Hurwitz, Judah ben Mordecai Ha-Levi

views updated


HURWITZ, JUDAH BEN MORDECAI HA-LEVI (d. 1797), physician and Hebrew writer, precursor of the Haskalah in Eastern Europe. Born in Vilna, Hurwitz studied medicine in Padua and traveled extensively; in Berlin he made the acquaintance of Moses *Mendelssohn. He practiced medicine in Vilna, then moved to other towns, and eventually settled in Grodno. He was well versed in medieval Hebrew literature; at the same time he had wide secular knowledge and was strongly influenced by Rousseau. In his works, written in rhymed prose, he calls for the reform of Jewish life in the spirit of the moderate Haskalah. In his first work, Ẓel ha-Ma'alot (1764, and other editions), a collection of 365 epigrams, he advocated the humanistic ideals of the Haskalah and criticized the social conditions of his time. His most important book is Ammudei Beit Yehudah (1766), in which he expounded in the form of a debate, his moral and philosophical beliefs, identifying religion with morality. The book includes a poem in his praise by N.Ḥ. Wessely and an introduction by Moses Mendelssohn. His other works are Kerem Ein Gedi (1764), Megillat Sedarim (1793, and other editions), Mahberet Ḥayyei ha-Nefesh ve-Niẓḥiyyutah (1787), and Heikhal Oneg (1798).


S.J. Fuenn, Kiryah Ne'emanah (19152), 178f; B. Katz, Rabbanut, Ḥasidut, Haskalah, 2 (1958), 122–8; Z.H. Rosenthal, in: Ha-Meliẓ, 2 (1862), 208; I. Shatzky, Kultur-Geschikhte fun der Haskole in Lite (1950), 21–23; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 310–4, 367.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]