Loewisohn, Solomon

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LOEWISOHN, SOLOMON

LOEWISOHN, SOLOMON (1789–1821), Hebrew writer. Born in Mor, Hungary, he received a Jewish education but at the same time studied secular subjects in a Capuchin monastery. With the aid of his relative Solomon Rosenthal, a wealthy scholar, he studied in Prague at a yeshivah and at the university. In 1811 and 1812 he published two grammatical studies that were collected and annotated by A.B. Lebensohn and J. Behak under the title Meḥkerei Lashon (1849). He wrote his first important poem, an elegy on the death of his friend Baruch *Jeiteles, in 1814.

In Prague Loewisohn eked out a meager living by giving private lessons. But the five years between 1815 and 1820 were the most productive and the most "affluent" years of his life. He became proofreader and counselor of Anton von *Schmid. After 1820, he became mentally ill. Insanity led to his untimely death. He published his chief work in 1816, Meliẓat Yeshurun, the first aesthetic interpretation of the Bible in the Hebrew language. It discusses in detail various poetic devices including allegory, irony, metaphor, and hyperbole. The work is prefaced by a remarkable hymn to beauty and poetry. Loewisohn allotted 27 pages of his book to an analysis of the Song of Songs which he regarded as a love song of King Solomon. Loewisohn also used non-biblical passages to illustrate figures of speech. In the chapter on apostrophe he quoted from the second part of King Henry iv (Act 3, Scene 1) – the first translation of Shakespeare into Hebrew. In 1819 he published Meḥkerei Areẓ, the first Hebrew geographical handbook for the biblical period. It utilized Josephus, Eusebius, Pliny, and Strabo. Translated into German two years after its publication, the book served as a handbook for generations of readers, developed a geographical terminology, and pioneered the way for utilization of rabbinic sources.

Loewisohn had also a keen interest in Jewish liturgy. He annotated and translated the kinot and also annotated the Shir ha-Yiḥud ("Hymn of Unity") and wrote a preface on the value of prayer for the siddur of Judah Leib *Ben Zeev (1816). Loewisohn also wrote in German and published several articles in the periodical Sulamith, and a history of the Jews, Vorlesungen ueber die neuere Geschichte der Juden ("Lectures on Recent Jewish History," 1820) which was praised by H. *Graetz.

bibliography:

S. Klein, Toledot Ḥakirat Ereẓ Yisrael ba-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ve-ha-Kelalit (1937), 74–80; J. Fichmann, Anshei-Besorah (1938), 50–56; Ḥ.N. Schapira, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah (1939), 454–78; Schwartz, in: Moznayim (1963), 373–83; J.L. Landau, Short Lectures on Hebrew Literature (1938), index; Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 147–53. Add. Bibliography: T. Cohen, in: Bikoret u-Farshanutt, 6 (1974), 17–28.

[Eisig Silberschlag]

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