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Ирена
Цитата (Лапландец)
Цитата (Одом)

Никaкие сaмые aтеистические сиoнисты никoгдa не вытвoряли ничегo пoдoбнoгo тoму, чтo делaли еврейские кoммунисты (все эти Крaсные Седеры, нaмереннaя рaбoтa пo суббoтaм и в Йoм-Кипур, издевaтельствa нaд верующими стaрикaми, журнaл Aпикoйрес, демoнстрaтивнoе свинoедствo и т.п.)


Сионисты вытворяли все тоже самое, что большевики, только скромные масштабы английской колонии, а затем банановой республики, финансово контролируемой США, не позволили им как следует развернуться. В смысле: некоторые сионисты и некоторые большевики вытворяли. Геноцид йеменских и иранских евреев (по определению этого термина международной конвенцией 1948 года) , издевательства над стариками, сионистские погромы синагог в Иерусалиме, политическое убийство Исроэла Дехаана и т.п., рядовые убийства, избиения, отрывания бород и пейсов, сионистские теракты в Ираке в начале 50-х. Демонстративное свиноедство - это-то как раз именно та черта, которой Израиль славится по сей как никакая другая страна. Кажется, нигде больше нет такого взаимного антагонизма между различными группами евреев. Плюс к этому именно сионисты, а не Евсекция, прославились ненавистью ко всему еврейскому, включая язык, образ жизни и даже еврейские черты лица: только в Израиле Новый Еврей изображался на плакатах в виде нордического голубоглазого блондина. Именно оттуда распространилась и поройдо сих пор распространяется издевательская пропаганда о том, как галутные евреи шли как овцы на бойню во время Холокоста, тогда как Советиш Геймланд печатал о подвигах евреев во время Холокоста.

Коммунисты в СССР были разные. Изредка встречались даже убежденные коммунисты, бывшие по совместительству верующими и соблюдающими заповеди евреями. (например, был такой Гольдин - один из разработчиков автомата Калашникова). Не все атеистически коммунисты вредили религии.

Что такое в точности сионизм - весьма туманный вопрос. Поалей-Цион на первых порах смыкались с территориалистами. Мартин Бубер считал себя сионистом, но при этом не был политическим сионистом. Действительно, вслед за simulacrum, хочется отметить, что делить евреев на сионистов и идишистов вряд ли возможно. Неприятен не сионизм per se (против сионизма того же Бубера я ничего не имею), но доминирующая среди сионистов идеология. Идея еврейского националистического государства, а не просто государства для всех граждан без разбора, но с еврейской культурной автономией, лично мне действительно неприятна, к тому же она явно не стыкуется с традиционными представленями иудаизма, тут уж ничего не поделаешь. Взгляните на источники, которые приводит Сатмарский ребе и убедитесь, что его антисионистские идеи прочно базируются на книгах Рамбама, Маарала, р.Йойнэсн Эйбэшец, Ойр-аХаим и т.д. Из песни слова не выкинешь.

Кстати, точно также бывает и разный коммунизм. Коммунитарные идеи встречаются еще в средневековых, вполне традиционных сочинениях, есть и примеры ортодоксальных раввинов 20 века, симпатизировавших левому радикализму или активно участвовавших в лево-радикальных движениях.Бывают всяческие сочетания, тем более, что однополюсность мышления евреям традиционно чужда (то, что среди двух евреев встречаются три мнения практически по любому вопросу - здоровое и симпатичное явление, на мой взгляд)


Цитата (Одом)
Ну приведите мне в сиoнистскoй литерaтуре чтo-нибудь пoдoбнoе aнтирелигиoзным песням и чaстушкaм, в oгрoмнoм кoличестве сoчинявшимся нa идише в СССР в 20е - 30е гг. Дaже журнaл специaльный был Aпикoйрес. Ну вoт дaвняя диплoмнaя рaбoтa из РГГУ oб этoм Aни Ш-шис (уверен, чтo вы все этo прекрaснo знaете). Рaзве сиoнисты зaнимaлись чем-тo пoдoбным?


Цитата (simulacrum)
Вы должно быть шутите! Во-первых, мне не очень понятно, что удивительного в том факте, что совдепы вели антирелигиозную пропаганду на всех письменных и бесписьменных языках народов СССР и прочих стран (кстати, на иврите тоже). Достаточно вспомнить приснопамятного Демьяна Бедного и Окна РОСТа с Маяковским. Я Вам напомню, что они также взрывали храмы и устраивали из синагог фабричные склады. Им ещё много кой-чего забавного в голову приходило. Правда, в частном конкретном случае Холокоста им не пришло в голову многое из того, что пришло в голову нашим сионистам-социалистам (и это во-вторых). Советская власть это дело просто замалчивала, а вот что писалось о прибывающем в подмандатную Палестину "человеческом материале" и что по этому поводу говаривал лично тов. Бен-Гурион мне даже цитировать стыдно (можете сами почитать ну хотя бы здесь - Ronit Lentin 'A yiddishe mame desperately seeking a Mame Loshn: Toward a theory of the feminisation of stigma in the relations between Israelis and Holocaust survivors', Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 19, Issues 1-2, January-April 1996, Pages 87-97). Вспомните как тепло тов. Бен-Гурион встретил партизан группы Абы Ковнера и как он метко выразился по поводу их уродливого наречия. Публичное отношение к этому "скоту" (жертвам Холокоста) стало меняться лишь в 1972 году под влиянием мюнхенской трагедии, да вот на бытовом уровне сохранилось и по сей день. Ну а в какие резервации Герцль предлагал поместить этих чернокапотников - Вам, как историку, должно быть лучше известно.


Цитата (Одом)
Ув. Симулякрум,

В том, что в СССР процветала антирелигиозная пропаганда, и правда, ничего удивительного нетю. Вопрос-то был в том, действительно ли "Сионисты вытворяли все тоже самое, что большевики, только скромные масштабы английской колонии не позволили им как следует развернутьсяхх".

При всем сложном отношении в Израилю к Катастрофе, и день Памяти и институт Яд-ва-Шем существовали задолго до 1972 г. И процесс Эйхмана (на меня в свое время произвело большое впечатление чтение речи гособвинителя Гидеона Хаузнера "Мир, которого больше нет" о разрушенном мире европейского еврейства). Отношение это, насколько я могу судить, характеризавалось даже и в те годы вовсе не пренебрежением к погибшим, а непониманием пассивности жертв. При этом в 50-е 60е годы в Израиле были изданы десятки, сотни книг посвященных Холокосту и, честно говоря, я не вижу в чем позиция Вергелиса и Ко для вас выглядит в более выгодном свете.

Герцль - автор 19 века, имеющий малое отношение к практике сионизма, но ничего подобного журналу Безбожник он все же не писал. Ведь крайне ожесточенные споры маскилов с хасидским эстэблишментом шли и на протяжении 19 века (хотя я считаю хаскалу явлением вполне укладывающимся в рамки традиционного иудаизма, по крайней мере в своих истоках), но к практике тоталитарного подавления религии они не имеют прямого отношения. Сионизм имеет прямое отношение к хаскале, а вот насчет Евсекции - не уверен.

Я вовсе не историк (не профессиональный), просто интересуюсь еврейской историей.


Цитата (Лапландец)
Цитата (Одом)
Ну приведите мне в сиoнистскoй литерaтуре чтo-нибудь пoдoбнoе aнтирелигиoзным песням и чaстушкaм, в oгрoмнoм кoличестве сoчинявшимся нa идише в СССР в 20е - 30е гг.

Почитайте того же Герцеля, еще лучше - творчество писателей и поэтов из движения кнааним. Это что касается более старого периода. Была в Тель-Авиве такая немецкоязычная газета - Neueste Nachrichten, в котором в качестве способа борьбы с религией предлагался тотальный геноцид харейдим. Характерно, что немецкий журнал официально печатался в те годы, когда издание прессы по-еврейски в Израиле было запрещено государством.Но зачем же так далеко ходить - аж в 20-30 годы? Предыдущий Любавический ребе Йейсеф-Ицхок Шнеерсон во время Холокоста (Ликутэй-Дибурим, Ликут 24) писал, что антирелигиозные сионисты в Палестине хуже нацистов, т.к. сжигают еврейские души, в то время как последние - только тела. Как известно, р.Йейсеф-Ицхок лично имел удовольствие ознакомиться с репрессиями Евсекции и при этот был человек ответственный и явно не мотек*, поэтому знал, что писал.

Вот, пожалуйста:
http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2527/listantid.htm

Некоторые из карикатур были напечатаны во вполне официальных изданиях различных израильских партий.

Кстати, если Вы когда-нибудь имели дело с Сохнутом (а мне доводилось), то Вы вряд ли могли не обратить внимание на воинствующе-антирелигиозный характер этой организации.


Цитата (simulacrum)
Цитата (Одом)
Минуточку. Я не говорю про какие-то маргинальные движения, такие как кнааним (хотя и они издевательских насильственных антирелигиозных обрядов не устраивали). В СССР подобные вещи - надругательство над традицией - были частью обязательной школьной программы, уклонение от которой вело к репрессиям.

Так писал ли Ребэ, что коммунисты лучше сионистов?

С Сохнутом по касательной сталкиваться приходилось, никакого воинственно-антирелигиозного духа (в смысле журнала Апикойрес) не замечал.

Все же как понять, что Вергелис говорит о бродовских евреях? Не думаю, что его вдохновила крепостная синагога 1742(кажется) года или тот факт, что там жил Бешт, как вряд ли он предлагал брать пример с "мелкобуржуазных" евреев-лавочников да контрабандистов этого города. Тем более, что до войны это был не СССР, и к России этот действительно симпатичный в прошлом городок никогда не относился. То, что идиш для Вергилиса связан прежде всего с анекдотами о Гершеле-Острополлере и Хелемских мудрецах - предсказуемо, а вот упоминание им Бродов в этом контексте не совсем ясно. Ну да может случайность, для рифмы.

А откуда у Вас такая информация? Мой папа учился в еврейской школе и вспоминает лишь исключительно любовное отношение к еврейской литературе, языку, и никакой антитрадиционной пропаганды (никакие подобные частушки ему абсолютно неизвестны, он их впервые от меня услышал, а я - от г-жи Штерншис). Правда, дело было уже в послевоенные годы и до войны он успел застать вполне традиционный хейдер и кое-чему подучиться и там тоже. Классным руководителем у него был Бэрл Ройзин - Вам это имя, наверное, ничего не скажет, но трудно от такого классного руководителя ожидать что-либо корме любовного отношения к евр. культуре - всё, что он писал этим пропитано.

По-моему, Вы преувеличиваете значение журнала Апикойрэс, распространение антирелигиозных частушек, а главное - антиеврейскую деятельность поэта Вергелиса. Повторюсь, никакой энциклопедии не может быть известно что-либо о доносах, ибо никто его в этом пока не уличил (если да уличили, то я хотел бы об этом прочесть - я беседовал в другим поэтом Хаимом Бейдером, ответственным секретарём журнала Советиш Эймланд и он никакие доносы не подтверждает). А вот с другой стороны, если не принимать во внимание несомненный волюнтаризм (печатал и не печатал кого желал - см. например известный случай с замечательным писателем Эле Шехтманом), то Арн Вергелис внёс колоссальный, мало с кем сравнимый, вклад в поддержание евр. культуры в застойные и не совсем годы. Он добился создания единственного журнала на евр. языке в 1961 году после многолетнего запрета на еврейские публикации, он добился ежегодной книжной квоты в издательстве Советский писатель, благодаря его усилиям были созданы литературные курсы при литинституте им. Горького, через которые прошла почти вся новая волна еврейских литераторов и исследователей, теперь распространённая по всему миру. Это - единственный успешный случай воспитания новых литературных кадров на идише в современное время (даже Югнтруф, на мой взгляд, блекнет в сравнении). Лев Беринский, Геннадий Эстрайх, Мойше Лемстер, Борис Сандлер, Вэлвл Чернин, Михоэл Крутиков, Мэхл Фельзенбаум, Александр Белоусов, пресловутый Александр Бейдерман (в данном случае, лучше бы Вергелис оказался менее успешным), Феликс Хаймович, Зиси Вейцман, - да полно имён, без которых современная культура на идише просто немыслима. Да даже Мордхе Юшинский и Шломо Громан впервые, если мне не изменяет память, опубликовались в Советиш Эймланд (помню стихотворение последнего Кум цу мир, Биробиджан - совсем не в духе нынешнего Громана, конечно, но оттуда это тянется). На мой взгляд, не теми строками, что привёл Арье всё Вергелису окупается, а вот этой ни с чем несравнимой деятельностью. Поймите меня правильно, я не испытываю особой расположенности к коммунистам, я не в восторге от стихов Вергелиса (хотя допускаю, что кому-то они могут нравиться, - не хуже Слуцкого, скажем - на вкус и цвет) и тем паче от его прозы, нет смысла отрицать его неприятный характер. Но вклад его - неоценим и нападки - несправедливы. Ну сослался он на Эршелэ Острополера, а не на Виленского Гаона - у каждого свой литературный мандат. Вот моё мнение.

Кстати, Odom, я поначалу не знал, что с Вами (М.Н.) дискутирую - мне Ваши статьи очень импонируют и я их прочёл с удовольствием, о чём мне хотелось Вам сообщить лично.


Цитата (Лапландец)
Вообще-то говоря, у советских писателей очень мало антирелигиозной тематики. Лично мне советские писатели импонируют как в стилистическом плане, так и по содержанию. Язык у большинства из них чрезвычайно богат и более инклюзивен, чем у западных идишистов, так-как советские филологи не старались выкидывать из языка устоявшиеся даймеризмы, английские интернационализмы, пришедшие через русский (лидер, снайпер и т.п.), не старались ограничить число славянских заимствований (за исключением таких употребительных слов, как самолет, вертолет, холодильник, которые считались слишком уж коллоквиальными). Вергелис заботился о развитии современных жанров, один из номеров Советиш Геймланд был целиком посвящен научной фантастике и освоению космоса. Стихи Вергелиса не то, чтобы были выдающимися, но некоторые из них стоит прочесть. Благодаря советским писателям наша литература обогатилась описаниями Дальнего Востока, Крайнего Севера, колхозов-совхозов, запечатлила всю эту советскую терминологию (штотком, драмкрайз), которая с лингвистической точки зрения была вовсе не глупым изобретением. Не относиться к советской ветви еврейского литературного творчества с уважением - это все равно, что при ознакомлении с русской литературой выкинуть из нее весь советский период. Это тем более верно в свете уже помянутого Симулякрумом факта: многие современные поэты и писатели начинали писать в СССР, и произведения писателей более старшего поколения оказали несомненное влияние на их творчество. Странно было бы, к примеру, сегодня читать Пелевина или Толстую, не ведая о русской литературе предыдущего периода.
Ирена
Цитата (simulacrum)
JOSHUA A. FISHMAN

THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH:
WHO SAYS YIDDISH IS HOLY AND WHY?

(Received 5 January 2002; accepted in revised form 22 March 2002)

ABSTRACT. The pace of sanctifying profane vernaculars is speeding up and the process is
spreading outside of its European primary base. The sanctification of Yiddish as revealed
in writing about the language suggests a number of distinctions within sanctity as well
as crucial associations with special individuals, literary works, kinship relationships and
heightened suffering which are tied to ascriptions of sanctity, by secular as well as religious
spokespersons. However, two profiles emerge, which differ in details which are highly
revealing of the bases upon which Jewish secularists and religionists ascribe sanctity.
KEY WORDS: language attitudes, language sanctity, positive ethnolinguistic consciousness,
status change in vernaculars, Yiddish

INTRODUCTION
My Yiddish interests predate my sociolinguistic interests by many years,
although my more general sociolinguistic research predates my Yiddish
sociolinguistic research (again by many years). Nevertheless, regardless
of what the dates of publication might be, the one has always influenced
and, indeed, nourished the other. The sociology of language deals with
the relationship of any two or more of the following: language usage,
language users, language uses (functions), attitudes toward language and
overt behaviors toward language (e.g., overt behaviors of a fostering or
of a prohibitory nature). This paper pertains to a specific sub-category of
language attitudes, “positive ethnolinguistic consciousness,” i.e., positive
beliefs expressed toward a particular language (Fishman, 1996).
There are several other topics that pertain to ethnolinguistic consciousness
beyond those that I will deal with here. There is also, of course,
negative ethnolinguistic consciousness. But, more complexly, there is the
question of the incidence of their presence or co-presence and, finally, the
determination of their contextualization: culturally, historically, economically,
in discourse, topically, etc. All in all, this is truly a complex area
and one which sociolinguists have only begun to untangle. In this article
I will focus, therefore, on only one substantive topic within positive
ethnolinguistic consciousness: the attribution of sanctity. Other topical
Language Policy 1: 123–141, 2002.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
124 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
attributions are ethnicity related (i.e., cultural and historical uniqueness),
functional attributions (e.g., educational, legal, religious or technological
functions) and a wide variety of corpus attributions (cultural “good-fit,”
lexical wealth, grammatical simplicity, phonological euphony).

SANCTITY OF LANGUAGES
Nearly three quarters of the languages extant today are viewed by some
portion of their historically associated speech-and-writing communities
as sanctity-linked. This is particularly true of languages in the European
orbit, with their well-established classical and romantic heritages. The
number of sanctity-linked languages is actually growing, whether by diffusion
from the Euro-Mediterranean heartland or via independent genesis
elsewhere. Seemingly, it is an idea which appeals to more and more
ethnolinguistic aggregates, perhaps as a counterforce to the pressures of
modernization and globalization. As Table 1 indicates, on the basis of
a non-purposive sample of 76 languages from throughout the world,1
the percentage of sanctity-linkage is highest and oldest in Europe and is
correspondingly lower and younger in other regions. Of course, the exact
notion of sanctity differs over time and culture. Accordingly, in any attempt
to compare cultures or subcultures with respect to sanctity claims for their
languages, one must proceed on the assumption that sanctity is socioculturally
constructed. I will offer no a priori culture-bound or culture-free
definition of holiness, as have many distinguished scholars before me [e.g.,
Rudolf Otto (1917) and Emile Durkheim (1912)] and will simply let holiness
be defined contextually, i.e., as its claimants use it. That approach
would seem to be mandatory for exploring my main question: What claims
or views do markedly different claimants have in mind when they claim
that “Yiddish is holy.”2
1 Methodological and sampling issues are discussed in Fishman (1997), which was
based on 141 citations collected by the author and his correspondents.
2 Like English, Yiddish calls upon two different lexical sources in designating that
which is holy. In English these sources are Germanic (holy) and Romance (sacred,
sanctity). In Yiddish, they are Germanic (heylik) and Semitic (koydesh, kedushe). In neither
language do these doublets imply differences in degree. Yiddish is mostly written in
standard Hebrew characters (a few of them being somewhat modified) and its transliteration
into Roman characters in this article follows the standard established by the United
States Library of Congress (USLC) and the YIVO (Yidisher Visenshaftlikher Institut)
Institute for Jewish Research. Stress in Yiddish is normally penultimate and therefore only
exceptions to this rule will be indicated via an apostrophe after the stressed vowel (e.g.,
sha’besdik). A different transcription system is normally utilized for Hebrew but HebrewTHE
HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 125
TABLE 1
Sanctity linkages and average year of their literary occurrence, by region
(Fishman, 1997: 301–303).
Region Number of Proportion (%) Average
citations with sanctity year of
theme citation
Western Europe 18 17 1901
Other Europe 22 25 1919
Combined Europe 40 42 1912
Americas 16 12 1961
Africa 12 8 1961
Asia/Pacific 33 38 1954
But perhaps we should back up a step before proceeding further. Is
it really possible that “holiness” has been attributed to Yiddish, given its
history of rejection, abandonment and neglect (lasting into the modern
period and even to this very day (see, e.g., Weinreich, 1974; Fishman,
1991) and its co-existence within the same sociocultural space as the
undeniably prior and greater sanctity of Hebrew and the “miraculous”
revival of modern Israeli Hebrew? It may help put the answer to this
question into a broader cross-cultural context if we keep in mind that
such still derided vernaculars as Black English and Haitian Creole have
also been viewed as holy (and still are so viewed in some quarters; see
Fishman, 1997) as were such now powerful but once lowly vernaculars
as English, German, Italian and endless others. Holiness not only varies
along a historical continuum (hitherto non-holy languages having holiness
bestowed upon them and, in the opposite direction, once-holy languages
being secularized and desanctified), but holiness can also be a matter of
degree and of startlingly different imagery in different social circles that
are contemporary. The foregoing dimensions of contrast and dimensions
of developmental change are particularly important vis-à-vis Yiddish.
As a first effort at the comparative study of sanctity claims directed
toward Yiddish, I will use both a time contrast (before and after the
Holocaust) and a social contrast (secular and Orthodox/Ultra-Orthodox).3
origin words that have been merged into Yiddish are also transliterated in accord with the
USLC/YIVO system.
3 There is no litmus test to differentiate Orthodox from Ultra-Orthodox across time and
space. The boundary between them is a relatively recent, shifting and perspectival one. If
we go back a century the difference between the two is less clear than it is today (see, e.g.,
126 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
TABLE 2
Sanctity claims collected pertaining to Yiddish, before and after the
Holocaust and in secular vs. Orthodox/Ultra-Orthodox circles.
Secular (“Yiddishists”) Orthodox/Ultra
Before the Holocaust (a) 20 © 20
After the Holocaust (b) 12 (d) 28
Phi = 0.21.
Table 2 reveals the distribution across these two dimensions of the first
80 claims as to the sanctity of Yiddish that I have encountered.4 There
is a weak tendency for the number of Orthodox/Ultra-Orthodox attributions
of sanctity to Yiddish to increase after the Holocaust and for secular
attributions to decrease. There are also more Orthodox/Ultra-Orthodox
attributions of this kind, among those that I have encountered, all in all,
than secular ones. I will only present a representative handful of all 80
claims in this article, so that the reader can have an idea of what these
claims amount to (substantively and stylistically) and so that we can have
a common data pool to analyze and discuss.
SECULAR (YIDDISHIST5) CLAIMS FOR THE SANCTITY OF YIDDISH,
BEFORE AND AFTER THE HOLOCAUST
I will start not with the earliest secularist citation that I have located from
the pre-Holocaust period (quadrant a in Table 2), but with the most famous
one. It is from the gifted pen of Avrohom Lyesin (1872–1939), who fled
to the United States from Czarist Russia where he had been an activist
in Jewish revolutionary circles. In the USA, he became a prominent labor
Heilman, 1989, 1992). Yiddish has been much more commonly (although not universally)
retained, as a vernacular, as a medium of Talmud study (lernen) and as a medium of
instruction, among those generally viewed as Ultra-Orthodox (khareydi, khasidic).
4 All ascriptions of sanctity are texts in print, unless otherwise noted. Whether or
not such ascriptions correspond to spoken convictions is assumed but undemonstrated.
Their authors are indubitably more literate than the average members of their speech
communities, but the higher status of these authors also lends more norm-setting impact to
their views.
5 This designation is commonly applied to non-religious or, at times, anti-religious Jews
for whom Yiddish is the sole or supreme definer of their Jewishness (see Fishman, 2001:
29). That is how this term will be utilized in this article, although it is also encountered
today to designate, more generally, anyone interested, competent or specializing in
Yiddish. The secular/Ultra-Orthodox distinction is reflected both in beliefs and practices.
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 127
leader in the Jewish trade-unions and also the long-term editor of the prestigious
socialist literary journal Di tsukunft (which still appears today and is
now in its 110th year of publication). The poem, “Der nes” [The miracle],
was first published in 1922 and immediately became and remained popular
in all four Yiddish-secular school movements in the USA6; its popularity
far transcended party lines as is also evidenced by its being reprinted in
textbooks of all four movements.
The poet relates that the angel of Yiddish7 awoke him one night,
speaking with the voice of his mother, as he remembered it when she
read the Pentateuch in Yiddish8 on Sabbath days. The angel reviews the
help that Yiddish has been to the Jewish people over the ages: providing
lullabies about the Torah for children still in their cradles, the vehicle of
all popular translations and commentaries, oral or in print, which enabled
those not literate in Hebrew (mostly women and the poor) to follow
the lection in the synagogue (the commentary of “the holy Alshikh”9 is
mentioned explicitly), the means by which itinerant preachers brought
consolation and comfort to towns and townlets throughout central and
eastern Europe, the vehicle of spontaneous prayers and requests, the
tongue of holy martyrs and of those who struggled heroically against
discrimination. “If the purest sanctity is reflected through suffering and
pain, then I am your holiest of all,” the angel proclaims. For all of these
services past and present, the angel appeals only for one promise: that the
6 The four major Yiddish secular school-movements in the USA included one each
affiliated with socialism, Labor-Zionism, communism and educational non-partisanism.
See the website (http://www.fsysa.org) that has been developed for the Secular Yiddish
Schools in America archival collection at Stanford University Libraries, Department of
Special Collections, containing the records, publications and memorabilia pertaining to
these school movements.
7 There is a Jewish folk-belief which maintains that God converses with the 70 ministering
angels via the 70 tongues that correspond to the notions of 70 languages and 70
peoples in the world. Each angel is the guardian of its particular language (Steinschneider,
1903). Lyesin was the first to suggest that there is also an angel for Yiddish.
8 A Yiddish translation of the Pentateuch written for women, referred to as “the
khumesh-taytsh” [Pentateuch translation], was a very common book in pre-Holocaust
eastern European Jewish homes. The most popular of these was the Tsene-urene [go forth
and see], early 17th century and still in print (after over 120 printings/editions in Yiddish
alone), which also includes commentaries, tales and the readings from the Prophets related
to the weekly lection. Men not well-versed in Hebrew also made use of it, or of similar
texts (see below).
9 Named after its 16th century author (compiler), R’ Moyshe Alshikh, it was held in
such high repute that it was widely referred to as “the holy Alshikh.” The shul-reader
would translate it into Yiddish for adults who could not follow it in Hebrew, when the
upcoming weekly Torah lection was reviewed in advance.
128 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
author (and the reader) “remain a link in the procession of generations
that lived for holy scrolls and even died unflinchingly for them” (Lyesin,
1922).
Clearly, Lyesin largely locates the sanctity of Yiddish in very traditional
contexts: hallowed texts, practices and places, holy martyrs and the entire
history of Jewish resistance to poverty and persecution. The latter may be
considered to be a reflection of Lyesin’s socialist convictions (although the
millennial struggle against poverty and persecution is by no means socialist
or even secularist concerns alone), but the former, the clear majority of
instances of staunchly tradition-embedded sanctity claims, are particularly
noteworthy in the light of further evidence for this period. Indeed, all of
my other pre-Holocaust quadrant (a) citations asserting holiness of Yiddish
(some by very outstanding literary figures such as K. Hayzler, B. Lapin, or
M. Ravitsh) are very similar to those of Lyesin in their overwhelmingly
traditional contextualization of that sanctity, at a time when the tradition
was still largely intact in its own heartland and when organized Jewish
secularism was at its height there and roundly rejected traditional beliefs
and practices.
Shifting our attention now to post-Holocaust secularist claims
(quadrant b in Table 2), let us look briefly at one of many such poems by
Leyb Faynberg (1897–1969). Faynberg is particularly instructive because
he was not only an outstanding poet both before and after the Holocaust,
but he had also been a Communist and a Yiddish-secularist cultural activist
in the USSR before World War II and did not leave the Party until 1939.
His Mizmer shir lemame yidish ([Sing a song to Mother Yiddish], 1967),
is a paean to Yiddish throughout the centuries, utilizing and paraphrasing
passages from the Book of Psalms for this purpose. While Faynberg associates
Yiddish with many personages (authors, playwrights and famous
story-tellers) who pioneered the literary modernization of Yiddish, as well
as with the Jewish experience of overcoming persecution and adversity
throughout the centuries, most of his associations with sanctity are drawn,
once again, from the Orthodox world. Yiddish was the vernacular of the
intellectual giant the Gaon [genius] of Vilna (1720–1797),10 is associated
10 The Vilner goen, also known as Hagoen r’eyliyohu or Hagra, acquired such fame,
authority and distinguished students that Vilne (now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania)
became the preeminent center of Torah studies and was widely referred to as “the Jerusalem
of Lithuania.”
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 129
in every Jew’s mind with such towns as Mezhebezh11 and Bratslev,12 from
which major varieties of Jewish piety and mysticism went forth into the
world, with such major religious works as the Kedushes-leyvi13 and the
Tanye,14 and, ultimately, with the sanctity of the Sabbath and the supreme
goodness of God.15 It is quite striking that a secularist, particularly one
of Faynberg’s political background, would utilize such traditional images
and associations in supporting the sanctity of Yiddish. Notably, however,
he does not invoke the Holocaust. He pointedly does not associate Yiddish
with the death of its speakers, but with their pre-Holocaust creative life.
The link between Yiddish and the Holocaust is clearly made, however, in
the next (and final) secular example.
A.A. Roback (1890–1965) arrived in the USA as an adolescent,
obtained a doctorate in psychology at Harvard, and became a worldclass
academic psychologist and psycholinguist. At the same time as
he published an authoritative reference on the History of Psychology
and many other scholarly volumes in this field (all in English), he also
published works on both literary analysis and literary history in Yiddish
throughout his adult life. I would like to bring a passage from his essay
11 Mezhebezh, located in the Ukraine, was for many years the place of residence of the
Bal-shem-tov (c. 1700–1760), the founder of khasidism, a branch of Orthodoxy which has
come to be of great importance in the modern Jewish world. It has been strongly associated
with Yiddish, orally and in print, from its very origins. Although the many branches or
types of khasidism differ from one another in details, they are generally all characterized
as a reaction against the academic formalism of concurrent rabbinic Judaism. By stressing
the loving-mercy of God, encouraging joyous religious expression via song and dance, and
de-emphasizing the centrality of traditional (Talmudic) study, it spread rapidly among the
poor and less educated. More recently, khasidim too have come to accept the importance
of studying the Talmud.
12 Bratslev is the town in Poland from which a particularly mystic variety of
khasidism, inspired by R’ Nakhmen Bratslever (1772–1811), was disseminated. The
Jewish cemeteries in both Mezhebezh and Bratslev are visited annually by followers of
the two varieties of khasidism mentioned above, to observe the anniversaries of their rebi’s
demise. The Bratslever khasidim never proclaimed a new rabbi and are, therefore, also
known as “the dead khasidim.”
13 The Kedushes-leyvi was an influential book by R’ Leyvi Yitskhok Berditshever
(1740–1809). It was either authored in or quickly translated into Yiddish and was widely
read.
14 The (Seyfer) Tanye is a widely studied text by R’ Shneyer Zalmen of Lyadi (1745–
1813). It is a systematic exposition of khasidic belief and is considered the principal source
(the written law) of the Lyubavitsh movement (see below). It was also either authored in
or quickly translated into Yiddish and widely read.
15 The title and the penultimate line of Faynberg’s poem paraphrase a line from the
Sabbath morning service (“mizmer shir leyoy’m hashabes”) the source of which is Psalms,
92.1. The final line, also from the Sabbath morning service, is taken from Psalms, 136.1.
130 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
Yidish-koydesh [Holy Yiddish] (1958), because I believe that Roback is
the first person to have formulated this expression as a parallel to the
traditional reference to Hebrew as loshn-koydesh [holy tongue].16 Roback
claimed that
A language becomes holy when there is written in it a letter such as the one the Rabbi of
Blazheve17 received:
With the help of heaven, 13/1/1943
Dear beloved R’ Israel Shapero, shelita,18 may you be well: The brush-factory in which we
are, about 800 Jews, has now been surrounded and we are to be killed. They are trying to
decide whether to shoot us or burn us. I beg of you, dear Rabbi, when you will be privileged
to come to the Land of Israel, please insert a small stone somewhere on that holy ground,
with my name and the name of my wife, so that our names may not be forgotten. Or write
a Torah scroll for us. With this messenger I send you fifty dollars. I am in a hurry because
we are being told to undress. I will send your fond regards to your holy ancestors, and ask
them to intercede for you and to grant you length of days. Your servant, Arye ben Leye.
This style of writing connects generations and eras through a bond of holiness . . . ,
heroism . . . , concern for others and for one’s own responsibilities. And now, can anyone
still deny that Yiddish is a holy tongue?
For the secularist Roback, Yiddish has been rendered holy because of
the Holocaust, not only because it was the vernacular of the lion’s share of
all of its Jewish victims, and not even because of their terrible anguish
and suffering, but because of the moral values and holy teachings that
they never abandoned, clinging to them in Yiddish, even in the shadow of
certain and horrible death. Secularists believed that they remained devoted
to such values even after they abandoned traditional beliefs and practices.
Space limitations make it impossible for me to bring further secularist
claims concerning the sanctity of Yiddish (quadrants (a) and (b) in Table
2). It will be easier to summarize the essential features of those claims after
we have also sampled a few of the most characteristic Orthodox/Ultra-
Orthodox claims in this connection. Let us, therefore, turn our attention to
examples in quadrants © and (d).
16 Another commonly encountered designation of Yiddish, one that is also contrastive
to loshn-koydesh, is loshn-hakedoyshim [language of the martyrs]. This too, of course, is a
sanctity association.
17 Blazheve: a Polish town west of Lodzh and south of Reyshe, both of which are more
easily located on maps of Poland.
18 Shelita is an acronym for sheyikhye leyomim tovim, omeyn [may he live to good days,
amen] that is a common honorific for great rabbis.
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 131
ORTHODOX/ULTRA-ORTHODOX CLAIMS OF THE SANCTITY OF
YIDDISH, BEFORE AND AFTER THE HOLOCAUST
Once again, my first citation is not the oldest that I have encountered,
but, perhaps, the most influential that I have located in quadrant ©. It
is by Sore Shenirer (1883–1935), the founder of the Beys-Yankev Schools
for Girls (Kruke [Cracow] 1917). She was a feminist of sorts within her
Orthodox milieu, pioneering a thorough Jewish education for girls against
considerable rabbinic opposition. She soon became a charismatic figure
for many traditional Jewish women, but most particularly for her students
(whom she referred to as her “sisters”). Two years before her untimely
demise, she spoke (and wrote) to them as follows on the topic of Yidishkayt
un yidish (Jewishness and Yiddish):
The Yiddish language is obviously dear to us because our mothers, grandparents and
great-grandparents spoke in this language. We are obliged to speak Yiddish simply out
of filial piety. However, in addition, Yiddish is also holy for us because so many righteous
and virtuous folk, so many Torah-giants, have spoken it for hundreds of years and
speak Yiddish today, that it necessarily becomes holy thereby. A language is also the outer
apparel, the garment of the soul. . . . Among us Jews, the outer must be firmly tied to the
inner. Just as one’s modest Jewish dress and one’s modest behavior are the best indicators
of a truly Jewish soul, so language is also related thereto. . . . Just as one counts sfire19
every day, one should similarly take stock every day as to whether one has improved in
some way with respect to the matter of Yiddish. And, God willing, we will all certainly
meet in Jerusalem [1933].20
Shenirer has both repeated and surpassed some of the previously
mentioned claims by secularists concerning Yiddish. Like Lyesin, she
links Yiddish with close kin and, like Faynberg and Roback she associates
it with great figures and works of eternal religious significance. Like
Lyesin and Faynberg, she explicitly relates it to the sanctity of the services.
However, she goes beyond anything we have encountered before by calling
for action on behalf of Yiddish (“take stock every day as to whether one
has improved in some way with respect to the matter of Yiddish”). In all of
these respects she was not unlike other significant contemporary Orthodox
leaders in Poland, e.g., Nosn Birnbaum (1861–1937) and Eliezer Shindler
19 Sfire is the ritualized counting, at the morning and evening services, of the 49 days
between the second night of Peysekh (Passover, the religious holiday which celebrates the
liberation of the Jews fromEgyptian bondage) and the first night of Shvues (Feast ofWeeks,
the holiday commemorating the Jews’ acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, i.e., the goal
and climax of that liberation).
20 Many Orthodox Jews believe that after the coming of the Messiah, the righteous of
all peoples, living and dead, will come to praise God at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. By
associating this apocalyptic vision with the speaking of Yiddish, Shenirer thereby hugely
reinforces her view that Yiddish is holy.
132 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
(1892–1950), who called for sanctity-reinforcing activity both through and
on behalf of Yiddish. Such action is always a component of the Orthodox
notion of sanctity.
For the post-Holocaust Orthodox examples (quadrant d in Table 2), I
have selected statements by the two most outstanding Orthodox personages
of the latter part of the 20th century. Rabbi Yoysef Dov-Ber
Soloveytshik (often referred to in English as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik,
1903–1993), known to his disciples throughout the world simply as “der
rov/the Rav,” and Menakhem-Mendl Shneyerzon (a common English
spelling is Schneerson, 1902–1994), more widely known as the Lyubavitsher
rebi. Although both rav and rebi mean rabbi, they connote the worlds
of non-khasidic and khasidic Orthodoxy, respectively.
Rabbi Soloveytshik was the leading rabbinic teacher and rabbinic
arbiter in Modern Orthodox circles21 after the Holocaust. As a preeminent
Talmudic master, he begins by applying the Talmudic distinction between
two kinds of sanctity to the case of Yiddish (1961):
I am not a Yiddishist who believes that the language per se constitutes an absolute value.
But I am a Talmud-Jew and I know that holiness and absoluteness are not always identical.
The halokhe22 has formulated two concepts of sanctity: sanctity per se and vessels that
contain sanctity. It ruled that if there is a fire on the Sabbath, one must rescue23 not only
the Torah scroll itself but also the mantle in which it is wrapped; not only the phylacteries
but also the pouch in which they lie. Accordingly, even though not included within sanctity
per se, Yiddish as a language certainly belongs in the category of sanctified vessels which
are also holy and must be protected with all our might. Is there a better vessel in which
the holiest Torah scrolls were and are still wrapped than Yiddish? In this language the
Re’ma,24 The Meharsha’l,25 the Vilner goen,26 Reb Khayem Volo’zhiner,27 and others
21 The exact boundary of Modern Orthodoxy is difficult to define and changes over time.
Arising in Germany and in the USA in the early decades of the last century, some of its
defining characteristics have been the acceptance of modern, secular subjects (including
college education) as necessary for a good education of both males and females and the
pursuit of greater female study of traditional sources and their greater participation in
religious services.
22 Halokhe (also spelled halaha and Halacha in English) refers to the entire body of
Jewish law and tradition, Biblical, Talmudic and post-Talmudic, as interpreted by rabbinic
authorities.
23 “Rescue” here implies to carry out from the synagogue into the street on the Sabbath,
although Orthodox Jews are prohibited from transferring objects on the Sabbath from a
private domain (their homes or places of worship) into a public domain.
24 The Re’ma (Rav Moyshe Iserlis) was a 16th century Torah luminary and author of
several books of rabbinic commentary.
25 Meharsha’l (Moreynu harav [our teacher, rabbi] Shloyme Lurye), 1510–1573,
halakhic arbiter and author of Talmudic commentaries.
26 See footnote 10 above.
27 Reb Khayim Volozhiner (1749–1821), founder of the famous Volozhiner Yeshiva
(1802), an institution of advanced Torah learning in which many subsequently famous
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 133
who were Torah giants of their generations, learned Torah. In Yiddish the Bal-shem-tov,28
the Magid of Mezritsh,29 and the Old Rebi30 explained the secrets of creation. In simple
mame-loshn,31 the Jewish masses expressed their faith, their simple love and loyalty. To
this very day, great Torah sages deliver their Talmud discourses in Yiddish. Such a vessel
is certainly holy, even if its sanctity is not absolute, but rather a sanctity by association, in
the category of sanctified vessels. To preserve such a vessel is certainly a great privilege.
In Soloveytshik’s defense of the sanctity of Yiddish there is much
that we have already encountered: great figures of the world of Torah
learning (indeed, many of them have already been mentioned by others),
by implication: the great works with which these luminaries are associated,
and, last but not least, basically, the entire, everyday world of kinfolk
and ordinary men and women of Jewish eastern Europe who were fully
committed to their faith and practices. What is new about Soloveytshik’s
presentation is his application to Yiddish of the Talmud’s two-way division
of sanctity into sanctity in and of itself and sanctity by association with
sacred objects. This division is not at all unlike the first two parts of Rudolf
Otto’s somewhat earlier three-way dichotomy (1917) into (a) God/God’s
Word, (b) holy vessels associated with the former and © holy/saintly
individuals. Although Otto’s third kind of sanctity is not separately identified
in Soloveytshik’s dichotomy (indeed, many, and perhaps even most,
scholars of Judaism would consider it to be distinctly un-Jewish to consider
any human as holy), nevertheless, Soloveytshik proceeds to rest most of his
case for sanctity on an extensive list of Torah scholars, a practice which
we have also encountered in Sore Shenirer and even, to a lesser degree, in
Lyesin and in Roback. And although there is no doubt in Soloveytshik’s
mind that Yiddish is only of a second order of sanctity, it is precisely
because of that sanctity that Yiddish is not only worthy of use but of
defense and protection, even in the case of a fire on the Sabbath, i.e., in
difficult and dangerous times such as ours.
It is only fitting that we not leave quadrant (d) without considering the
words of Soloveytshik’s counterpart in the khasidic world, R’ Menakhemmendl
Shneyerson [Schneerson] (1902–1994). Just as Soloveytshik is der
rov, so Shneyerson is der rebi, and, arguably, the most influential Jewish
secular and religious leaders were students (e.g., the Hebrew-Yiddish writer Khayim
Nakhmen Byalik [1873–1934] and the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the Land of Israel,
Avrohom Kook [–d.1935]).
28 See footnote 11 above.
29 A magid is an itinerant preacher. The Magid Dov-ber of Mezritsh (–d.1772) was one
of the most important early disciples, and later the successor, of the Bal-shem-tov.
30 The Old Rebi was Shneyer-Zalmen of Lyadi (1745–1813), a student of the Magid of
Mezritsh, who subsequently went on to become the founder of Lyubavitsher khasidism.
31 Mame has two syllables (ma-me). Mame-loshn [mother-tongue] is an affectionate
term for Yiddish in contrast to the more formal (and Germanic) mutershprakh.
134 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
leader of the 20th century. Knowing Hebrew, Russian, German, French
and English fully and well, he nevertheless delivered his famous sikhes
(discourses) in Yiddish, and they were often (re-)broadcast to his followers
around the world in Yiddish along with simultaneous translation. This is
what he had to say about Yiddish (1991):
Among the seventy languages,32 there are certain ones that possess a special merit, as the
Talmud mentions with respect to halokhe in Greek and in Aramaic.33 And there is reason
to believe, along those very lines, that this also applies to the language which is called
Yiddish. The very fact that during so many generations – also in our own generation – the
majority of Ashkenazi Jews, including the Ashkenazi Torah giants, spoke in this language
(to such a degree that it came to be called, at the very least during the past generation,
Yiddish [Jewish]), while we do not find this for Aramaic in the time of the Talmud, nor
for Arabic in the time of the Rambam,34 neither before nor after him, nor for French in
the time of Rashi,35 implies that it possesses an advantage relative to other languages. . . .
Another asset of Yiddish is that it has a special relationship to Torah-matters that are both
revealed and hidden. As is well known, the Old Rebi36 states in Igeres hakoydesh37 that
the Bal-shem-tov,38 may his memory be for a blessing, would talk of Torah in Yiddish
and not in the Holy Tongue. And it is well known that this was also the practice of his
pupil Harav Hamagid,39 of the old honorable holy one, our master, our teacher and our
rabbi40 himself, and of the rebis after him, up to and including my teacher and father-inlaw,
our master, our teacher and our rabbi,41 they all spoke of khasidism in the language of
32 The traditional Jewish belief is that after the great flood the children of Noah spread
throughout the world and, after the tower of Babel, there ultimately arose seventy peoples
and seventy languages. The tower of Babel story implies that the Lord intends these to be
everlastingly separate, until the end of all days.
33 Both the Talmud and the Rebi have in mind only Judeo-Aramaic. Various other varieties
of Aramaic developed and, by the 10th century had spread from the Mediterranean
eastward all the way to Tibet.
34 The Rambam (1135–1204), Rabbi Moyshe ben Maymon or Maimonides, was the
preeminent medieval codifier of Jewish law. Although most of his major works were
authored in Hebrew (e.g., Mishne Toyre, his encyclopedic systematic arrangement of all
Talmudic law) others were written in Arabic (e.g., his famous Guide for the Perplexed)
and had to be translated into Hebrew in order to be accessible.
35 Rashi (1040–1105), Rabbi Shloyme Yitskhaki, famous commentator on the Bible and
the Talmud, noted for his simple clarity. Was born and died in Troyes (France) and his
use of French words throughout his commentaries, as gloses of obscure Hebrew words,
often constitute the very earliest sources for French that scholars have thus far found from
a period in which French was as yet seldom written.
36 See footnote 30 above.
37 Igeres hakoydesh is a posthumously published collection of letters (1814) by R’
Shneyer-Zalmen of Lyadi.
38 See the section of footnote 11 above, that pertains to the Bal-shem-tov.
39 This is the popular name of the Mezritcher Magid, see footnote 29 above.
40 The “Old Rebi”. See footnote 30 above.
41 R’ Yoysef-yitskhok Schneerson (1880–1950) was the Lyubavitsher rebi prior to the
author of this citation.
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 135
Ashkenaz, in Yiddish. Precisely because our teachers and our leaders spoke of khasidism in
Yiddish, they increased its merits even further than they were before. The special relationship
between Yiddish and the holy teachings of khasidism is stressed even further in the
Seyfer tanye42 – the written Torah of khasidism . . . , and the beginning of the revelation
of all matters pertaining to the holy teachings of khasidism. . . . Also, even those things
that our teachers and leaders originally wrote in the Holy Tongue were initially [said] in
Yiddish.
Although the Rebi never actually claims sanctity for Yiddish in so
many words he does strongly stress its “special merit” due to its close
and prolonged association with Torah, khasidism and the great and holy
rebis and sages who formulated and propagated khasidism. The Rebi’s
repeated contextualization of Yiddish in the company of holy writings,
holy leaders and holy revelations places this discourse squarely within
the very same framework of sanctity claims and associations that we have
reviewed before.
PRELIMINARY REFLECTIONS
Although there are many, many more citations that could be cited here,
particularly Orthodox ones since the Holocaust, they would add few new
perspectives on the nature of the sanctity claims for Yiddish. In terms of
the two major dichotomous dimensions on the basis of which our sample
was selected, the similarities stand out much more clearly than the differences.
Before the Holocaust, both Lyesin and Shenirer claimed sanctity
for Yiddish by virtue of its centuries of close association with (i) cultural
heroes, mainly Torah sages and holy martyrs, (ii) major hallowed writings
and authors, and (iii) the closest of kin and the simple, pious Jewish
everyman. The similarities in the metaphors and images of such otherwise
ideologically widely different spokespersons are really very striking and
surprising. Often the very same holy books and saintly folk are mentioned
in the religious and in the secularist camps. Perhaps it should be pointed
out that the pre-Holocaust secularists all had received religious (even
Yeshiva) educations and it may be from that world of religious ideas and
metaphors that they draw when sanctity is claimed for Yiddish. It may
also be that the reason sanctity claims for Yiddish quickly dry up among
secularists and then disappear entirely very soon after the Holocaust is
that the post-Holocaust generation of secularists (writers and readers alike)
completely lacked the religious concepts, associations, and metaphors that
were available to their predecessors born and traditionally educated before
42 See footnote 14 above.
136 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
the Holocaust. We must remember that Roback and Faynberg are of the
pre-Holocaust vintage of secularists, even though we have quoted from
what they wrote after the Holocaust had ended.
But there are important differences too. Only Lyesin claims sanctity for
Yiddish before the Holocaust by virtue of its association with a millennium
of Jewish suffering and persecution, a link that Roback strongly reinforces
after the Holocaust. Both of these figures are secularist, and, indeed, the
Holocaust itself seems to be a secularist preoccupation in connection
with the sanctity of Yiddish. Roback stresses this most starkly, of course,
but the progression from Holy Yiddish (yidish-koydesh) in Faynberg to
language of the holy martyrs (loshn-kedoyshim) in Roback is indicative
of a kind of linguistic yizkoyr service43 that secularists resonate with. The
Holocaust destroyed the secular Yiddishist heartland and none other of
similar centrality and robustness has ever arisen. On the other hand, only
Shenirer called for pro-Yiddish action before the Holocaust, a call which
Soloveytshik also supports after the Holocaust. Clearly, they are both
from the Orthodox fold, i.e., from a cultural context in which all values
somehow connected to sanctity must have corresponding commanded
actions. This is not to imply that the religious were and are unfamiliar
with Jewish suffering and that the secular were and are strangers to pro-
Yiddish social action. Nothing could be further from the truth! But when
it comes to sanctity claims for Yiddish the secularists and the Orthodox
differ noticeably in the extent to which sanctity judgments are expected to
require externalized behavioral implementations.
MODERNIZATION VS. EXCEPTIONALITY
The metaphor of sanctity by association with holy and pious books as well
as righteous and scholarly sages is a very old one in Jewish tradition. As
early as 1815 (three-quarters of a century before the secular/religious split
began) Shmuel Yankev Bik (1772–1831), one of the very first defenders of
Yiddish among Eastern European maskilim,44 did so, in part, by relating
Yiddish to renowned and holy rabbis over the centuries, as well as to
43 Yizkoyr is the traditional Jewish memorial service for the revered dead, particularly
for one’s deceased parents or other close family members, which is recited in Hebrew at
the (Orthodox) morning service on the concluding day of every major festival.
44 A maskel (plural: maskilim): a member of a loosely organized group of early 19th
century Jewish modernizers in Eastern Europe. They generally supported modern, secular
studies for Jews and most realized that this could only be realized via Yiddish since Jewish
proficiency in Hebrew or the co-territorial official language was too meager for either of
them to be widely useful as vehicles of modernization.
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 137
popular books that had brought Judaism’s hallowed Hebrew classics to
ordinary readers in Yiddish translation. He believed that only books in
Yiddish could ultimately help the masses to modernize via a secular
literature of their own. A century later, secular Jewish modernizers also
strongly made this point, although usually without explicitly making the
association with sanctity that Bik had proposed.
However, the custom of claiming sanctity for Yiddish by associating
it with previously sanctified books and personages was also very much
in evidence among those who opposed Jewish modernization. One of
the latter was Rabbi Yehoyshua-Leyb Diskin (1817–1898). Writing from
Jerusalem, in 1871, he criticized those Jews who dared to speak Hebrew
and proclaimed that “every day that we are still in exile, Yiddish will
continue to be spoken, and because Yiddish has always been our protector
against assimilation, then it is the holy tongue itself” (cited by Glinert,
1991: 79; also see Glinert et al., 1999). This claim had previously also been
made by the famous Khsam Soyfer (Rabbi Moses Schreiber, 1762–1839),
who, in the 1820s, struggling against the success of German-speaking
Reformed rabbis in Presburg (Bratislava), reminded his followers that one
of the major merits thanks to which the Jews had been rescued from
their bondage in ancient Egypt by God himself, was that “they had not
changed their language.” He forbad his German speaking but Yiddish
mother tongue followers (chiefly in Hungary and Slovakia) to attend
synagogues in which rabbis delivered German sermons and he commanded
them to zealously safeguard Yiddish if they were to safeguard their very
existence among the nations.45 This same call for action on the part of
fathers to provide their sons with Yiddish books and not to permit them
to read English (or secular Hebrew) books (“preserving the boundaries
between the sanctified and the secular, is to merit the coming of our true
Messiah, speedily and in our days, amen”) is explicitly found in a “Holy
Appeal” signed by 14 khasidic rabbis and published in several of New
York’s Ultra-Orthodox Yiddish newspapers in 1996.
Sore Rubin (the sulitser rebitsin46) also calls for action in connection
with her appeal to mothers to speak only Yiddish to their daughters and
require them to reply in Yiddish as well.
I appeal to all Jewish mothers and daughters to organize a committee to be named “Ascend
higher: Speak mame-loshn”. Then every Jew will suddenly feel that from this small spark
coming from the hearts of mothers there has flared up a mighty fire of holiness and that
the spirit of God rests in their homes. By drawing closer to the generations past we will
45 The Khsam soyfer is cited along these lines both by Vaynraykh/Weinreich (1973) and
by Glinert (1991).
46 A rebitsin is the wife of either a rov or a rebi.
138 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
also draw closer to the Creator and we will hasten redemption. Remember: because of the
merits of righteous women Israel was saved (in Egypt).
Thus, Yiddish is not only clearly located within the sanctified fold but
its intergenerational safekeeping will merit the supreme reward: living to
witness the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of all the faithful.
The link between Yiddish and the messianic age, when those who safeguarded
Yiddish will merit to meet on the streets of Jerusalem, as well
as the link between Yiddish and non-assimilation, are links that we have
already noticed in the cited words by Sore Shenirer,47 above. Note also
that this final rubric, with its somewhat different implication, namely, the
message of withstanding the modernization and secularization necessarily
inherent in a language of wider communication, nevertheless continues the
Orthodox orientation to behaviorally express and actively reinforce their
conviction as to the sanctity of Yiddish. Such calls continue to this very
day but have never been paralleled in secular treatments of the sanctity of
Yiddish.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The views that we have examined here concerning the sanctity of Yiddish
also throw some light on the spreading tendency to attribute sanctity to
profane vernaculars. The association of the language with individuals
whose sanctity cannot be doubted (in the case of Yiddish, Torah sages,
the very closest of kin and the unquestioning piety and religious devotion
of simple folk) and with texts of unimpeachable authorship (the major
rabbinic writings in Yiddish or translated into Yiddish to foster their
accessibility) are predominant in both religious and secular claims.
A distinctly secular claim to sanctity for Yiddish is based upon its association
with Jewish suffering, their long struggle for freedom and dignity
and, finally, the Holocaust. The Holocaust was particularly devastating for
Yiddishist secularism, but seems not to have resulted in Yiddish sanctity
claims among the Orthodox, most of those who weathered the Holocaust
reestablished major Yiddish-speaking communities afterwards. However,
the Orthodox also present two types of sanctity claims which are peculiarly
theirs. The first of these is the contribution of Yiddish to Jewish distinctiveness
and, thereby, to Jewish survival. The second is the obligation that
is incumbent upon all Orthodox folk to actively support and implement
the sanctities that they hold dear. The secular and the Orthodox experienced
the Holocaust together, but they came out of it, as they had gone
47 See the citation from Sore Shenirer in our discussion of quadrant ©, above.
THE HOLINESS OF YIDDISH 139
into it, with quite distinctive views of how Jewish sanctity in general and
the sanctity of Yiddish in particular are constituted. Sanctity of language
claims do not begin to exhaust the varieties of positive ethnolinguistic
consciousness that are associated with particular languages (Fishman,
1997). Such claims can apparently also coexist with a variety of negative
views as well. Simultaneous support for conflicting views is a common
human and cultural characteristic. Finally, positive views of an other-thansanctity
nature do not stand in any implicational relationship with the
sanctity views, whether within or between languages. The orthogonality
of sanctity views toward language is an important hypothesis suggested by
our data.
Younger secular Yiddishists, coming to the fore after the Holocaust.
were generally bereft of traditional Jewish exposure, whether at school or
at home, and the sanctity of Yiddish ceased to be a metaphor with which
they were comfortable after 1972 (the date of our last secular citation).
They still actively foster and champion Yiddish but they express their
efforts on behalf of the language along well-known modern lines, focusing
on ethnonationalist, ideological, ethnohistorical and cultural creativity
associations (Fishman, 1972). These are dimensions that receive far less,
and certainly less exclusive, Orthodox attention and, furthermore, they are
not necessarily linked to sanctity at any overt behavioral level.
Of course, the claimed sanctity of Yiddish does not take an iota away
from the traditional sanctity of Hebrew in Orthodox communities. Nevertheless,
the continued Orthodox claims for the sanctity of Yiddish and
their efforts in support of the language (its active use, protection and
reinforcement in family, neighborhood, school and synagogue) cannot but
help Yiddish stay off the endangered languages list for the foreseeable
future. What for secularists is or was a metaphor of supreme endearment,
albeit often traditionally expressed, is and was for the Orthodox a veritable
link to a veritable category of sanctity and, accordingly, carries with it a
behavioral obligation too.
It would be unwise to generalize too widely on the basis of the Yiddish
case. On the other hand, each and every case is valuable in that it suggests
previously unsuspected hypotheses worthy of follow-up investigation. The
recent worldwide growth in the number of vernaculars to which claims
of sanctity are applied may be attributable both to spreading notions of
metaphorical sanctity and behavioral sanctity. The former is by far more
common than the latter. Sanctity metaphors regarding life (or death), the
forces of nature and, most particularly, imbeddedness in a sanctified historical
or cultural past and its resulting fidelity imperatives are particularly
widespread. The co-presence of a prior sanctified classical tongue seems
140 JOSHUA A. FISHMAN
to pose no barrier to the development of vernacular sanctity as well. The
transition from such metaphors to normative behavioral sanctity is a more
uncommon development, but one which the increased use (or co-use) of
vernaculars in religious contexts, texts and practices may well foster.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
An earlier version of this article constituted the “Third Annual Lecture
in Yiddish Studies,” in the series sponsored by the Program in Jewish
Studies, Stanford University, November 19, 1996. I owe special thanks
to Itshe Goldberg, Yosl Mlotek and Bernard Spolsky for encouragement
and assistance.
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Allen & Unwin.
Faynberg, Leyb ([1954] 1975). Mizmer shir lemame-yidish. Reprinted in Sh. Rollansky
(Ed), Fun revolutsye tsu tshuve: Musterverk fun der yidisher literature, Vol. 64 (pp. 141–
142). Buenos Aires: Ateneo Literario.
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Yeshiva University (NY), Stanford University (CA),
New York University (NY) and CUNY-GC (NY)
Ferkauf Graduate School
Yeshiva University
1300 Morris Park Ave
Bronx, NY 10461, USA
E-mail: jfishman@aecom.yu.edu
Ирена
Цитата (Лапландец)
Спасибо, Simulacrum, за статью. Действительно интересно, но с одним существенным недостатком: как можно заметить из других статей Фишмана о харейдим, он слабо разбирается в хасидской литературе и хасидских традициях (его недавняя статья в Форвертс меня неприятно удивила изобилием неточной и просто неверной информации).

Из хасидской литературы, рассматривающей святость и ценность идиша именно per se (а не так, как у Соловейчика) не рассмотрено практически ничего, хотя в ней-то и заключается самый цимес. Из Любавического ребе взята далеко не самая яркая цитата, которая, кстати, возникла не сама по себе, но является продолжением дискурса о камнях и кирпичах у Алтер ребе и последовавших за ним хабадских рабеим.

Популярный среди сатмарских и околосатмарских хсидим маймэр лэхаг аШвуес ребе из Виледника является просто обязательным чтением на эту тему. В новой сатмарской синагоге Stamford Hill этот маймер висел одно время на стенке в качестве пропаганды идиша, именно оттуда я и узнал впервые о его существовании. Кстати, у сатмарцев уже лет 10 существует особая мода на сочинения Виледникер ребе, хотя исторически и территориально они ближе к бывшему хабадско-чернобыльскому континууму (Черкас, Орностайпл, Страшель, собственно Чернобл и пр.)

Чрезвычайно интересна концепция двуязычной цельности лошн-койдеш у ребе Нахмена из Брослева/Бреслова, развитая впоследствии его последователями.

Уникальна послевоенная концепция Арн Рота, знаменитого основателеля Толдэсарн, о том, что благодаря идишу многие евреи пережили Холокост, т.к. идиш - это своего рода эгрегор, отбирающий физические силы у врагов евреев.

Попроще, но зато радикальнее, дело обстоит в сатмарских сочинениях: Сатмарский ребе написал целый трактат о том, почему нельзя повседневно говорить на иврите, но при этом нехорошо и не говорить по-еврейски; один из сатмарских раввинов написал на основе этого трактата целую книгу в 100 с лишним страниц, доказывающую то, что евреи просто обязаны ал-пи-алохэ разговаривать на идише и это - прямая заповедь из Торы. Попроще эти сочинения потому, что они используют чисто законодательную логику, не забираясь глубоко в мистицизм. Кстати, Сатмарский ребе считал, что лошн-койдеш - это любой сакральный еврейский текст, а не только по-древнееврейски.

Все означенные тексты лично я специально не изыскивал, но столкнулся с ними в среде американских и европейских харейдим, среди которых они весьма популярны, т.е. речь идет не о библиографических редкостях, но о mainstream хасидской литературы. Я уверен, что при подробном исследовании можно найти десятки других рассуждений о святости идиша в хасидизме.

Если маскилим проявляли интерес к народному языку поначалу в основном ради его использования в пропагандистских целях, то в хасидизме это было с самого начала совсем не так, поскольку одна из основных особенностей каббалистической и тем более хасидской теологии - панентеистический монизм, из которого вытекает и ряд практических следствий касательно святости народной культуры. Интересно, что миснагедский вариант панентеизма (мистические сочинения школы р.Хаима из Воложина) не обязательно выводит святость идиша per se, но скорее как инструмента или сосуда для ограждения и привнесения святости.
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