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Schick, Baruch ben Jacob


SCHICK, BARUCH BEN JACOB (also known as Baruch Shklover , from the name of his birthplace, Shklov; 1740?–after 1812), rabbi, physician, and one of the pioneers of *Haskalah of Eastern Europe. Schick was ordained as a rabbi in 1764 and subsequently served as dayyan in Minsk. In his youth he was already attracted to the Haskalah and general knowledge. His first scholarly work and his other works were lost in a conflagration. He traveled to London to study medicine and there joined the Freemasons. After qualifying as a doctor he moved to Berlin, where he became acquainted with the maskilim of the town, including Moses *Mendelssohn and Naphtali Herz *Wessely. In 1777 Schick published in Berlin Isaac *Israeli's astronomical work Yesod Olam from a defective manuscript in the possession of Hirschel b. Aryeh Lob *Levin, and that same year published his Ammudei Shamayim, a scientific commentary to Maimonides' Hilkhot Kiddush ha-Ḥodesh, adding to it his Tiferet Adam, a popular work on anatomy. In 1778, on his way back to Minsk, he visited Vilna and was in the group associated with Elijah b. Solomon (the Gaon of Vilna), in whose name he published a statement on the need for scientific knowledge for an understanding of the Torah. This strengthened Schick's standing in Jewish circles and influenced not only his contemporaries but also subsequent generations. He stated that the Gaon of Vilna advised him to translate scientific works into Hebrew in order to make their contents available to Jews. In the Hague in 1779, he published his Derekh Yesharah, on medicine and hygiene, and in 1780 he published from Latin a Hebrew translation of the first part of Euclid's geometry. In 1784 he was in Prague, where he published his Keneh ha-Middah, on geometry and trigonometry, which he translated from English (republished by him in Shklov in 1791, together with additional expositions to Maimonides' Hilkhot Kiddush ha-Ḥodesh). From Prague he returned to Minsk. After some time he settled in Shklov, and there he belonged to the maskilim whose needs were supplied by the wealthy Joshua *Zeitlin of Ustye near Shklov. Toward the end of his life he lived in Slutzk, where he served as dayyan and as court physician to Count Radziwill, and where he died. Among the manuscripts he left were a book of medical cures and the translation of the second part of Euclid. Schick devoted his energies to arousing his fellow Jews to the need for studying the arts and sciences. He regarded the neglect of the sciences as caused by the exile. He repeated the accusations of his predecessor, Israel Moses ha-Levi *Zamoscz, against the fanatical rabbis and leaders who persecuted and condemned the maskilim. To restore science to its former place of honor, he pleaded for a revival of Hebrew, in which scientific works intended for his people should be written.


Zeitlin, Bibliotheca; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 325–8; Twersky, in: He-Avar, 4 (1956), 77–81; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, 4 (1956), 53–56; B. Katz, Rabbanut, Ḥasidut, Haskalah, 2 (1958), 134–9; N. Schapira, in: Harofe Haivri, 34 (1961), 230–5; J. Katz, Jews and Freemasons (1970).

[Abraham David]

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