Toldos Yesh"u is a medevil polemical Hebrew text or related texts that describe a story of Yesh"u ha Notsri. It is not cerain when first written but scholars guess anywhere from 500 to 1000 CE. I want to know if this text was read on Nittel Nacht.

The tradition of not studying Torah or Mishneh on Nittel is well established:

Chasam Sofer 7:31; Makor Chaim of Chavos Yair 155; So was the custom of many Jewish communities including: Rav Yonason Eibashitz, Rav Yaakov Emden that so is custom of all Geonim, Rav Yisrael Salanter, Maharsha, Maharam Schick and others. See Nitei Gavriel Chanukah p. 385

Because Toldos is NOT Torah or Mishneh Torah or anything passed from the sages one assumes it ok to be read and indeed I suspect it seemed fitting at that time of the year. But I want to know for sure if this is a real minhag. To me it seems like no Torah study on Nittel is a real Minhag and reading Toldos came in response. But please prove to me this is a real custom or was. All I can find are Christian source quoted here http://thetorah.com/nittel-nacht-an-inverted-christmas-with-toledot-yeshu/

"A similar description appears about half a century earlier in the writings of Johannes Pfefferkorn (1469-1523),[3] and a few decades later, in those of Julius Conrad Otto (1562-1607)[4] and Samuel Friederich Brentz (converted in 1601),[5] all Jewish converts to Christianity. All three cases add that on Christmas Eve, Jews were accustomed to publically relate the story of Jesus, that is to say, they read the popular Jewish narrative Toledot Yeshu (“Life of Jesus”), also familiar as Ma‘aseh Toleh (“The Tale of the Hanged One”).
Former Jews attacking Judaism are the ones supplying this info, so I think it should be questioned.

Source: Ora Limor, “Judaism Examines Christianity: The Polemic of Nestor the Priest and Toledot Yeshu” (Hebrew), Pe‘amim 75 (1998): p. 116.

There is one Jewish author which theorizes in perhaps what is only only a suggestion: "Sarit Kattan Gribetz suggests that Toledot Yeshu was cast in the same literary mold as the Scroll of Esther, and like it, was publicly read on particular occasions, such as Purim and Christmas Eve."

Source: Sarit Kattan Gribetz, “Hanged and Crucified: The Book of Esther and Toledot Yeshu,” in Toledot Yeshu (“The Life of Jesus”) Revisited: A Princeton Conference, eds. P. Schäfer, M. Meerson and Y. Deutsch (Tübingen, 2011), p. 176. For a similar claim, see Herbert W. Basser, “The Acts of Jesus,” in The Frank Talmage Memorial Volume, ed. B. Walfish, vol. 1 (Haifa, 1993), p. 276.


1 Answer 1


I found one place where this minhag is mentioned:

ישנם שנהגו לקרא ביום זה את ספר תולדות ישו, ספר עברי מימי הביניים המוקדמים שגם תורגם ליידיש, המציג את קורותיו של ישו בצורה לעגנית. כמו כן הופיע במאה ה-19 "מגילת ניטל", המגוללת את קורות ישו, ומיוחסת לאחד מתלמידי החת"ם סופר שהעתיק אותה מכתבים שהיה מונחים אצל רבו.[17]

  1. ספר מנהג אבותינו בידינו מאמר ממנהג לבטל מלימוד תורה בליל ניטל: ומצורף בתוכו מגילת ניטל 2008

Translation: There are those who have the custom on this day to read the book Toledot Yeshu, a Hebrew book from the early Middle Ages that is also translated into Yiddish, it displays the chronicles of Yeshu in a scoffing manner. Similarly in the 1900s “Megillat Nitel” appears which tells the story of Yeshu, and is attributed to one of the students of the Chasam Sofer who copied it from writings of his teacher.”

From the Sefer Minhag Avoteinu Beyadeinu 2008.

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    shkoiach on the answer - just FYI there are many users on the site who don't speak / can't read Hebrew so you would vastly improve your answer if you provided a translation.
    – Dov
    May 17, 2022 at 7:09
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    @Dov I edited it, maybe I should translate professionally lol you’re starting a career for me. May 17, 2022 at 12:56
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    It's not a bad career!! Pls note I just formatted the quote as per the preferred mi yodeya guidelines. Keep on shteiging!
    – Dov
    May 17, 2022 at 17:18

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