Saul Berlin’s Ktav Yosher: The Beginning of Satire in Hebrew Enlightenment in Germany

כתב יושר' לשאול ברלין: לראשיתה של הסאטירה בהשכלה העברית בגרמניה


Saul Berlin's contribution to Hebrew Haskalah literature has been reevaluated in the past twenty years, as part of the reassessment of Haskalah literature. His role as a creative writer and as an active participant in the Hebrew Enlightenment has been re-examined. Ktav Yosher, a small yet intensive satiric booklet, is one of Berlin's works which is the topic of this article. It was written in defense of Naphtali Herz Wessely's controversial Divrei Shalom Ve'emet, possibly in 1784, but it was published only posthumously in 1794. This study highlights the literary aspects of Ktav Yosher, analyzing its satiric modes. Ktav Yosher is delineated as a sophisticated work of art, where structure, satiric techniques, use of figurative language for satire, and the secularization of the sacred idiom are skillfully employed in order to present a critical and mocking view of contemporary Jewish society, the state of its culture and education. Berlin's satiric techniques are said to be uniquely Hebraic, in his mastery of the Hebrew language and in his clever use of the sacred textual sources, although some affinity with contemporary European satiric trends are noted as well.

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Hebrew Union College Annual

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