Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ashkenazi ibns; R .Elazar Fleckeles and Isaac Leeser.

This is an addendum to my Hirschel Lewin post. I had intended to include this tangent in that post, but it deserves its own one.

In examining Rabbi Elazar Fleckeles's Ahavas David I was surprised to see that on his title page he wrote his name אלעזר ן' דוד, see:

I then noticed that he did this in all his books. Writing the name like that implies Elazar ibn David (or Aben David, see this post). Such a convention is commonly found among Jews of Sephardic descent, but not Ashkenazim. It seemed evident that Rabbi Fleckeles was being . . . fancy? Affectatious? Still, it was interesting.

It also reminded me that a number of years ago I made what was to me a shocking discovery. I learned that Isaac Leeser's surname as he wrote it in Hebrew was ן' אליעזר, get it? Leeser = Eliezer, or more precisely "ibn Eliezer." Eliezer wasn't his father, but a grandfather or even an older ancestor. As you can see below (in the title page of a siddur he published in 1848) his name was יצחק בן אורי ן' אליעזר.

When I realized this, I instantly thought "Aha! Isaac Leeser was descended from Sephardim, then." Which was theoretically possible, as there were Sephardic communities in Hamburg and Amsterdam, and he served as Hazzan and de facto rabbi in an American Sephardic congregation. But what a slender reed for such an assumption! In fact, I think he was just being fancy, just like Rabbi Fleckeles probably was.

Here is a rare miniature portrait of Leeser, painted by James Peale in 1840:


  1. Presumably painted before Leeser's smallpox attack?

  2. Actually it was after. He had smallpox in 1833. I guess you didn't pay someone to paint you in all the unflattering detail.

    By the way, although I copied this from what should be a reliable source (it certainly is labeled Leeser) and James Peale did do a miniature of him, I find this so dissimilar to other (later) portraits that I have my doubts if this isn't the wrong one.

  3. What year was Ahavat David written?! Holy cow! (I mean, you described it in the last post as a strident attack, but starting with the date?)

  4. See also Arnold Ehrlich aka Ibn B'dad

  5. See also Arnold Ehrlich aka Ibn B'dad

  6. JXG, sorry, I should have included it, but the date is on the title page.

    שנת טמאים לנפש = 560 = 5560 = 1800

  7. what about all the ashkenazim who used ס"ט?

  8. Cool pickup re Leeser - Laizer.


  9. Sorry for the misunderstanding: I was being incredulous! I mean, "טמאים לנפש"? Oy.

  10. You're right, I completely misread your comment.

    Yes, strident indeed.



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