Cambridge Yiddish Codex

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CAMBRIDGE YIDDISH CODEX , manuscript from the Cairo *Genizah (Ben Ezra synagogue in Fustat), now in the Taylor-Schechter collection, Cambridge University Library (t.-S. 10K22). It is the oldest known collection of Yiddish texts (dated 1382) and bears witness both to the geographical range and international scope of early Yiddish language and literature: the codex includes eight texts: "Moushe rabeynu" ("Moses the Teacher/Leader"), "Gan eydn" ("Paradise"), "Avrohom ovinu" ("Abraham the Patriarch") "Yousef ha-tsadik" ("Joseph the Righteous"), "Eyn alt leyve" ("An Old Lion"), a list of the weekly Torah readings, a Hebrew–Yiddish glossary of the gemstones on the high priest's breastplate, Dukus Horant ("Duke Horant"). The first four texts are examples of the genre best identified as "midrashic epic" – biblical themes enhanced by post-biblical traditions and rendered in epic verse form; the fifth belongs to an international fable tradition; the sixth and seventh pertain to religious practice; while the last text is the earliest example of the centuries-long Ashkenazi interest in adapting non-Jewish, secular epic poetry into Yiddish. The discovery and publication of the codex transformed Yiddish studies by extending the beginnings of mature Yiddish literature back to a significantly earlier date than previously thought possible.


L. Fuks (ed.), The Oldest Known Literary Documents of Yiddish Literature (c. 1382), 2 vols. (1957); E. Katz (ed.), "Six Germano-Judaic Poems from the Cairo Genizah" (Diss. 1963); Ch. Shmeruk, Prokim fun der Yidisher Literatur-Geshikhte (1988), 33–37, 48–49, 97–120, 133–39, 182–89; J.C. Frakes, The Politics of Interpretation: Alterity and Ideology in Old Yiddish Studies (1989); idem (ed.), Early Yiddish Texts, 1100–1750 (2004), 8–43; J. Baumgarten, Introduction to Old Yiddish Literature (2005), 132–39.

[Jerold C. Frakes (2nd ed.)]

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Cambridge Yiddish Codex

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