Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Eliezer Favir

No biographical data is known for Eliezer Favir. It is only known that he was secretary of the Jewish kehilla (community council) in Zolkiew, near Lemberg, Galicia.

Gershon Beder recalls that in 1787, when the Austrian government issued the law that every Galician Jew must have a family name, a Jew came from a village near Zolkiew and said that he is called "Shmuel from under the shrankn," and he is a farmer in the field of employment. The overseer of the names was given the name of his surname, "Poyer." By mistake it became "Paver." This was already after his son Eliezer was an adult.

(The premise is already in doubt that the "overseer of the names" would certainly have written the name "Bauer," with a "B" [and not with a "P"], because all names even had to be marked in German by the Jewish metric leaders.)

According to Bader, Eliezer from his early youth went to a yeshiva in Zolkiew, or in Lemberg, and Became a scholar and a writer with a unique Hebrew style, which in that time of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) melitse [style common in Hebrew literature in the 18th and 19th centuries) could serve as a template.

Later he became the official writer for the Zolkiew kehilla and directed all the Jewish affairs in the city. However when they had the need to write a report for the government, he had to use the help of Christians, because he didn't know any German.

Bader further recalls that F. became the provider of siddurs, machzors, khumash, and other books, which they then had to bring in from Prague, or from other German cities, because with the Russian Jews at that time, no connection was made. Initially when they opened a Yiddish print shop in Zolkiew, F. published several Hebrew books, which he then went around to sell. On the request of his mother, that he also should really print in Yiddish, that the wives should also know how to read. He adapted in "Hebrew meaning" the "story book" by R' Asher Anshel, by Reb Layzer the cantor, approximately 40 stories out of the 354 original ones printed in 1800, under the name, "Sipore hapelaot."

In 1801, under the name, "Gdules yoysef (The Grandeur of Joseph)," there was published in Zolkiew his shortened Yiddish translation of the Toliver Magid Chaim Avraham ben Arye-Leyb haCohain's "Milkhome bshalom (War and Peace," a typical Hebrew morality drama, in two parts.

In the "Archive of the History of Yiddish Theatre and Drama" (Vilna 1930, pp. 151-158), Dr. Shatzky noted that in various editions of the Yiddish translation there was published from 1801 until 1912.

As Zalman Reisen remarks (in 1931), there is found three additional publications of "Gdules yoysef" in the Vilna University Library, from the years 1842, 1845 and 1849.

According to Avraham Yeri in Tke"u (1812), there was published in Zolkiew, or in Lemberg, F.'s Yiddish translation of "Shabkhi bal shom tov," seen with an introduction by the translator, written in Tke"u (1811). This is to be seen in 1811 that F. was still alive.

F. wrote several books in Yiddish.

Zalman Reisen maintains that:

"F. was a pioneer of the Yiddish folk literature in the beginning of the nineteenth century. One of the first Yiddish writers who, after Mendel Lepin and his friend, Yosef Perle (sp), tried to overstate the fledgling traditional "High German" -- the then accepted literary language of ours -- and used in his essays the living Yiddish. No original work is known of him, but in his work he expressed a sense of popularism for a "book of books," as well as for the modern maskilim drama, as well as for the classical moral book."

Dr. Jacob Shatzky sets himself apart on the drama, "Gdules yoysef":

"The Yiddish edition was very much liked by the people. (A.J.) Papirna recalls in his memoirs that among the beloved books that the wives have read, that were stories of the old Jewish history, such as "Gdules yoysef" -- a romantic, legendary history of Joseph the Beautiful [?] [Yosef dem sheynem].

"Mendele (Mokher Sefarim) also mentions in his autobiography 'Shloyme reb khayims (Shloyme, the Son of Reb Khayim),' this book, 'Gdules yoysef': "Read one for the children, the story of Yosef Hadik [The Mighty Joseph?] with his brothers, in a Hebrew translation. People enjoy themselves, they marvel at the heroism of Judah.

"These dramatized stories that our babies and their loved ones so much enjoyed in Yiddish were part of a much larger number of publications than in Hebrew. ... About the translator, the original editor, let us say that he composed a few books in Yiddish.

"The dramatic construction of 'Gdules yoysef,' as well as Eliezer Favir's achievement in the translation of the drama, 'Milkhome bashalom,' deserves a special treatment. Here I just want to remind you that the basis of all the subsequent 'Sale of Joseph plays' is not the text that Schudte (sp) published in his 'Yidishe merkvirdikeytn (Yiddish Remarks),' but rather the Yiddish version of 'Milkhome bashalom' -- the book 'Gdules yoysef.'

In his bibliographical list then, according to Dr. Shatzky, the publications also of the 'Sefer mekhire yoysef (Book of the Sale of Joseph)' (Vilna, 1893), is strongly influenced by 'Gdules yoysef,' oder, 'Mekhire yoysef-shpil,' that it's 'based,' said the judge -- plagiarized from this drama in the form of a few scenes, special for the second part."

  • Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. III, pp. 6-9.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Di yidishe oygabes fun der drame, "Milkhome bashalom," "Archive," Vilna, 1930, pp. 151-158.

  • Avraham Yeri -- Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, "Krit sefer," Jerusalem, Shana Shminit, A, pp. 80-81.

  • Z. Reisen -- Tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher haskalah-literatur, "YIVO Bleter," Vilna, March 1931, pp. 200-201.

  • Gershom Bader -- Fun foyer iz gevorn paver, un fun paver iz aroys a galitsianer shreyber, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 3 Nov. 1946.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2200.

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