Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

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58
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
study o f th e Bible and the T a lm u d , and fo r th e w riting o f schol­
arly works o r letters.
M ande lke rn now steeped h im se lf in secu lar stud ies, ran g in g
from those re la ted to his ea r lie r trad itiona l Jew ish lea rn ing , such
as Bible exegesis and H ebrew g ramm a r , to the l i te ra tu re o f the
M iddle Ages and o f m od e rn times. He also s tud ied G e rm an and
Russian — th e fo rm e r assu r ing access to what was th en th e c en te r
o f E u ro p e an lea rn ing , while the la tte r p rov ided comm un ica tion
with the au tho r itie s o f his own coun try .
In 1864 M an d e lk e rn ’s family, as was usua l in those days,
a r ra n g e d his m a rr iage to a r a th e r sim p le -m inded girl who soon
bo re him a son. Bu t only one year la te r the first pe rsona l crisis in
his life occu rred : he qu ite ab rup tly a b an d o n ed his wife a n d the
baby, and went to a rabbinical sem inary in Zh itom ir, which had
been established by Russian au tho r itie s with the p u rp o se o f t ra in ­
ing “en l ig h ten ed ” rabbis. L a te r he tra n s fe r re d to a n o th e r such
sem in a ry in V ilna w h e re he s tu d ie d u n d e r A b ra h am Dov
Levensohn who, u n d e r the p seudonym A dam H akoh en , becam e
one o f the found e rs o f m o d e rn Hebrew l ite ra tu re . While s tudy ­
ing fo r the rabb ina te , M ande lke rn also fou n d time to w rite H e ­
brew poe try . His first work , pub lished in 1865,
B a t-Sh eva o
shigayon le-D av id
(Bathsheba, o r a hym n o f D av id ) ,1was a biblical
poem in six pa r ts and 120 stanzas, which was qu ite favorably r e ­
ceived. In 1866 he pub lished a paean to tsa r A lex and e r II ,
Teshuat melekh ra v
(Rescue o f the g rea t king)2 on th e occasion o f
the la t te r ’s escape from an a ttem p ted assassination. In th e same
year he also pub lished
H itsim shenunim
(Sharp arrow s) ,3 an a n ­
thology o f witty apho rism s culled from the li te ra tu re o f various
languages, inc lud ing some o f his own inven tion . T h r o u g h o u t his
life, M ande lke rn would wield a sh a rp pen (sometimes d ip p e d in
poison).
In 1868 he was o rd a in ed as a governm en ta lly au th o r iz ed rabbi.
1 [1896] r n n inx’DD’1? . ..m rw "PW n r f r
]VM
IK J/nu;
nn.
Originally published in
1865. Mandelkern reissued his first work together with some o th e r poems in
this edition. T he term 1TW [shigayon] occurs only once in the Bible, in Psalm
7:1, where it may mean “a hymn” o r a musical instrumen t. T h e word has,
however, also ano the r meaning, “crazy idea”, and the title o f the poem thus
proved to be ominous, because at various periods o f his life M andelkern ex­
hibited bizarre behavior and was afflicted with mental disorders.
2 [1 8 6 6 ] ra -in ,iuV»yi ...‘w r r - n j c o 1?* ...“iD’pn ...riK -n
o v n ,m
•pn
n y w i .
3 [1866] T":nn
CPm