teacher of Cardinal Egidio de Viterbo, and later of Paul Fagius and Sebastian Muenster, the latter translating his teacher’s works into Latin; popes and sultans prefer Jews as their physicians in ordinary, who, as a rule, are men of literary distinction; the Jews translate philosophic writings from Hebrew and Arabic into Latin; Elias del Medigo is summoned as arbiter in the scholastic conflict at the University of Padua; ­all boots nothing, ruin is not averted.  Reuchlin may protest as he will, the Jew is exiled, the Talmud burnt.

In such dreary days the Portuguese Samuel Usque writes his work, Consolacam as Tribulacoes de Ysrael, and Joseph Cohen, his chronicle, “The Vale of Weeping,” the most important history produced since the day of Flavius Josephus, ­additional proofs that the race possesses native buoyancy, and undaunted heroism in enduring suffering.  Women, too, in increasing number, participate in the spiritual work of their nation; among them, Deborah Ascarelli and Sara Copia Sullam, the most distinguished of a long array of names.

The keen critic and scholar, Azariah de Rossi, is one of the literary giants of his period.  His researches in the history of Jewish literature are the basis upon which subsequent work in this department rests, and many of his conclusions still stand unassailable.  About him are grouped Abraham de Portaleone, an excellent archaeologist, who established that Jews had been the first to observe the medicinal uses of gold; David de Pomis, the author of a famous defense of Jewish physicians; and Leo de Modena, the rabbi of Venice, “unstable as water,” wavering between faith and unbelief, and, Kabbalist and rabbi though he was, writing works against the Kabbala on the one hand, and against rabbinical tradition on the other.  Similar to him in character is Joseph del Medigo, an itinerant author, who sometimes reviles, sometimes extols, the Kabbala.

There are men of higher calibre, as, for instance, Isaac Aboab, whose Nomologia undertakes to defend Jewish tradition against every sort of assailant; Samuel Aboab, a great Bible scholar; Azariah Figo, a famous preacher; and, above all, Moses Chayyim Luzzatto, the first Jewish dramatist, the dramas preceding his having interest only as attempts.  He, too, is caught in the meshes of the Kabbala, and falls a victim to its powers of darkness.  His dramas testify to poetic gifts and to extraordinary mastery of the Hebrew language, the faithful companion of the Jewish nation in all its journeyings.  To complete this sketch of the Italian Jews of that period, it should be added that while in intellect and attainments they stand above their brethren in faith of other countries, in character and purity of morals they are their inferiors.

Thereafter literary interest centres in Poland, where rabbinical literature found its most zealous and most learned exponents.  Throughout the land schools were established, in which the Talmud was taught by the Pilpul, an ingenious, quibbling method of Talmudic reasoning and discussion, said to have originated with Jacob Pollak.  Again we have a long succession of distinguished names.  There are Solomon Luria, Moses Isserles, Joel Sirkes, David ben Levi, Sabbatai Kohen, and Elias Wilna.  Sabbatai Kohen, from whom, were pride of ancestry permissible in the republic of letters, the present writer would boast descent, was not only a Talmudic writer; he also left historical and poetical works.  Elias Wilna, the last in the list, had a subtle, delicately poised mind, and deserves special mention for his determined opposition to the Kabbala and its offspring Chassidism, hostile and ruinous to Judaism and Jewish learning.

A gleam of true pleasure can be obtained from the history of the Dutch Jews.  In Holland the Jews united secular culture with religious devotion, and the professors of other faiths met them with tolerance and friendliness.  Sunshine falls upon the Jewish schools, and right into the heart of a youth, who straightway abandons the Talmud folios, and goes out into the world to proclaim to wondering mankind the evangel of a new philosophy.  The youth is Baruch Spinoza!

There are many left to expound Judaism:  Manasseh ben Israel, writing both Hebrew and Latin books to plead the cause of the emancipation of his people and of its literary pre-eminence; David Neto, a student of philosophy; Benjamin Mussafia, Orobio de Castro, David Abenator Melo, the Spanish translator of the Psalms, and Daniel de Barrios, poet and critic ­all using their rapidly acquired fluency in the Dutch language to champion the cause of their people.

In Germany, a mixture of German and Hebrew had come into use among the Jews as the medium of daily intercourse.  In this peculiar patois, called Judendeutsch, a large literature had developed.  Before Luther’s time, it possessed two fine translations of the Bible, besides numerous writings of an ethical, poetical, and historical character, among which particular mention should be made of those on the German legend-cycles of the middle ages.  At the same time, the Talmud receives its due of time, effort, and talent.  New life comes only with the era of emancipation and enlightenment.

Only a few names shall be mentioned, the rest would be bound soon to escape the memory of the casual reader:  there is an historian, David Gans; a bibliographer, Sabbatai Bassista, and the Talmudists Abigedor Kara, Jacob Joshua, Jacob Emden, Jonathan Eibeschuetz, and Ezekiel Landau.  It is delight to be able once again to chronicle the interest taken in long neglected Jewish literature by such Christian scholars as the two Buxtorfs, Bartolocci, Wolff, Surrenhuys, and De Rossi.  Unfortunately, the interest dies out with them, and it is significant that to this day most eminent theologians, decidedly to their own disadvantage, “content themselves with unreliable secondary sources,” instead of drinking from the fountain itself.

We have arrived at the sixth and last period, our own, not yet completed, whose fruits will be judged by a future generation.  It is the period of the rejuvenescence of Jewish literature.  Changes in character, tenor, form, and language take place.  Germany for the first time is in the van, and Mendelssohn, its most attractive figure, stands at the beginning of the period, surrounded by his disciples Wessely, Homberg, Euchel, Friedlaender, and others, in conjunction with whom he gives Jews a new, pure German Bible translation.  Poetry and philology are zealously pursued, and soon Jewish science, through its votaries Leopold Zunz and S. J. Rappaport, celebrates a brilliant renascence, such as the poet describes:  “In the distant East the dawn is breaking, ­The olden times are growing young again.”

Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortraege der Juden, by Zunz, published in 1832, was the pioneer work of the new Jewish science, whose present development, despite its wide range, has not yet exhausted the suggestions made, by the author.  Other equally important works from the same pen followed, and then came the researches of Rappaport, Z. Frankel, I. M. Jost, M. Sachs, S. D. Luzzatto, S. Munk, A. Geiger, L. Herzfeld, H. Graetz, J. Fuerst, L. Dukes, M. Steinschneider, D. Cassel, S. Holdheim, and a host of minor investigators and teachers.  Their loving devotion roused Jewish science and literature from their secular sleep to vigorous, intellectual life, reacting beneficently on the spiritual development of Judaism itself.  The moulders of the new literature are such men as the celebrated preachers Adolf Jellinek, Salomon, Kley, Mannheimer; the able thinkers Steinheim, Hirsch, Krochmal; the illustrious scholars M. Lazarus, H. Steinthal; and the versatile journalists G. Riesser and L. Philipson.

Poetry has not been neglected in the general revival.  The first Jewish poet to write in German was M. E. Kuh, whose tragic fate has been pathetically told by Berthold Auerbach in his Dichter und Kaufmann.  The burden of this modern Jewish poetry is, of course, the glorification of the loyalty and fortitude that preserved the race during a calamitous past.  Such poets as Steinheim, Wihl, L. A. Frankl, M. Beer, K. Beck, Th.  Creizenach, M. Hartmann, S. H. Mosenthal, Henriette Ottenheimer, Moritz Rappaport, and L. Stein, sing the songs of Zion in the tongue of the German.  And can Heine be forgotten, he who in his Romanzero has so melodiously, yet so touchingly given word to the hoary sorrow of the Jew?

In an essay of this scope no more can be done than give the barest outline of the modern movement.  A detailed description of the work of German-Jewish lyrists belongs to the history of German literature, and, in fact, on its pages can be found a due appreciation of their worth by unprejudiced critics, who give particularly high praise to the new species of tales, the Jewish village, or Ghetto, tales, with which Jewish and German literatures have latterly been enriched.  Their object is to depict the religious customs in vogue among Jews of past generations, their home-life, and the conflicts that arose when the old Judaism came into contact with modern views of life.  The master in the art of telling these Ghetto tales is Leopold Kompert.  Of his disciples ­for all coming after him may be considered such ­A.  Bernstein described the Jews of Posen; K. E. Franzos and L. Herzberg-Fraenkel, those of Poland; E. Kulke, the Moravian Jews; M. Goldschmied, the Dutch; S. H. Mosenthal, the Hessian, and M. Lehmann, the South German.  To Berthold Auerbach’s pioneer work this whole class of literature owes its existence; and Heinrich Heine’s fragment, Rabbi von Bacharach, a model of its kind, puts him into this category of writers, too.

And so Judaism and Jewish literature are stepping into a new arena, on which potent forces that may radically affect both are struggling with each other.  Is Jewish poetry on the point of dying out, or is it destined to enjoy a resurrection?  Who would be rash enough to prophesy aught of a race whose entire past is a riddle, whose literature is a question-mark?  Of a race which for more than a thousand years has, like its progenitor, been wrestling victoriously with gods and men?

To recapitulate:  We have followed out the course of a literary development, beginning in grey antiquity with biblical narratives, assimilating Persian doctrines, Greek wisdom, and Roman law; later, Arabic poetry and philosophy, and, finally, the whole of European science in all its ramifications.  The literature we have described has contributed its share to every spiritual result achieved by humanity, and is a still unexplored treasury of poetry and philosophy, of experience and knowledge.

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is never full,” saith the Preacher; so all spiritual currents flow together into the vast ocean of a world-literature, never full, never complete, rejoicing in every accession, reaching the climax of its might and majesty on that day when, according to the prophet, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”