W. was born in 1754 (according to Zeitlinís "Kirias
Sefer"ó1756) in Halle, Freisen Municipality in Germany. His
father was a doctor and his mother, apparently, was affiliated
with the followers of the Enlightenment. Therefore, it is
possible to assume that from his parentís home, the young W. was
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the early, newly founded
"Enlightenment," or "Haskalah," in Germany. He arrived in Berlin
approximately in 1785. W. was closely associated with the
Haskalah supporter Joel Brill (Lev)
devotees of the Enlightenment who formed around "Sefer HaMeíasef"
(a book urging the adaptation of Hebrew to secular writings)
that quickly became---according to Haim Graetzís writings, "The
Audacious Upheaval by the Followers of the Moses Mendelsohnian
Intellectual Era." Since 1788 the movement involved itself more
and more in literary adaptations of the Hebrew language. Though
it started out in Hebrew it later included a German translation
of parts of the Biblical Books of Prophets and Writings and
other original and translated works. His intensive literary
efforts combined with the battle he led for the Haskalah drove
him to become one of the first supporters of the German
followers of the Enlightenment. He was one of the most extreme
opponents of Orthodox Judaism.
Later W. wrote many works despite his leading role
in the battle for the ideals of the German Haskalah with its
unbridled ideals against Yiddish. He wrote a work in fact, a
comedy in Yiddish, "Leichtsinn und Froemmelie Auszweigen"
(Foolishness and Piety Swept Out) (Breslau, 1796). This comedy
comprises eight pages and is the second part of "Lustful Plays
to Stage for the Purim-Feast." In its first section W. included
"The Brave Vashti" written by Friedrich Goethe, which he
transcribed in the Yiddish alphabet (in this way he made it
clear that "The Brave Vashti" was a printed Yiddish comedy).
The second edition of the W. comedy was issued
separately (Amsterdam 1798, Printed by Yochanan Levi, Doctor and
his son Benjamin). This very same comedy was often (as noted by
Steinshneider and Ben-Yaakov) bound together with Yitzhak
Eichelís comedy "Rabbi Hanoch the Depressed and Sanctimonious."
This was certainly because (according to B. Gorin) the hero in
both plays is Rabbi Hanoch.
According to B. Gorin, W. wrote his play with the
full intention that it should be performed. No Yiddish theatre
(in the modern meaning of the words) existed at that time.
However, the author intended that the comedy should be staged in
the same way that as in those days, the Purim plays were
presented. He also meant for it to be performed for Purim when
Jews occupy themselves with such things. He intended for "Leichtsinn
und Froemmelie..." to serve as a transition from the Purim
shpils to modern Yiddish drama. His intention was two- sided.
More correctly, three-sidedóFirst: to drive out the Purim plays
and present modern drama, which should represent the Jewish
people in full, living color, --Second to battle against
fanaticism, and Third: To battle against modern youth who have
moved off in the wrong direction." The author announces this
himself in his preface, which was written in German in Yiddish
"W.ís play had, according to Zalman Reisen, with
its sharp Haskalah inclination was meant to be a prototype of
all future Haskalah dramas, whose purpose was to fight against
fanaticism. However, at the same time, the author also was not
afraid to show that the young generation was trodding on false
paths. This was especially true of the Jewish women, who had
recently acquired the superior outlook of an alien culture and
who threw away their traditional modesty. Whatís more the
outlook of his work is very deep, but this was only his
attempt, through Yiddish literature, to protect people living in
those days to enter the modern age. In addition, it was written
at a time when European literature also inherited a tendency
towards sentimental behavior with its overly exaggerated
idealism. This was one-sided and colored by the thick-dark hues
of the 'other side'."
Though the title of the comedy, its preface and
dialogue, are spoken in German by leaders of the young
generation, all others speak in the characteristic and local
Yiddish of the northern area in Germany at the end of the 18th
century. The comedy is also the one and only Yiddish play in
which the language is in the local Yiddish dialect of a specific
W.'s comedy was never performed during his
lifetime. It wasnít till the end of the seventh decade of the
nineteenth century that Professor Horowitz made use of the
concept found in this comedy in his farce "Shabbtai Zvi," which
he presented with his troupe in Eastern Europe.
1917 -- Gabel in his theatre presented B. Gorinís
rendition of this comedy under the name, "The Zealot." The
presentation had no acclaim (in Reisenís "Lexicon" it is
incorrectly stated that it was performed by an amateur group in
1918 in New York.)
Several years later Dr. M. Weinreich presented the
play in Vilna with the students of the Yiddish teacherís
seminary. Zalman Reisen, in his book, "From Mendelsohn to
Mendele" (Volume 1, pages 25-68), printed W.'s comedy in its
Dr. J. Shatzky demonstrates (in "Archive," page
148) that in the catalogue of the Rosenthal Library in
Amsterdam, which was established in 1875 by M. Roest (on page
90), that there exists a play called on page ninety, "David The
Slayer of Goliath" (Breslau 1802, 19 pages).
Sender reminds us
that in his catalogue (page 197) in the British Museum (London
1867) another edition of the play: "David, the Slayer of
Goliath" a musical performance with song in two versions, Furth
bibliography printed in Furth, this same edition certainly
described: "David, the Slayer of Goliath. A play with songs in
two acts that was to be staged at the Purim Feast" (page 16),
with autographic improvements supervised by Yitzhak Dovid
us of the same edition with the notations, was printed in German
using Yiddish letters.
Shatzky talks about
the play, "This play has no great literary worth, and its only
interest is merely bibliographic. It is understood that the
author of "Leicthsinn und Froemellie" is himself the main
interest. Certainly this was an opportunistic play--written for
the students of the Wilhelmshule in Breslau."
W. died on 20 March
1835 in Furth.
Zalmen Reisen -- "Lexicon
of Yiddish Literature," Vol. I, pp. 904-910.
B. Gorin -- "History of
Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 1, pp. 70-82.
B. Borochov -- "Di ershte
yidishe komedye," "Di varhayt," 30 January 1917.
K. Marmor -- Barimte
mentshn, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 4 May 1924.
N. Auslander -- Di eltere
yidishe komedye," "Di varhayt," 30 January 1917.
Max Erik -- Di ershte
yidishe komedye, "Filologishe shritn," Vol. 3, Vilna,
1929, pp. 555-584.
Dr. M. Weinreich -- "Bilder
fun der yidisher literatur-geshikhte," Vilna, 1928.
Zalman Reisen -- "Fun
mendelson biz mendele," Vilna.
Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Vegn
aaron halle wolfzohns piese, "Archiv," Vilna, 1930, pp.
Joel Loewe (Brill),
major activists in the Haskalah movement, who cooperated
in establishing the society of maskilim and in