Tag Archives: Diary

Jew of the Week: Gluckel of Hameln

The Woman Who Transformed Yiddish Literature and History

Gluckel (or Glikl) bat Yehuda Leib (c. 1646-1724) was born in Hamburg to a wealthy, influential, and deeply religious Ashkenazi family. Although all Jews were expelled from Hamburg in 1649, her father was given permission to return because he was so highly respected by the German authorities. Gluckel was given a strong education, and got married at age 14 to Chaim of Hameln. The young family soon started a successful diamond and pearl business. When her beloved husband passed away, Gluckel took over the business. She became famous as one of the few women in Europe that ran her own sprawling enterprise, and that travelled alone to trade fairs and through European markets. She still took care of all 13 of her children! Gluckel eventually remarried, reluctantly, to a banker named Cerf Levy. Two years later, Levy lost his fortune, and wasted Gluckel’s too. After 12 years of marriage, Levy died and left Gluckel a widow for the second time. She slowly recovered from her losses, and lived out the rest of her life in relative solitude. Most significant for historians, Gluckel kept a detailed diary for many years, providing us with an inside look into both European and Ashkenazi Jewish life of the 17th and 18th centuries. The seven journals she wrote touch on important themes and describe key historical events, and are considered among the greatest Yiddish literary works of all time. One of Gluckel’s great-granddaughters was (former Jew of the Week) Bertha Pappenheim, who produced a German translation of Gluckel’s diaries (and is also the woman in the portrait at right, where she dressed up as Gluckel). The translation was hugely popular, and an English version was produced in 1932, as well as a fictional adaptation in 1941, and a newer translation in 2019. Another one of Gluckel’s grandchildren was renowned rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. In 2016, a street in Hamburg where she lived as a child was named after her (Glückel von Hameln Straße). Her yahrzeit is on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Shana Tova u’Metuka! Happy 5783!

17 Rosh Hashanah Facts Every Jew Should Know

7 Tips for Rosh Hashanah New Year’s Resolutions

The Origins and Meaning of Tashlich

Words of the Week

These are days of judgment as to whether we deserve anything. We only have a chance of encountering God when we allow Him into everything and educate ourselves to recognize Him in all we receive. Everything is a miracle, pure gifts we did nothing to merit: to live, to breathe, to eat and drink, to think, to laugh, to enjoy our friends and families… Rosh Hashanah is a day that protests the claim that we deserve anything. We stand naked before God and try to make ourselves at least slightly deserving of all these gifts by admitting that everything is a miracle.
– Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Jew of the Week: the Chida

Chaim Yosef David Azulai (1724-1807) more commonly known as the Chida (derived from his initials), was born in Jerusalem to a family with a long line of rabbis. From childhood he showed amazing proficiency in Jewish study, and learned under the great Torah scholars of the day. His name was soon well-known across the Jewish community of the Holy Land, and before he was 30, the Chida was selected to be the community’s emissary to Europe. He would go on several international trips to raise support and funds for the Jews in Israel (long before the start of the Zionist movement). Two of these trips lasted over 5 years each, and took him across Africa and Europe. Many credit him with sustaining the small Jewish community of Israel, which would have otherwise been extinguished by various Turkish and Arab warlords. During his travels he made sure to visit any ancient libraries he came across, and diligently studied their manuscripts, which earned him fame as a great scholar of all subjects. Meanwhile, he was able to publish roughly 70 different works on Judaism (writing his first book at age 16), ranging from Jewish law and scriptural commentaries to prayer books, mysticism and Kabbalah. His works are also important to secular scholars, as the Chida recorded a detailed diary during his trips around the world, giving historians an eyewitness account of the 18th-century. His incredible travels included a meeting with the Sultan of Turkey and King Louis XVI of France, a stint as Chief Rabbi of Cairo, as well as some dangerous encounters with the Knights of Malta and the Russian Navy. By the end of his life, he was considered a saint by both Jews and non-Jews alike.

Lag B’Omer is This Saturday Night!

Words of the Week

Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done. But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in more light.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe