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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife$
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Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774730

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774730.001.0001

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The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk

The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk

(p.7) In Pre-War Poland The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

Ariela Krasney

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses 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. It examines, first, the badkhn's techniques of expression and, second, 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.

Keywords:   Jewish entertainer, badkhn, bimah, Jewish weddings, oral performance, written literature, Jewish society, Judaism, halakhic mitsvot

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