Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 24

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2 4
e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
the works of the great American appeared in a German trans­
lation. F rank lin ’s
he called them—
was published in French in 1791 and, together with some other
writings, in 1798. Since Lefin finished his unpub lished German
Nachlass eines Sonderlings zu Abdera
in 1806, he utilized
his knowledge of Franklin. I t is probable tha t his German book
contained, among other subjects, the essentials of his popu lar
Heshbon ha-Nefesh
) which was regarded
by the au tho r as the means to atta in moral perfection.
The dependence of Lefin on Franklin has never been properly
researched. A comparison of
Heshbon ha-Nefesh
with the Ameri­
can source material yields the inevitable conclusion tha t Lefin’s
treatise is neither a translation in the proper sense of the word
nor a paraphrase, bu t an independent work. W ha t is para­
phrased is a number of F rank lin ’s proverbs from the issues of
Poor Richard’s Almanac;
what is translated is F rank lin ’s famous
list of thirteen virtues: temperance, silence, order, resolution,
frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness,
tranquility, chastity, humility. I t is remarkable, in view of the
lingual resources of the time, how precisely some of them—six
to be exact—are rendered into Hebrew: silence into
order into
industry into
justice into
liness into
humility into
T h e o ther virtues
are merely approximated or adumbrated in Hebrew. While
Franklin used the English idiom of the eighteenth century,
Lefin had to invent an idiom of his own. Like his contemporaries,
he favored the Bible as a source of lingual inspiration. But unlike
his contemporaries, he did not hesitate to use a strong adm ixture
of rabbinic Hebrew. And when the resources of Hebrew failed
him, he boldly tapped the Aramaic language. Thus he translated
one of F rank lin’s virtues, temperance, into the Aramaic
In his
Franklin is concise in the description of
the thirteen virtues; Lefin devotes a chapter to each of them in
Heshbon ha-Nefesh.
F rank lin’s is a subtle, indirect, d idacti­
cism, Lefin’s is an unabashed, direct didacticism.
Under Lefin’s influence Nahman Krochmal, the Jewish ph i­
losopher in the period of enlightenment, was drawn into
F rank lin ’s orbit. He translated a tale of Franklin which appeared
under the guise of an apocryphal chapter LX II of
tale about Abraham, about the pa tria rch ’s initial impatience
with an unbelieving guest and his ultimate hospitality in spite
of the guest’s religious shortcomings.
First Translations from American Li terature
These first contacts between American and Hebrew cu lture
led to an ever-increasing fertilization of an old lite ra tu re by an