Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jewish Folktales


  Many of the characteristic elements of Jewish folk tradition can be found in many similar traditions. Religious motifs and religious lessons are very common in many traditions, be it classical Christian tales, or traditional Chinese religious tales, the vast majority of tales have some sort of religious basis. The one characteristic of Jewish folk tradition that is rather unique from most others is that it is a diaspora based tradition.
Jewish tales take place almost exclusively in other cultures, very few take place in the Jewish Holy land. This gives each tale a blending sort of element, it is never solely a Jewish tale but its a Spanish-Sephardi Jewish tale or a Russian-Ashkenazi Jewish tale, and as such we get to see how Jewish motifs interact with other regional motifs.

The Rabbi and the Inquisitor for example very clearly could not equally take place in any region, it is definitely a Spanish tale. It takes place in a land where Christianity is prevalent and even more there is an inquisition against the Jewish people. These are clearly Spanish theme that are pivotal to the story as a whole.
Seville, Spain
Chelm, Poland

In comparison, Chelm Justice could not be a Spanish tale. It is in every way a Polish tale, taking place under the corrupt Chelm Justice system that plagued Poland. Moreover, the style of story is much more similar to the other stories we have read from eastern Europe, while The Rabbi and the Inquisitor is more similar to the western European stories.
Jewish motifs of punishment and justice are clear in both these tales.

While these stories are each distinctly different based upon there location, it is clear the Jewish element in them as well. Chelm Justice and The Rabbi and the Inquisitor are both stories filled with Jewish motifs. They are both punishment stories, and both rather deal with an unfair justice system. These stories are clearly members of the same family but at the same time members of different families.

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