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Feder, Tuviah

(1760–ca. 1817), Hebrew poet, novelist, playwright, and linguist. Born in Przedbórz (in the Kraków district), Tuviah Feder wandered from Piotrków Trybunalski where his father-in-law lived, to Chełm, Kempen, Wołodarka, Berdichev, and finally to Brody and Tarnopol. Failing at commerce, he worked as a proofreader, a preacher, and an assistant cantor. As of 1786, he led the life of a poor, itinerant teacher. While in Galicia, Feder became acquainted with the first maskilim and was known for his aggressive style. He aspired to bring Haskalah closer to Jewish tradition.

Feder’s first book, Bayit ne’eman (1794), dealt with the quest for truth and its essential fundamentals within the context of Torat ha-musar (ethics). His second book, Kol nehi (1798), was a lamentation upon the death of the Gaon of Vilna; and his third book, Lahat ha-ḥerev ha-mithapekhet (1804), was a poignant criticism of those who distorted scripture contrary to the masorah (the traditional text of the Bible). In this third text, Feder particularly criticized Aharon Wolfsohn-Halle’s Be’ur and Yitsḥak Satanov’s Igeret bet tefilah. Feder’s book had a profound influence on traditional commentators and linguists, and was published in a second edition in 1866. In 1814, he published poems in honor of Alexander I, on the occasion of the tsar’s victory over Napoleon.

In 1814, Menaḥem Mendel Lefin’s translation of the Book of Proverbs into Yiddish led Feder to write Kol meḥatsetsim, a satire against Lefin. In this polemical work, Feder describes an imaginary conversation between Moses Mendelssohn and Mendelssohn’s disciples, consisting primarily of blatant, derogatory references to Yiddish. The first part of Kol meḥatsetsim was apparently issued in Berdichev in 1816, but was promptly withdrawn following the intervention of Lefin’s friends, headed by Ya‘akov Shemu’el Bick. In an article published in Kerem ḥemed, Bick praised Lefin and his books, defended Yiddish, and demanded that Feder withhold the publication of his own book. In response, Feder agreed but demanded financial compensation.

Feder’s argument with Bick is a record of the first literary dispute over the place of Hebrew and Yiddish. Kol meḥatsetsim was eventually published, first by A. M. Mohar in 1835, and later by Jacob Ehrenpreis in 1875. Additional works by Feder were published after his death: a rhymed play entitled Adam ve-Ḥavah (Adam and Eve), the Aramaic parody Zohar ḥadash le-Purim, and other materials that had come into the possession of Yisra’el Dov Frumkin, the editor of Ha-Ḥavatselet, including poems, translations, and articles on grammar.

Suggested Reading

Yehudah Friedlander, “Tuviah Gutman-Feder: ‘Kol meḥatsetsim’ (‘al-peh ketav-yad),” Zehut 1 (1981): 275–303; Joseph Klausner, Historyah shel ha-sifrut ha-‘Ivrit ha-ḥadashah: She‘urim (Jerusalem, 1930), vol. 1, pp. 239–246; Getzel Kressel, “Feder, Tuviah,” in Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘Ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, vol. 2, pp. 569–570 (Merḥavyah, Isr., 1965).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann