Sunday, 9 April 2017

YEKHIEL-TSVI LIKHTENSHTEYN-HERSHENZON

YEKHIEL-TSVI LIKHTENSHTEYN-HERSHENZON (1827 or 1831-February 12, 1912)
            He was born in Orgeyev (Orhei) (or Skulyn), Bessarabia.  From childhood he evinced great talents and at age sixteen acquired a reputation as a prodigy; he was proficient in Mishna, the literature of speculative philosophy, and Kabbala.  Preparing for the rabbinate, at the same time he befriended followers of the Jewish Enlightenment in his city.  For a time he wandered about the yeshivas and small Hassidic prayer houses of Galicia, before leaving for Romania.  In Galats he befriended a missionary and converted to Christianity in Jassy (Iași).  In 1867 he moved to Berlin and worked there with the local missionaries.  In 1878 he traveled to Russia, disguised as a Hassidic Jew, and then settled again in Orgeyev as a miracle worker, although he was soon unmasked and had to run off and continue wandering.  In 1881 he succeeded in becoming a rabbi of a town in Podolia.  In 1882 he was living in Odessa, and from there he left for Leipzig, Germany, from which (ca. 1885) he came to Kiev, was again unmasked, and made his way back to Germany.  He authored the religious work Derekh hakodesh (The way of sanctity) which was popular among Hassidim in Podolia and Galicia, and Sheva ḥakhamot shebetalmud umidrash (Seven wisdoms in the Talmud and Midrash) (Lemberg, 1883), 240 pp., concerning science and Talmud.  For the missionaries, he wrote a series of works in German and Hebrew, such as: Ḥazak emunot emet (Power of belief in truth); Toldot yeshua hamashia (History of Jesus, the messiah); Limude haneviim (The teachings of the Prophets); Beur lesifre (Explanation of Sifre); Brit haḥadasha (The new testament); and Maase hasheluḥim (Story of the disciples [of Jesus]); and with Professor G. Dalman [?], Der Talmud auf der Anklagebank durch einen begeisterten Verehrer des Judenthums (The Talmud in the dock by an enthusiastic admirer of Judaism) (Budapest, 1886); and a series of pamphlets which were distributed by missionaries in German, English, French, Russian, Hungarian, and Yiddish.  He also translated into Yiddish the Prophets and Writings, assisted Franz Delitzsch in his Hebrew translation of the New Testament, and wrote in the first year of publication for the missionary monthly Berit am (The covenant of the people).  For his knowledge the missionaries dubbed him “Rebbe.”  Until his death he was a teacher at the Institutum Judaicum in Leipzig, where he openly carried on his missionary activities.

Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography.


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