Isaac Satanow

Isaac Satanow (born at Satanow, Poland (currently in Ukraine), 1733; died in Berlin, Germany, 25 December 1805) was a Polish Jewish scholar and poet.


In early manhood he left his native country and went to Berlin in search of learning. There he became the protégé of Daniel Itzig and David Friedländer, who found him employment as a teacher in some prominent families.[1]

Satanow represents a peculiar type. Like Byron, he was, both physically and mentally, a conglomeration of contrasts. He dressed in the garb of the Polish Jew of the period, yet was a thorough German in his actions and habits. Though Orthodox in his beliefs, he nevertheless favored Reform in practise. He was one of the greatest authorities on Jewish tradition and lore, yet he was one of the most free-thinking of philosophers. He was a shrewd physicist and an inspired poet; a realist and an idealist.[1]


In his Mishle Asaf, he so blended the style of the Bible with modern fine writing that the critics of his time were at a loss how to characterize the work. Some were inclined to revere it as a relic of antiquity, while others attacked the author as a literary charlatan who desired to palm off his own work as a production of the ancient writers. Rabbi Joseph ben Meir Teomim gave a clever criticism :

"I do not really know to whom to ascribe these sayings [of the "Mishle Asaf"]; it may be the publisher himself has composed them; for I know him to be a plagiarist. He, however, differs from the rest of that class in this respect, that they plagiarize the works of others and pass them for their own, while he plagiarizes his own works and passes them for those of others."[1]

While writing his Mishle Asaf, a work in which noble thoughts are expressed in the choicest diction, he did not disdain at the same time to write a treatise on how to drill holes through three hundred pearls in one day and how to mix successfully different kinds of liquors. Even in the most earnest and solemn of his writings there can always be detected an undercurrent of the most playful humor.[1]

Satanow as a poet belongs to two distinctly different schools. In his earlier works he followed the theory of the old school, which considered plays on words, great flourish of diction, and variegated expressions as the essential requirements of good poetry; but in his later works he used the simple, forceful style of the Biblical writers, and he may be justly styled "the restorer of Biblical poetry." It is sufficient to compare his "Eder ha-Yeḳar" and "Sefer ha-Ḥizzayon" with his "Mishle Asaf" to see at a glance the difference in style.[1]

Among Satanow's most important works are the following:


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6  Rosenthal, Herman; Gottlieb, Julius (1901–1906). "Satanow, Isaac Ha-Levi". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Satanow, Isaac Ha-Levi. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. Retrieved December 13, 2011.


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 7/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.