He was born in 1769 in a small town,
Bann, in the Lower-Noytroyer Committee in Austro-Hungary
to a poor, although pious family. His father was a
cantor. N. was made an orphan when he was quite young.
At ten years of age he became a tailor’s student for his
uncle. At an early age he announced to his uncle that he
wanted to leave in order to study in and to fulfill his
father’s will, which was revealed to him in a dream.
At eleven years of age, he went away to
Boskowitz (Mehren) to a yeshiva led by Rabbi Shmuel
Kolin. There he studied Bible and Gemara. However, he
was drawn to the 'other world.' He moved to Prague. Here
he studied holy texts with Rabbi Baruch Itteles. He also
started to study foreign languages. He translated into
German his Rabbi’s book 'The Brilliant Words of Rambam'
and started to write Hebrew. After writing his play
'Japheth’s Daughter' in 1799, he married and tried to
become a merchant in the nearby village Kitzeh. However,
due to financial reasons he left his wife and moved to
Vienna. Here he becomes a tutor for Yosef Herzl. Here he
learned French, Latin, and through the initiative of the
Hebrew grammarian Wolfson, in 1805 he issued his Hebrew
play 'Japheth’s Daughter' in an abbreviated format by
Moshe Shmuel M.N.' (turning the initials of Noy and Man
from N.M to M.N.).
The play is divided into eight parts
(eight scenes). It imitates the familiar style of the
Biblical story of Japheth’s Oath.
In 1835 the play was
published (anonymously) in Yiddish.
The Daughter of
Japheth from Giladi
Told in the
Present as a lesson
A beautiful story
taken from the book of Judges when Japheth the
the judge of Israel sacrificed his only daughter
because of an oath he wished to fulfill.
It is also a story about the piety of this
From this story one can learn how a person
careful before he lets words escape from his mouth.
As it written (In Hebrew) "Guard you mouth" or
"You should guard the door of your mouth."
In the first edition of the
play (Vilna, published by Manes and Zimel, 18 fancy
is provided that it is censured on 29 March 1831. The
play also was republished in the year 1839, 1841, 1844,
1848, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1862 in the Vilna printing shop
of the Ross Brothers.
The cast of characters in the play
Japheth - Japheth from Giladi, judge
Hannah the pious Hannah the daughter
Chumatz - a robber who was known as
Zoken and the officers of Giladi - an
elder and the rulers of Giladi
Shaamayah the officer - The top
The maidens of Giladi - the young
virgins from the town Giladi
The lists of heroes is
slightly altered from the Hebrew original. There
Japheth’s wife 'Penina' (in Yiddish “Hagolah”) and 'Khumatz’s'
friend 'Ber' (in Yiddish ‘Paltyah’). Apart from the 'old
man,' who is the chief speaker (high speaker in Yiddish)
and 'the heroes of Giladi," there are more to be found
'old men' 'Sarim' and 'young people' (in Yiddish “The
Old Men” and 'The Heroes of Giladi'). In Hebrew one can
find 'Sar Tzava' (commander). In Yiddish he is not
there. But in his place there are 'Mishulkhim”'
(“Messengers”). In Hebrew the Prince is 'Minucha and in
Yiddish “Shmayah.' In Hebrew there are also 'Na'amah,
the commanders daughter and Devorah, Hannah’s 'midwife'..In
the Yiddish they are completely not there.
Soon after his edition in
Hebrew, "Bet yapheth," N. turned back home, where he had
become humbled by giving lessons and for writing.
In 1820 N.'s wife passed
away and he returned to Pressburg, where he married a
year later for a second time, but due to the bad
treatment of her stepchildren, N. left his wife and went
to Budapest, where he remained for nine years. Living
part-time from teaching, and part-time from writing. In
1930 N. became ill, and after the eleven-month illness,
passed away on 29 November 1931 in Budapest.
N. composed many
Hebrew-German learning books for language, geography,
grammar, arithmetic, letter writing, which since 1808
were published in many editions, besides his play "Bet
yiftah," he also had issued a volume of songs "Shiri
musar," and a volume of stories, "Hishr uhboyt (Straight
and Domesticated?)." Besides this there remains several
things in handwritten form."
According to Zalmen Reisen,
the form from the Yiddish text, "Sooner a narrative than
a dramatic one, although the dialogue was partly stopped
as well. The pattern is an honest, Yiddish adaptation of
"Joseph the Great" and "King Saul." The language already
in transition to modern Yiddish, but with enough
archaic elements too."
from Zalmen Reisen.
Ignaz Reich --
"Beth-El" (Budapest, 1867), pp. 456-460.
William Zeitlin -- "Krit
sfr," Leipzig, 1891-1895, pp. 252-53.