Monday 8 February 2016


YITSKHOK HAMBURGER (b. mid-nineteenth century)
            He was born in Cracow, into a rabbinical family that drew its pedigree from R. Yitskhok Horovits (R. Itsikl Hamburger).  He studied in religious elementary school and yeshivas, later becoming known as the “Podguzher dayen” (rabbinic judge from Podgórze).  He lived in Cracow, Lemberg, Przemyśl, and Brod where he fell under the influence of the followers of the Jewish Enlightenment.  Later, though, he regretted his “youthful transgressions” and returned to pious Judaism.  He was the first translator of R. Avrom Dantsig’s religious text Ḥaye adam (Life of man), which he published in 1866 in Lemberg (and in Warsaw in 1867) in an abridged form with additional chapters in archaic Yiddish.  He was also one of the translators into Yiddish of the texts: Bet Avraham (The house of Abraham) as Beys avrom, dos iz di tsavoe fun reb avrom dantsig (The house of Abraham, this is the will of R. Avraham Dantsig) (Lemberg, 1875), 80 pp.; Shiaḥ yitsḥak (Balm of Yitskhok), an abridged commentary on Pele yoets (Profound advice) in archaic Yiddish (Przemyśl, 1876), 48 pp.; Pele yoets, in two parts (Lemberg, 1978; Warsaw, 1898; and Vilna, 1898), 159 pp.--the two parts reach as far as the letter ḥet: “This work of ethics written by a Sefardic Jew from Turkey,” with an introduction entitled “Petiḥa” (Foreword).  As he explains himself in the introduction to Pele yoets, he also translated the ethics texts, Shevat musar (The staff of ethics), Et laasot (A time to do), and (in a newly adapted form) Kav hayashar (The just measure).  He was also the compiler of the prayer book, Derekh haḥayim im tokhaḥat musar (The way of life with moral rebuke), “in old Yiddish with the judgments of R. Yaakov of Lisa” (Yaakov ben Yaakov-Moshe of Lisa, early nineteenth century), with approbations from Shimon Sofer and others, with “physical and moral stocktaking” in Yiddish and a Yiddish translation of Orḥot haḥayim mirabenu harosh (Guests of life from our teacher, the Rosh [Asher ben Yekhil]), signed: Yitskhok (Itshe) (Vienna, 1908).  The prayer book is full of pious tales, fables, and commentaries.  The Yiddish portion begins with the words of Orḥot haḥayim: “(A) You should expand beyond the poor habit of arrogance (with the objective of distance) and also from flattery and from utter falsehood and slander and anger; (B) you should take good care neither to transgress a vow nor (deceit of fellow human beings) insinuate anything about money and never entertain jealousy nor hate another person….”

Source: Bet eked sefarim; Y. Rivkind, in Yivo-bleter (New York) (1952), p. 221 (in the bibliography of A. M. Dik); Dov Sadan, Avne safa (Curbstones) (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1956); A. Yaari, in Kriyat sefer (Jerusalem) 32 (1958).

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