1. bookVolume 6 (2017): Issue 2 (June 2017)
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
03 Oct 2014
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
Languages
English
access type Open Access

Connecting Sacred and Mundane: From Bilingualism to Hermeneutics in Hebrew Epitaphs

Published Online: 22 Aug 2017
Page range: 96 - 106
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
First Published
03 Oct 2014
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
Languages
English

Gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions are the most common class of Jewish monuments still present in such regions as Ukraine or Belarus. Epitaphs are related to various Biblical, Rabbinical, and liturgical texts. Despite that, the genre of Hebrew epitaphs seldom becomes an object of cultural or literary studies. In this paper, I show that a function of Hebrew epitaphs is to connect the ideal world of Hebrew sacred texts to the world of everyday life of a Jewish community. This is achieved at several levels. First, the necessary elements of an epitaph – name, date, and location marker – place the deceased person into a specific absolute context. Second, the epitaphs quote Biblical verses with the name of the person thus stressing his/her similarity to a Biblical character. Third, there is Hebrew/Yiddish orthography code-switching between the concepts found in the sacred books and those from the everyday world. Fourth, the epitaphs occupy an intermediate position between the professional and folk literature. Fifth, the epitaphs are also in between the canonical and folk religion. I analyze complex hermeneutic mechanisms of indirect quotations in the epitaphs and show that the methods of actualization of the sacred texts are similar to those of the Rabbinical literature. Furthermore, the dichotomy between the sacred and profane in the epitaphs is based upon the Rabbinical concept of the ‘Internal Jewish Bilingualism’ (Hebrew/Aramaic or Hebrew/Yiddish), which is parallel to the juxtaposition of the Written and Oral Torah.

Keywords

1. Fogelman, M. Tehe nišmato ẓerura bi-ẓeror ha-ḥayim, Sinay, 49, 1961, pp. 176–180 (in Hebrew).Search in Google Scholar

2. Isserles, Moses ben Israel ’Oraḥ Hayim, 472.4 gloss 2 Lemberg: .S.L. Kugel, 1866Search in Google Scholar

3. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (ha-Maharal from Prague), Hidduše ’Aggadot, Soṭah 33a, Jerusalem: 1972 (in Hebrew).Search in Google Scholar

4. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (ha-Maharal from Prague), Tiferet Yiśra’el, 13, Kiryat Yoel: 2007 (in Hebrew).Search in Google Scholar

5. Heilman, S. When a Jew Dies, Berkley: University of California Press, 2001.Search in Google Scholar

6. Horowitz, Isaiah (Šela), Šney luḥot habrit, Pesaḥim, Maẓa Šemura Jerusalem : E. Munk, 1992 (in Hebrew).Search in Google Scholar

7. Horst, Van der, P. W. Ancient Jewish Epitaphs: an Introductory Survey of a Millennium of Jewish Funeral Epigraphy (300 BCE – 700 CE), Kok Pharos: Kampen, 1991.Search in Google Scholar

8. Kraemer, D. The Meanings of Death in Rabbinical Judaism, London, New York: Routledge, 2000.Search in Google Scholar

9. Krajewska, M. Cmentarze żydowskie w Polsce: nagrobki i epitafia, Polska sztuka ludowa, 1-2, 1989, pp. 27–44.Search in Google Scholar

10. Naḥman of Bratzlav, Liqute Moharan, New York, 1966, Liqute Moharan 1:19.Search in Google Scholar

11. Nahon, G. Inscriptions hebraiques et juives de France medievale, Paris: Belle Lettres, 1986.Search in Google Scholar

12. Nosonovsky, M. Hebrew epitaphs of the 16th century from Ukraine, Monuments of Culture: New Discoveries – 1998, Nauka, Moscow, 1999, pp. 16-27 (in Russian).Search in Google Scholar

13. Nosonovsky, M. The scholastic lexicon in Ashkenazi Hebrew and orthography, Pinkas. Journal of the Culture and History of East European Jewry, 2, Zara, Vilnius, 2008, pp 53-76.Search in Google Scholar

14. Nosonovsky, M. Folk beliefs, mystics and superstitions in Ashkenazi and Karaite tombstone inscriptions from Ukraine, Markers, 26, 2009, pp. 120-147.Search in Google Scholar

15. Nosonovsky, M. Old Jewish Cemeteries in Ukraine: History, Monuments, Epitaphs, In. M. Chlenov (ed.), The Euro-Asian Jewish Yearbook - 5768 (2007/2008), Moscow: Pallada, pp. 237-261.Search in Google Scholar

16. Weinreich M. History of the Yiddish Language, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.Search in Google Scholar

17. Shapira D. Yiddish–German, Slavic, or Oriental?, Karadeniz Araştırmaları, 6, 2010, pp. 127–140.Search in Google Scholar

18. Wodziński, M. Groby cadyków w Polsce. O chasydzkiej literaturze nagrobnej i jej kontekstach, Wrocław: Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Polonistyki Wrocławskiej, 1998.Search in Google Scholar

19. Yiśra’el Yosef Dov Ber of Vilednik, Še’arit Yiśra’el, Zemanim, Šavuot 6 (in Hebrew).Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo