Judaic Lore in Heine, by Israel Tabak
We have long waited for an adequately equipped scholar to investigate Heine’s knowledge of Jewish traditions and Hebrew literature. The remarks on the subject made in standard books about, and editions of, Heine are so palpably erroneous that the inadequacy of their authors to deal with the matter is at once made manifest. (I had occasion the other week to consult a popular college edition of selections from Heine’s prose, and found the most absurd annotations to Der Rabbi von Bacherach: the Passover Hagada, for example, was explained as meaning the Hagadic portions of the Talmud.) Dr. Tabak’s study is therefore to be warmly welcomed: he knows what he is talking about, and he demonstrates conclusively that Heine had a more thorough Jewish education and a better knowledge of Jewish literature, history, and traditions, than he is generally given credit for. Of especial interest is Dr. Tabak’s full account of Heine’s association with the Verein für Kultur und Wissenschaft der Juden, and of the influence of that association on his later thought. From his early association with the Verein through his later contacts with Jewish scholars, his use of themes and phrases from the Bible, his familiarity with Jewish ceremonial and figures from Jewish history, his use and recognition of Hebrew phrases, Heine’s Jewish heritage is thoroughly documented, and documented by one who is able to recognize the evidence when he sees it.
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