Pinsker, Simḥah

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PINSKER, SIMḤAH (1801–1864), scholar. Pinsker was born in Tarnow, Galicia. Educated at home by his father, an eminent preacher (Maggid), he at first engaged in commerce, but lack of success induced him to move to Odessa, where he became secretary to the local rabbi. He also founded in 1826 the first successful modern Jewish school in Russia, in which he taught Hebrew language and literature. At the same time he published a series of learned papers in the periodical Orient, and when the famous Karaite savant Abraham *Firkovich visited Odessa, Pinsker examined and described several of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts collected by him. His work eventually earned him gold medals from the Russian government and a pension from the Jewish community of Odessa. Relieved from the daily need to earn a living, Pinsker moved to Vienna in order to devote all of his time to research, and there in 1860 he published his major work, Likkutei Kadmoniyyot, a history of Karaism and Karaite literature, with copious extracts from hitherto unpublished Karaite works in Hebrew and Arabic. It is these original extracts which lend his work its permanent value. His own contribution is now largely antiquated, particularly his exaggerated idea of the role of the early Karaite scholars, whom he erroneously regarded not only as the sole founders of the study of Hebrew grammar and lexicography, but also as the pioneers in medieval Hebrew poetry and the precursors of the great Rabbanite poets in Spain, such as Ibn Gabirol and Judah Halevi. Some of Pinsker's misconceptions were the result of Firkovich's tendentious advice or were based on data forged by Firkovich in his zeal to magnify the otherwise very substantial contribution of Karaism to medieval Jewish learning. Pinsker subsequently returned to Odessa.

Pinsker's philological works are Mavo el ha-Nikkud ha-Ashuri o ha-Bavli, on the Babylonian Hebrew punctuation, with an appendix containing an annotated edition of Abraham *Ibn Ezra's Yesod Mispar (Vienna, 1863); and Mishlei ha-Gizrah ve-ha-Beniyyah, on mood and inflection of the Hebrew verb, edited posthumously by S. Rubin (Vienna, 1887). The edition of Abraham Ibn Ezra's Sefer ha-Eḥad, begun by Pinsker, was completed by M. Goldhardt and published in Odessa, 1867. His emendations to David *Kimḥi's Mikhlol are included in I. Rittenberg's edition of this work (Lyck, 1862). A catalog of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts in Pinsker's library was published by J. Bardach as Mazkir li-Venei Re-SHe-F (Vienna, 1869). Pinsker was the father of Leo *Pinsker, author of Autoemancipation.


A. Druyanow, in: Ha-Tekufah, 12 (1922), 215ff.; Zeitlin, Bibliotheca, 269.

[Leon Nemoy]