Slonimski, ḥayyim Selig

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SLONIMSKI, ḤAYYIM SELIG (1810–1904), Hebrew popular science writer and editor. He also used the pseudonym Ḥazas (the Hebrew initials of his name). Born in Bialystok, he wrote popular science articles during the Haskalah period. His initial acquaintance with science was derived from old Hebrew books, but later he also read scientific literature in German. In 1834, he published the first part of his mathematics textbook entitled Mosedei Ḥokhmah ("Bases of Wisdom"). Halley's Comet appeared in the following year, and Slonimski wrote a popular work on astronomy, Kokhva de-Shavit ("Comet," 1835, 18572). He wrote another book on the same subject entitled Toledot ha-Shamayim ("The History of the Skies," 1838, 18662), which caused great controversy, because it demonstrated errors in the Hebrew calendar. Slonimski also explained his views on the Hebrew calendar in Yesodei ha-Ibbur ("Basic Intercalation," 1852, one part only; completed in 1853, 18833). His later works include Meẓi'ut ha-Nefesh ve-Kiyyumah Ḥuẓ la-Guf ("The Existence of the Soul and its Life Outside the Body," 1852), and Yesodei Ḥokhmat ha-Shi'ur ("Foundations of the Science of Calculation," 1865, 18992). Slonimski coined new Hebrew terminology where necessary. Some of his mathematical and astronomical interpretations of obscure passages in the Mishnah found their way into editions of the Mishnah printed in Zhitomir.

Slonimski was also an inventor. Among his inventions was a calculating machine, for which he was awarded a prize by the Russian Academy of Sciences (1844). In 1862, Slonimski founded *Ha-Ẓefirah, a Hebrew newspaper devoted mainly to popular science articles written by himself and a team of collaborators, adherents of the Haskalah. The paper ceased publication after only a few months, upon Slonimski's appointment as inspector of the Government Rabbinical Seminary in Zhitomir and Hebrew censor for South Russia. In 1874, when the Seminary was closed down, he renewed publication of Ha-Ẓefirah, first in Berlin and, from 1875, in Warsaw. The periodical was edited in the moderate spirit of the Haskalah, avoiding conflicts with the Orthodox by presenting scientific innovations in a manner acceptable to them.

In 1884, Slonimski's disciples and admirers celebrated the 50th anniversary of his literary career, and two collections of his articles appeared under the title Ma'amarei Ḥokhmah ("Essays of Wisdom," 1891–94). In 1886, when Ha-Ẓefirah began appearing daily, Nahum *Sokolow joined the editorial board and, in effect, took over the editorship, though Slonimski continued to contribute articles. A list of his articles appeared in Ha-Ẓefirah, 14:91 (1887), 5–6. Slonimski's son Leonid *Slonimski converted to Christianity. Many of his grandchildren achieved distinction. Antoni *Slonimski, son of Stanislaw, was a well-known Polish poet; Alexander, a literary critic, Mikhail *Slonimski, a writer, Nicolas, a composer, and Henry *Slonimsky, a scholar.


Klausner, Sifrut, 4 (1953), 123–5, 130–1; Akavia, in: Davar Yearbook (Heb., 1955), 387–96; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 504–7; Kol Kitvei Frishman, 2 (1920), 21–27; N. Sokolow, Ishim (1958), 135–52; Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 331, 345; 4 (1960), 437.

[Yehuda Slutsky]