Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moshe Shmuel Noyman

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 Giladi,
the judge of Israel sacrificed his only daughter Hannah,
because of  an oath he wished to fulfill.
It is also a story about the piety of this virgin Hannah.

From this story one can learn how a person should be
 careful before he lets words escape from his mouth.
As it written (In Hebrew) "Guard you mouth" or in Yiddish 
"You should guard the door of your mouth."

In the first edition of the play (Vilna, published by Manes and Zimel, 18 fancy pages, 32o), 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 were:

Japheth - Japheth from Giladi, judge of Israel

Chagiah -  Japheth's wife

Hannah  the pious Hannah the daughter of Japheth

Chumatz - a robber who was known as Chometz 

Paltiah - Chumatz' pal

Zoken and the officers of Giladi - an elder and the rulers of Giladi

The Messengers

Shaamayah the officer - The top ranking man 

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."

Sh.E. from Zalmen Reisen.

  • Ignaz Reich -- "Beth-El" (Budapest, 1867), pp. 456-460.

  • William Zeitlin -- "Krit sfr," Leipzig, 1891-1895, pp. 252-53.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1413.

Translation courtesy of Paul Azaroff and Steven Lasky.

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