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“Their Eyes Shall Behold Strange Things”: Abraham Ben Elijah of Vilna encounters the Spirit of Mr. Buffon

  • Iris Idelson-Shein (a1)

The turn of the nineteenth century saw the publication of an abundance of travel narratives and texts in natural history written by maskilic Jews in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German in Hebrew characters. Several of these were maskilic translations of German children's books such as Georg Christian Raff's Naturgeschichte für Kinder or Joachim Heinrich Campe's travel stories for children. Others were fragmentary translations of German science books such as Anton Friedrich Büsching's Neue Erdbeschreibung. These translations were inspired by the maskilim's desire to acculturate their fellow Jews according to the standards of the European “high culture” of their time. The scientific, geographical, and philosophical knowledge offered by the source texts, combined with the rhetoric of voyage and discovery, as well as the stories of domesticating and acculturating “savage” peoples and wild animals, provided the maskilim with a compelling platform for disseminating maskilic knowledge, ideology, and goals.

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1. My use of the term “translation” to describe these texts is inspired by Gideon Toury's discussion of the problems inherent in any essentialist definition of “translation.” He suggests that translation by its very nature eludes rigid, ahistorical definitions and must be defined contextually, according to how it is perceived in the target culture. See Toury, Gideon, “The Notion of ‘Assumed Translation': An Invitation to a New Discussion,” in Letterlijkheid, Woordelijheid, ed. Bloemen, H., Hertog, E., and Segers, W. (Antwerp/Harmelen: Fantom, 1995), 141–47. For a further discussion of the problems inherent in differentiating between translations and adaptations, see Bastin, Georges L., “Adaptation,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, ed. Baker, Mona (New York: Routledge, 1998), 36.

2. For a discussion of these Jewish translations, see Shavit, Zohar, “Literary Interference between German and Jewish-Hebrew Children's Literature during the Enlightenment: The Case of Campe,” Poetics Today 13, no. 1 (1992): 4161; Garrett, Leah, “The Jewish Robinson Crusoe,” Comparative Literature 54, no. 3 (2002): 215–28; Frieden, Ken, “Neglected Origins of Modern Hebrew Prose: Hasidic and Maskilic Travel Narratives,” AJS Review 33 (2009): 343; Kogman, Tal, “Baruch Lindau's [Linda's] ‘Rešit Limmudim' (1788) and Its German Source: A Case Study of the Interaction between the Haskalah and German Philantropismus,” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism 9, no. 2 (2009): 277304.

3. See nn. 27 and 32 below.

4. [Abraham Ben Elijah of Vilna], Gevulot 'areẓ (Berlin, 1801).

5. Gevulot 'areẓ contains three separate chapters. The present article discusses only the first two, which comprise the bulk of the text (1a–10a) and are translations of two chapters of Giovanni Ferry's adaptation of Buffon's Histoire Naturelle. The third chapter of Gevulot 'areẓ (10b–15b) features a description of various cities around the globe. This is not a translation of either Ferry's or Buffon's works. It may be the author's original creation but is more likely a translation of another source, which remains to be discovered.

6. Halaḥmi-Weissbrod, David, Ḥakhmei Yisra'el, 2nd ed. (Bnei Brak: Tiferet Ha-sefer, 1980), 2:200; Gottesmann, Shlomo, “Kontras ḥokhmat Abraham,” Yeshurun 4 (1998): 141. See also a similar misrepresentation of the book in Winer, Shmuel, Kohelet Moshe (St. Petersburg, Ha-akademia ha-keisarit le-madaim, 1892), 227.

7. Gevulot 'areẓ [1]. See Proverbs 23:33. All translations are my own unless otherwise stated in footnotes.

8. Fünn, Shmuel Yosef, Kiryah ne'emanah (Vilnius: Yosef Reuven ben Menahem, 1860), 208.

9. See, e.g., Shmuel Yevnin, introduction to Sefer se‘arat Eliyahu, by Abraham Ben Elijah (Warsaw: I. B. Hacohen, 1877), [4]; Vinograd, Yeshayahu, Oẓar sifrei ha-Gra (Jerusalem: Kerem Eliyahu, 2003), 246–47. I am grateful to Uriel Gellman for referring me to Vinograd's bibliography.

10. Eliaḥ, Dov, Sefer ha-Ga'on: le-toldot ḥayav u-berur mishnato shel…ha-Ga'on Rabbi Eliyahu me-Vilna (Jerusalem: Moreshet ha-yeshivot, 2001), 3:1296.

11. Eliaḥ, Sefer ha-Ga'on, 2:594–639.

12. Elijah, Ben, Be'er Avraham (Warsaw, 1887), 18a.

13. On this point, see Iris Idelson-Shein, “Barukh meshaneh ha-briyot”: dmuto ve-shimushav shel ‘ha-ekzoti’ ba-neo'rut ha-yehudit (PhD diss., Tel Aviv University, 2010), 143, 153, 226–27.

14. Gevulot 'areẓ, 10; Ben Elijah, Se‘arat Eliyahu (1877), 10.

15. Gevulot 'areẓ, [1]; Ben Elijah, preface to Midrash 'aggadat Ber'eshit (Krakow, 1903 [1802]), xlviii.

16. Elijah, Ben, Sefer tirgem Avraham (Jerusalem: Shmuel Ẓuckermann, 1896), 3a.

17. Ben Elijah, Gevulot 'areẓ, 13a.

18. Ben Elijah, Ge'ografiyah shel Ereẓ Yisra'el, [10]. New York, M. Lehmann Collection, 52, available in microfilm at the Jewish National Library, Jerusalem, reel # F 72967. The author's name appears on the manuscript's front page. Contrary to the work's title, the remaining pages of the manuscript do not discuss the Land of Israel, but rather include a history and geography of Spain, Portugal, America, and parts of Africa, as well as a discussion of the etymology of various countries' names. In his Sefer ha-Gra, Judah Leib Maimon states that he has in his private library some manuscripts on geography in Ben Elijah's own handwriting. These manuscripts have now been lost; however, it is possible that Maimon is referring to Ge'ografiyah shel ereẓ Yisra'el. See Maimon, Judah Leib, Sefer ha-GRA (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1954), 109.

19. Ben Elijah, Ge'ografiya, [4].

20. On the rabbinic debates regarding the salamander, see Shemesh, Abraham Ofir, “Biology in Rabbinic Literature: Fact and Folklore,” in The Literature of the Sages, ed. Safrai, Shemuel, Safrai, Ze'ev, Schwartz, Joshua, and Tomson, Peter J. (Assen: Royal Van Gorcum and Fortress Press, 2006), 2:518.

21. Ben Elijah, Gevulot 'areẓ, 8a, n. b.

22. See, e.g., Ben Elijah, Gevulot 'areẓ, 8a n. c, 11a, and passim; Ben Elijah, Ge'ografiya [9]– [10], and passim.

23. Winer speculated that an earlier edition may have appeared in Vilna. See Winer, Kohelet Moshe, 227.

24. The attribution of Gevulot 'areẓ to Ben Elijah, however, is not ironclad; and further research may reveal additional similarities between this text and other works by Ben Elijah.

25. Horowitz, Pinḥas, Sefer ha-brit ha-shalem (1797; repr., Jerusalem: Yerid ha-Sefarim, 1990), 199; Linda, Baruch, Reshit limudim (Berlin: Ḥevrat Ḥinuch Na‘arim, 1788), [17]. Previous studies have argued convincingly that Horowitz's main source of scientific information was not Buffon, but rather Linda. See Tal Kogman, Yeẓirat dimuyei ha-yeda‘ ba-’araẓot dovrot ha-germanit be-tkufat ha-haskalah (PhD diss., Tel-Aviv University, 2000), 85–86; Rosenblum, Noaḥ, ‘Iyunei sifrut ve-hagut mi-shilhei ha-me'ah ha-shmone ‘esre ‘ad yameinu (Jerusalem: Rubin Mass, 1989), 56, 36. Horowitz appears to have also used Baruch Schick's Sefer tiferet ha-’adam, whereas Linda appears to have been familiar with Buffon's text firsthand. See Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, 76–77, 286–89, 293–95. A further example of an eighteenth-century Hebrew reference to Buffon (referred to as “Buffang”) may be found in Mordeḥai Gumpel Schnaber Levison's: Shloshʿesreh yesodei hatorah (Altona, 1791), 96a.

26. Sholem Abramovitsh, Sefer toldot ha-teva‘ (Leipzig: C. W. Vollrath, 1862), xxi.

27. Joseph Perl, “Teḥunat 'anshei Greenland” (1813–17), draft version for Ẓir Ne'eman, 11a–b, ARC 4° 1153/96, Josef Perl Archive, National and University Library, Jerusalem. Perl's manuscript was probably inspired by Anton Friedrich Büsching's, Neue Erdbeschreibung (1754–92). See n. 32 below.

28. See Hacohen, Tuviah, Ma‘aseh Tuvia (1707; repr., Krakow: Y. Plesner, 1908), 68a; Gumpel, MordechaiLevison, Schnaber, Ma'amar ha-Torah ve-ha-ḥokhma, part 1 (London: Moshe Shai, 1771), 24; Bloch, Samson, Sefer shevilei ‘olam (1822–28; repr., Warsaw: Levin Epstein Bros., 1894), 1:4a.

29. Hourwitz, Zalkind, Apologie des Juifs (1789). Facsimile reproduction (Paris: EDHIS, 1968), 67.

30. Isaac De Pinto, Letter to Charles Marie La Condamine (1745–46), Eggerton Collection, Bentinck Papers, manuscript #EG. 1745, ff. 184b, British Library, London (French). I thank Ida Nijenhuis for her help in locating this manuscript. On categories of difference in eighteenth-century non-Jewish thought, see Wahrman, Dror, The Making of the Modern Self (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004); Wheeler, Roxann, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000). For a further discussion of Jewish notions of difference during the “long” eighteenth century, see Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, passim.

31. English translation according to Schorsch, Jonathan, Jews and Blacks in the Early Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 21. Original French version: De Pinto, Réflexions Critiques sur le premier Chapitre de VIIe: Tome des Œuvres de M. de Voltaire, &c,” in Lettres de Quelques Juifs Portugais, Allemands et Polonois, à M. de Voltaire (1762; repr., Paris: Moutard, 1781), 1:13.

32. Fragments of Büsching's Neue Erdbeschreibung were translated several times into Hebrew by Baruch Linda, Joseph Perl, and Shlomo Keysir. See Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, 290–95, 403–5. Schiller's “Die Bürgschaft” was translated into Hebrew in David Zamość's Resisei ha-meliẓah. Though the original German version was provided in Hebrew transliteration, no note was made of the ballad's original author. See Zamość, David, Resisei ha-meliẓah (Dyhrenfurth: Johann Erbricht und Hirsch Warschauer, 1821), 1:1–14.

33. The translational norms of the Haskalah have been studied in depth by such scholars as Zohar Shavit, Gideon Toury, and Tal Kogman. In what follows, I offer a review of a few central characteristics of the turn-of-the-century Hebrew translations that correspond directly to Ben Elijah's work. For a more thorough discussion of the norms and characteristics of maskilic translation, see Shavit, Zohar, “From Friedländer's Lesebuch to the Jewish Campe: The Beginning of Hebrew Children's Literature in Germany,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 33 (1988): 385415; Toury, Gideon, Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1995), 131–39; Toury, “Hebrew [Translation] Tradition,” in Baker, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 442–44; Kogman, Tal, “Haskalah Scientific Knowledge in Hebrew Garment: A General Statement and Two Examples,” Target 19, no. 1 (2007): 6983.

34. Adams, Percy G., Travelers and Travel Liars, 1660–1800 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 11, 17.

35. Moses Mendelssohn, “Sendschreiben an den Herrn Magister Lessing in Leipzig” (1756), reprinted in Moses Mendelssohn: Gessamelte Schriften, vol. 2, Schriften zur Philosophie und Aesthetic und Apologetik, ed. Brasch, Moritz (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1968), 323–48.

36. [Mendelssohn], Kohelet musar, Sha‘ar 6 (1750): [15]–[16]. On Mendelssohn's translation of Young, see Toury, “Reshit ha-tirgum ha-moderni le-‘ivrit: ‘od mabat eḥad,” Dappim le-meḥkar be-sifrut 11 (1998): 110–19.

37. For a discussion of these new translational norms, see Oz-Salzberger, Fania, Translating the Enlightenment: Scottish Civic Discourse in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 7785; Kelly, Louis, “The Eighteenth Century to Tytler,” in The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English: 1660–1790, ed. Gillespie, Stuart and Hopkins, David (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 3:67–77; Myriam Salama-Carr, “The French [Translation] Tradition,” in Baker, Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 407–9.

38. On acceptability as one of the main characteristics of early maskilic translations, see Toury, “Descriptive Translation,” 131–32; Toury, “Reshit ha-tirgum,” 110–11.

39. Raff, Georg Christian, A System of Natural History, adapted for the Instruction of Youth, in the Form of a Dialogue. Originally written in German, by Prof. Raff of Goettingen; now first translated into English, 2 vols., transl. anonymous (Edinburgh: G. Mudie, J. Johnson, G. G. and J. Robinson, 1796).

40. Tal Kogman, “Maga‘im bein-tarbutiyim be-tekstim shel ha-Haskalah ‘al madae‘i ha-teva’” in Ha-haskalah le-gvaneyah, ed. Feiner, Shmuel and Bartal, Israel (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2005), 3235. On the maskilic tendency to prefer a less “childish” form of writing for children, see Shavit, Zohar, “Harihut shel ḥadar ha-Haskalah be-Berlin,” in Ke-minhag Ashkenaz u-Folin: Sefer yovel le-Chone Shmeruk, ed. Bartal, Israel, Mendelsohn, Ezra, and Turnisansky, Ḥava (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center, 1993), 200201, 206; Shavit, “Literary Interference,” 791–92.

41. Oven, Abraham Van, Dereḥ 'ish ha-yashar (London: A. Alexander, 1778). On Van Oven, Dodsley, and the translation, see Ruderman, David, Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry's Construction of Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 9296. For a further discussion of the maskilic tendency to publish translations as original works, see Yehuda Friedlander and Ḥayim Shoham, introduction to Mot 'adam, by Klopstok, Friedrich, trans. Ben-David, Ẓvi (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1976), 78; Shavit, “Literary Interference,” 52–53; Shavit, “Friedländer's Lesebuch,” 407, 410–11; Toury, Descriptive Translation, 132–33; Toury, “Hebrew Tradition,” 443.

42. My translation. See Friedlander and Shoham, introduction to Mot 'adam, 28.

43. Zamość, David, Tokhaḥot musar (Breslau: Leib Sulzbach, 1819), 172–76. On Zamość's treatment of Campe's book, see Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, 38.

44. This is just one of many references to the book of Job that appear in Ben Elijah's preface: Gevulot 'areẓ, [1]. And cf. Job 40:15, 20, 21.

45. Toury, “Reshit,” 114–19. See also Shavit, “Friedländer's Lesebuch,” 404.

46. Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, 318–20.

47. See Kogman's discussion of Isaac Satanov's and Baruch Linda's use of German children's books: Kogman, “Maga‘im,” 32–40.

48. Giovanni Ferry di Saint Constant (Buffon), Génie de M. de Buffon (Paris: Pancoucke, 1778) (hereafter cited as Génie de Buffon). On Ferry, see Biographie des hommes vivants, ou histoire par ordre alphabétique de la vie publique de tous les hommes qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs actions ou leurs écrits (Paris: L. G. Michaud, 1817), 3:79.

49. Ferry (Buffon)/Anonymous, trans., Büffons Geist, oder Kern seiner Naturgeschichte (St. Petersburg: Johann Zacharias Logan, 1783) (hereafter cited as Büffon's Geist). On Ben Elijah's knowledge of French, see Etkes, Immanuel, The Gaon of Vilna: The Man and his Image, trans. Green, Jeffrey M. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 45.

50. Cf. Ben Elijah, Gevulot 'arez, 1a, 7b; Büffon's Geist, 75, 112; Génie de Buffon, 107, 162.

51. On eighteenth-century naturalists' fascination with the “Hottentot apron,” see Gould, Stephen J., The Flamingo's Smile (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), 297–99.

52. On Baartmann, see Gould, Flamingo's Smile, 292–301; Mitchell, Robin, “Another Means of Understanding the Gaze: Sarah Baartmann in the Development of Nineteenth-Century French National Identity,” in Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot,” ed. Willis, Deborah (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010), 3442.

53. Buffon, “Variétés dans l'espèce humaine” (1749), reprinted in De l'homme (Paris: François Maspero, 1971), 286.

54. Génie de Buffon, 161; Büffon's Geist, 111–12.

55. Gevulot 'areẓ, 7b

56. Génie de Buffon, 107; Büffon's Geist, 74. See also Buffon, “Variétés,” 223.

57. Gevulot 'areẓ, 1a.

58. For Buffon's discussion of the nature and limits of species, see Buffon, Histoire naturelle, générale et particuliere (Paris, 1753), 4:385–86. On the unity of man, see “Variétés,” 320–21. For a discussion of the “reproduction criterion” proposed by Buffon for the definition of “species,” see Bernasconi, Robert, “Who Invented the Concept of Race? Kant's Role in the Enlightenment Construction of Race,” in Race, ed. Bernasconi, Robert (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 16.

59. On polygenism as an anticlerical provocation, see Popkin, Richard H., Isaac La Peyrère (1596–1676): His Life, Work and Influence (Leiden: Brill, 1987), 2641. On the changes in European notions of difference toward the end of the eighteenth century, see Wahrman, Modern Self, 111–12; Harrison, Mark, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment and British Imperialism in India, 1600–1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1516, 103–6.

60. Schnaber Levison, Yesodei ha-Torah, 30a.

61. On Hess's polygenism, see Koltun-Fromm, Ken, Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 7677. Kogman has suggested reading Linda's deviations from Raff's chapter on man as inspired by a polygenistic worldview; however, on Linda's rejection of polygenism and the negative Jewish reactions to polygenism in general, see Idelson-Shein, Ha-ekzoti, 262–314. On the rejection of polygenism by non-Jewish thinkers during the late eighteenth century, see Zammito, John H., “Policing Polygeneticism in Germany, 1775 (Kames,) Kant, and Blumenbach,” in The German Invention of Race, ed. Eigen, Sara and Larrimore, Mark (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006), 3550.

62. On the Jews' reluctance to give up the more circumstantial understanding of difference and embrace the modern notion of race later in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Volkov, Shulamit, “Talking of Jews, Thinking of Germans: The Ethnic Discourse in 19th Century Germany,” Tel Aviver Jahrbuch für deutsche Geschichte 30 (2002): 4749; Hart, Mitchell B., Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 178–81; Efron, John M., Defenders of the Race: Jewish Doctors and Race Science in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994).

63. Henry, LordKames, Home, Sketches of the History of Man (Edinburgh: W. Creech, 1774), 1:39–40.

64. Büffon's Geist, 92. See also Génie de Buffon, 132–33.

65. For Buffon's original description, see Buffon, “Variétés,” 266. On changes in the portrayal of Jews toward the end of the eighteenth century, see Wahrman, Modern Self, 108–10; Efron, Defenders of the Race, passim.

66. Gevulot 'areẓ, 4b. See 1 Chronicles 17:21.

67. Büffon's Geist, 128; for the French version, see Génie de Buffon, 183.

68. Gevulot 'areẓ, 10a. Ben Elijah refers here to a version of the story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden that appears in Bereshit Rabba. In this version, Adam and Eve became shorter after eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

69. It is worth noting that the biological nomenclature of the eighteenth century was characterized by ambiguities not only in Hebrew but also in other languages. Buffon himself tended to use the terms “variety” (variété), “species” (éspece), “people” (gens, peuple), and “race” interchangeably. See, e.g., Buffon, “Variétés,” 224, 290. For a discussion of the taxonomic ambiguities prevalent in non-Jewish literature during the eighteenth century, see Bernasconi, “Concept of Race,” 17–18; Hudson, Nicholas, “From ‘Nation’ to ‘Race’: The Origin of Racial Classification in Eighteenth-Century Thought,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 29, no. 3 (1996): 247–64.

70. Klausner, Joseph, Ha-'adam ha-kadmon: yesodot ha-'antropologiyah (Warsaw: Tushia, 1900), v.

71. Gevulot 'areẓ, 2b–3a, 12b.

72. Cf. Gevulot 'areẓ, 10a; Büffon's Geist, 128–33.

73. Horowitz, Sefer ha-brit, 4–6, 9. And see discussion in Rosenblum, Sifrut ve-hagut, 20–22.

74. Lefin, Menaḥem Mendel, Moda‘ le-binah (Berlin: Ḥevrat Ḥinuch Ne‘arim, 1789), 25a26a; Horowitz, Sefer ha-brit, 144. On the theological problems arising from the discovery of America in Jewish thought during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Limor Mintz-Manor, Ha-siaḥ ‘al ha-‘olam ha-ḥadash ba-tarbut ha-yehudit ba-‘et ha-ḥadasha ha-mukdemet (PhD diss., Hebrew University Jerusalem, 2011); Melamed, Abraham, “Gilui America ba-sifrut ha-yehudit shel hame'ot ha-16–17,” in Be-‘ikvot Columbus: America 1492–1992, ed. Eliav-Feldon, Miri (Jerusalem: Shazar Center, 1996), 443–64.

75. For a discussion of this practice, see Kogman, “Haskalah Scientific Knowledge,” 72–80; Garrett, “Jewish Robinson Crusoe,” 215–27.

76. On Buffon's materialism and rumored atheism, see Loveland, Jeff, Rhetoric and Natural History: Buffon in Polemical and Literary Context (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2001), 1113; Wattles, Gordon, “Buffon, d'Alembert and Materialist Atheism,” Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 266 (1989): 285317.

77. Campe, Joachim Heinrich, “Kapitän Wilson's Schiffbruch bei den Pelju-Inseln,” in Sämmtliche Kinder- und Jugendschriften von Joachim Heinrich Campe, part 9, vol. 25 (1785–1801?; repr., Braunschweig, 1830), 177.

78. Lefin, Masa‘ot ha-yam (1818; repr. Lemberg: D. H. Schrenzel, 1859), 69.

79. Gevulot 'areẓ, 15a, 8b–9a, n. 1.

80. See Melamed, “America,” 443–64; Popkin, Richard H., “The Rise and Fall of the Jewish-Indian Theory,” in Menasseh ben Israel and His World, ed. Kaplan, Yosef, Méchoulan, Henry, and Popkin, Richard H. (Leiden: Brill, 1989), 63.

81. For Noah's vision, see Noah, Mordecai Manuel, Discourse on the Evidences of the American Tribes Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, Delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, Clinton Hall (New York, 1837). Available online at: (accessed 16 December, 2010). See also a maskil's sarcastic response to the plan: Yehuda ben Yonah Jeiteles, “Ḥadashim m-karov bau,” Bikurei ha-‘itim (1826): 45–49.

82. Popkin, “Jewish Indian Theory,” 80; see also 71, 75–76, 80–82.

83. For some rare maskilic references to the theory, see Tennenboim, Moses, Matae‘y Moshe (Warsaw: Avigdor Lebenssohn, 1838), 8283; Wessely, Naphtali Herẓ, “Magid ḥadashot,” Hame'asef (1789): 129–60. Wessely states, in the same vein as Ben Elijah, that the presence of Jews improves the cultural level of a nation. Wessely also used another anthropological-religious theory that was quite archaic during his time, namely the theory that associated the black skin color of the Africans with the biblical curse of Ḥam. See Wessely, ’Imrei shefer: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (original publication date unknown; repr., Lyck: Mekiẓei nirdamim, 1868), 115b.

84. See Etkes, Immanuel, Rabbi Israel Salanter and the Mussar Movement: Seeking the Torah of Truth (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1993), 133–34; Assaf, David, Ne'eḥaz ba-svakh: pirkei mashber u-mevukha be-toldot ha-Ḥasidut (Jerusalem: Shazar Center, 2006), 4248; Mondshein, Yehoshua, “Haskamot shtukot mi-Valozhyn u-Vilna: kabel et ha-'emet mi-mi she'amrah?Or Israel 4, no. 16 (1999): 151–59; Heshel, Israel Nathan, “Da‘atam shel gedolei ha-dor be-milḥamtam neged ha-maskil Naphtali Herẓ Wessely,” Koveẓ beit Aharon ve-Yisra'el 5, no. 47 (1993): 146 n. 26; Katan, Yoel, “Kabel et ha-’emet mi-mi she'amrah,” Ha-ma‘ayan 32, no. 3 (1992): 5455; Rosenblum, Noaḥ, “Ha-Malbim ve-filosofiya modernit,” Proceedings of the American Society for Jewish Research 52 (1985): 141.

85. See Loveland, Buffon, 11–13; Wattles, “Materialist Atheism,” 285–317.

86. A telling example of Linneaus's adherence to the biblical account of creation may be found in his rejection of the pre-Adamitic (polygenistic) theory. See Caroli Linne, Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae (Holmiae [Stockholm], 1766), 33 n.

87. Fragments of Voltaire's writings were translated into Hebrew by Abraham Tang. See Abraham Tang, “Beḥinat 'adam” (~1772), 226, Frankfurt am Mein, Stadt- und Universitaetsbibliothek Oct. 59. Available in microfilm at the Jewish National Library Jerusalem, reel # F 25906. On Tang and his translation, see Ruderman, Jewish Enlightenment, 102–6; Feiner, Shmuel, Shorshei ha-ḥilun: materanut ve-safkanut be-yahadut ha-me'ah ha-18 (Jerusalem: Shazar Center, 2010), 222–29. Goethe's “Schäfers Klagelied” was translated by Ḥayim Ginzburg in Bikurei ha-‘itim (1825): 68–69. On Lefin's use of Franklin, see Nancy Sinkoff, Tradition and Transition: Mendel Lefin of Satanow and the Beginnings of the Jewish Enlightenment in Eastern Europe, 1749–1826 (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1996), 117–20.

88. For a different approach, see Shavit, “Case of Campe,” 47–50.

89. Assaf, Ne'eḥaz ba-svakh, 44; Mondshein, “Haskamot,” 151–59.

90. Translation according to Etkes, Gaon of Vilna, 55–56. For full Hebrew version, see Werses, Shmuel, Ha-kiẓa ‘ami: sifrut ha-Haskalah be-‘idan ha-moderni (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2001), 2629. See also Fishman, David, Russia's First Modern Jews: The Jews of Shklov (New York: NYU Press, 1995), 2245.

91. Fünn, Kiryah ne'emanah, 135, 142, 207. On Bloch and others, see Werses, Ha-kiẓa, 31–42, 60–61. On this maskilic strategy, see also Feiner, Shmuel, The Jewish Enlightenment, trans. Naor, Chaya (Jerusalem: Shazar Center, 2002), 2829.

92. On the rumor and the controversy surrounding it, see Friedlander, Yehuda, “Le-birur yaḥaso shel ha-Ga'on mi-Vilna la-Haskalah be-reshita: ha-Ga'on ve-N. H. Wessely,” in Ha-Gra u-beit midrasho, ed. Ḥalamish, Moshe, Rivlin, Yosef, and Shoḥat, Raphael (Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2003), 199205.

93. See Assaf, Ne'eḥaz ba-svakh, 42–48; Mondshein, “Haskamot,” 151–59; Etkes, Gaon of Vilna, 46–47; Feiner, Milḥemet tarbut: tnu‘at ha-Haskalah ha-yehudit ba-me'ah ha-19 (Jerusalem: Carmel, 2010), 108–9; Schreiber, Aaron M., “Hashkafato shel ha-Gra ‘al ḥashivut ha-Haskalah ha-klalit ve-‘al ha-kesher le-yemot ha-Mashiaḥ,” part 1 of 2, Be-ḥol deraḥeḥa d‘aehu (BDD) 9 (1999): 2628; Shapira, Israel A., “‘Askolot ḥalukot be-she'elat Torah u-mada‘im be-veit midrasho shel ha-Gra,” BDD 13 (2003): 1011.

94. Etkes, Gaon of Vilna, 53. The original Hebrew article on which this discussion is based was published in Etkes, Immanuel, “Ha-Ga'on mi-Vilna: tadmit u-meẓi'ut,” in Prakim be-toldot ha-ḥevra ha-yehudit be-yemei ha-beinayim u-va-‘et ha-ḥadasha, ed. Etkes, Immanel and Salmon, Yosef (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1980), 192217. See also Werses, Hakiẓa, 25–66; Eliaḥ, Sefer ha-Ga'on, 2:594–639; Nadler, Allan, The Faith of the Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1999), 127–50.

95. See, e.g., Friedlander, “Le-birur yaḥaso,” 197–205; Schreiber, “Hashkafato shel ha-Gra,” part 1, 5–28; Shoḥat, “Ha-Gra mi-Vilna ve-limud ha-ḥokhmot ha-klaliot,” BDD 2 (1996): 89106. See also the heated debates regarding this issue in BDD 11, 15, 18, and 19.

96. Etkes, Gaon of Vilna, 71. See also Schreiber, “Hashkafato shel ha-Gra,” part 1, 18–21; part 2, BDD 10 (2000): 5–12; Raphael Shoḥat, on the other hand, claims that though the Gaon himself held a positive attitude toward secular studies, this attitude did not hold sway among his disciples. See Shoḥat, Raphael, “Ha-Gra mi-Vilna,” 95–99; Shoḥat, “‘Al derekh ha-meḥkar be-kitvei ha-Gra,” BDD 11 (2000): 117–19. Finally, Israel Shapira claims that the issue of secular studies was a source of controversy among the Gaon's disciples. See Shapira, “‘Askolot 5–53. See also the continued debate between Shoḥat and Shapira in BDD 15 (2004).

97. Etkes also cites some further evidence that the Gaon urged his son Abraham to translate science books into Hebrew. See Etkes, Gaon of Vilna, 53–54.

I would like to thank Shulamit Volkov, David Assaf, Roni Hirsh-Ratzkovsky, Hanan Harif, and the anonymous AJS Review reader for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also grateful to Arthur Kiron and Judith Leifer of the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies Library and Aviad Stollman of the National Library of Israel for their kind assistance. Research for this article was made possible by the generous fellowships I received from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania; and the Franz Rosenzweig-Minerva Research Center, the Hebrew University. I am deeply indebted to the directors, fellows, and staff of both centers for their extended support and encouragement.

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