Wednesday 3 June 2015


            He was born in Bucharest, Romania, and later lived in Mohilev (Mogilev), Byelorussia.  He was one of the first authors of a book for arithmetical calculation in Yiddish.  In Kh. D. Fridberg’s bibliographic listing, Bet eked sefarim (Library), it is noted: Melekhet maḥashevet (Masterwork), the teaching of accounting, translated into Judeo-German by R. Libin Goldin Berg, first printing (Berdichev, 1823), second printing (Sedelkov, 1834), 118 pp.  In issue no. 21 of Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), Kh. Liberman argues that “this book [Melekhet maḥashevet and Melekhet hamispar (The art of numbers), which L. Berz noted in issue no. 19 of Yivo-bleter] appeared the first time from the publishers in 1928 in Berdichev, and on the frontispiece it was stated: Words of hamatik Libin Goldin Berg from Bucharest, now permanently settled in Mohilev.”  The term hamatik may be understood as “rewriter” or “copyist,” as well as “translator” and “adapter.”  Seemingly, Libin Goldenberg took his text from the earlier Melekhet maḥashevet, the well-known Hebrew-Yiddish calculation text, that Moshe-Zera Eidlitz (1720-1786) published in Prague.  Evidently, he translated while recasting it.  Eidlitz’s Yiddish portion of the text was written in a crude Judeo-German, while Goldenberg’s book is written in “a very folkish voice with a pure language and in a light, popular form” (Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon).  According to Reyzen, Goldenberg’s book appeared again in Warsaw in 1873, and it had subsequent printings.  In 1904 there was published in Berdichev a Russian-Yiddish book for arithmetical calculation of 48 pp., divided into four sections, according to the four actions of arithmetic.  On its frontispiece of this book for arithmetical calculation is printed the name of the author in Russian and in Yiddish: M. Goldenberg, and the title of the book: Der zhargon-rusisher arifmetitsheske zadatshnik, heroysgegiben durkh yoysef bermanen (The Yiddish-Russian book of mathematical problems, published by Yoysef Berman), “an easy method to master for oneself arithmetic with problems in Yiddish (zhargon) with Russian.”  The book’s four sections are: “Shaar hamispar” (Chapter on numbers), “Shaar haḥibur” (Chapter on addition), “Shaar haḥisur” (Chapter on subtraction), and “Shaar hakefel” (Chapter on multiplication), in which the author clarified in a primitive manner various ideas about calculation.  His introduction begins with the following words: “Dear friend, I shall begin to teach you with numerals, the calculation with which all men in the world use for commercial interactions.”  The Yiddish text is explained on other side of the page in Russian.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (Goldenberg Libin); L. Berz, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 19 (1942), pp. 59-79; Kh. Liberman, in Yivo-bleter 21 (1943), p. 356; Kh. D. Fridberg, Bet eked sefarim, vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1952), p. 607.

Yitskhok Kharlash

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