The Budding of Modern Hebrew Creativity in Babylon/The Collected Essays of Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Hutsin

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The Budding of Modern Hebrew Creativity in Babylon, by Lev Hakak. Or Yeudah: The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, 2003. 372 pp. (in Hebrew).

The Collected Essays of Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Hutsin, by Lev Hakak. Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2005. 281 pp. ( in Hebrew ).

Numerous scholars, students, and even laypersons who display interest in Hebrew literature are well acquainted with Haskalah/Enlightenment Hebrew literature and scholarship from the late 18th through the 19th century, first in Italy and Austria, and later in Russia and Poland. That literature and scholarship (in various fields of study, such as Hebrew philology, biblical commentary, science, history, poetry, prose, drama) has been justly considered the bedrock of modern Hebrew literature and scholarship.

As much as this statement is undoubtedly valid, however, it does injustice to the Hebrew poetry, epistolary writings, and periodicals produced in Babylon/Iraq during the Enlightenment. In other words, very few Hebrew poets, writers, and scholars have been acquainted with this treasure of Hebrew writings which greatly enrich the body of Hebrew Enlightenment literature. In this respect, the two books here, besides their scholarly worthiness per se, blaze a trail in Hebrew literature study and call attention to an enormous portion of Hebrew literature (notably poetry) that has been regretfully neglected.

The Budding of Modern Hebrew Creativity in Babylon casts a novel and insightful light notably on poets who were prolifically active during the Enlightenment period in Babylon. The vast majority of Haskalah Hebrew literature in Babylon is associated with the Jewish religion, the laws of the Jewish culture, Biblical commentary, and liturgical poetry. …