Hebrew literature, literary works, from ancient to modern, written in the Hebrewlanguage.Early LiteratureThe great monuments of the earliest period of Hebrew literature are the Old Testament and theApocrypha. Parts of the Pseudepigrapha and of the Dead Sea Scrolls were also produced beforethe conquest of Judaea by Titus. The literature of the Jews developed mainly in the Hebrewlanguage, although there were also works in Greek, Aramaic, and Arabic.In the 2d cent. A.D. began the Talmudic period, which lasted well into the 6th cent. In thesecenturies the great anonymous encyclopedic work of religious and civil law, the Talmud, wascompiled, edited, and interpreted. The Midrash-a collection of halakah (found also in theTalmud) and haggadic material-likewise forms part of the Hebrew literature of that period. In the4th cent. the Targum to the Pentateuch and to the Prophets was finished. The 6th and 7th cent.saw the development of the Masora in Palestine. In Babylonia meanwhile many valuableadditions to Hebrew literature were made by the Gaonim after the 6th cent.Medieval LiteratureCommentaries on the Talmud and haggadic material continued to be written until the 11th cent.,when the Babylonian academies were suppressed and the center of Jewish literary activityshifted to Spain. France and Germany became the main centers of Talmudic commentary. InSpain, and to some extent in Italy, Hebrew literature flourished for centuries. The finest workwas accomplished in the realms of poetry-influenced by Arab and Indian literature-andphilosophy. Philology, exegesis, and codification also flourished. By the 14th cent. the largelyAramaic mystical treatise, the Zohar, had appeared-the masterpiece of a flourishing literature ofJewish mysticism (see kabbalah).Famous scholars and authors of Hebrew literature in the Middle Ages included Aha of Shabcha,Saadia ben Joseph al-Fayumi, Dunash ben Tamim, Dunash ben Labrat, Gershom ben Judah, Al-Fasi, Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol, Rashi, Judah ha-Levi, Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra,Maimonides, Immanuel ben Solomon, Isaac Abravanel, and Joseph ben Ephraim Caro. In thepersecutions following the Crusades, when the Jews were driven from country to country, theyclung to their literature-which leaned increasingly to mysticism and asceticism-and especially tothe Hebrew Bible.Beginnings of Modern Hebrew LiteratureOn the threshold of the transition from the old isolated life to a wider one was the poet MosesHayyim Luzzatto-a contemporary of the Gaon of Vilna, Elijah ben Solomon-but the modernperiod of Hebrew literature really began with Moses Mendelssohn. While Nachman Krochmaland Shloime Ansky (Solomon Seinwel Rapoport) were contributing to biblical criticism andhistorical scholarship, writers such as Peretz (Peter) Smolenskin were devoting themselves toHaskalah, or literature of enlightenment, intended to shake the Jews of Central Europe from theirmedieval attitudes. Other important figures of the period are the scholar Joseph Halévy, the poet
Jehuda (Leon) Gordon, and the novelist Solomon Yakob Abramovich, whose pseudonym wasMendele mocher sforim.Zionism and Literature in IsraelThe rise of Zionism, particularly reflected in the writings of Ahad Ha-am (Asher Ginzberg), gaveHebrew literature fresh impetus, and Palestine became again the center of publication in Hebrew.Hebrew was proclaimed the national language of the Jews even before the establishment (1948)of the state of Israel. The two great poets of modern Hebrew literature are Hayyim NahmanBialik and Saul Tchernihovsky, who was strongly influenced by ancient Greek literature. Thepoetry of Abraham Shlonsky, Lea Goldberg, and Nathan Alterman deals with social and politicalthemes.Among the many writers of prose are Joseph H. Brenner, who described Jewish life in EasternEurope and pioneer life in Palestine, and Salman Shneur, who wrote of the simple anduneducated Jews. The Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon portrayed the Eastern European milieu andpioneer life in Palestine; his works have become classics in modern Hebrew epic literature.Hebrew writers who are native to Israel seek inspiration in the classical Hebrew past or in thenew life of Israel. The most outstanding writer of this group is Moshe Shamir, who in his twonovels-one depicting a Hasmonean king and the other dealing with the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-gave new dimensions to Hebrew fiction.Aron David Gordon (1856-1922) was one of the greatest social and political essayists of Hebrewliterature; significant Hebrew language literary critics include David Frishman (1861-1922) andYosef Klausner (1874-1958). In recent years the Israeli novelists Amos Oz, Abraham B.Yehoshua, and Aharon Appelfeld, and the poet Yehuda Amichai have been widely translated andhave achieved international distinction. Outside Israel, the writing of the Jews is ordinarily in thelanguage of the countries in which they live or in Yiddish, whose literary use developed rapidlyafter the middle of the 19th cent.
Hebrew literature-consists of ancient, medieval, and modern writings in the Hebrew language. It is one of theprimary forms of Jewish literature, though there have been cases of literature written in Hebrewby non-Jews. Hebrew literature was produced in many different parts of the world throughoutthe medieval and modern eras, while contemporary Hebrew literature is largely Israeli literature.Ancient Hebrew literatureBeyond comparison, the most important such work is the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh).The Mishna, compiled around 200 CE, is the primary rabbinic codification of laws as derivedfrom the Torah. It was written in Mishnaic Hebrew, but the major commentary on it, the Gemara,was largely written in Aramaic. Many works of classical midrash were written in Hebrew.Medieval Hebrew literatureMany works of medieval rabbinic literature were written in Hebrew, including: Torahcommentaries by Abraham ibn Ezra, Rashi and others; codifications of Jewish law, such asMaimonides Mishneh Torah, the Arbaah Turim, and the Shulchan Aruch; and works of Musarliterature (didactic ethical literature) such as Bahya ibn Paqudas Chovot ha-Levavot (The Dutiesof the Heart). Many works of medieval philosophical literature such as the Guide to thePerplexed and The Kuzari, as well as many works of fiction, were written in Judeo-Arabic. Onework of fiction which was written in Hebrew was the "Fox Fables" by Berechiah ben Natronaiha-Nakdan, Hebrew fables which resemble Aesops fables.Much medieval Jewish poetry was written in Hebrew, including liturgical piyyutim in Palestinein the seventh and eighth centuries by Yose ben Yose, Yanai, and Eleazar Kalir. These poemswere added to the Hebrew-language liturgy. This liturgy was compiled in book form as "thesiddur" by rabbis including Amram Gaon and Saadia Gaon.Later Spanish, Provençal, and Italian poets wrote both religious and secular poems; particularlyprominent poets were Solomon ibn Gabirol and Yehuda Halevi.Modern Hebrew literatureIn addition to writing traditional rabbinic literature in Hebrew, modern Jews developed newforms of fiction, poetry, and essay-writing, which are typically called "Modern HebrewLiterature."Eighteenth Century
Moses Hayyim Luzzattos allegorical drama "La-Yesharim Tehillah" (1743) may be regarded asthe first product of modern Hebrew literature. It has been referred to as "a poem that in its classicperfection of style is second only to the Bible." Luzzattos pupil in Amsterdam, David FrancoMendes (1713–92), in his imitations of Jean Racine ("Gemul Atalyah") and of Metastasio("Yehudit"), continued his masters work, though his works are not as respected as wereLuzzattos.In the eighteenth century, the Haskalah (Jewish enlightenment) movement worked to achievepolitical emancipation for Jews in Europe. Moses Mendelssohns translation of the Hebrew Bibleinto German inspired interest in the Hebrew language that led to the founding of a quarterlyreview written in Hebrew. Other periodicals followed. Poetry by Naphtali Hirz Wessely such as"Shire Tiferet," or "Mosiade," made Wessely, so to speak, poet laureate of the period.Nineteenth CenturyIn nineteenth-century Galicia, poets, scholars, and popular writers who contributed to thedissemination of Hebrew and to the emancipation of the Jews of Galicia included: Nachman Krochmal (1785–1840), a philosopher, theologian, and historian. Solomon Judah Loeb Rapoport (1790–1867), a rabbi, poet, and biographer Isaac Erter (1792–1841), a satirical poet whose collection of essays, "Ha-Tzofeh le-Bet Yisrael," is one of the purest works of modern Hebrew literature, attacking Hasidic superstitions and prejudices in a vigorous and classical style. Meir Halevy Letteris (1800–1871), a lyric poet also known for his adaption of Goethes Faust into Hebrew.In Amsterdam, a circle of Hebrew-language literary artists emerged in the nineteenth century,including the poet Samuel Molder (1789–1862).Prague became an active center for the Haskalah in the nineteenth century, and the best knownamong the Haskalah writers there was Jehudah Loeb Jeiteles (1773–1838), author of wittyepigrams ("Bene ha-Neurim") and of works directed against Hasidism and against superstition.In Hungary, Hebrew-language authors included Solomon Lewison of Moor (1789–1822), authorof "Melitzat Yeshurun"; Gabriel Südfeld, a poet who was the father of Max Nordau; and the poetSimon Bacher. A notable Jewish author in Romania during the nineteenth century was thephysician and writer Julius Barasch.Italian Jews of the nineteenth-century who wrote in Hebrew included I. S. Reggio (1784–1854),Joseph Almanzi, Hayyim Salomon, Samuel Vita Lolli (1788–1843). Another figure of note wasRachel Morpurgo (1790–1860), who was one of the few female writers in the Haskalahmovement, and whose poems have been described as characterized by "religious piety and amystic faith in Israels future." The best known Italian writer was Samuel David Luzzatto(1800–65) was the first modern writer to introduce religious romanticism into Hebrew and toattack northern rationalism in the name of religious and national feeling.
Prominent Hebrew writers in the Russian empire in the nineteenth century included: the poet and mathematician Jacob Eichenbaum (1796–1861) the Haskalah leader Isaac Baer Levinsohn Kalman Schulman (1826–1900), who introduced the romantic form into Hebrew the romantic poet Micah Joseph Lebensohn (1828–52) the Lithuanian author Mordecai Aaron Ginzburg, known as "the father of prose" Lithuanian poet Abraham Baer Lebensohn, known as the "father of poetry," whose poems "Shire Sefat Kodesh" were extraordinarily successful. Abraham Mapu (1808–67), the creator of the Hebrew novel, whose historical romance "Ahabat Tziyyon" exercised an important influence on the development of Hebrew.The poet Judah Leib Gordon, also known as "Leon Gordon" (1831–1892), was a well-knownsatirical poet who has been characterized as "an implacable enemy of the Rabbis."Twentieth CenturyAs Zionist settlement in Palestine intensified at the start of the twentieth century, Hebrewbecame the shared language of the various Jewish immigrant communities. Eliezer Ben-Yehudain particular worked to adapt Hebrew to the needs of the modern world, turning to Hebrewsources from all periods to develop a language that went beyond the sacred and was capable ofarticulating the modern experience.Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934) was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poets and cameto be recognized as Israels national poet. Bialik contributed significantly to the revival of theHebrew language, which before his days existed primarily as an ancient, scholarly tongue. Hisinfluence is felt deeply in all modern Hebrew literature. Bialik, like other great literary figuresfrom the early part of the 20th century such as Ahad Ha-Am and Tchernichovsky, spent his lastyears in Tel Aviv, exerting a great influence on younger Hebrew writers.The foundations of modern Israeli writing were laid by a group of literary pioneers from theSecond Aliyah including Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Moshe Smilansky, Yosef Haim Brenner, DavidShimoni and Jacob Fichman. In contrast, Yitzhaq Shami, was a native of Palestine, and he holdsa unique place in Hebrew literature, since his work is also recognized as Palestinian literature. In1966, Agnon won the Nobel Prize for Literature for novels and short stories that employ aunique blend of biblical, Talmudic and modern Hebrew.Literary translators into Modern Hebrew, most notably Leah Goldberg among others, alsocontributed a great deal to Israeli-Hebrew literature through bringing international literature andliterary figures into Hebrew circles through translation. Goldberg herself was also noted forbeing a prolific writer and pioneer of Israeli childrens literature as well.Contemporary Hebrew literatureIsraeli literature
A new generation of Hebrew writers emerged with the establishment of the State of Israel in1948. This new generation included the novelists Aharon Megged, Nathan Shaham, and MosheShamir, and the poets Yehudah Amichai, Amir Gilboa, and Haim Gouri. The novels My Michael(1968) and Black Box (1987) by Amos Oz and The Lover (1977) and Mr. Mani (1990) by A. B.Yehoshua describe life in the new state. These works also explore topics such the as conflictbetween parents and children and the rejection of some once-sacred ideals of Judaism andZionism.Many Hebrew writers in the late twentieth century dealt with the Holocaust, womens issues, andthe conflict between Israelis and Arabs. Another topic was the tension between Jews of Europeanorigin, the Ashkenazim, and Jews of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origin, the Mizrahim andSephardim.Modern Hebrew authors include Ruth Almog, Aharon Appelfeld, Yitzhak Ben-Ner, DavidGrossman, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, Etgar Keret, Savyon Liebrecht, Sami Michael, YaakovShabtai, David Shahar, Meir Shalev, and Tseruyah Shalev.Hebrew poets include David Avidan, Maya Bejerano, Erez Biton, Yitzchak Laor, Dan Pagis,Dalia Ravikovitch, Ronny Someck, Meir Wieseltier, and Yona Wallach.Contemporary Israeli authors whose works have been translated into other languages andattained international recognition are Ephraim Kishon, Yaakov Shabtai, A. B. Yehoshua, AmosOz, Irit Linur, Etgar Keret and Yehoshua Sobol.Today thousands of new books are published in Hebrew each year, both translations from otherlanguages and original works by Israeli authors.