Friday 30 October 2015


AVROM DANTSIG (AVRAHAM DANZIG) 1748-September 12, 1820)
            He was born in Danzig (Gdańsk), into a family that descended from generations of rabbis.  In his youth he left home to study in the yeshivas of the great minds of the time: Yoysef Liberman (Joseph Liebermann) and Yekhezkel Landau, the “Noda beyehuda” (“known in Judah”), and his son.  At age eighteen he received rabbinic ordination.  He did not, though, wish to become a rabbi for wages.  He then settled in Vilna where he took up commerce to support himself.  Due to a fire in 1804, he was impoverished and took a position as a rabbinical judge in the Vilna rabbinical court.  He was the author of such popular legal texts, among others: Ḥaye adam (Life of man) (1810); Ḥokhmat adam (The wisdom of man) (1914); and Binat adam (The understanding of man) (1815), all published in Vilna, in which he imparted in popular language with Yiddish glossary the decisions from the Shulḥan arukh (Set table).  His religious texts—in particular, Ḥaye adam—were among the most widespread in Jewish towns of Poland and Lithuania, and in large numbers and numerous printings also published in Yiddish.  Among his Yiddish writings were his will and Di tfile fun mekhile-betn (The prayer for begging forgiveness), both of which appeared in Beys avrom (Home of Avraham) (Königsberg, 1839), published by his children.  His asking forgiveness, which he carried over into his will, so that it would be published and distributed among the mourners at his funeral, read as follows: “It is well known to the children of Israel that no man escapes sin.  One man is compared to his fellow man, in particular with speaking ill of another, and no repentance is achieved until the injured party pardons the other.  I thus forgive all men and women and children, whether a dignified or not, a domestic servant or anyone else, only that they be from the race of Israel for me to offer my apology.  I may have also spoken poorly, or done something shameful, or behaved haughtily, or, heaven forfend, done something wrong involving money matters, which always between one man and his colleague requires greater forgiveness, and on the condition that I forgive and you need have pity on me should I, heaven forfend, be punished, in particular the one who does not forgive will be punished.  Now, if I did someone an injustice in a monetary matter, and the rabbis or the rabbinical court passed judgment, then he has the right, should I not apologize to him, either to forgive or demand payment from my inheritance or from my religious texts, and may the blessed One hear from heaven.
            “If I might, householders and merchants, should I, heaven forfend, do some injurious in some way, so that the rabbis, as everyone knows, pardon me, so too for everyone in every claim and compromise that I may have contaminated, may they forgive me.”

Sources: Sh. Y. Fuenn, Kirya neemana (Faithful city) (Fürth, 1818), p. 232; Otsar yisrael (Treasury of Israel) (New York), vol. 4; M. Bernshteyn, in Argentiner yivo shrift (Buenos Aires) 6 (1955).

Khayim Leyb Fuks

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