Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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FEFFER ---- CONTRIBUTIONS OF WOLF HEIDENHEIM 71
and articles in his favorite fields — Hebrew grammar and the
Masoretic text of the Bible. His exact and sometimes pedantic
studies often reflect sound linguistic sense and thorough under-
standing of Biblical, Talmudic and medieval sources. He possesed,
on the whole, a critical understanding. This impelled him to enter
the lists of the learned with his first separate publication — a
critical edition of Abraham Ibn Ezra’s
Mozene Leshon ha-Kodesh
(Offenbach, 1791). “ I saw,” he says on the title page of the work,
“ that for a knowledge of the Hebrew language there is no better
book than this one.”
In this first annotated edition of the Spanish grammarian’s
concise but comprehensive introduction to the Hebrew language,
Heidenheim issued a corrected text of the little work and added
the explanatory comments which were necessary for those who
were not acquainted with twelfth-century terminology. He also
added numerous illustrative examples where Ibn Ezra omitted
them because he evidently took for granted his readers’ ready
acquaintance with the sources. Wherever Ibn Ezra expressed an
opinion differing from one that appears in another of his writings,
the reader’s attention is gently drawn to the discrepancy and the
preferred form is suggested with quiet authority. Where Heiden-
heim feels that even Ibn Ezra erred, the correction is expressed
subtly and to the point; e. g., page 7: “More recent grammarians
have decided” — a statement which guides the reader to the
grammatical truth without attracting attention to the error on
Ibn Ezra’s part.
Another grammatical work which Heidenheim edited was
Solomon Pappenheim’s
Yen ot Shelomoh
, a three-volume work
describing the processes of the Hebrew language in a philosophical
and sometimes metaphysical manner. Pappenheim, who had an
incisive mind, recognized that the Hebrew language and its lit-
erature were on the threshold of a great era of growth and develop-
ment. He sought in this all-but-forgotten work to indicate how
the limits of the language might be extended and how its material
wealth might be enriched so that it could become as flexible and as
supple as the great European tongues. Heidenheim recognized
the qualities of both the man and his work and issued a complete
edition of the book with commentaries and supplement. He
demonstrates real linguistic understanding in his comments and
footnotes. Where Pappenheim tortuously seeks metaphysical links
between various words in order to fit them into a preternatural
scheme, Heidenheim, through his great knowledge and deep ra-
tionalism, frequently arrives at a correct conception of the prob-
lems of etymology and avoids the more common pitfalls. Indeed,
in some of his etymological suggestions he even foreshadows the