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Let us emphasize one final aspect characteristic of the mystical texts in Yiddish:
The central role played by narrative, such as exempla, tales, legends, and aggadic stories drawn from talmudic and midrashic literature, as well as from rabbinical folklore, a veritable storehouse of situations, events, characters, holy deeds, and morals which the author combined according to the needs of the context in order to support a lesson drag in from the cabbalistic tradition or to accompany a moral lesson. The Kav ha-yosher by Zevi Hirsch Koidonover b. Aaron Samuel provides an excellent example of this dominance of narrative and of the constant articulation of narrative with ethical prescription.
Therefore, one should take care not to sec an impure things. Nor should one speak an obscenity or vilification of another person, but rather one should accustom oneself to speaking little, especially when one goes to the synagogue for prayer. one should not even speak very much with a friend, much less with a stranger. and [it is best if one can become accustomed not to speak with anyone before prayers. Now I would like to write a story about how speech causes trouble. Rabbi Isaac Luria. may his memory be a blessing. had a disciple whose name was Rabbi Isaac Ashkenazi. may his memory be for a blessing. 1-Ic went into a village named Yen Ziti to the tomb of one of the Tannin, Rabbi Judah bar lay. Then Rabbi Isaac Luria says to his disciple. 'When you came to the tomb of Rabbi Judah bar llai, the Tanna. recite the holy names, and he will reveal to you secrets from the Zohar. But you should not speak with anyone.' Then Rabbi Isaac Ashkenazi received the blessing of his master. the An. may his memory be for a blessing, and went happily to the village Fyn Zitim. And when he arrived at the cemetery, he said his prayers and recited all the holy names as his master, Rabbi Isaac Luria, had instructed him. Rabbi Juviab bar liii. the Tanna, did not. however. respond to him. So Rabbi Isaac Ashkenazi returned to his master. Rabbi Isaac Luria. may his memory be for a blessing. and wept and cried out and said.
It is by means of this aggadic tradition. from this living storehouse of stories and experiences drawn from the holy literature, and by means of moralizing narrative that popular Yiddish literature conveyed the secrets of the Torah and sought connections between moral deeds and the redemption of the world. Becoming the (rue nature of the secular tradition, it found itself in the aggadic tradition: it was the key that made it possible to 'open the gates that lead to the secret storehouse that is sealed by truth The narrative is invested with a restorative function that has as its purpose to reunite the scattered members of the Jewish people: it possesses a strength of order on which the transformation of humans and the world depends. 11y creating a framework of references, of common memories, it establishes anew a unity. shattered up to that point, that was conducive to the communication with others and to the communion with the divine. For the same reasons as prayer. the recitation of stories possessed a unifying and restructuring power that enabled the struggle against the suffering caused by exile. Narrative thus participates in the same way as study, the keeping of mitzvot and repentance, in the process of tikkun, and the redemption. The three dimensions characteristic of mystical literature in the vernacular come together and arc interwoven in the tales: the teaching of virtue. cabbalistic doctrine and narrative as a means of access to the hidden meaning of the Torah. A simple example drawn from the Sefer tikunei ha-mou'odim, permits us to illustrate this triple interweaving characteristic of the tale (maase). To begin with it is a matter of moral instruction, in the tradition of the musor sforim, and concerned with the deficiencies of speech:
'Rabbi. I did as you instructed me, and lay down on the tomb of Rabbi Judah bar llai. but he did not respond to me.' Thus Rabbi Isaac Luria. may his memory be for a blessing, counseled him: 'My heart did not accompany you. for I know for a fact that you met along the way a man of Arab ethnicity, and the Arab did not greet you, but you were the one to greet ham first and you spoke profane words with him.' And thus the disciple Rabbi Isaac Ashkenazi had to acknowledge that he had spoken with an Arab while on the road.
A person should take care not to say crude things or gossip. In particular. he should take care to speak little while in the synagogue in the morning and evening during prayers. He should not even converse with his friends, much less with a stranger. When a person utters no unnecessary word, his prayers are answered. I will tell you a story about superfluous and inappropriate words which were spoken by a disciple of Isaac _
The Kai' ha'ynshor was first published in Frankfurt. I705 6; ii is here cited from the 1709 edition. This tale is also found in the Touledos (or Shivkhei) ho-Ari, the book of hagiographical tales about the life and miraculous deeds of the cabbalist Isaac Luria. This text appeared in a variety of early Yiddish texts, generally connected with the interdiction of idle speech. profanity. and dander, such as, for example, the Sefer tikunei ha-mou'odim (Furth, 1725) On this tale see the recent edition of the Shivkhei ho-Ari(Jerusalem: Ahasat Shalom, 1998)