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PLUNGIAN (PLUNGIANSKI), MORDE-CAI (MARCUS):

Russian Hebraist and author; born at Plungian, in the government of Wilna, 1814; died at Wilna Nov. 28, 1883. He was a descendant of Mordecai Jaffe, author of the "Lebushim." While still young Plungian became a Talmudist of high repute. After a couple of years of an unhappy married life he left his native town and settled at Troki, where he devoted himself entirely to rabbinical studies. Soon, however, he was compelled to leave that place, having displeased the ultra-conservatives by his more or less advanced ideas. He then went to Wilna, where he earned a scanty livelihood by delivering rabbinical lectures, which were greatly appreciated by the Talmudists of that place. In the meanwhile Plungian devoted himself to secular studies also, and acquired, in a relatively short time, a thorough knowledge of several European languages and literatures. This acquisition procured for him first the position of teacher in a high school, and in 1867 that of instructor in Talmud and religious codes in the rabbinical seminary at Wilna.

Plungian was very unhappy in his old age. The rabbinical seminary was closed in 1873, and he had no other position than that of corrector in the printing-office of Romm, which he had held since 1869. In his literary career he had the misfortune to displease both the Orthodox, who accused him of heresy, and the liberals, who regarded him as a conservative; hence he was persecuted by the former and repudiated by the latter.

Plungian was the author of the following works: "Talpiyyot" (Wilna, 1849), on the hermeneutic rule "Gezerah Shawah" in the Babylonian Talmud, explaining the logical principles upon which it is based and criticizing the views expressed on the subject by Rashi and the tosafists; "Kerem li-Shelomoh" (ib. 1851), commentary on Ecclesiastes, published together with the text; "Ben Porat" (ib. 1858), biography of Manasseh ben Porat, with exegetic and philological dissertations; "Shebeṭ Eloah" (ib. 1862), episode of the eighteenth century, with arguments against the blood accusation; "Or Boḳer" (ib. 1868), three critical treatises on the Masorah as interpreted in the Talmud; "Kerem li-Shelomoh" (ib. 1877), commentary on Canticles, published together with the text.

Plungian left several works in manuscript, among them a treatise on the Hebrew verbs of four letters, partly published in "Kerem Ḥemed" (ix.); and "Ma'amar Mordekai," a commentary on all the haggadot found in "'En Ya'aḳob." In addition Plungian contributed to nearly all the Hebrew periodicals.

Bibliography:
  • Ha-Shaḥar, xi. 635;
  • N. Nathanson, Sefat Emet, Warsaw, 1887;
  • Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. p. 272;
  • Kerem Ḥemed, ix. 136;
  • Ha-Meliẓ, 1883, Nos. 89, 91.
H. R. I. Br.
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