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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

In the 17th century, several noteworthy commentaries were produced. In Poland, Ephraim Solomon ben Aaron of Luntshits (1550–1619), a gifted darshan, or sermonizer, produced several collections of sermons and a commentary on the Torah in the homiletic style, called Keli Yakar (1st ed. Lublin, 1602), which enjoyed immense popularity and was included in many editions of the Rabbinic Bible. More than a century later, Ḥayyim ben Moses Ibn 'Attar (1696–1743), a rabbi and kabbalist of Moroccan origin, who led a group of rabbis and students to settle in the land of Israel in 1740, wrote a commentary titled 'Or ha‐ḥayim, first published in Venice in 1742. This commentary was often published alongside that of Ephraim of Luntshits in East European editions of the Rabbinic Bible (Miqra'ot Gedolot, see be‐ low) and was especially popular among the Ḥasidim.

In Jaworow, Galicia, David Altschuler began to produce a commentary on the Prophets and Writings in order to promote the study of the Bible. His work was continued by his son, Jehiel Hillel, who in 1780–82 published the entire commentary. It was divided into two sections, Metsudat Tsiyon (Fortress of Zion) and Metsudat David (Fortress of David). The former explains the meanings of individual words, the latter the meaning of the text. The commentary, based for the most part on the medieval peshat exegetes such as Radak and Ibn Ezra, was very popular and has been frequently republished. (It appears in most editions of Miqra'ot Gedolot, see below.)

This period also saw the production of vernacular commentaries on the Bible in various parts of the Jewish world. At the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century, Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi, of Janow (d. 1623), produced a Yiddish translation with commentary on significant liturgical portions of the Tanakh, namely the Torah, Haftarot (Prophetic Readings) and Megillot (Five Scrolls). The book, Tzene‐rene (i.e., Tze'enah u‐re'enah, or Go Forth and Gaze [based on Song of Songs 3.11 , which is addressed to the daughters of Zion]), proved to be the most popular work in the history of Yiddish literature. Over 210 editions of this work have appeared to date. The oldest extant edition, which is not the first, appeared in Basel in 1622. At least three others had preceded it. The book was written in a popular style, intended for Yiddish‐speaking Jewish men and women who lacked the education necessary for understanding the Bible in the original. In this work, the author does not provide a word‐for‐word translation of the text, but rather weaves together the biblical text, midrashim, medieval commentaries, elements of halakhah, and ethical admonition into a pleasing, harmonious whole. The author drew on a wide variety of rabbinic and medieval sources, not only commentaries, but also ethical (Sefer Ḥasidim, Sefer ha‐Mevakesh), philosophical (Saadia, Ibn Gabirol, Maimonides), and mystical works (Zohar, Cordovero's Palm Tree of Deborah). The author's major medieval source seems to have been the commentary of Baḥya ben Asher. He also drew heavily on Isaac Karo's Toledot Yitzḥak. The work became especially popular with women, who would read it religiously every Sabbath. Its success can be attributed to the author's skill in selecting his material and finding those sources which would appeal to his unschooled readers. He was especially successful in selecting sources that would appeal to his female readers, injecting comments of a midrashic and moralistic nature, relating to marital relations and child‐rearing. Tzene‐rene went through numerous editions, first in Western, then in Eastern Europe, and some editions bore the ideological stamp of the maskilic rationalists or their Hasidic opponents. Editions, translations, and adaptations of this ever‐popular work are still being produced. A similar work on the Prophets and Writings, called Sefer ha‐Magid (The Book of the Storyteller) mistakenly attributed to Ashkenazi, also attained considerable popularity, but nothing approaching that of Tzene‐rene.

In the 18th century, a parallel phenomenon to Tzene‐rene was the publication in Constantinopleof Me'am Lo'ez (From a Foreign People), a Ladino (Judeo‐Spanish) commentary on the Bible, which is considered to be the outstanding work of Judeo‐Spanish literature. Conceived by Jacob Culi as a response to the havoc wrought by the Sabbatean heresy of the previous century (Shabbetai Tzevi was followed by many as Messiah, but converted to Islam in 1666, precipitating a great crisis), it was aimed at the masses who had strayed from observant Judaism and could no longer read the texts in Hebrew. Culi produced the volume for Genesis, which wove together in a pleasing and appealing manner a variety of sources dealing with the text, including much ancillary material such as anecdotes, ethical admonitions, folklore, and historical narratives. After Culi's death, his work was continued by others. The rest of the Torah was completed and published by 1772, and other volumes, published in a similar style, were produced over the following centuries. In recent years a Hebrew translation has been produced. It is difficult to overstate the importance of Me'am Lo'ez in Sephardic culture. It spread all over the Sephardic world and for many families it was the only literature that they read. Unlike Tzene‐rene, it was never considered only suitable for women, and so was equally popular among men, women, and children.

By the mid‐18th century, the winds of change were blowing through the Jewish communities of Europe, and the stage was being set for the Haskalah and the revolution in study that would follow in its wake. (See “Post‐medieval Jewish Interpretation,” pp. 1900–1908, and “The Bible in the Jewish Philosophical Tradition,” pp. 1948–75 .)

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