ABEL, SOLOMON BEN ḲALMAN HALEVI:
Russian educator and ethical writer; born March 11, 1857, at Novomyesto-Sugint (Neustadt), district of Rossieny, government of Kovno, Russia; died at Telsh, government of Kovno, Oct. 12, 1886. His success as a teacher at the Yeshibah of Telsh led to its being placed in the highest rank of the educational institutions of Lithuania. Abel is generally known by his posthumous work "Bet Shelomoh" (The House of Solomon), published at Wilna, 1893, a most characteristic product of modern Hebrew literature, showing exceptional nobility of tone in its application of rabbinic ideas to the current affairs of everyday life and business. It gives a full compendium of the rabbinical jurisprudence dealing with business and inheritance, though incidentally it contains the rules concerning the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, as also of almsgiving (ẓedaḳah), and it is distinguished from other works dealing with the same or similar topics by the excellence of its style, which is in a pure Neo-Hebraic, recalling in many respects that of Maimonides' "Yad ha-Ḥazḳah," and by no means in the usual crabbed style of later Talmudic authors. It was especially designed by its author for popular use, though it has every mark of having been written by a thorough student and scholar of Talmudic law. The writer especially emphasizes the ethical side of his subject, as is shown by the following remark about taking interest from non-Jews:
"The Torah did not forbid taking interest from non-Jews, for commerce entails such; but that the passage can not be construed as favoring usury may be seen from the fact that, according to the Talmud, viands otherwise permitted to Jews may not be eaten if they excite disgust. Thus, continued Abel, how much less is it permissible to do things which excite moral disgust, such as usury and the like, when the welfare of our soul must be of at least as much importance to us as the health of our body?"
Personally Abel was distinguished by his power of attracting young people by his modesty, kindliness, and enthusiasm for knowledge, which caused him never to pass a day without study. He was a student of political economy and wrote polemics against anarchism and socialism.
- Ha-Asif, 1886, pp. 64, 65.