Ẓe'enah U-Re'enah

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated


ẒE'ENAH U-RE'ENAH (Heb. צְאֶנָה וּרְאֶנָה; lit. "Come and See"; Yid. pronunciation Tsenerene; title taken from the Song of Songs, 3:11), an exegetical rendering in Yiddish of the Pentateuch, the haftarot, and the Five Scrolls. Composed at the end of the 16th century by Jacob b. Isaac *Ashkenazi, it gained universal acceptance among Ashkenazi Jewry. Used primarily by women as reading matter on the Sabbath, it has retained its great popularity up to the present day. The work consists of discourses on selected topics or passages from the weekly portion of the Pentateuch, the haftarot, and the Scrolls, the method used being a combination of peshat ("literal exegesis") and derash ("free interpretation"), interwoven with legends from the Midrash and other sources, stories, and topical comments on moral behavior. The author used numerous sources of which some are cited by name, including *Rashi, Baḥya b. *Asher, and *Naḥmanides. It seems, however, that the major source was the commentary on the Torah by Baḥya; a considerable part of the interpretative material was taken directly from that commentary, rather than from the original sources, and the construction of the interpretative passages in Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah also bears a striking resemblance to that employed by Baḥya. No definitive study has yet been made of the sources employed by the author and the manner in which he made use of them; it is clear, however, that he edited and adapted them at will. Generally he avoids the kabbalistic or philosophical passages that are found in his sources; he uses Yiddish throughout (rather than quoting the Hebrew original) and his aim is to provide an easily comprehensible interpretation, interspersed with story elements.

Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah became a book for women, but this, notwithstanding the feminine form of its name, was not the original intention: the frontispiece on the oldest extant edition states that "this work is designed to enable men and women… to understand the word of God in simple language." Like Meliẓ Yosher, the other homiletic work by the author, it aimed at both men and women. The date and place of publication of the first edition of Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah are not known; the oldest existing edition – of 1622 – is from Basle (although it was actually printed in Hanau); the frontispiece of this edition reveals that it was preceded by at least three other editions, one printed in Lublin and the other two in Cracow, and that by 1622 these earlier editions were already out of print. Over 210 editions have since appeared, first in Central Europe, then in Eastern Europe, and finally also in the U.S. and Israel.

The various early editions show few linguistic differences, but in the 18th-century editions these became so numerous that Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah became a kind of laboratory for the Yiddish language. The 19th-century editions also contain textual variations, which sometimes bear the imprint of a particular ideological trend in Judaism (mainly of Haskalah and Ḥasidism). Various parts of Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah were translated into other languages. The first was a translation into Latin of the weekly portion, Bereshit, by Johannes Saubertus (Helmstadt, 1660, cited in Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. iii, 474). The Book of Genesis was translated into English by Paul Isaac Hershon (London, 1855), as was the Book of Exodus, by Norman C. Gore (n.y., 1965). There are two German translations of Genesis, one by Sol Goldsmidt, published in Mitteilungen zur Juedischen Volkskunde (Vienna, 1911–14) and the other by Bertha Pappenheim (Frankfurt, 1930); the chapter "Destruction of the Temple" (which in Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah follows the Scroll of Lamentations) was also translated into German by Alexander Eliasberg (Berlin, 1921). There are also many adaptations of Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah, varying in the degree of their faithfulness to the original, such as Tsenerena in Nayer Bearbaytung, by Judah ha-Kohen Kraus (Pecs (?), 1891); Tsenerena, Kommet und Shaut!, by David Schweitzer (Fuerth, 1861); and Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah by Herz Homburg, which did not see print and parts of which were recently discovered in manuscript. The title "Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah" was also used for various works, one of these a sort of anthology on subjects from the Pentateuch, by Emmanuel Hecht (St. Wendell, 1862?); another is a collection of sermons by Liebman Adler (Chicago, 1887). These two works were written in German; there is also a French-language "Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah," a textbook on the weekly portion and the haftarot, by Alexander Créhange (Paris, 1846).

Sefer ha-Maggid, a Yiddish work on the Prophets and Hagiographa similar in nature to the Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah, was also attributed to Ashkenazi; however it has now been conclusively proven that he was not the author (see Lieberman, bibl.).


M. Erik, Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Literatur (1928), 223–30; Ch. Shmeruk, in: For Max Weinreich on his Seventieth Birthday (1964); J. Prijs, Die Basler hebraeischen Drucke (1964); Ch. Lieberman, in: Yidishe Shprakh, 26 (1966), 33–38; 29 (1969), 73–76. add. bibliography: M. Heyd, in: jja, 10 (1984), 64–86; J. Baumgarten, in: rej 144, 1–3 (1985), 305–10; J.P. Schultz, in: Judaism, 36, 1 (1987), 84–96; J. Carlebach, in: L'Eylah, 23 (1987), 42–47; D.S. Bilik, in: Jewish Book Annual, 51 (1993), 96–111; J. Ferrer, in: Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century i (1999), 43–50.

[Chava Turniansky]