Senior Lecturer in Persian Language and Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Tale of Yūsuf and Zulaykhā was enormously popular across various genres of classical Persian literature, from the qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā prose collections to narrative poems. It also gained wide recognition within Persian-speaking Jewish communities, due very much to its versification by the Judeo-Persian poet Shāhīn as part of his voluminous religious-epic poem, Bereshit-nāma (Book of Genesis). Composed in classical Persian with an admixture of Hebraisms and written in Hebrew characters, the poem was completed in 1359. Notwithstanding general scholarly agreement about Shāhīn’s reliance on Islamic Persian sources, their exact nature and patterns of use have yet to be unraveled. The present paper explores a possible connection between the Judeo-Persian version and the poem Yūsuf-u Zulaykhā, which was erroneously attributed to Firdausī and most likely composed in the late 11th – early 12th centuries. I offer an examination of a string of episodes which concludes the narrative and relates Zulaykhā’s meeting with Yaʿqūb, Yūsuf’s father, and the change of her fate. The inquiry shows that Shāhīn fashioned unique amalgams of Jewish and Perso-Islamic traditions, thoroughly entrenching himself in a Persianate cultural sphere.