Thursday, October 08, 2009

Spinoza and Eybeschutz

Whilst browsing through the 16th volume of Louis Mayeul Chaudon's Dictionnaire universel, historique, critique, et bibliographique (1812) I came across this gallery of portraits:

It's a little different from other portraits of him that I'd seen.

In any case, my friend Chaim directed me to an interesting book from 1834, the Gallerie der ausgeziechneten Israeliten aller Jahrhunderte, ihre Portraits und Biographien, which I guess is like a coffee table book from that time. If someone is waiting in your living room, they can look through it and see pictures of Jewish heroes. It has the same portrait, better reproduced:

In this book there are portrait of Moshe Rabbenu, Moses Mendelssohn, Heine, Gabriel Riesser, early clock-maker and computing-maskil Abraham Stern and others.


Abraham Stern:

Finally, and seemingly oddly, R. Yonasan Eybeschutz:

The author of Ya'aros Devash and Urim ve-thummim would seem odd coffee-book-fellows with Spinoza, of all people. Certainly this ought to strike one as a contemporary picture book with pictures of Woody Allen, Einstein, Joe Lieberman and the Chazon Ish would. But I guess this just goes to show that for all the stiff-collardness of 1830s Central European Reform Jews, the fact is that R. Yonasan Eybeschutz only lived a scant generation or two earlier and you just didn't shake the recent past so easily.

I'm reminded of the first edition of the Encylopedia Judaica, produced around 1970s. In it just about all the contemporary posekim and Charedi rabbis of note are included. In the recent 2nd edition of the Encylopedia, Rabbi Elyashiv is not mentioned once, let alone having an entry. There's an entry on R. Moshe Feinstein (but it was probably in the first edition), but none on R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (who, granted, should have had one in the first edition, but surely became far more notable in the 35 years since). In fact, most likely today's coffee table gallery of GreatJews wouldn't have the Chazon Ish at all. What a pity.

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