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Mordell, Phinehas


MORDELL, PHINEHAS (1861–1934), Hebrew grammarian and scholar. Mordell was born in Shat (Kovno province) and studied in Yelizavetgrad. In 1881, he went to the U.S. and settled in Philadelphia. During his first years there Mordell worked at various trades and was a beadle in a synagogue, at the same time industriously pursuing the study of Hebrew language and grammar. He was associated with the Wissenschaft scholars in the U.S., as well as with Hebrew writers. Finally, after achieving a wide reputation, he worked until 1903 partly as a teacher and partly as a night watchman in order to devote the day to his studies. He was among the pioneer proponents of Zionism and the Hebrew language movement in the U.S. Mordell spent much of his time on the study of Hebrew language and grammar and especially on the Sefer *Yeẓirah which he edited and to which he wrote a comprehensive commentary in English (1914). In 1895 he published, without commentary, the corrected text of Sefer Yeẓirah. He was greatly encouraged in his linguistic studies by Aḥad Ha-Am (Asher Ginsberg), who published some of Mordell's articles in Ha-Shilo'aḥ (vols. 3 (1898), 478–9; 5 (1899), 233–46; 10 (1902), 431–42; see Iggerot Aḥad Ha-Am, 2 (1957), 410–1). He continued publishing linguistic studies in Ha-Toren, 4 (1917/18), 8f.; Ha-Ivri, 9 (1919), no. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24 (a series of articles on the reading of Hebrew which was also published separately); Ha-Olam ha-Yehudi (1924); and Leshonenu, 3 (1930). His articles were also published in English (8 articles in jqr, 1912–34) and one was published in Yiddish. Mordell left an extensive Hebrew commentary to the Sefer Yeẓirah and chapters on grammar (unpublished). His son was Louis Joel *Mordell, the mathematician.


J. Zausmer, Be-Ikvei ha-Dor (1957), 3–32.

[Getzel Kressel]

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