Page 109 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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WEINBERG / MENDELSSOHN’S “BIUR"
103
Harif of Fiirth (but see Altmann, pp. 387 and 397 for a refuta­
tion). It isjust as improbable that the famous R. Ezekiel Landau of
Prague should have pronounced a ban (see Samet, op. cit., 240-
241 and Altmann, 397-398). Whether a later, often quoted in­
junction “do not touch the books of R. Moshe Dessau,” contained
in the ethical will of the equally famous R. Moses Sofer of
Pressburg
(Hatam Sofer)
is to be interpreted as “do not read them”
or “stop attacking them” has not been decided convincingly either
way, in spite of considerable scholarship devoted to the subject.15
Whatever the claims regarding a ban, no author understands it as
directed against Mendelssohn personally, but rather against the
translation or, more exactly, against Jews who would read that
translation.
Regarding bookburnings, nothing one can find in the litera­
ture goes beyond rumors and hearsay — if indeed a confusion
(with Wessely’s
D ivre Shalom ve-Emet)
or outright slander are not
involved here. This matter, too, has been thoroughly re ­
searched.16 What remains are a few contemporary sermons di­
rected against the translation, whose effects have long since been
dissipated, but some of which have been preserved or “dug up”
for the sake of scholarship.17
All these assertions, exaggerations as well as misinterpretations
that together form one of the more celebrated cases of polemics in
Jewish literature, amounted to little substance and few conse­
quences, especially since Mendelssohn himself reacted most sto­
ically to attacks by zealots.18 In sum, one may say that the above
mentioned rabbis and certainly still others did not exactly love
Mendelssohn (altough Ezekiel Landau, for one, did on occasion
express admiration for him; see Altmann, 398), but neither did
they indulge in
ad hominem
attacks.
15 Cf. Sandler, op. cit., p. 211, n. 37; Zobel, op. cit., pp. 131-132; Abraham Halevi
Schischa, “
He'arot Bibliografiot le-Sifrei ha-Hatam Sofer v e -L ite sh u vo ta vH a ­
ma'ayan,
vol. 9, 1962, pp. 77-82; Zobel, op. cit., pp. 131-132.
18 Cf. Sandler, op. cit., p. 138, n. 8; p. 203, n. 23; pp. 215-217; Samet, op. cit., pp.
248-249.
17 About such sermons, see Sandler, op. cit., pp. 202ff, and Mordecai Eliav,
Ha-Hinukh ha-Yehudi be-Germaniah bi-Zeman ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emantsipatsiah,
Jerusalem, 1961, p. 35.
18 See, for instance, in the above mentioned letter to Hennings (JubA, 12, 2,148):
“The little thunderstorm that has gathered around my poor book has not
caused me the least disquiet. No zealot shall so easily succeed in stirring up my
cold blood” (translated by Altmann, 384).