Monday 19 December 2016


YOYSEF-MEYER YAVETS (1832-March 16, 1914)
            He was born in Tiktin (Tykocin), Poland, in a family which drew its pedigree back to the Maharal of Prague [Judah Loew ben Bezalel, 1520-1609], the Maharsha [Shmuel Eidels, 1555-1631], the Rema [Moses Isserles, 1529-1572], and the Terumat Hadeshen [Israel Isserlin, 1390-1460].  On his father’s grandfather side, he was descended from Rabbi Moshe-Zev Yavets, a rabbi in Tiktin and later in Bialystok.  He was a great Talmud scholar, but he had no desire to be a rabbi, and following his marriage he became a merchant.  He was, however, unsuccessful at such and in 1861 in Warsaw became a Torah scroll inspector.  He made a name for himself in the observant Jewish realm for his translations of rabbinic literature into Yiddish which he would sign with his own name and with the pseudonym “Hamaatik” (the translator).  He translated into Yiddish: the entire Mishna in six volumes (Warsaw, 1876-1880); Sefer eyn yaakov (Volume from the eye of Jacob) (Warsaw, 1887); Sefer midrash raba (The great midrash), including the scrolls (Warsaw, 1887); Sefer haberit (The book of the covenant) by Rabbi Pinkhas of Vilna (Warsaw, 1898), 160 pp., second printing (Warsaw, 1899); Ben sira (Ben Sira) (Warsaw, 1907), 120 pp.; Byografye fun groysn tane rebe akive (Biography of the great Tanna Rabbi Akiva), from the German (Piotrków, 1924?), 84 pp.; Gedulat david umelukhat shaul (The greatness of David and the monarchy of Saul) (Piotrków, 1911), 42 pp.; Shevile olam (The world’s pathways), by Shimshon Halevi Bloch—the original was in Hebrew (Zalkov, 1822), second edition (Lemberg, 1969), third edition (Warsaw, 1882)—three volumes (Piotrków, 1914), 71 pp.; Sefer neḥamat tsiyon veyerushalayim (Book of comfort of Zion and Jerusalem) (Warsaw, 1916), 120 pp.  Zalmen Reyzen ascribes to Yavets as well the authorship of the religious text Shevile hamelamdim (Teachers’ pathways), a translation and explanation of a portion of the Talmud’s tractate Bava metsia (The middle gate).  One should add that the first author-exegete of this work, according to the title page of the text, is “Aharon, son the Rabbi Avraham Ḥayim Melamed, from the community in Uman” (Warsaw, 1865).  In 1897 there was published in Warsaw a second Shevile hamelamdim, with changes on the title page and signed by Yavets.  Included in the text itself were some important alterations in comparison to the first edition of Shevile hamelmdim, and the topics are numbered and divided into twenty chapters.  Yavets’s translations were intertwined with his own explanations, his own examples, and his own observations—all written in a popular Yiddish style.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (September 12, 1`947); Shtarkman, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 28, 1954); A. Nyuman, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 30-31 (1948), p. 388.

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