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GÜNZBURG, MORDECAI AARON BEN JUDAH ASHER:

Russian Hebrew writer; born at Salanty, government of Kovno, Dec. 3, 1795; died at Wilna Nov. 5, 1846. Having studied Hebrew and Talmud under his father, he continued their study at Shavly, until 1816, under his father-in-law. Thence he went to Polangen and Mitau, Courland, where he taught Hebrew and translated legal papers into German. His conscientious and exact teaching won him considerable influence over the Jews of Courland, where, because of his thorough knowledge of German, he came to be known as the "Germanist." He did not stay in Courland long, but after a period of wandering settled at Wilna.

His philosophy of religion was based on the only two books which were within his reach when he was a young man: a Hebrew translation of Mendelssohn's"Phaëdon" and the "Sefer ha-Berit" of Phinehas Elijah b. Meïr. He struggled energetically against Cabala and superstition as the sources of the Ḥasidic movement; but He was at the same time opposed to freethinking, and regarded the German rabbis as unfit for the rabbinical office. Günzburg was the creator of the modern Hebrew prose style. He never hesitated to borrow expressions from Talmudic literature or even from the modern languages, but the expressions he borrowed never conflicted with the spirit of the Hebrew. He begins a chapter generally with a fable. Günzburg's style is in its form somewhat archaic, but is at the same time simple and clear. He exerted a salutary influence over the masses of his coreligionists, and especially over the younger generation. He wrote:

Mordecai Aaron Günzburg.

Gelot ha-Areẓ ha-Ḥadashah, on the discovery of America, adapted from Campe. Wilna, 1823.

Toledot Bene ha-Adam, a universal history, adapted from Politz's "Weltgeschichte." First part ib. 1832. A few chapters of the second volume were published in the "Leḳeṭ Amarim," a supplement to "Ha-Meliẓ," 1889 (pp. 53-81).

Ḳiryat Sefer, a collection of 102 model letters in Hebrew. Wilna, 1835.

Mal'akut Filon ha-Yehudi, an adaptation of Eckhard's German translation of Philo's embassy to Caligula. Wilna, 1837.

'Ittote Russiya, a history of Russia. Wilna, 1839.

Ha-Ẓarfatim be-Russiya, a history of the French invasion of Russia in 1812-13. Wilna, 1842.

Maggid Emet, a refutation of Lilienthal's "Maggid Yeshu'ah." Leipsic, 1843.

Debir, a collection of letters, tales, and sketches, mostly translations from the German. Wilna, 1844-62.

Pi ha-Ḥirot, a history of the Russian invasion of France In 1813-15. Wilna, 1844.

Yeme ha-Dor, a history of Europe from 1770 to 1812. Wilna, 1860.

Ḥamat Dammeseḳ, a history of the Damascus affair of 1840. Königsberg, 1860.

Abi'ezer, autobiography. Wilna, 1864.

Tiḳḳun Laban ha-Arami, a satirical poem. Wilna, 1864.

Ha-Moriyyah, a collection of brief essays. Warsaw, 1878.

Lel Shimmurim, a vision, adapted from Zschokke's "Abenteuer." Wilna, 1884.

Bibliography:
  • Günzburg,' Abi'ezer, Wilna, 1864;
  • Maggid, Toledot Mishpeḥot Ginẓburg, pp. 86-116, St. Petersburg, 1899;
  • Slouschz, La Renaissance de la Littérature Hébraïque, pp. 88-89, Paris, 1903.
H. R. M. Sel.
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