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Joy of the soul – Simchat ha-Nefesh – שמחת הנפש



Jud. Germ. 871


Elchanan Henele Kirchhahn



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Joy of the soul – Simchat ha-Nefesh – שמחת הנפש

From the exhibition "Yiddish and Jewish-German Prints: The collection Judaeo Germanica"

von Tekle Ekvtimishvili, Kerstin von der Krone, Marie-Luise Schmidt

Simchat ha-Nefesh by Elchanan Henele Kirchhahn (1666–1757) was a eighteenth century Yiddish best seller which saw at least 27 editions from 1707 till the early twentieth century. Written in a Western Yiddish dialect, Simchat ha-Nefesh addressed those who did not follow the commandment of Torah study but sought moral guidance. Like many moral and religious books in Yiddish, they were meant for everyday use, serving its readers as a faithful companion. The book presented here is the first part of Simchat ha-Nefesh. The second part, a songbook, was only published once. Simchat ha-Nefesh is a complex work, as Nathanael Riemer has emphasized. Kirchhahn not only provides moral guidance with medical and halachic advice, he also reflects critically on contemporary Jewish life, on state of moral behavior and religious practice or the lack thereof. Kirchhahn's texts merge different genres and text modes, narrative elements, parables, words of wisdom and moral guidance. Beside the first edition published in 1707 Frankfurt am Main the University Library Frankfurt holds various other editions, including prints from Amsterdam (1723), Fürth (1726/27), Slutzbach (1796/97), Dyhernfurth (1804/05), Warsaw (1901/1902) and New York (1926). While the copy presented here has no visible evidence of former owners, the editions from Amsterdam and Fürth once belonged to the private collection of Baron Carl Wilhelm von Rothschild and the edition printed in Dyhernfurth was previously owned by Abraham Berliner.

Originally this text was published as part of the online exhibition Jewish Books & Jewish Collections: Treasures of the University Library Frankfurt on the occasion of the 12th Congress of the European Association for Jewish Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, July 2023.


Elhanan Hendel Kirchhan, ספר שמחת הנפש: המקיימו אלהים ואנשים. Sefer Simchat ha-Nefesh: Ha-mekeimo Elohim we-Anashim, Frankfurṭ am Main: [1707]. Yiddish | Call Number: Jud. Germ. 871 | Digital copy via Frankfurt's Digital Judaica Collections.