Abstract

Abstract:

This article advances a multistage argument regarding the position of language in early modern Jewish thought, suggesting that a significant number of early Hasidic sources advocate a striking redefinition of the so-called holy tongue (leshon ha-kodesh) as the sacred potential of all human language. The writings of three Jewish thinkers on leshon ha-kodesh—Kalonymous Kalman Epstein of Kraków (1754–1823), Moses Mendelssohn (1729–86), and Moshe Sofer of Pressburg (1782–1839)—reveal much about responses, including anxiety, influence, and confident rejection, to changes in the world around the authors and illustrate how similar reactions emerged in very different places. Rather than seeking to chart direct influence, this article attempts to isolate and interrogate the genealogies of discourse regarding sacred speech, thus reading Hasidic sermons, maskilic writings, and rabbinic texts in multiple intellectual and historical contexts to reveal their full richness and innovation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2028
Print ISSN
0021-6704
Pages
pp. 45-101
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-19
Open Access
No
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