Satanow, Isaac

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SATANOW, ISAAC (1732–1804), Hebrew writer, born in Satanov, Podolia. Satonow settled in Berlin in 1771 or 1772, where he served as the director of the printing press of the Ḥevrat Ḥinnukh Ne'arim ("Society for the Education of the Youth"). Among the most prolific of the early Haskalah writers, he did not restrict himself to any particular literary field, but wrote in most of those genres used by the later Haskalah writers. Although an exponent of the Jewish enlightenment of 18th-century Berlin, he displayed an affinity for Jewish mysticism. Between 1780 and 1784 he traveled several times to Galicia, where he was involved in printing the kabbalistic book Eẓ Ḥayyim (1785), attributed to R. Isaac Luria. Satanow demonstrated a wealth of knowledge of the Hebrew language, ranking as a model stylist throughout the Haskalah period. He ascribed several of his works to earlier writers, and consequently used fictitious names for the authors of the recommendations for his own books and of their forewords. His books include Sefer ha-Shorashim or Hebraeisch-Deutsches Lexicon, one of his major works, which was a Hebrew-German dictionary and thesaurus in two parts; a number of books of liturgy, Tefillah mi-Kol ha-Shanah al Pi Kelalei ha-Dikduk (1785), Haggadah shel Pesaḥ (1785); and Seliḥot (1785); as well as Mishlei Asaf and Zemirot Asaf (4 vols., 1789–1802), collections of proverbs in imitation of the Book of Proverbs. (Satanow adopted the pseudonym "Asaf" from the acrostic for "Itzik Satanow.") In the last, his best-known work, the peak of his imitative ability is displayed, and, at the same time, the finest expression of his own sentiments and thoughts. The work, attributed to the biblical Asaph son of Berechiah, is written in the style of Proverbs and Psalms. In his Zohar Taniana (1783), Nevu'at Yeled (1793), and Imrei Bina (1784), he tried to build a bridge between the mystical world of Kabbalah and the rationalistic views of the Haskalah.

Satanow grappled with the problem of the use of biblical and post-biblical Hebrew. In his book Iggeret Beit Tefillah (1773), a work on prayers and liturgy, he classified every word that he explained as either "Hebrew" or "talmudic," and proceeded to clarify this question at other opportunities as well. He may have been the first Hebrew writer who sought to break out of the strict framework of biblical style, although he himself was very adept in the biblical style called meliẓah. Hence he demanded that new words be coined; in Iggeret Beit Tefillah he complains that the vocabulary of biblical Hebrew had not preserved its great lexical range.


J. Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (1952), 165–77; Zinberg, Sifrut, 5 (1959), 118–22; G. Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 490–3; S. Werses, in: Tarbiz, 32 (1963), 370–92. add. bibliography: M. Pelli, Isaac Satanow's "Mishlei Asaf" as Reflecting the Ideology of the German Hebrew Haskalah (1972); idem, Kiryat Sefer 54 (1979), 817–24; idem, The Age of Haskalah (1979), 151–70; N. Rezler-Bersohn, in: yblbi 25 (1980), 81–100; S. Werses, Haskalah ve-Shabta'ut (1988), 33–38; M. Pelli, Be-Ma'avakei Temurah, 83–139; R. Horwitz, in: ylbi 45 (2000), 3–24.

[Getzel Kressel;

Noam Zadoff (2nd ed.)]