The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Faculty of Humanities The Institute of Jewish Studies

JERUSALEM STUDIES IN

JEWISH FOLKLORE

XVII

Editors

TAMAR ALEXANDER

GALIT HASAN-ROKEM

SHALOM SABAR


Jerusalem 1995

The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Editorial Board

Dov Noy (Chairperson)
Dan Ben-Amos, Issachar Ben-Ami, Joseph Dan, Olga Goldberg,
Dimitri Segal, Aliza Shenhar, Amnon Shiloah, Eli Yassif

Style Editor
Reuven Eshel


ENGLISH SUMMARIES

WHAT HAPPENED TO RABBI ABBAHU AT THE TIBERIAN BATH-HOUSE - THE PLACE OF REALIA AND DAILY LIFE IN THE TALMUDIC AGGADA

Yaron Z. Eliav


On the theoretical level this article attempts to define the concept implicit in the term "study of daily life" and its place within the various disciplines dealing with Late Antiquity and Jewish studies. It is suggested that the study of daily life be defined as dealing with the meeting-point of man and object, meaning that it straddles the borderline between archaeology, which involves inanimate objects, and history, which focuses on individuals, societies, peoples. Two objectives underlie the study of daily life: (a) acquiring an accurate description of the various objects that are ordinarily part of everyday life (referred to as realia); (b) supplying a description of the ways in which those objects were put to technical and practical use, as well as of the circumstances and cultural framework in which they were used. Such a study can shed light on a new aspect of the ongoing debate about the historical value of rabbinic literature.

The example analysed in the article concerns traditions that have grown up around an incident involving Rabbi Abbahu in a Tiberian bath-house. By checking parallel traditions, we are able to trace the route along which the story of the incident passed from Palestine to Babylon and can characterize the evolution of the text along the way Using actual materials from the bath-houses in Palestine, i.e., the hypocaust, Rabin, the narrator, weaves a legendary plot. The story gradually acquires a fantastic form that seems far removed from "historical truth", although, almost paradoxically, it relies on authentic realia. This nucleus of realia in the plot enables us to place the tale geographically and chronologically, and adds to our understanding of the different stages of its formation.


THE DANGER OF DRINKING WATER DURING THE TEQUFA - THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA

Israel M. Ta-Shma


There was a widespread belief among Jewish communities in the East and West that one put one's life at risk by drinking water - particularly from a fountain - on the night of the Tequfa. As early as the ninth century, both Hebrew and Islamic literary sources dealt with this belief. The article considers the various explanations given by mediaeval as well as modern writers, and offers an explanation of its own that links the belief with Jewish concepts of the Second Temple period.


MAGICAL AND DEMONOLOGICAL PHENOMENA AS TREATED SATIRICALLY BY MASKILIM OF GALICIA

Shmuel Verses


In the first half of the nineteenth century the Maskilim (Jews of the Enlightenment) of Galicia were sharply critical of Eastern-European Jewry's widespread belief in devils, ghosts and angels, in magical healing through invocations and charms. Those intellectuals were motivated primarily by their determined opposition to the growing Hasidic movement, which propagated such beliefs. One of the outstanding protagonists of the Maskilim was Yehuda Leib Mizes (1798-1832), who expressed his views at length in his book Qinat ha-Emet ("Jealousy for the Truth"), published in 1828. The book records a lengthy imaginary conversation between Maimonides and Shlomo ha'Alma, author of the theological text Merkevet ha-Mishne ("The Second Chariot'). In his stringent refutation of superstitious beliefs, Mizes uses theoretical arguments drawn from both rationalistic Jewish literature and from encyclopaedic and philosophic German literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, wherein comparative methods are employed to explain the sources of the beliefs and customs transmitted by one nation to another and from one faith to another.

As against this theoretical-pedagogical exposition spurred by clearly practical motives, Mizes' friend and fellow-countryman Isaac Erter wrote satires that were collected and published posthumously in a book called Ha-Zofe le- Veit Yisrael ("Watchman for the House of Israel"), published in 1858. Influenced by Mizes, Erter discusses the beliefs encouraged by the leaders of the Ijasidic movement - such as the demonotogical world, transmigration of souls, belief in imaginary miracles - under a cloak of satirical allegory; his use of fantasy and dreams blurs the borderline between reality and imagination.

Despite their fictional form and polemical-ideological intent, both books reflect customs and beliefs of the Jewish masses in Poland.


THE MULTIVALENT CONSTRUCTION OF ETHOS IN THE PROVERBS OF A SEPHARDIC WOMAN

Tamar Alexander and Galit Hasan-Rokem


Proverbs are powerful articulations of ethical issues and stances within a particular culture. This article presents and analyses an unusual oral text of twenty-two Judeo-Spanish proverbs recited by Yedida Hadaia, also called Duda.

The article includes a direct presentation of the field recordings of the proverbs, as well as our analysis. The proverbs follow the order of the Hebrew alphabet, in which Judeo-Spanish is traditionally written. As part of our field work we also recorded a dialogue wherein the informant and her husband explicate and "interpret" the proverbs.

Duda "inherited" the sequence of proverbs from her grandmother, who was a heater, and a significant "folkloristic" personality in the Jerusalem Sephardic community. On the whole, the proverbs seem to have existed in a fixed form, as an oral anthology. In our reading of them we analyse the results of our field work on the basis of paremiological theory. The analysis highlights the dialectical relationship between Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish, between oral expression and its written counterparts (hence between orality and literacy in general) and between female and male cultural traditions.

The system of ethics constructed through these proverbs addresses as central issues the tensions between family and community, between rivate and public expression and between speech and silence. Thus the proverbs, together with their interpretations, weave an intricate, ambivalent and contradictory web of meanings, pointing to the potential function of a seemingly simple genre as the bearer of complex meanings.


THE IMAGE OF THE JEW IN THE POLISH NATIVITY FOLK THEATRE

Olga Goldberg-Mulkiewicz


Theatrical performances depicting the story of the birth of Jesus still flourish in the Polish village. They are basically of two kinds: the puppet theatre, known as szopka, and the herods, plays mounted mainly by adults. The puppet theatre is a continuation of the miracle plays about the Nativity that were performed from the Middle Ages until the seventeenth century. This theatre, which is the subject of the article, was popular in Poland and the rest of Europe as well.

The Jew appears in the historical scenes of the szopka, where he is summoned by Herod as a wise man; learned in the Scriptures, he is called upon to explain the strange situation, as well as Herod's dreams. The Jew also apppears in the scenes that represent contemporary reality, wherein he assumes the role of the fellow townsman.

The article discusses the ambiguity of the symbol of the Jew, his transformation from a wise man to a clown, who embodies the common traits attributed to the stereotype of the Jew accepted in Polish village tradition. Close examination of the text leads to a thorough analysis of the question as to which aspects of Jewish culture have been accepted and preserved in the stereotype. The article, relating to the ambiguity of the Jew's role, analyses the values the Jew expresses, the language he uses, his behaviour and costume, and the attributes of each of the professions the villagers consider "Jewish".

The action of the play is contained within the contrasting limits of sacrum-profanum. Despite the different roles played by the Jew, his image always falls within categories of profanum; he remains in the sphere of the secular. The only example of infringement on this classification is the result of contemporary changes that take place in the play, eliciting changes in the stereotype of the Jew. Certain questions remain open: Will the Jew continue to play a part in the performances? Will the stereotypical image change, and if so, in what direction?


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