Chapters on Jewish Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 120 pages of information about Chapters on Jewish Literature.
classical and the earliest Indian collections; some in the later collections; some in the classics, but not in the Indian lists; some in India, but not in the Latin and Greek authors.  Among the latter is the well-known fable of the Fox and the Fishes, used so dramatically by Rabbi Akiba.  The original Talmudic fables are, according to Mr. J. Jacobs, the following:  Chaff, Straw, and Wheat, who dispute for which of them the seed has been sown:  the winnowing fan soon decides; The Caged Bird, who is envied by his free fellow; The Wolf and the two Hounds, who have quarrelled; the wolf seizes one, the other goes to his rival’s aid, fearing the same fate himself on the morrow, unless he helps the other dog to-day; The Wolf at the Well, the mouth of the well is covered with a net:  “If I go down into the well,” says the wolf, “I shall be caught.  If I do not descend, I shall die of thirst”; The Cock and the Bat, who sit together waiting for the sunrise:  “I wait for the dawn,” said the cock, “for the light is my signal; but as for thee—­the light is thy ruin”; and, finally, what Mr. Jacobs calls the grim beast-tale of the Fox as Singer, in which the beasts—­invited by the lion to a feast, and covered by him with the skins of wild beasts—­are led by the fox in a chorus:  “What has happened to those above us, will happen to him above,” implying that their host, too, will come to a violent death.  In the context the fable is applied to Haman, whose fate, it is augured, will resemble that of the two officers whose guilt Mordecai detected.

Such fables are used in the Talmud to point religious or even political morals, very much as the parables were.  The fable, however, took a lower flight than the parable, and its moral was based on expediency, rather than on the highest ethical ideals.  The importance of the Talmudic fables is historical more than literary or religious.  Hebrew fables supply one of the links connecting the popular literature of the East with that of the West.  But they hardly belong in the true sense to Jewish literature.  Parables, on the other hand, were an essential and characteristic branch of that literature.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

MIDRASH.

Schiller-Szinessy.—­Encycl.  Brit., Vol.  XVI, p. 285.

Graetz.—­II, p. 328 [331] seq.

Steinschneider.—­Jewish Literature, pp. 5 seq.,
  36 seq.

L.N.  Dembitz.—­Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home
  (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1898), p. 44.

FABLES.

J. Jacobs.—­The Fables of AEsop (London, 1889), I,
  p. 110 seq.

Read also Schechter, Studies in Judaism, p. 272 [331];
  and J.Q.R., (Kohler), V, p. 399; VII, p. 581;
  (Bacher) IV, p. 406; (Davis) VIII, p. 529; (Abrahams) I, p. 216;
  II, p. 172; Chenery, Legends from the Midrash (Miscellany
  of the Society of Hebrew Literature
, Vol.  II).

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