THE best modern collection of Jewish proverbs is Rabbinische Blumenlese (Leipzig, 1844), and Zur rabbinischen Spruchkunde (Wien, 1851), by Leopold Dukes. The original sayings are given in alphabetical order with translation and explanatory notes. Many Hebrew maxims of individual Rabbis are also included in his list. My indebtedness to Dukes’ work is very great, although I frequently differ from him in translation and interpretation. I have also been able to fill up several lacunae in his book. Every Rabbinic reference has been examined and rectified where incorrect.
Not to have classified the proverbs under their subjects is a great drawback to the usefulness of Dukes’ work. Dr. M. Lewin in his Aramaische Sprichworter und Volksspruche (Frankfurt, 1895) has attempted a classification. His collection is, however, very defective, seeing that the Midrashic sources have been all but ignored. He has, moreover, frequently copied the references from Dukes without verifying them. But the book is not without its use. His textual variants are of value. I have ventured a fresh classification based upon Dr. Lewin’s, but with numerous deviations and, it is hoped, improvements.
Much assistance has been derived from Jastrow’s Talmudic Dictionary, and the Beth Vaad Lachachamim, by Rabbi A. Hyman, has proved of good service in locating Rabbinic quotations. The English parallels, which I have tried to make as full as possible, are largely drawn from the Book of Quotations by W. Gurney Benham, section Proverbs, pp. 739-889.
The texts only are proverbs. In the comments I have quoted Rabbinic maxims and aphorisms, mostly Hebrew, illustrating the proverb in question.
Many may think that the usefulness of this work is greatly minimised by my not printing the originals. My reason for omitting them is that I desire to interest a class of reader which would, undoubtedly, be repelled by a book containing passages in an unknown language printed in strange characters. The original texts are certainly of the highest importance for the study of the language of Palestine, and I may at some future date prepare a critical edition of them. For the present my purpose will have been fulfilled, if this little book imparts to the English reader some knowledge of the life and thought of the Jewish people, at the commencement of the present era.