Page 79 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 43

Basic HTML Version

city in Germany to persuade well-to-do Jews to buy copies either
for themselves or as gifts for their synagogue libraries. The pub­
lishers let him have the forty copies not claimed by subscribers at
one hundred marks a piece, and he sold them, “first come first
served.” Most of what little money he made, he spent on railroad
tickets on night trains, saving the cost of hotel rooms by sleeping
on the hard benches of the coaches while travelling from place to
This kind of life inevitably led to a nervous breakdown, and for
some time he had to be treated in a sanatorium. He recuperated,
but remained “lonely and full of anger” as one of his friends
wrote. He looked much older than he was, and his outer appear­
ance was pitiful. Since he had been a faithful member of the
Hoveve Tsiyon
(Lovers of Zion) society from his earliest days in
Leipzig, he became one of its delegates to the first Zionist Con­
gress in Basel. There he hoped, as always, to be able to promote
his concordance. During the deliberations of the Congress he
suggested a vote o f thanks to his benefactor, the baron
Rothschild, but since the political Zionists were opposed to the
baron’s purely philanthropical activities in Palestine, the pro­
posal was disdainfully turned down by Herzl and other Zionist
leaders who are reported to have asked, “Wer ist dieser Schnor-
rer?” (Who is this beggar?).17 No one there recognized in the
sorry-looking old man the learned Bible scholar and Hebrew
poet whose monumental work had appeared at the very moment
in history when the foundations of a future Jewish state were be­
ing laid.
He still had ambitious plans. In the introduction to the con­
cordance he announced three reference works on which he was
already working: one was to be a collection of stories and parables
found in different books of the Bible, yet expressed in the same
or nearly the same wording; another was to be a collection of bib­
lical verses containing puns; and a third was to indicate all in­
stances in which nouns and verbs in relative clauses were pre­
fixed by the syllable
instead of the conjunction
But, he said, his publisher had told him: “Stop! Enough
already!,” and he had to shelve his plans, although “many are the
thoughts in the writer’s heart, but the publisher’s advice must
17 (A famous oblivion)
"nnonsn nrow,,
,rn rmrr
/p 'w a r ’x,
32 (30) (1953),
p. 630.