Rebecca bat Meir Tiktiner
REBECCA BAT MEIR TIKTINER
REBECCA BAT MEIR TIKTINER (16th century), Yiddish author, probably from Prague. Two texts are attributed to her: Meneket Rivkah (Meynekes Rivko) ("The Nursemaid of Rebecca"), which was published posthumously in 1609, and Eyn Simkhas Touro Lid ("A Simḥat Torah Song"), to be sung by women in the synagogue.
While Rebecca bat Meir's place and date of birth are unknown, her tombstone inscription in Prague indicates that her learned father was from Tykocin, Poland. She probably acquired her knowledge of Hebrew and rabbinic literature in her childhood home. The inscription also relates that Rebecca "taught (or preached) day and night to women in every pious neighborhood." The titles, darshanit ve-rabbanit (preacher and teacher), with which she was eulogized on the title page of Meneket Rivkah, appear to be honorifics reflecting her instruction to women in Prague and elsewhere. Rebecca bat Meir was married; her husband is mentioned in her entry in the Memorbukh of the Altneushul as ha-rav rabbi, a title uncommon for an officiating rabbi in Prague.
Meneket Rivkah, published posthumously in Prague in 1609 (a second edition appeared in Cracow in 1618) and consisting of 36 folios, was written for a female readership, and belongs to the genre of Yiddish *musar literature. The book is divided into seven chapters, six of which deal with a particular domestic relationship in the life of a married woman (her husband, her parents, her parents-in-law, her children, her daughter-in-law, and servants and guests). In the first chapter, the author develops a comprehensive ethical system, in which she lists important profane and religious commandments related to the body. These include healthy nutrition and the laws of *niddah, labeled as ḥokhmat ha-guf (wisdom of the body), and the enumeration of social and practical-religious ideals and commandments, termed ḥokhmat ha-neshamah (wisdom of the soul).
Rebecca's many practical instructions paint a vivid picture of Jewish women's daily lives in the early modern period. They are accompanied by long homiletical and exegetical passages demonstrating her erudition. She provides biblical citations in Hebrew, as well as quotations from contemporary Hebrew and Yiddish musar literature. Rebecca also includes Yiddish adaptations of stories from the Talmud and midrash, and adopts terms and techniques of rabbinical exegesis. Meneket Rivkah is probably the first substantive published book in Yiddish written by a Jewish women. The only other extant Yiddish works by Jewish women from this period are personal supplicatory prayers (*tkhines). It is significant, too, because it contains homiletics and exegeses, genres which had hitherto been written exclusively by learned men.
Rebecca also wrote a rhymed Yiddish hymn for the holiday of Simḥat Torah, entitled Eyn Simkhas Touro Lid, which describes an eschatological, festive banquet for men and women alike. The poem, which survives in two separate undated 17th century printings, consists of 40 rhyming couplets (with acrostic), in which each verse is followed by the refrain hallelujah.
J. Baumgarten, Introduction to Old Yiddish Literature (2005), 273–74; J.C. Frakes, Early Yiddish Texts: 1100–1750 (2004), 510–19, 648–51; F. von Rohden (ed.), Rivkah bat Meir Tikotin, Meneket Rivkah: Introduction, Text and Translation (2007); Ch. Shmeruk. Sifrut Yidish be-Polin (1981), 56–69, 101–2.
[Frauke von Rohden (2nd ed.)]