Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-84b7d79bbc-g78kv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-25T19:34:40.069Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk

from IN PRE-WAR POLAND

Ariela Krasney
Affiliation:
holds a doctorate in Yiddish literature from Bar Ilan University.
Michael C. Steinlauf
Affiliation:
Gratz College Pennsylvania
Antony Polonsky
Affiliation:
Brandeis University, Massachusetts
Get access

Summary

INTRODUCTION

IN this chapter I discuss two key roles of the traditional Jewish entertainer known as the badkhn: as a performer on the wedding stage (bimah) at Jewish weddings and as the author of published versions of such performances. My goal is to examine, first, the badkhn's techniques of expression and, secondly, the process through which, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, the badkhn's work began to move from oral performance to written literature.

The badkhn first emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages alongside comparable artists among other peoples. As Jewish society and Judaism evolved from the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, the badkhn adapted himself to the changing conditions. By the nineteenth century his identity had crystallized into that of a figure with two faces: one of riotous, chaotic, topsy-turvy jesting, rooted in ancient sacrificial traditions surrounding the god Dionysus and evincing a tendency towards social subversiveness; and the other of conservative, learned discourse rooted in the fixed system of halakhic mitsvot and serving as a mouthpiece for them.

The popular poetry of the badkhonim is noted for its simplicity, the language closely identified with the spoken idiom of ordinary people. Yet at the foundation of the badkhn's poetry the holy, elevated language of the Bible is present in varying degrees. Alongside the prosaic features of this poetry are the repetitive sounds of rhyme, a widespread by-product of the strong rhythms that characterize oral art.

The art of the badkhn could not be expressed in isolation. It was meaningless without the participation in the artist's performance of those watching and hearing him. Because the encounter between the badkhn and his audience occurred at specific special events—family gatherings or holidays—the audience usually gathered for the event and not specifically to see the badkhn. None the less, the badkhn usually led the event and was at the centre of the celebration, though the audience was also active, often no less than the badkhn. Consequently, the badkhn had two possible approaches, not entirely distinct from each other, to participating in the event: he could allow himself to be swept up by the celebration and spontaneously follow the needs of his audience, their wishes and mood, or he could organize the event at the outset and play a more central role in determining its course.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2003

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×