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The Jewish Don Quixote

October 4, 2012 | By

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Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote is considered one of the greatest books of all time. So it’s no surprise that the epic is subject to plenty of parodies and spoofs, including a Jewish version, written by one of the founders of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature, Shalom Yakov Abramowich, commonly known by the name of his most famous character, Mendele the Book Peddler.

In Abramowich’s novella The Brief Travels of Benjamin the Third, we’re told the story of two “fools” from a poor Jewish town who get the travel bug in a major way—yearning  to find the Jewish kingdom that they have read about in the legends of the Ten Lost Tribes.

But like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Benjamin and his crony Sendrel don’t make it very far. In fact, they barely make it past their own town limits before falling into hijinx after hijinx.

The title of the book itself refers to a well-known travelogue by the medieval Spanish-Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, making Benjamin the Third a book steeped in the influence of other texts.

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