הסיפור העברי באשכנז

 

 

 

The Story Collection Called Sefer ha-Maasim: Critical Edition, Notes, and Commentary - Abstract

 

 The story collection called Sefer ha-Maasim, copied in MS. Bodleian Or. 135 from the thirteenth century in northern France, is one of the major medieval Hebrew prose compositions. It consists of sixty-six tales, some from early sources in the Rabbinic literature and from story collections from the East and from the Islamic expanse, while others make their first appearance in it. The collection has aroused considerable scholarly interest, and several of its stories (about one third) have been published in various forums. The edition that we propose for this collection is of importance from several aspects: by making it available, as a whole, to students and scholars; the interdisciplinary approach on which it is based, that explores the cultural ties within the expanse in which the collection was copied and redacted; and in the combination it presents of different methodological tools - thematic, folkloristic, and historical - in accordance with the needs of the modern research on which it is founded. The body of the text will be based on the manuscript in the Bodleian Library, with a selected listing of textual variants. Since there are no textual witnesses for the collection in its entirety, and because the extensive adaptations of most of the stories and their appearances in dozens of versions do not allow for the construction of a comprehensive variant apparatus, we will bring textual variants for each story individually, in accordance with our editorial considerations. In the comments, both literary and historical, and in the accompanying footnotes we shall specify the story's sources in the Rabbinic literature and in the Jewish story collections from the East (Hibbur Yafeh me-ha-Yeshu'ah, Midrash Aseret ha-Dibberot); Latin parallels in Europe, if existent; existing parallels in German and French folklore that are likely to preserve medieval narrative traditions; and extranarrative sources that are relevant for the historical discussion. Based on these diverse sources, we shall indicate singular characteristics in the manuscript and their links to the culture of medieval Ashkenaz and Europe. We shall accordingly offer initial interpretive directions regarding each story by itself, and relate to possible conclusions regarding its sociohistoric background. In the introductions we shall present general conclusions concerning the poetic and historical trends in the collection, either as a summation of the aspects that arose in the tales, or in reference to the collection as a whole. This proposal, with its seemingly ambitious goals, is based on an initial but broad foundation that was built with the aid of a previous grant from the National Science Foundation for a study of stories in manuscript from Ashkenaz in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This foundation includes all the versions of each of the stories in the manuscript; the deciphering of tales in six additional manuscripts from Ashkenaz; and tables in different cross sections of the material referring to international tale types and the scholarly literature. An expansion of this foundation to comparative directions within the context of the current research will enable the publication of the scientific edition of Sefer ha-Maasim.

 

Rella Keshelevsky, Department of the Literature of the Jewish People, Bar-Ilan University, principal researcher, and Elisheva Baumgarten, Department of Jewish History, Bar-Ilan University, coinvestigator