Yiddish and early hassidic literature

prof. dr hab. Jan Doktór

Yiddish and early hassidic literature

I ascribe to early Hassidic literature four publications printed in 1780–81 by a publishing house in Korzec): three anthologies of sermons by Jacob Josef of Połonne and an anthology of teachings of Dov Ber of Międzyrzecz.

Until 1780, any transmission of Hasidic teachings happened mainly orally – the most adequate and safe form as far as heretic movements, or at least heterodox ones, are concerned. Yet, out of fear that they may be forgotten, or even perverted by the long chain of tradents, written records were not always avoided. Of course, committing them in writing was not synonymous with the intention to have them printed. Yet, refraining from print carried a price, inflating as Hasidism transformed itself into a massive movement. The growing demand for texts with Hasidic teachings led to a mass copying of notes initially intended for personal use only and not for public teaching. While copied, the notes were compiled, corrected, completed with personal commentaries and expanded. No one was able to control this avalanche of handwritten texts.

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