The first was published in 1783. Mendelssohn compiled for his children a literal German translation of the Pentateuch; and to this Solomon Dubno, a grammarian and Hebraist, undertook to write a bi’ur or commentary. As soon as a portion of this translation was published, it was criticized by rabbis of the old school, including Raphael ha-Kohen of Hamburg, Ezekiel Landau of Prague, Hirsch Janow of Posen, and Phineas Levi Horwitz of Frankfort-on-the-Main. Fearing that the charm of the German language would lead young Jews to study the translation rather than the Torah itself, and believing that they would thus be led away from orthodox Judaism, the rabbis united forces, and in June, 1779, issued a ban against “the German Pentateuch of Moses of Dessau.” This act led Solomon Dubno to give up his work after having finished Genesis; but, in order that the undertaking might be completed, Mendelssohn himself undertook the commentary. Finding, however, that the work was beyond his strength, he committed to Naphtali Herz Wesel (Hartwig Wessely) the biur to Leviticus, to Aaron Jaroslav that to Numbers, and to Hertz Homberg that to twenty-two of the middle chapters of Deuteronomy. The work was completed in March, 1783, under the title Netibot ha-Shalom (The Paths of Peace). It is preceded by an introduction in Hebrew, written by Mendelssohn, in which he discusses the history of the work and the rules of idiom and syntax followed in his translation. Mendelssohn wrote, also, a German translation of the Psalms, with a Hebrew introduction (“mebo”) on Biblical poetry, for which Joel Löwe (Joel Bril), conjointly with Aaron Wolfsohn (Aaron of Halle, a translator of the Song of Solomon), wrote the biur. The biur to Kaplan Rabe’s translation of Ecclesiastes was written by Mendelssohn.
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