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Worms, Asher Anshel

WORMS, ASHER ANSHEL

WORMS, ASHER ANSHEL (1695–1759), German physician and Hebrew author. In 1723, Asher was appointed physician at the Jewish hospital at Frankfurt on the Main, a position he occupied until his death. He was interested in a wide range of subjects: mathematics (in his youth he wrote a textbook entitled Mafte'aḥ ha-Algebrah ha-Ḥadashah ("Key to Modern Algebra"; Offenbach, 1721), physics, logic, ethics, metaphysics, grammar, and, particularly, Hebrew literature and the masorah. His most important work in this last area was Seyag la-Torah ("A Fence around the Torah"), published posthumously by his son, the physician Simeon Wolf Worms (Frankfurt on the Main, 1766). It comprises three essays dealing with the nature of the masorah, the masoretes and their times, their identification with the Tiberias schools or with *Ezra and his group, an explanation of the abbreviations used by them, and a correction of the errors that had crept into the masorah. Asher held that "in every generation diligent scribes arose" who preserved the masorah, until the masoretes of Tiberias "corrected all the errors that had occurred in it from the days of Ezra to their own times," and that the masoretes were not the inventors of vocalization, but its transcribers. In the introduction to the work, Worms accused Joseph Heilbronn of Eschwege, who had seen the manuscript before publication, of plagiarizing whole sections of it in his commentary on the masorah, Mevin Ḥiddot (Amsterdam, 1765). Heilbronn attempted to defend himself in a pamphlet, Merivat Kodesh (Amsterdam, 1766), to which Simeon Wolf Worms replied in his pamphlet Prodogma Ḥadashah (Amsterdam, 1767). The controversy was settled by Wolf *Heidenheim who confirmed, on the basis of the first page of Mevin Ḥiddot, which he had in his possession, all the charges of plagiarism leveled against Heilbronn.

bibliography:

M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, 3 (1884), 62–64; idem, Juedische Aertze in Frankfurt am Main (1886), 35–39; Berliner, in: mwj, 13 (1886), 62; Harris, in: jqr, 1 (1889), 256; H. Friedenwald, Jewish Luminaries in Medical History (1946; reprinted 1967), 152; M. Hendel, Temunot min he-Avar (1955), 36, 47.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]

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