Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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private use of his sons or for the cultural benefit of his people?
Today, a contradiction is no longer felt. Why shouldn’t he indeed
have started the translation to better teach his own sons;6further,
why shouldn’t Dubno have given him the idea of “going public”;
and, finally, why shouldn’t he have come to the realization that by
doing so, he was, indeed, rendering his people an important
service? (Cf. Altmann, 372)
It is safe to assume that Mendelssohn would not have under­
taken a work of the magnitude of the Biur without Dubno’s
collaboration. He was no longer in good health and numerous
other literary and public pursuits — quite aside from conducting
his business — made maximal demands upon his time and
strength. Yet Dubno dissolved their partnership after the Genesis
volume had appeared in 1780 and left it up to Mendelssohn to
find a solution for completing the project. The dissociation of the
two men is a complex issue; it constitutes another topic for literary
discussion leading to a number of theories. Again, the earliest
version of an explanation for this potentially abortive separation
is found in
Or le-Netivah
7 as well as in Mendelssohn’s corre­
spondence. In the Introduction — after detailing Dubno’s contri­
bution and highly praising his work — he states: “At the begin­
ning of the book [of Exodus] he [Dubno] started to print his [i.e.,
Dubno’s own] Introduction, b u t . . . before completing it, a differ­
ent spirit came upon him; I do not know what was the matter
with him, but he left me and went to his country [Poland]” (JubA
14, 246; Altmann, 401). He continues to suggest that Dubno, on
the one hand, had underestimated the vastness of the project and,
on the other hand, began to see that it would be a financial
6 Though Joseph Klausner argues; “Who would write a translation for one
Historiah Shel ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Hadashah,
vol. 1, Jerusalem, 1930, p.
54. Klausner speaks about
child, because of Mendelssohn’s two older sons,
Mendel (born 1769) and Joseph (born 1770), the older one died in 1775 at the
age of six, certainly not very long after Mendelssohn began teaching both of
them and his Pentateuch translation could not have been advanced very far. See
above, the letter of May 25, 1779 to Avigdor Levi. Cf. also Altmann, p. 369.
7 It must be noted here that this Introduction appeared only at the time of the
completed work, as a separate essay in 1782, and as the Introduction to the
Pentateuch in 1783.