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Bidding Information
Lot #    29318
Auction End Date    1/25/2011 1:17:30 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Masekhet Derekh Erez ha-Hadashah; Mahzor Katan
Title (Hebrew)    מסכת דרך ארץ החדשה: מחזור קטן
Author    [Parody] Abraham ben Michael Kotler
City    Warsaw
Publisher    Eliezer Isaac Shapira
Publication Date    1898
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   Partial first edition. Portrait, [2], 5-39 pp. plus wrappers, octavo 194:142 mm., usual age staining, wide margins. A good copy loose in later boards, rubbed, original wrappers bound-in.
   Two irreverent parodies by Abraham ben Michael Kotler, a Russian Maskil from Kovno, the “master of parody”. The first, Masekhet Derekh Erez ha-Hadashah is described on the title page as being with Rashi and Tosafot. Kotlar is currently in Clevland, Ohio. There are three approbations, one describing the work as being sharp arrows and wondrous contradictions to the hearts of our brothers in America. The text is arranged like a tractate of Talmud, the text in square letters in the middle, Rashi and tosafot on the sides in rabbinic type. The Mishnah begins “a’masi (when) do we begin to come to America? The elders when they become weak . . .” to which Rashi comments this means when the strength of the elders lessens to famine.” Kotlar mocks the situation of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the United States, which he himself having immigrated to the USA in 1888 only knew too well. All topics typical for Jewish American immigrant literature can be found in the text: the cultural shock of the “green” immigrants, poor living conditions, tenement houses, sweat-shops, street-gangs, fights and love affairs between misses and boarder and many more. What gives this literary masterpiece its extraordinary esprit, however, is less its content than the combination of content and form: The parody imitates style, layout (including Rashi-commentary and Tosafot), and (Hebrew) language of the Talmud. It often uses original quotes from different talmudic tractates and either gives them new meaning by putting them in a different context or by adding or omitting parts of sentences. – For the better understanding it should be noted that a talmudic parody never makes fun of the Talmud. It uses its form, language and way of thinking to deal with (in most cases) a certain political or economical situation. Attached to Masekhet Derekh Erez ha-Hadashah is Mahzor Katan, not previously winted with the former work, which includes a Haggadah for Pesah according to the American Nusah and Akdamot.

Kotlar’s parodies had its critical readers and admirers – a small elite of mostly Eastern European Mascilic Jews like Kotlar himself, trying to save as much of their tradition and classical Hebrew as possible while at the same time opening up to their new life in the United States. Kotlar earned his living with a bookshop, selling traditional as well as modern literature in both Hebrew and Yiddish. His shop also served as centre and meeting-place for talmudic scholars and intellectuals in the beginning of the 20th century.

Kotlars parody lost its readership. And so far it has attracted only poor scholarly attention (an excerpt of the text, however, has been translated into English by David Stern and found its way into the Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature, 2001). Although the early immigrant literature is of high interest to many scholars today, many of them are not fit or willing to indulge in a talmudic tractate that not only requires knowledge of talmudic Hebrew and a feeling for the method of argumentation of the Talmud, but also a profound knowledge of Yiddish vocabulary and grammar, of English with the typical ill-pronunciation of Eastern European speakers, and of other languages such as German, Russian, and Humor.

Paragraph 2    מחזור קטן; עם הוספות רבות...

הוצאה זו כוללת שבעה פרקים. עמ' [6-3]: מכתבי תהילה מאת צדוק כהן, פאריס, 14.12.1898 (בצרפתית ובגרמנית);
1898 .Dec 9 ,Paris ,Universelle Israelite Alliance . חתום: Mifan (בצרפתית ובגרמנית);
ד"ר אהרן קאהן, קליבלנד, 23.4.1899 (באנגלית); שמואל בנימין שווארצבערג, נוי-יארק;
אברהם משה לונץ, ירושלים, כא טבת תרנ"ט.
שני הדפים הללו נדפסו על נייר שונה [ניו-יורק תרנ"ט].
עמ' 6: "'מסכת דרך ארץ החדשה' הופיעה כבר על ידי בשנת תרנ"א [בשכועון "פאלקס פריינד"], עוד בטרם עלתה 'מסכת אמעריקא' על דעת מחברה [גרשון ראזענצווייג], להוציאה לאור [נויארק 1892]".
עמ' 39-21, עם שער מיוחד: "מחזור קטן; כולל 'הגדה' לפסח לפי נוסח אמעריקא, 'אקדמות'... ו'פיוטים' לראש השנה ולכל השנה (עם פירוש מטה יהודה)". חלק זה מנוקד.

   BE mem 2537; Davidson, Parody, p. 227 no. 142; CD-EPI 0162613; http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/jewishst/CJS_Grad_Conf_bio_papers.htm
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Listing Classification
20th Century:    Checked
Russia-Poland:    Checked
Parody:    Checked
First Editions:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica