Page 107 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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WEINBERG / MENDELSSOHN’S “BIUR”
101
disaster.8In Mendelssohn’s letter ofJune 5,1781 to AvigdorLevi,
we find at least a hint that the cause of the abrupt end of a very
fruitful collaboration was not a unilateral “different spirit” but
rather: “With our teacher, R. Solomon Dubno, may his light shine
forth, it has come to a quarrel (.
Zwist
). God knows and is witness
that it was not my fault. Time will tell whether I can get together
with him again” (JubA 19, 275).
The matter is clouded by a number of documented develop­
ments. Dubno had written a very long and highly specialized
introduction for Exodus, which Mendelssohn felt he could not
print.9 It came to a “Din-Torah” between the scholars at the
Berlin rabbinic court (see Altmann, 400-402). Subsequently,
Dubno tried to publish his own Pentateuch with Biur (minus a
German translation), for which he collected both
haskamot
(ap­
probations and recommendations by leading rabbis) and sub­
scribers; but his plan came to naught.10 Finally, years after the
event (1789), Dubno, in a letter to Wolf Heidenheim, mentions
that he had been severely reproached by the orthodox for his
collaboration with Mendelssohn, and he, in turn, blames Men­
delssohn (of whom he speaks otherwise only in the highest terms)
for associating with modernistically inclined Jews (such as Herz
Homburg, one of the collaborators on the Biur after Dubno’s
departure).11
Several reasons must have led to the Mendelssohn-Dubno sep­
aration. Gratz (op. cit., 48) suggests that the orthodox establish­
ment, unable to prevent the translation or seriously damage the
celebrated and well-connected author, got back at him by enticing
Dubno, “his right hand” to leave him. Kayserling (op. cit., 299)
stresses Dubno’s “wounded author’s vanity.” Klausner (op. cit.,
61) concludes that the two men were too different in background
and outlook to be able to work together in the long run. Sandler
holds that Mendelssohn treated Dubno highhandedly, suppres-
8 Mendelssohn had to make up the loss out of his own pocket; see Altmann, p.
373.
9 See Dubno’s plaintive letter of September 22, 1780 to Mendelssohn: JubA 19,
pp. 258-261 and Altmann, p. 399.
10 Cf. Gabriel Polak,
Ben-Gomi,
Amsterdam, 1851, pp. 42 ff.; M. Kayserling,
Moses Mendelssohn, Sein Leben und Seine Werke.
Leipzig, 1862, p. 300, fn. 3;
Altmann, p. 402.
11 Cf. M.S. Samet,
"M. Mendelson, N.H. Weisel \Wessely] ve-Rabanei Doram,"
Mehkarim be-ToledotAm Yisrael ve-Erets Yisrael le-Zekher Tsvi Avineri,
Haifa, 1970,
pp. 235-236. Further Altmann, p. 403-404.