Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Great Hebrew translations.

There can be little doubt that this piece from 1817 is among the best Hebrew translations of all time -- רחים רבנן ומוקיר רבנן - "a cordial admirer and honourer of literary men of all classes."


  1. Well, he grasps an essential point, in that the word "rabannan" nearly always does not mean "rabbis", which did not exist as a distinct profession until relatively recently. It simply means someone learned, or as he says "literary men", as opposed to the "am haaretz".


  2. Or else he meant "a cordial admirer and honourer of literary men of all classes, even rabbis."

  3. Where is this excerpt from? What is the context?

  4. A perfectly fair question. I will give some more context later.

  5. Okay; this excerpt was written by one Solomon Bennett. Bennett was a Polish emigre to England, where he made a living as an engraver. He had a major grudge against the Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell. Apparently he had suffered a great financial loss when he had pirated and engraved a portrait of Hirschell (originally by an artist named Frederick Barlin) which appeared in a small book by another English Jew, Levy Alexander, who had been in a major war with Hirschell; the book was called "The Axe Laid to the Root; or, Ignorance and Superstition Evident in the Character of the Rev. Solomon Hirschell, Major Rabbi". As a result of this loss, Bennett fell in debt and was imprisoned. Bennett decided to blame Hirschell, whom he suspected of harboring a grudge against him because he had gotten into fights with Hirschell's father, the CR of Berlin. So he declared war and wrote a book about Hirschell called "The Present Reign of the Synagogue of Duke's Place Displayed in a Series of Critical, Theological and Rabbinical Discussions on a Hebrew Pamphlet" in which he accused Hirschell of all sorts of hypocrisies, having one standard of religiosity for the wealthy and another for the poor; neglecting to support the poor properly; endorsing books which were heretical. Bennett himself wasn't exactly the frummest of the frum, from what I can gather.

    In any case, that is the context of his comment about being a member of a synagogue in Poland, but not in Duke's Place, ie, in Hirschell's synagogue. He was responding to a negative book review of his pamphlet "A Discourse on Sacrifices," which appeared in The Evangelical Review Jan. 1817. He was charged with being contentious. So he is denying it. His response, a part is shown above, is from the March issue of The Monthly repository of theology and general literature of that same year. Bennett begins by decrying that his reviewer remained anonymous. He eventually mentions that the reviewer calls into question his (Jewish) religiosity, asking if he's a member in good standing of a synagogue. He basically says that the ostensibly Christian reviewer must have had Jewish informers who sought to tarnish his name.

    All in all, a great story, and eventually it will have it's own post.



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