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JUDEO-PERSIAN , a form of Persian used by Jews and written in Hebrew characters. The oldest Judeo-Persian texts are the earliest known records in the Persian language (see Judeo-Persian Literature below). These consist of the inscriptions of Tang-i Azao (Central Afghanistan, 752–53 c.e. according to W.B. Henning, in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 20 (1957), 335–42; E.L. Rapp, in: East and West, 17 (1967), 51–58, suggested, with insufficient arguments, a much later date) and a fragment from a private letter found at Dandan-Uiliq in the region of Khotan (Sinkiang), which can also be dated to the eighth century. Next to be found among the dated documents are a brief inscription on a ninth-century copper tablet discovered at Quilon in southern India; a Karaite legal deed from an unknown locality (presumably in Khuzistan), dated 951 c.e.; a law report written at Ahvaz, Iran, in 1021 c.e., and a collection of funerary inscriptions dating from the late 11th to the early 13th centuries and emanating from a community at Firuzkuh in central Afghanistan. In the exegetic literature as well as in fragments of commercial and personal correspondence, the Cairo Genizah and certain other Oriental manuscript depositories acquired by Abraham *Firkovich for his collection (now in St. Petersburg), provide texts datable to the period before the early 13th century. Some of these texts will be enumerated and discussed below.

Many Judeo-Persian writings contain linguistic peculiarities which do not occur in Persian texts written in Arab-Persian script. These peculiarities have often been classified quite simply as "Judeo-Persian." Such a statement has little meaning, since it is evident to anybody examining Judeo-Persian literature as a whole that it has no linguistic unity. The term "Judeo-Persian" does not define a particular form of Persian distinguished from the classical language by regular characteristics. There never was a unified Persian dialect which could be said to belong specifically to the Jews of Iran. Some of the linguistic peculiarities of Judeo-Persian are purely stylistic. Translations of the Scriptures have, throughout the centuries, presented certain specific traits: a literal method of translation, word for word or even morpheme for morpheme (this being also the method used by Muslim translators of the Koran), and a systematic use of certain rare or archaic forms such as active participles in -ā to translate Hebrew participles and the particle azmar to translate אֶת. Such traits are restricted to the style peculiar to this kind of writing.

Most of the Judeo-Persian linguistic characteristics are, however, dialectal: they belong to local forms of Persian spoken in different regions of Iran. The fact that they appear practically only in Judeo-Persian texts may be explained in connection with the history of the Persian language and the conditions in which Judeo-Persian literature was produced. From the time when the Persian language extended from its original home in southwest Iran to the entire Iranian plateau, it was diversified into a large number of local variants. These dialects were restricted to colloquial usage and did not, as a rule, find their way into the literature in Arabic script, where the classical language (which became fixed and unified at an early stage) reigns, with few exceptions, supreme. On the contrary, Judeo-Persian writings, with the exception of the most literary texts, are foreign to the tradition of classical literature and escaped its normalizing influence. In particular, the old translators of and commentators on the Scriptures, who wrote merely to instruct their fellow-Jews and who did not care for aesthetic considerations, addressed them quite naturally in the current language of the locality, which may have been quite similar among Jews and non-Jews. For this reason, Judeo-Persian literature affords valuable evidence as to the history and dialectology of the Persian language. It would be helpful if we could identify the geographical origins of the different compositions in Early Judeo-Persian, but, apart from a well-defined group of documents coming from Khuzistan in South-West Iran, most fragments cannot be assigned to a definite place of origin.

Dialectal peculiarities are particularly frequent and interesting in the early texts. In the later period, from the 14th century on, the Jews generally used in writing a form of standard Persian which was practically the same as classical Persian. The differences are mainly those of script (the Hebrew alphabet being used for Judeo-Persian), orthography (Judeo-Persian tends to indicate the short vowels u and i by the letters vav and yod, contrary to the practice in Standard Persian, and they use different conventions for some of the consonants, e.g., j and č), and vocabulary (Judeo-Persian often uses Hebrew and Aramaic expressions). The writings which emerged in the 18th–19th century among the Bukharan community are however strongly marked by the local vernacular. Although the early Judeo-Persian texts have not yet been fully explored, a number of dialectal variants can be distinguished among them.

(1) Among the ancient documents, the somewhat laconic inscriptions are of limited instructive value. The Dandan-Uiliq letter, which is fragmentary and cannot be interpreted fully, is remarkable for certain archaisms, notably the use of the ezāfe particle (written ארי) as a relative; this usage, common in Middle Persian, does not appear in New Persian texts in Arabic script. Also noteworthy is the almost total absence of Arabic words, characteristic of a very early phase of the language.

(2) The two legal documents, one written in Khuzistan province in 951 (Mosseri Collection Ia.1), and the other, written in Hormshir in 1021 (Bodl. Ms.Heb. b.12.24), the fragment of a Karaite Book of Precepts in the British Library (Or. 8659), together with a number of still unpublished letters from the Cambridge Genizah collection, all display some typical features of the Khuzistan dialect: they use the ezāfe particle as a relative, and that particle is most often attached in writing to the following word; the word for "thing" is תיס, as in Manichaean Middle Persian, while classical New Persian has the form čīz for this word; they have a preposition written א or או (possibly pronounced o), which perpetuates the Middle Persian preposition ō, a preposition that no longer exists in Standard Persian; they have a passive present stem which ends with the morpheme ih-, spelled -yh- or -h-, before the personal endings, another Middle Persian feature; there is frequent attestation of imāla in Arabic words, viz. the change of long ā vowel to ē or ī in certain phonetic conditions, as in klyp for Arabic khilāf "difference, contrariness." In addition, the vocabulary of these texts contains a whole range of rarely attested or hitherto unknown words, some of which are only familiar from Middle Persian.

(3) Among the ancient exegetic texts, several fragments of commentaries on biblical books are preserved which display the same type of Khuzistan dialect as is attested in the texts described in the previous paragraph. One of these is a Karaite commentary on the Nevi'im and the Ketuvim, of which a number of fragments are preserved in the Genizah Collection of Cambridge University Library. One of these fragments was published in Irano-Judaica (1982), 313–22. The same type of language is also attested in an extensive grammatical commentary on the Ketuvim of which several fragments survive; see Irano-Judaica (1982), 310–12; Khan, Early Karaite Grammatical Texts (2000), 250–331.

(4) An extensive Karaite commentary on the book of Genesis (Firkovich i 4605), discussed by S. Shaked in: Persian Origins (2003), 195–219, of which a substantial fragment is preserved, seems to belong, by its linguistic features, to North-Eastern Iran. The most conspicuous grammatical element which ties it to the Tajik language is the use of an indeclinable past tense form of the type of būdagī "was." The same feature is also attested in Part i of the St. Petersburg commentary on Ezekiel, discussed in the following.

(5) The Ezekiel commentary (Firkovich Collection i 1682) is a curious instance of a single book written in two different dialects by several scribes. The manuscript, which represents a very large but incomplete composition, is on the whole well preserved, and is datable to the 11th century. Part 1 of the manuscript displays a north-east-Iranian type of language, as in the commentary on Genesis mentioned earlier, while Part 2 belongs to the type of language identified with Khuzistan region. The text has been studied by T.E. Gindin, and is to be published in full.

(6) A small fragment of a Judeo-Persian version of the Psalms, acquired by A. Netzer in 1973 in Zefreh, 100 km. northeast of Isfahan, displays a distinct form of the language. It is close to the Khuzistan dialect in that it has the form kyrd for standard Persian kard, the ending of the abstract noun usually in -yh, and the plural ending -yh'; but it has some divergent features. The ezāfe is spelled y and written as an independent word; an optative ending ē is attached to verbs, of which the form hysty "that it may be" is noteworthy. There are also lexical peculiarities attested in this fragment; cf. A. Netzer, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 27 (2002), 419–38; S. Shaked, in: Irano-Judaica 6 (2006, fc.).

(7) A fragment of a book of Aramaic proverbs with a Judeo-Persian translation was published by S. Shaked, in: Acta Iranica 30 (1990), 230–39, and several further fragments of biblical commentaries, some of which not yet studied in detail.

(8) Further books which belong to an early layer of Judeo-Persian compositions are: the Story of Daniel (Bibliothèque Nationale Ms. Héb. 128) – not a translation of the book of Daniel, but a midrash on the Daniel theme; a translation of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, also preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and a translation of the Pentateuch in the Vatican. All of them exhibit the same variant of Persian. This may be illustrated by forms such as פֿרבֿיד ("fat"; classical Persian farbih); זיה ("to live"; classical Persian ziy-); דושכיזה ("virgin"; classical Persian dūšiza); כומאנא ("indeed"; classical Persian hamānā); אניז ("also"; classical Persian nīz); תנׁג ("to drink"); and a large number of words unknown in classical Persian.

(9) A translation of the Pentateuch found in a manuscript of the British Museum copied in 1319 represents a dialectal variant distinct from the preceding one (אהנג, "to drink," הניז "also"): but it is not yet possible to determine the region to which it belongs.

(10) The later literary writings (14th–18th centuries) are generally free from dialectal traits. They emanate from a milieu of highly cultured Jews who knew and appreciated the masterpieces of classical Persian literature and imitated them. To commemorate the past or record the sad events of the time in a worthy style, they could choose no better medium than classical Persian. This is the language employed by *Shāhīn and ʿImrānī at Shiraz, by Bābāy at Kashan, and even by Yūsuf Yahūdī in Bukhara. Only in their works does one come across examples of local pronunciation, and these are probably attributable to the copyist. In works of a more popular nature, such as the elegy of Mollā Hizqiyā (17th century), some colloquialisms are to be found, which are also common in the vernacular of modern Iran.

(10) The literary or exegetic texts composed in Bukhara during the 17th–19th centuries in general bear marks of their origin, such marks being more numerous in texts of a lower stylistic level. The poem Khudāydāt and the prose writings abound in dialectal peculiarities of the Persian of central Asia (Tajik), which naturally are completely different from those of the ancient texts of southwest Iran. Of particular importance linguistically is the book Likkutei Dinim, a collection of rabbinical precepts compiled in six parts by Abraham Aminof and published in Jerusalem between 1899 and 1904. For this book see in particular W. Bacher, in: zfhb, 5 (1901), 147–54; zdmg, 56 (1902), 729–59.

One of the characteristic traits is that of vocalization, always written in the manuscripts and printed books of Bukharan Jews in conformity with Tajik, as opposed to the Persian of Iran. Three examples are: בֵזָר ("who renounces," Tajik bezor, Iranian Persian bizâr), רוֹז ("day" Tajik růz, Iranian Persian ruz), and לוּטף ("favor," Tajik lutf, Iranian Persian lotf). The language of these texts, which may appropriately be termed "Judeo-Tajik," is very close to the modern literary language of Tajikistan.

Judeo-Iranian Dialects

One medieval piece of evidence for a Judeo-Iranian dialect which is not Persian but cannot be identified more closely was discovered among the Cambridge Genizah fragments; cf. Shaked, in: Acta Iranica, 28 (1988), 219–35.

Along with Judeo-Persian proper, mention must be made of the Iranian dialects still in use today among certain communities in Kashan, Hamadan, Isfahan, Kerman, Yazd and Shiraz. These dialects, used exclusively in speech, are not variants of Persian but are related to the local dialects of these regions and belong to the "central" group of western Iranian dialects. A survey of Jewish dialects was undertaken by E. Yarshater, in: Mémorial Jean de Menasce (1974), 453–66.

The *Judeo-Tat of the Caucasus region (Daghestan and Soviet Azerbaijan), together with neighboring dialects spoken by Muslims, form a dialectal unit, possibly dating back to a time when Iranian colonies were established by the Sassanian dynasty along the frontier of the empire. All these dialects may be called "Judeo-Iranian."

There is a group of speech-forms used by Jews as a secret language. They are known as Loterai, a word which denotes a secret language. They are essentially a jargon in which Hebrew words and some distorted forms take the place of the more familiar Persian words. This phenomenon was discussed by Yarshater, in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, 97 (1977), 1–7; Lazard, in: Journal Asiatique (1978), 251–55; A. Netzer, in: J. Dan (ed.), Tarbut ve-Historiyah (1987), 22–23. The language of the Jews of Herat mentioned by Zarubin, in: Doklady Rossijskoj Akademii Nauk (1924), 181–83, seems also to belong to this type of speech.


The Jews of Iran developed a rich and varied literature in the Persian language. They also contributed to several branches of Jewish literature in Hebrew, but this falls outside the scope of this entry. Its formal identification is based on the fact that this is a literature written by Jews, most often on themes of Jewish interest and related to the world of Jewish practice and thinking, and it is written in Hebrew characters and contains a varying number of expressions in Hebrew and Aramaic. This literature was as a rule inaccessible to non-Jews, which explains why there is no reference to the monuments of Jewish-Persian literature in the mainstream Persian literature created by Muslims. There are some towering figures of former Jews who converted to Islam and who contributed to the general literature of Islamic Iran, but what was written in Judeo-Persian remained until modern times entirely unknown and unacknowledged by Muslims.

The literature composed in Judeo-Persian should be treated under two distinct chronological periods: up to the Mongol invasion of Iran in the 1220s, and from that period up to our time. The Mongol invasions created havoc in the life of Iran in general and in particular as far as the Jewish communities of Iran are concerned. Very little of the pre-Mongol literature of Iran survived into the later period, and, on the other hand, a whole new post-Mongol literature was created from the 14th century onwards with characteristic features which did not exist before.

Judeo-Persian Literature in Its Earliest Period

We now have a substantial body of literature for the early period of Judeo-Persian, most of which derives from manuscripts which have come to light during the past decades and not all of which have yet been published. The origin of these manuscripts is the Cairo Genizah, scattered in various collections around the world, but most of it at the Cambridge University Library; and the Firkovich Collection acquired in various book depositories in the Middle East, presently housed in St. Petersburg. The use of Judeo-Persian was not confined to the mainland of Iran. A substantial colony of Persian-speaking Jews seems to have lived during the 10th–13th centuries in Palestine, mostly in Jerusalem, and there was a continuity of Jewish Persian presence in Cairo, where some of the Persian Jews held positions of influence. Some manuscripts which may belong to this layer of literature were acquired in Iran and are now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and in private collections. The main classes of the extant remnants of this once evidently vast literature are the following:

  1. Bible exegesis;
  2. Hebrew grammar and lexicography;
  3. Halakhah;
  4. Midrash
  5. Poetry;
  6. Stories and proverbs;
  7. Magic;
  8. Letters and legal documents.

The literary pieces that have survived represent the creative activity of both major groups within the Jewish community of Persian-speaking Jews, Rabbanites, and Karaites. It is significant that the Cairo Genizah, which did not function as a library but as a place for dumping discarded pieces of writing which have lost their relevance to the owners, has usually preserved small fragments of books and a relatively large number of ephemeral writings, such as letters and legal documents, while the collections of manuscripts which derive from other sources, presumably usually synagogue libraries, often comprise larger sections of literary compositions, but their holdings contain no writings of the non-literary type, like letters.

A short survey of the compositions that have survived in the different categories follows.

1. exegetical works

It is possible that Persian translations of the Bible or of certain biblical books were current among Jews even before the Islamic period. A hint in that direction is found in the Talmud (Meg. 18a), where versions of the Book Esther are mentioned in what is called "Elamite" and "Median," two languages of the Iranian region, although we do not know which precise languages are meant by these designations. Among the versions which have turned up the following, largely unpublished, may be mentioned:

1) A translation of the Ketuvim, of which 54 pages have survived, covering Ps. 9–40, Prov. 1–3 and Eccl. 2–5. This translation goes verse-by-verse and follows closely the Hebrew text. This is, by its language, probably a fairly late translation (14th century?)

2) Commentary of grammatical points in Ketuvim, written in the Khuzistani dialect of Persian. The surviving fragments make up 32 pages. The composition does not treat every verse, but only with selected themes which are always introduced by a question. The fragments deal with topics from Ruth 1–4, Song of Songs 1–5, Lamentations 2–3, Eccl. 1–2, Daniel 10–11, Nehemiah 8–9. The commentary reflects the grammatical school of the Karaites. (See S. Shaked, in: Irano-Judaica (1982), 310–12; Khan, Early Karaite Grammatical Texts (2000), 250–331).

3) An exegesis on the Book of Genesis, of which eight pages are extant;

4) A Karaite commentary on selected verses in Nevi'im and Ketuvim, Isa. 54–66, Dan. 11–12, Est. 1–5. Twenty-one pages are preserved of this composition. One section was published by S. Shaked, Irano-Judaica (1982), 313–22.

5) A commentary on selected questions in Ruth (chapters 1–4), each section starting with the words: guftan-i šān"(As to) what they said: …"

6) An extensive translation and commentary on Ezekiel, comprising 226 large pages, and treating in detail Ezek. 1–39. To be published by T.E. Gindin (see in the meantime in: idem, Persian Origins (2003), 14–30).

7) A Karaite commentary on Genesis, containing an extensive introduction and the beginning of the detailed commentary; a study by S. Shaked is in: Persian Origins (2003), 195–219.

8) A small fragment of a translation of the Psalms, possibly from the 11th century, purchased in 1973 in Zefreh (Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 27 (2002), 419–438; Irano-Judaica, 6 (2006), fc).

9) There are, besides, eight further fragments of exegetical compositions on various books of the Bible.

2. hebrew grammar and lexicography

Besides the grammatical commentary on the Bible (number 2 above), there are two fragments of a systematic Hebrew grammar called by the Hebrew title qarqaʿot ha-diqduq "the principles of grammar." This is a typically Karaite treatment of grammar, written in the Khuzistani dialect of Persian. A preliminary edition of one of the fragments of the text is in E.Z. Melammed Festschrift (Hebrew), 291–311.

Several fragments of a dictionary of the Talmud are found among the Cambridge Genizah texts.

3. halakhah

There are a number of fragments of books dealing with legal questions. One fairly large fragment comprising 36 pages, unfortunately in a bad state of preservation, is a Karaite treatise, which contains polemics against the Rabbanites. Another fragment contains part of the introduction to a Karaite Sefer Mitzvot or Book of Precepts, followed by the beginning of the book and dealing with the rules for circumcision (British Library Or. 8659). It was published by D.N. MacKenzie, in: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 31 (1968), 249–69; comments by S. Shaked, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 1 (1971), 178–82; English translation in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 248–55.

Another fragment in this genre seems to be a Rabbanite treatise dealing with the rules of ʿeruv, still unpublished.

4. midrash

An extensive collection of midrashim in Hebrew by the order of the books of the Pentateuch is found in an incomplete manuscript dated 1328 c.e., written in Sambadagan, perhaps in North-East Iran, under the title Pitron Torah, "Exegesis on the Torah." The underlying composition has a good chance of being older, and seems to have been composed in the late 9th or early 10th century. The manuscript contains an appendix in Judeo-Persian, based on midrashic material, and probably reflecting a pre-Mongol Khuzistan type of Persian (edited E.E. Urbach, 1978, Heb.).

5. poetry

Poetry, which becomes the most distinctive creation of Judeo-Persian in the post-Mongol period, is not yet so prominent in this early period. Still, we have one piece of popular poetry, in a dialect which is hard to place; see S. Shaked, in: Pe'amim, 32 (1985), 22–37. Other fragments contain portions of the liturgy for the Day of Atonement. The Adler Collection in the Jewish Theological Seminary contains a number of poetic fragments, mostly translated from Hebrew, which seem to reflect late Judeo-Persian (i.e., 14–18 century c.e.).

6. stories and proverbs

A section of the texts in the category of early Judeo-Persian falls within the domain of folk stories, and includes a fragment of a story about King David, and two fragments of early Islamic history (one concerning the Caliph ʿUmar).

A separate section consists of a fragment of a collection of wisdom sayings in Aramaic with a translation into Judeo-Persian, published by S. Shaked, in: Acta Iranica, 16 (1990), 230–39.

7. magic and medicine

One of the fragments in a Judeo-Iranian language (not Persian) contains magic recipes; edited by S. Shaked, in: Acta Iranica 28 (1988), 219–35.

Other, still unedited fragments, deal with medical questions.

8. letters and legal documents

A large section of the Judeo-Persian find from the Cairo Genizah consists of private and commercial letters, written in Judeo-Persian, sometimes with phrases in Arabic expressed by the Arabic alphabet. Another group of documents belongs to the legal field, and contains court reports concerning financial and property disputes between people, usually within one family. These documents have a special value because they mostly belong to the Khuzistan dialect of Judeo-Persian, and make it possible to contrast other Judeo-Persian dialects. The oldest documents in Judeo-Persian, and in fact in Persian altogether, fall within this group: the first is a commercial letter found in Dandan Uiliq in Chinese Turkistan, which belongs to the eighth century c.e. The document is at the British Library, Or. 8212, first published by D.S. Margoliouth, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1903), 737–60; Further studies and comments: C. Salemann, Zapiski Vostočnago Otdelenja, 16 (1904/5), 46–57; Henning in: bsoas, 20 (1957), 341–42; idem, in: Mitteliranisch (Handbuch der Orientalistik) (1958), 79–80; B. Utas, in: Orientalia Suecana, 17 (1968), 123–36; idem, in: Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 22–25; G. Lazard, in: Acta Iranica, 28 (1988), 205–9 (Reprinted in: Lazard, La formation de la langue persane (1995), 157–61); S. Shaked, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 1 (1971), 182.

The second is a Karaite legal deed dated 951 c.e.; the original is in the Jacques Mosseri Collection Ia.1; it was published by S. Shaked, in: Tarbiz, 41 (1972), 49–58 (Heb.).

A further document is a jp law report from Ahvaz, dated 1021 c.e., first published by D.S. Margolious, in: jqr, (1899), 671–75. Further studies are J.P. Asmussen, in: Acta Orientalia, 19 (1965), 49–60; D.N. MacKenzie, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1966), 69; S. Shaked, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 1 (1971), 180–82.

These fragments survived by chance, and they no doubt point to the existence of a much vaster and more varied literature, most of which has not survived.

Judeo-Persian Literature from the 14th Century to the Modern Period

From the 14th century, under the Il-Kahnids and later dynasties, a new phase of literary creativity starts for the Jews of Iran, and the works composed fall into a wide range of literary genres. There is a clear division between standard Judeo-Persian literature and the literature composed, especially in the more recent period, in Central Asia in Judeo-Tajik or Bukharan, a variety of Persian. An offshoot of Judeo-Persian literature is found in the manuscripts of the Jewish community of Kai Feng in China.

1. translations of the bible in the post-mongol period

Judeo-Persian translations of the Pentateuch did not become known in the West before the sixteenth century. The first one printed (1546), is the work of the Persian scholar, Jacob b. Joseph *Tavus. It was thought at the time to be the oldest, and perhaps the sole literary achievement of Persian Jewry, but the manuscripts collected by the Florentine scholar Giambattista Vecchietti early in the 17th century, and the manuscripts which came to light in the 20th century, establish that Tavus' work actually represents the culmination of many centuries of Jewish Persian Bible study.

The oldest dated Judeo-Persian Pentateuch translation is in a manuscript in the British Library (Or 5446), copied by Joseph ben Moses in 1319 c.e. No place of origin is given, but the version could well be from Khurasan in north-east Iran. The manuscript is written in a clear hand, but is incomplete. It begins with Genesis 3:9 and goes to the end of the Pentateuch, with some large sections missing, among them, for example, the whole of Exodus. The initial Hebrew word is given for each verse, and this is followed by a word-by-word Persian translation of the entire verse. Often the Hebrew word is vocalized, usually in the supralinear Babylonian system, occasionally in the Tiberian vowel-points (see *Pronunciations of Hebrew). A commentary in Judeo-Persian or Hebrew, or by a combination of both, sometimes follows the translation, usually on grammatical points, with parallels adduced from the whole Bible. There are several citations from the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides to illustrate moral teachings. At the end of the text are two pages that contain the Hebrew verb paradigms. The translation portion of the text is clearly older than that of the commentary. A certain Abi Saʿid, whose earlier commentary influenced the work of the present author, is mentioned. An edition is available by H.H. Paper, A Judeo-Persian Pentateuch (Heb.) (Jerusalem, 1972).

Another important translation of the Pentateuch into Judeo-Persian is preserved in a Vatican manuscript (Vat. Pers. 61). The manuscript lacks a colophon, and its date and place of origin cannot be established. Its main interest lies in the large number of unusual Persian words and expressions which it contains. It was published in romanized transliteration by Paper, in: Acta Orientalia, 28 (1965), 363–140; 29 (1965/6), 75–181, 254–10; 31 (1968), 55–113.

The earliest Pentateuch version in Judeo-Persian to come to the notice of scholars was printed, as mentioned above, in Constantinople in 1546. It is the work of Jacob ben Joseph Tavus, and his version was included in the polyglot Bible done by Eleazar son of Gershon Soncino. Thomas Hyde transcribed the version from the Hebrew alphabet to Persian (Arabic) characters and published it in Walton's Bible, London (1657).

There are a very large number of other Judeo-Persian versions of biblical books, especially of the Psalms, in the period from the 14th century to the present. A brief survey of some of these versions is given in the following:

Of the Prophets, there is a lexical commentary on Samuel, called 'Amuqot Shemu'el, in a British Library manuscript, Or. 10472(2), studied by W. Bacher in: zdmg, 51 (1897), 392–425.

A Judeo-Persian version of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel exists in a manuscript of Paris. P. de Lagarde, Persische Studien (1884), published Isaiah and a portion of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Two chapters from Isaiah are given by H.H. Paper, in: Acta Iranica, 5 (1975), 145–61.

Amos was published from a Paris manuscript by B. Hjerrild, in: Acta Iranica, 23 (1984), 73–112.

Joel was published from a manuscript at the Ben-Zvi Institute by H.H. Paper, in: Essays in honor of Bernard Lewis. The Islamic world: From classical to modern times (1989), 259–67.

Hosea was partly published by J.P. Asmussen, in: Acta Iranica, 4 (1975), 15–18. Another version is in a manuscript at the Ben-Zvi Institute, edited by not yet published by Dan Shapira.

Obadiah was published by J.P. Asmussen, in: Acta Antiqua, 25 (1977), 255–63, from a Paris manuscript.

Jonah was published from a Paris manuscript by B. Carlsen in: Acta Iranica (1976), 13–26.

Numerous versions of the Psalms exist; for details see A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 17.

Proverbs was published by E. Mainz, in: ja, 268 (1980), 71–106, from a manuscript in Paris and by H.H. Paper, in: Irano-Judaica (1982), 122–47 from a manuscript of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Job was published from a manuscript in the Benayahu Collection in Jerusalem by H.H. Paper, in: Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 5 (1976), 313–65.

The Song of Songs exists in several versions. The version of the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale was edited by J.P. Asmussen and H.H. Paper, The Song of Songs in Judeo-Persian (1977); and by E. Mainz in: Journal Asiatique (1976), 9–34. Other versions have been printed in various non-scholarly publications in Jerusalem. Details are in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 18–19.

Ruth was published by E. Mainz in the same article (1976) from a manuscript of Paris.

Lamentations was published from a Paris manuscript by E. Mainz, in: Studia Iranica, 2 (1973), 193–202.

Ecclesiastes was published by E. Mainz, in: Studia Iranica, 3 (1974), 211–28, from a Paris manuscript, and by H.H. Paper, in: Orientalia, 42 (1973), 328–37, from a manuscript at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Part of a commentary on Ecclesiastes by Judah ben Benjamin of Kashan, from New York and Jerusalem manuscripts is given in English translation by V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 198–200.

Esther was published from a Paris manuscript by E. Mainz, in: Journal Asiatique, 257 (1970), 95–106.

Daniel was published from a Paris manuscript by E. Mainz, in: Irano-Judaica (1982), 148–79. Reference was made above to an Early Judeo-Persian version.

Although the Judeo-Persian translations originated in different Jewish communities, they show a certain uniformity in style, suggesting that there may have been contacts between the different centers of learning, with perhaps more than one school of translators that flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many of the authors of the Judeo-Persian Bible translations, treatises, and lexica show a measure of familiarity with the leading biblical and rabbinical authorities of the West. Following traditional Jewish methods of Bible interpretation, these Jewish authors utilized not only Targum Onkelos, Talmud, Midrash, *Saadiah Gaon, and *Hai Gaon, but also western authorities such as *Rashi, David *Kimhi, and Abraham *Ibn Ezra.

2. midrashim and religious narratives

The Story of Daniel is a composition based on the theme of the book of Daniel, enriched with a narrative which presumably reflects a Jewish midrash not otherwise extant in the relevant literature. The language of this composition is rather old, and abounds in unusual words and expressions. It was first published by H. Zotenberg, in: Archiv für die wissenschaftliche Erforschung des Alten Testaments, 1 (1870), 385–427; J. Darmesteter, in: Mélanges Renier (1886), 405–20. The latest edition is by D. Shapira, in: Sefunot, ns 7 (1999), 337–66 (Heb).

Several small collections of midrashim are found in Judeo-Persian, among which mention can be made of a midrash recounting the death of Moses, and another one on the death of Aaron. A midrash on the ascension of Moses was edited by A. Netzer, in: Irano-Judaica, 2 (1990), 105–43; English translation in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 189–96.

Many of these and other midrashim were translated from Hebrew or Aramaic. In a related genre, that of sermons, there are again several compilations, the most comprehensive of which is the 19th-century book called Maṭʿame Binyamin, by Binyamin ben Eliyahu of Kashan, preserved in a Ben-Zvi Institute manuscript written by the author in 1823. The book Zikhron Raḥamim attributed to Raḥamim Melammed Ha-Kohen, published in 1962, is largely the same compilation; cf. A. Netzer (1985), 23.

There are several Judeo-Persian versions of the Tractate Avot, for which examples are given by W. Bacher, in zfhb, 6 (1902), 112–18, 156–57; H.H. Paper, in: Michigan Oriental Studies… George G. Cameron (1976), 81–95. There is also a large versified elaboration on the themes of Avot made by 'Imrani, on which see further below. Details can be found in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 21.

There are also quite a few compilations of laws relating to everyday practices, such as the daily blessings, the laws of ritual slaughter, laws pertaining to marriage, etc.

3. philosophy, science, medicine, magic

One extensive book which belongs to this genre is Ḥovot Yehudah, by Judah ben Eleazar, written probably in 1686, possibly in Kashan. The book was published by Netzer, Duties of Judah by Rabbi Yehudah ben Elazar (Heb.) (1995). An excerpt in English translation is in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 255–59. The same author wrote other books, one of which is on astronomy under the title of Taqwim Yehuda; one deals with medicine and one is a versified moralistic treatise known as Timthāl nāme. A tractate against the drinking of wine is lost. Details about these books, which are still unpublished, can be found in A. Netzer, op. cit., 18–21.

There is a whole range of medical books which were copied from Standard Persian to Hebrew characters, to facilitate their use by Jewish physicians or learners. A list is provided by A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 48–49.

Among the other sciences, handbooks for calculating the Jewish calendar are quite numerous. The interest of the Jewish public in astronomy is indicated by the books which were copied from Standard Persian to Hebrew characters. See a list in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 49.

Several collections of amulet formulae and divinations are found among the Judeo-Persian manuscripts and scattered in the various libraries. A book of dream interpretation (Pitron ḥalomot) was printed in Judeo-Persian in Jerusalem in 1900/1 by Shim'on Ḥakham. The book contains also other treatises on divination, one by limb twitching (pirkus avarim) and another one by astronomical omens.

4. prayer books and piyutim

The earliest Persian synagogue ritual recorded was based on that of R. Saadiah Gaon. The Persian Jews abandoned this ritual under the influence of a Moroccan-born visitor from the Land of Israel, Joseph ben Moses Maman, toward the end of the 18th century and adopted the Sephardi prayer-book, which they are still using today. A facsimile edition of an early Persian prayer book from the E.N. Adler Collection, one of the few remnants of the original Persian ritual, was published by S. Tal, Nusah ha-Tefillah shel Yehudei Paras (1981).

To the field of liturgy belong also the piyyutim or religious poetry sung in the synagogues, which was one of the major areas of artistic activity of the Jews of Iran. More details are given in the section on poetry.

5. lexical works

One of the earliest extant lexicographical compositions in Judeo-Persian is 'Amuqot Shemuel, a lexicon explaining rare and difficult words in the Book of Samuel, arranged by the order of the verses. The work, preserved in a manuscript at the British Library, Or. 10482(2), is still unpublished. A study of it was made by W. Bacher, in: zdmg, 51 (1897), 392–425.

A major lexicon of Hebrew and Aramaic words occurring in the Bible, Targum, Talmud and Midrashim is Sefer Ha-Meliẓah (Book of Rhetoric), also called Egron, written, according to a colophon, by Solomon ben Samuel in the town of Gurganj (Urganch, in today's Uzbekistan) in the year 1339 c.e. The Persian part of the lexicon reflects the vocabulary of north-east Iran, but also quotes Turkish and Arab forms. This composition has considerable importance for the study of the Jewish sources, especially the Talmud, and demonstrates a high level of learning and intellectual tradition. The book is unedited, but an extensive monograph, with numerous extracts from the text, was written by W. Bacher, Ein hebraeisch-persisches Woerterbuch aus dem vierzehnten Jahrhundert, Strasbourg (1900). There are six known manuscripts of this important book, four of which are described in Bacher's study. A detailed enumeration of all can be found in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 45–46.

Another important lexicographical work is Egron by Moses ben Aaron of Shirvan, written in 1459. This is a biblical lexicon preserved in an incomplete manuscript in the British Library, Or. 10482(1). The book is discussed by W. Bacher, Zeitschrift fuer die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 16 (1896), 201–47; 17 (1897), 199–200; P. Horm, in: Zeitschrift fuer die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 17 (1897), 201–3; T. Noeldeke, in: ZDMG, 51 (1897), 669–76.

Several other lexical works, often called Mikhlal or Mikhlol or Perush ha-Millot, exist in manuscripts scattered in various libraries. A list can be found in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 46–48.

6. poetry

Persian Jews found their highest literary expression in original Judeo-Persian poetry. The first known poet was the 14th-century poet Mawlānā Shāhīn, possibly of Shiraz, but this is uncertain; it is also unclear whether Shāhīn is his name or merely an attribute. He is regarded as the foremost Judeo-Persian poet. Shāhīn was imbued with a profound Jewish consciousness and keenly desired to clothe Jewish traditions in the literary ornaments of Persian poetry. He devoted himself to writing verses on biblical topics, and his greatest work, Sefer Sharḥ Shāhīn al ha-Torah, is a poetic paraphrase and reinterpretation of the Pentateuch.

Three major works of Shāhīn are extant: (1) the Mūsā-Nameh ("Moses Book," concluded in 1327 c.e.), a commentary on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. (2) Ardashīr-Nameh, consisting of the stories of Esther and Mordecai and of Shero and Mahzad, the latter a typical Iranian love story. There is also Ezra-Nameh, dealing mainly with the reign of Cyrus the Great and the building of the Temple of Jerusalem. A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 28, has however argued that the two last books were meant to be a single composition, since they appear following each other in the manuscripts, the former without a conclusion, while the latter without an opening text. The colophon at the end of Ezra Nameh gives as the date of completion 1333 c.e. (3) a Bereshit-Nameh (concluded in 1359), which includes the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, known to Muslims as Zulaykhā. In all his poetic writings, Shāhīn adopted the typical features of Persian poetry and applied the patterns, forms, technique, meter, and language of Persian classical poetry to the presentation of Israel's religious heroes and the events recorded in the biblical narrative, while using both midrashic themes and stories and Muslim ones to fill in the narrative. To Persian-speaking Jews, Shāhīn is "Mawlānā Shāhīn Shīrāzī" (our master Shāhin of Shiraz"), the founder of Judeo-Persian poetry. See on Shāhīn A. Netzer, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 4 (1974), 258–64; extensive excerpts from Shāhīn's compositions in English translation are incorporated in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 26–119.

The next great poet in Judeo-Persian is *ʿImrānī, who was probably born in Isfahan in 1454 and died in Kashan after 1536. Inspired by Shāhīn, ʿImrānī chose as his field the post-Mosaic era from Joshua to the period of David and Solomon. He composed altogether some 12 poetic works. His major work, Fatḥ-Nameh ("The Book of the Conquest," begun in 1474), was the first composition that he wrote. He recounts in it in poetic form the events of the biblical books of Joshua, Ruth, and Samuel. He started composing it in 1474 c.e., when he was 20 years old, under the guidance of a teacher by the name of Amin al-Dawla wa-l-Din, and later under that of Judah ben Isaac. The work is unfinished. The last great work of Imrani was Ganj-Nameh ("The Book of the Treasures"), a free poetic paraphrase of and commentary on the mishnaic treatise Avot. This composition was concluded in the year 1536, when the author was above 80. This work was edited and published by D. Yeroushalmi, The Judeo-Persian Poet 'Emrānī and his "Book of Treasure" (1995).

In between these two major works, 'Imrani composed several other smaller poetic compositions, as well as at least two prose works. For further details about 'Imrānī see A. Netzer, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 4 (1974), 258–64; idem (1985), 31–33. On 'Imrānī and extracts from his works in English translation, see also V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden, 119–43, 159–75.

Another early 16th-century author of this type of poetry was Yahuda b. David of Lar. Makhzan al-Pand ("The Treasure House of Exhortation") is one of his few extant works. Cf. W. Bacher, Keleti Szemle 12 (1911/2), 223–28. An extract in English translation is included in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden, 176–183.

In 1606, Khāja Bukhārāī composed a poetical work called Dāniyāl nāma, based on the Book of Daniel as well as the Apocrypha and midrashic literature, using the poetic conventions of the earlier Jewish poets, Shāhīn and 'Imrānī. A study of this poet by A. Netzer is in G.L Tikku (ed.), Islam and Its Cultural Divergence (1971), 145–64; idem, in: Israel Oriental Studies, 2 (1972), 305–14; idem, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 33. Extracts in English translation are included in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 146–58.

Aaron ben Mashiah is a 17th-century poet. He was born in Isfahan and moved later to Yazd. His composition Shofetim Nāma (The Book of Judges), a poetic elaboration of the biblical book of Judges up to chapter 19, was composed in 1692 and follows the pattern of Imrani's Fatḥ Nāma. The book contains an allusion to the bloody riots in Isfahan in which the Sabbatean emissary Mattitya Bloch was killed. Cf. A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 33–34. Extracts in English translation are in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 143–46. The poetic work of Aaron ben Mashiah was continued by Mordecai ben David, who composed a narrative poem under the title of Ma'ase Pillegesh ba-Giva, which recounts the events of Judges 19–21. Nothing is known of the biography of this poet.

Elisha ben Shemuel, with the poetic name Rāghib, was a poet who lived in Samark in the 17th century. One of his two poetical compositions are Shāhzāda va ṣūfi, based on Abraham ben Ḥisdai's Hebrew composition Ben ha-Melekh ve ha-Nazir, a re-working of a widespread Buddhist frame story. The other is Ḥanukka Nāma, recounting the events in the saga of the Maccabees, and influenced by Imrani's poetic composition with the same title.

Binyamin ben Misha'el, known under the name Amina, was born in Kashan probably in 1672 c.e. He is the author of some 40 poetic compositions, mostly rather short. One of the longer compositions is Tafsir Akedat Yiẓḥak (published in Jerusalem 1901/2), on the sacrifice of Isaac. Another one is Tafsir Megillat Ester, on the Book of Esther, and a third one is Tafsir le-Azharot Rashbag, on the Azharot liturgy. He also composed a eulogy to King Ashraf, the ruler of Afghanistan who invaded Iran and fought the Safavids in 1722. Some of Amina's poems were sung in the synagogues, including an alphabetical poem in Hebrew; cf. A. Netzer, in: Pe'amim, 2 (1979), 48–54. Translations of poems by Amina can be found in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000).

Siman Tov Melammed, with the poetic name Tuvia, was a mystical poet born in Yazd, who lived for a time in Herat and later in Mashhad. He died in 1823 or 1828. He composed Ḥayāt al-rūḥ, a poem based on Baḥya Ibn Paquda's Ḥovot ha-Levavot and on the Guide of the Perplexed by Maimonides (published Jerusalem 1906/7). Another poetic composition of his is Azharot, written in Hebrew and Persian, where the precepts are enumerated (published Jerusalem 1895/6). A discussion of this author is by A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 38; idem, in: Pe'amim, 79 (1999), 56–95; V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 260–67.

Two major poets composed narrative compositions dealing with the history of their time. One of them is Bābāī ben Lutf of Kashan, who described the persecution of the Jews under the Safavids during the years 1613–1662. His book, Kitābi anūsī describes a sequence of decrees against the Jews, the killing of Jews and the confiscation of their property. A large part of his composition is devoted to the events of 1656–62, including the persecutions under Shāh 'Abbās ii. The importance of this book is derived from the fact that it gives details not only concerning the harsh measures against the Jews but also concerning the internal communal organization of the Jewish communities, including the distribution of crafts and occupations among the Jews. A study and extracts in French translation by W. Bacher are in rej, 47 (1903), 262–82; vol. 51 (1906), 121–36, 265–79; vol. 52 (1906), 77–97, 234–71; further studies are by E. Spicehandler, in: huca (1975), 46:331–56; A. Netzer, in: Pe'amim, 6 (1980), 33–56; idem, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 42–43. An English translation is by V.B. Moreen, Iranian Jewry's Hour of Peril and Heroism (1987). Further on Bābāī ben Luṭf cf. J.P. Asmussen, in: Acta Orientalia, 28 (1964), 243–61.

Bābāī ben Farhād, a descendant of Bābāī ben Luṭf, described the suffering of the Jews of Kashan during another difficult period in Iranian history, in which Sunni Afghan invaders got hold of large parts of Shi'ite Iran. The pressure on Jews to convert to Islam was enormous, and huge sums of money were extorted from the Jewish communities in order to finance the costly wars. Bābāī ben Farhād's composition, written in 1729/30, has the title Kitāb-i sarguzašt-i Kāshān dar bāb-i 'ibrī va gūyīmī-ye thānī, or "The Book of the Events of Kashan concerning the Second (Conversion) from Judaism to a Foreign Faith." The Jews of Kashan were forced converts to Islam for seven months, after which they were allowed, against payment of a high ransom, to revert to Judaism. Extracts in French translation are in W. Bacher, in: rej, 53 (1907), 85–110. A facsimile edition is available in A. Netzer, Sifrut Parsit-Yehudit (1978). A short presentation is in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 43–44. An English translation is by V.B. Moreen, Iranian Jewry during the Afghan invasion (1990). Mashiaḥ ben Refa'el added a supplement to Bābāī ben Farhād's poem, in which he praised the head of the Jewish community in Kashan, Abraham.

Several other minor poets who composed shorter poems in Judeo-Persian are known.

Besides the original compositions in Judeo-Persian, we have Hebrew poems which were translated into Judeo-Persian, mostly poems of a liturgical character.

7. poetry transcribed from standard persian

The Jews of Iran had a taste for poetry, and they read not only the compositions of their own poets but also those of the Muslims. They deeply admired the classical Persian poetry of such writers as Firdawsī, 'Aṭṭār, Niẓāmī, 'umar Khayyām, Rūmī, Saʿdī, Ḥāfiẓ, and Jāmī. They transcribed a large number of Persian texts into Hebrew characters. Among the various types of Persian classical poetry – romantic, lyrical, and didactic – popularized in transliteration were Khusrow o Shirin and Haft Paikar ("Seven Images") by Niẓāmī (d. 1201); some poems of the Mathnawī by Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (d. 1273); some parts of the Gulistān by Saʿdi (d. 1291); the Dīwān of Ḥāfiẓ (d. 1390); Yūsuf o Zulaykhā by Jāmī (1414–92); portions of the Dīwān of Saʾib of Isfahan (d. 1678); and others. The Jews often emulated these poets and composed works in the same style. A survey of some of the more popular Muslim compositions which circulated in Hebrew transliteration can be found in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 39–41. A discussion of some phenomena connected to this topic is by J.P. Asmussen, in: sbb, 8 (1968), 44–53; and in the same author's Studies in Judeo-Persian literature (1973), 60–109.

8. popular stories

A large number of popular stories are found in the Judeo-Persian manuscripts, often embedded in the midrash-type literature mentioned earlier. A succinct summary of these compositions is found in A. Netzer, Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad (1985), 49. In Israel, a concentrated effort has been made to collect orally transmitted stories by Persian Jews, and many of them have been written down in Hebrew and are preserved in the Archive of the Israeli Folkstories. Examples of publications of folktales may by quoted: two small volumes of Ma'asiyyot Nifla'im ("Wonderful Tales"), which were printed by Israel Gul Shaulof and his son in Jerusalem (1911/2); a collection of Bukharan stories was published by J. Pinhasi, Folktales from Bukhara, ed. D. Noy, Jerusalem (1978, Heb.).

9. miniatures in judeo-persian manuscripts

Persian Jews took part in or sponsored the production of miniatures to illuminate manuscripts. In some of the Shāhīn and ʿImrānī manuscripts, and in those of the classical poetry in Hebrew transliteration, large colored miniatures of exceptional beauty were incorporated. It is not clear who the artists were who drew these pictures. It is quite possible that in some cases non-Jewish workshops were responsible for the execution of the illustrations in Judeo-Persian manuscripts. A study of the miniatures is by J. Gutmann, in: sbb, 8 (1968), 54–76. An illustrated catalogue of miniatures in Judeo-Persian manuscripts is provided by V.B. Moreen, Miniature Painting in Judeo-Persian Manuscripts (1985).

10. the activity of the bukharan men of letters in the modern period

In Bukhara, where the Jews were not subjected to the persecution their brethren endured in Safavid Persia, there appeared Jewish poets and translators who began to create Jewish literature and poetry in their own Bukharan, or rather Judeo-Tajik, dialect. Outstanding among them was Yūsuf *al-Yahūdī (d. 1755), an exponent of the biblical narrative developed by Shāhīn and ʿImrānī. See on him W. Bacher, in: Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlaendischen Gesellschaft, 53 (1899), 389–427. He wrote a Mukhammas, an ode in praise and glory of Moses; Haft Barāderān ("The Seven Brothers"), based on the Midrash story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother; and bilingual and trilingual hymns honoring biblical heroes. He also wrote a poetic version of Megillat Antiochus and his translations into the Bukharan dialect of many of the *zemirot of Israel *Najara were incorporated into the Judeo-Persian song books still in use today. Under his inspiration there emerged a school of Bukharan Jewish poets. It included a Judeo-Persian translation and commentary, Daniel-Nameh, which was edited by Binyamin b. Misha'el, known as Amina, who published a Judeo-Persian Book of Esther in metric form and translated some poems of Solomon ibn *Gabirol, such as Azharot and Yigdal, into Judeo-Persian.

In 1793 a significant cultural and religious change was inaugurated by the arrival in Bukhara of R. Joseph Maman al-Maghribī ("the messenger from Zion"). A native of Tetuan, Morocco, who had settled in Safed, he came as the official emissary (shaliaẓ) of that community. During his 30-year stay, he became the spiritual leader of Bukharan Jewry and effected a radical transformation in its religious life. He established Jewish schools, introduced the Sephardi rite, and imported books from abroad, especially from Shklov, Russia. Under his leadership the Bukharan Jews reestablished contact with other Jewish communities, and integrated their religious life with that of the Jewish people as a whole.

A narrative poem recounts in Judeo-Bukharan the story of a certain cloth merchant, Khudāidāt, who refused the pressure to convert to Islam and was executed as a martyr. The poem was composed probably in the late 18th or early 19th century by an unknown author. It was first published by C. Salemann, in: Mémoires de l'Académie Impériale des Sciences, 7, 42, 14 (1897); and studied by W. Bacher, in: zdmg, 52 (1898), 197–212; zfhb, 3 (1899), 19–25. A shortened translation is in V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 238–42.

An outstanding Bukharan Jewish scholar can be credited with a major share in the promotion of Judeo-Persian literature in the modern period, Simon *Ḥakham (1843–1910). He moved in 1890 to Jerusalem, where he joined the rapidly increasing colony of Bukharan Jews. Hakham began his activities in Jerusalem as author, translator, editor, and publisher of Judeo-Persian works. Among his many impressive achievements was his Judeo-Tajik translation of the novel Ahavat Ẓiyyon by Abraham *Mapu, which appeared in 1908. The crowning glory of Shim'on Ḥakham's literary activities was, however, his translation into Judeo-Bukharan of the Bible (Pentateuch, 5 vols., 1901–02). With this work, Ḥakham entered the ranks of the great Jewish Bible translators. He published an edition of Shāhīn's Sharḥ al ha-Torah (3 vols., 1902–08). An edition of Shim'on Hakham's Mūsā nāma was published by H.H. Paper in Cincinnati (1986). An excerpt is translated into English by V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden (2000), 200–5.

Of great interest is the collection of dinim or religious laws under the title Likkutei Dinim, compiled by Abraham Aminof and published in Jerusalem between 1899 and 1904; a study of this book was made by W. Bacher, in: zfhb, 5 (1901), 147–54; zdmg, 56 (1902), 729–259.

Under Soviet rule Bukharan Jewry at first enjoyed a measure of cultural autonomy, which it lost by the end of World War ii. During the 1960s Yakub Chaimov wrote novels and stories in the Tajik variant of Judeo-Persian, but these were published in Uzbek or Russian and presented as the work of a Muslim. In 1959 nearly 20,000 Bukharan Jews gave the Tajik dialect as their mother tongue.

11. the judeo-persian literary center in jerusalem

Judeo-Persian literature experienced an unforeseen development in the second half of the 19th century, not in Persia but in Jerusalem. This was precipitated by a wave of immigration into Ereẓ Israel, paralleling the Ḥovevei Ẓion immigration from Russia, of Persian-speaking Jews from Bukhara, Turkestan, Afghanistan, and Persia itself. They settled in Tiberias and Safed, in Haifa and Jaffa, but most of them went to Jerusalem, where they established a colony. In Jerusalem they inaugurated a new and spectacular epoch in the history of Judeo-Persian literary activity. Their leaders were eager to help those who remained in their lands of origin and to cement stronger ties between Jerusalem and the "remnants of Israel" in the remote Persian-speaking Oriental Diaspora. They established in Jerusalem a publishing center to perpetuate the manuscripts which Persian Jews had brought with them. This led to a decisive change in the history of Judeo-Persian literature.

Although some Judeo-Persian works had previously been published in Europe, particularly in Vienna and Vilna, Jerusalem now became the main center of Judeo-Persian printing activities. Almost every field in the religious, literary, historical, and philosophical spectrum was included in its program: Bible, Bible commentaries, prayer books for every occasion, rabbinical writings, Mishnah and Zohar, medieval Jewish poetry and philosophy, piyyutim, seliḥot, pizmonim, midrashim, historical narratives, and anthologies of songs and stories. Even translations of non-Jewish literature, such as portions of the Arabian Nights and selections from Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, found their way to the printer. These literary activities represented a creative effort, a cooperative endeavor of all the groups of Persian-speaking Jews who had settled in the Holy Land. Among the promoters and initiators were the above-mentioned Shim'on Hakham of Bukhara and Solomon Babajan Pinchasoff of Samarkand; the leading rabbis of Herat in Afghanistan; the Garjis; Mullā Mordecai b. Raphael *Aklar (Mullā Murād), the secret rabbi of the anusim of *Mashhad; and many leading personalities from Shiraz, Hamadan, Isfahan, and other Jewish communities who settled in Jerusalem. They converted Zion into a cultural center for Persian-speaking Jews.

A collection of liturgical poems under the title Ge'ulat Yisra'el was printed in Jerusalem in 1969 in Judeo-Persian; it contains several thanksgiving poems composed at the end of the Six-Day War (1967) by Shulamit Tilayoff and others. These poems are given both in Judeo-Persian and in Hebrew, demonstrating the fact that knowledge of the Bukharan dialect was dwindling among the younger members of the community.

12. modern judeo-persian

The renaissance of Judeo-Persian literature in Persia found expression in the establishment of a "Society for the Promotion of the Hebrew Language" in 1917 and in the establishment of a Judeo-Persian and Hebrew printing press in Teheran. Teheran became the seat of a Hebrew press and the center of a modern Hebrew and Jewish-Persian literature. Motivated by the endeavor to halt the decline of Jewish life, to combat assimilation and ignorance, and to implant a knowledge of Hebrew, this society published a work titled Sefer Ḥizzuk Sefat Ever (1918), a textbook of modern Hebrew. The author, Solomon ben Kohen-Ẓedek of Teheran, was an inspiring leader and teacher of the Jewish community and a former Persian government official. This was the first attempt of its kind in Persia. It concludes with the Hebrew and Persian texts of the Zionist anthem, Ha-Tikvah. The society also published the first history of the Zionist movement in the Persian language printed in Hebrew characters (1920) by Aziz ben Jonah Naim, a survey of the Zionist movement, its organizations, and its colonies in Ereẓ Israel. The numerous biblical quotations from Isaiah and the Psalmsin this history indicate the strong religious and messianic character of Persian Jewry's conception of Zionism. This history introduced in Persian Jewish literature leaders of the Zionist movement.

The same Jewish circle also published a Jewish newspaper in the Persian language, Ha-Ge'ulah (1920), and another, rather short-lived, periodical called Ha-Ḥayyim, which became the mouthpiece of the Jewish renaissance movement in Persia. These periodicals contained some poems by Bialik, first translated into Persian by Aziz ben Jonah Naim. The only other Judeo-Persian newspapers that are known were Rushnai, published in Samarkand, and Raḥamim, published in Bukhara.

The awakening of Zionism was closely connected with the revival of Judaism. The leading figure in this group, who tried to revive Jewish consciousness among the Persian Jews, was Mulla Elijahu Chayin More. The author of three important works on Jewish tradition, history, and philosophy in Judeo-Persian, Sefer Derekh Ḥayyim (1921), Sefer Gedulat Mordekhai (1924), and Sefer Yedei Eliyahu (1927), he exerted a great influence on his generation. Though deprived of his eyesight, blind from his early youth, this rabbi played a most important role in efforts to lead Persian Jewry toward a Jewish revival.

After the Islamic revolution of Iran (1979), the literary Jewish activity in Iran seems to have halted. A substantial Jewish-Iranian Diaspora was established in various cities in the United States, and with time a whole range of publications was established in standard Persian, in the Arab-Persian alphabet. The younger generation, while wishing to retain its double identity, Jewish and Iranian, is no longer familiar with the brand of Persian written in Hebrew characters. Among the efforts to inculcate Jewish-Iranian consciousness in the Jewish public, both in Iran and in the new Judeo-Iranian Diaspora, mention must be made of the publications of Amnon Netzer, professor of Persian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who, besides writing a history of the Jews in Persian and an anthology of Judeo-Persian poetry in the Arab-Persian script, and besides contributing much to the academic study of Jewish Iranian history, also edited a few volumes of a high-level intellectual annual under the title of Pādyāvand.

13. history of research into judeo-persian language and literature

1. The major collections of Judeo-Persian manuscript

One of the earliest manuscripts acquired for Western libraries was brought to Italy by Giambattista Vecchietti, who got in Lar in 1606 the Judeo-Persian Pentateuch version now kept at the Vatican Library.

Abraham Firkovich (1785–1874) was a Karaite scholar and collector of manuscripts, who traveled to Palestine, Syria and Egypt, and acquired valuable Judeo-Persian manuscripts, sold to the Imperial (now Public) Library of St. Petersburg.

Cambridge University Library acquired a large portion of the manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah, including a surprising number of manuscript fragments in Early Judeo-Persian through the efforts of S. Schechter (1847–1915).

One of the most important collectors was Elkan Nathan Adler (1861–1946), who acquired manuscripts during his travels in many lands. His collection is now housed in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. A catalogue of his collection was published in Cambridge (1921).

The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris houses one of the important collections of Judeo-Persian manuscripts, chiefly Bible translations (catalogues by H. Zotenberg, 1866; E. Blochet, 1905). An equally important collection is kept by the British Library, some of it deriving from the Cairo Genizah; the catalogue descriptions are by E. Seligsohn, in: jqr, 15 (1903), 278–310; J. Rosenwasser (1966).

Among other significant acquisitions of Judeo-Persian manuscripts, that of Ezra Spicehandler, who bought manuscripts in Iran on behalf of the Hebrew Union College in the late 1950s, should be mentioned, as well as Amnon Netzer, who collected valuable Judeo-Persian manuscripts in Iran in the 1970s and handed them over to the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem. His catalogue of the Ben-Zvi Institute J-P collection, Otsar kitve ha-yad (1985), may serve as a survey of Judeo-Persian literature.

2. A short history of research

One of the earliest scholars to recognize the interest and importance of the field of Judeo-Persian was Paul de Lagarde (1827–1891), who studied the Judeo-Persian Bible versions in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and published the translation of Isaiah and parts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, see Lagarde, Persische Studien (1884). He made the oft-quoted comment that from now on it would be impossible to claim knowledge of Persian without having gone through the body of Judeo-Persian literature.

The most important contribution to the investigation of Judeo-Persian literature was made by Wilhelm *Bacher (1850–1913) who turned much of his considerable energy and scholarly output to this field, in which he became the undisputed authority.

In the 1960s the two most prominent scholars of Judeo-Persian literature and language were H.H. Paper, who edited the two oldest complete Pentateuch manuscripts, and J.P. Asmussen, who published a long list of books and articles on various Judeo-Persian themes. At the same time Ernst Mainz published a series of Bible versions from the Paris Collections. The most important contribution to the study of Judeo-Persian dialectology is Gilbert Lazard, who emphasized the importance of Judeo-Persian for the study of the development of the Persian language, showing as he did the intermediate position of Judeo-Persian between Middle Persian and Classical Persian, while demonstrating that the early Judeo-Persian texts derived from different local dialect, which explains their divergence from the Classical Persian texts. D.N. Mac Kenzie studied the Karaite Book of Precepts and the problems of the Tafsir of Ezekiel from St. Petersburg. E. Yarshater devoted some studies to the spoken dialects of Persian Jews. A. Netzer made immense contribution to the study of the history of Judeo-Persian literature of the classical period by identifying the authorship of works and discovering the precise dates and places of several of the authors. He also published a number of important J-P works.


surveys, anthologies, catalogues of judeo-persian: E.N. Adler, jqr, 10 (1898), 584–626; J.P. Asmussen, Jewish Persian Texts (1968); W.J. Fischel, in: L. Finklestein (ed.), The Jews, Their History, Culture and Religion, 2 (19603), 1149–90; Mizrahi, The History of the Persian Jews and Their Poets (Heb., 1966; V.B. Moreen, In Queen Esther's Garden. An Anthology of Judeo-Persian literature, translated and with an introduction and notes (Yale Judaica Series), (2000); A. Netzer, Muntakhab-i aš‵ār-i fārisī az āthār-i yahūdiyān-i īrān (1352 Hijra, Solar); idem, the introduction to: Oẓar Kitvei ha-Yad shel Yehude Paras be-Makhon Ben-Zvi (Heb., 1985); J. Rosenwasser, in: The British Museum. Handlist of Persian Manuscripts, 18951966 (1966), 38–44; M. Seligsohn, in: jqr, 15 (1903), 278–301; E. Spicehandler, in: Studies in Bibliography and Booklore, 8 (1968), 114–36. studies in language and lexicon: J.P. Asmussen, in: Temenos, 5 (1969), 17–21; idem, in: K.R. Cama Oriental Institute Golden Jubilee Volume (1969), 93–102; G. Lazard, in: sbb, 8 (1968), 77–98 (Fr.; incl. bibl.); idem, La formation de la langue persane (1995); E. Mainz, in: Studia Iranica, 6 (1977), 75–95; A. Netzer, in: J. Dan (ed.), Tarbutve-Historiya (1987), 19–44; H.H. Paper, in: jaos, 87 (1967), 227–230; 88 (1968), 483–494; idem, in: Indo-Iranian Journal, 10 (1967–68), 56–71; L. Paul, Grammatical and Philological Studies on the Early Judeo-Persian Texts from the Cairo Geniza (unpublished habilitation thesis, Göttingen 2002); idem, in: Irano-Judaica, 5 (2003), 96–104; idem, in: Persian Origins (2003), 177–194; S. Shaked, in: Études irano-aryennes offertes à Gilbert Lazard (1989), 315–19; idem, in: Persian Origins (2003), 195–219. a. early judeo-persian: ghur tomb inscriptions: G. Gnoli, Le iscrizioni giudeo-persiane del Ġūr (Afghanistan)(Serie Orientale Roma, 3) (1964); E.L. Rapp, Die jüdisch-persischhebräischen Inschriften aus Afghanistan (1965); idem, Die persischehebräischen Inschriften Afghanestans aus dem 11. bis 13. Jahrhundert (1971); idem, in: Jahrbuch der Vereinigung "Freunde der Universität Mainz" (1973), 52–66; S. Shaked, in: Studies in Judaism and Islam Presented to S.D. Goitein (1981), 65–82; idem, in: Irano-Judaica, 6 (2006). tafsir of ezekiel: T. Gindin, in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 27 (2002), 396–418; idem, in: L. Paul (ed.), Persian Origins (2003), 15–30; idem, Early Judaeo-Persian: the Language of the Tafsīr of Ezekiel (unpub. doct. diss., Hebrew University 2004); D.N. MacKenzie, in: L. Paul (ed.), Persian Origins (2003), 103–10; S. Shaked, in: Studia grammatica iranica. Festschrift fuer H. Humbach (1986), 393–405. b. literature of the classical period: bible translations: Some major editions: P. Lagarde, Persische Studien (1884); H. Ethe, Die Psalmen im hebräischen Text mit persischer Übersetzung (1883); idem, in: Literaturblatt für orientalische Philologie, 1 (1883/84), 186–94; H.H. Paper, "The Vatican Judeo-Persian Pentateuch," in: Acta Orientalia 28 (1965), 363–140; 29 (1965/6), 75–181, 254–310; 31 (1968), 55–113; idem, A Judeo-Persian Pentateuch, Jerusalem (1972); idem, Biblia Judaeo-Persica: Editio Variorum (1973), republication with numerous corrections. studies and surveys of bible versions: General: W. Bacher, in: Jewish Encyclopaedia, 7 (1906), 313–24; W.J. Fischel, in: htr, 45 (1952), 3–45; P. Horn, in: Indo-germanische Forschungen, 2 (1893), 132–43; H.H. Paper, in: Studies in Bibliography and Booklore (1968), 99–113. Pentateuch: A. Kohut, Kritische Beleuchtung der persischen Pentateuchübersetzung des Jacob b. Joseph Tavus (1871). Psalms: J.P. Asmussen, in: AO, 30 (1966), 15–24; E.Z. Melammed, in: Sefunot, 9 (1964), 295–319; idem, Tafsir Tehillim bi-Leshon Yehudei Paras (1968). Proverbs: K.V. Zettersteen, in: zdmg, 54 (1900), 555–59. lexical works: W. Bacher, Ein hebräisch-persisches Wörterbuch aus dem vierzehnten Jahrhundert (1899–1900); idem, in: zdmg, 51 (1897), 392–425; idem, in: Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 16 (1896), 201–247; 17 (1897), 199–200. poetry (shĀhĪn, imrĀnĪ, etc.): J.P. Asmussen, in: Acta Orientalia, 28 (1965), 245–61; W. Bacher, Zwei jüdisch-persische Dichter, Schāhīn und Imrānī (1908); D. Blieske, Sāhīh-e Sirāzīs Ardašir-Buch (1966); W.J. Fischel, in: ks, vol. 9, 522–4; W.J. Fischel, in: Mélanges d'Orientalisme à Henri Massé (1963), 141–50; N. Mullaqandow and M. Rahimi (eds.), in: Šarqi surkh (1958), no. 3, 86–106; no. 4, 105–28; M. Rahimi, in: Madanijoti Togˇikiston (1958), no. 8, 12–7, cont. in: Šarqi surch (1964), no. 2, 101–13; H. Striedl, in: Forschungsberichte Marburger Kolloquium 1965 (1966), 119–33. On 'Imrani and the Fatḥ-nāme cf. also D. Yeroushalmi, in: Irano-Judaica 4 (1999), 223–250. new judeo-persian dialects: Different localities: S. Soroudi, in: Irano-Judaica (1982), 204–64; idem, in: Irano-Judaica, 2 (1990), 167–83; A. Netzer, Montakhab-e aš'ār-e fārsi (1973), 56–57; V.A. Zhukovskij, Obrazstsy persidskago narodnago tvorčestvo (1902), 131–34. Hamadan: R. Abrahamian, Dialectes des Israélites de Hamadan et d'Ispahan et dialecte de Baba Tahir, Paris (1936); H. Sahim, in: Irano-Judaica, 3 (1994), 171–81. Isfahan: I. Kalbāsī, Gūyeš-e kalīmiyān-e esfahān (1373 hs); A. Netzer, in: Irano-Judaica (1982), 180–203; idem, in: Miqqedem u-miyyam, 4 (1991), 179–98; Kashan: V.A. Zhukovskij, Materialy dlja izučenija persidskix narečij, 2 (1922), 390–94; Tajrish: V.A. Zhukovskij, Materialy dlja izučenija persidskikh narečij, 2 (1922), 395–98; Yazd: H. Homayoun, in: Yādnāme-ye Doktor Mehrdād-e Bahār, Tehran (1998), 686–706; idem, Gūyeš-e kalimiyāne yazd (2004). judeo-tajik (jewish bukharan): Language: T.Nöldeke, in: zdmg, 51 (1897), 548–53; S.A. Birnbaum, in: Archivum Linguisticum, 2 (1950), 60–73, 158–76; W. Sundermann, in: Mitteilungen des Instituts für Orientforschung, 11 (1965), 275–300. Literature: A. Yaari, in: Kirjath Sepher, 18 (1941/2), 282–97, 378–93; 19 (1942/3), 35–55, 116–39 (Heb.); W. Bacher, in: zdmg, 53 (1899), 389–427; C. Salemann, in: Mémoires de l'Académie Impériale des Sciences de St. Pétersbourg, 7è série, 42:14 (1897).

[Gilbert Lazard,

Walter Joseph Fischel, and

Herbert H. Paper /

Shaul Shaked (2nd ed.)]

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