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By : Herman Rosenthal Peter Wiernik

Russian Hebraist and novelist; born in Wilna 1808 (of the various
dates the one given by "Aḥiasaf" is probably most nearly correct);
died there Jan. 24, 1893. His father, who was a ḥazzan, gave him the
usual Talmudical education, and he was also instructed in the Bible
and Hebrew. He married when very young, and while living with his
wife's parents in Nishvezh, near Wilna, became acquainted with a
Catholic priest who clandestinely taught him the German language. He
also acquired a knowledge of Russian and Polish, and on his return to
Wilna acted as private teacher of Hebrew and German, having for one of
his pupils Mattathias Strashun, who remained his lifelong friend. In
1841 Dick became teacher of Hebrew in the newly founded government
school for Jewish boys in Wilna.

The visit of Sir Moses Montefiore to Wilna in 1846 was the occasion of
a great outburst of literary productions in his honor. Dick described
the visit in "Ha-Oreaḥ" (The Guest), published at Königsberg 1860.
was one of the founders and for many years the "shammash" of the
Synagogue Ṭohorat ha-Ḳodesh, modeled after the Shoḥare ha-Ṭob
Berlin of Mendelssohn's time, and known in Wilna as "Berliner Schul,"
because it dared introduce some slight reforms in accordance with the
ideas of the Mendelssohnian "maskilim," who were called "Berliner." He
was interested in the uplifting of the Jews of Russia by various
means, and corresponded on that subject with Count Ouvaroff, minister
of education under Nicholas I. Dick declared himself in favor of
enforcing the ordinance compelling the Jews of Lithuania to dress in
German or European fashion, though in his own dress and manners he
remained an old-style Jew to the last, believing that he could thus do
more good than if he broke with old associations and boldly joined the
new generation.

Dick was a most pleasant conversationalist, his fame as a wit
spreading far outside of Wilna, and innumerable humorous anecdotes
being told in his name and about him to this day. In later years he
was employed by the publishing house of Romm at a small weekly salary
to write Yiddish stories; and his productions of that nature, of
various sizes, are said to number nearly three hundred. In the chaotic
condition of the Yiddish publishing trade in Russia, even an approach
to a bibliography of works of that nature is an absolute
impossibility. In his old age Dick lived comfortably, and was one of
the most respected and popular men in the community.

In addition to that mentioned above, Dick wrote three Hebrew works:
"Maḥazeh Mul Maḥazeh," a Purim story (Warsaw, 1861); "Siprono," a
description of Jewish life in small cities (Wilna, 1868); and
"Masseket 'Aniyyut" (Tractate Poverty), considered one of the best
Talmudical parodies ever written. But his fame rests on his Yiddish
novels, a field in which he was the first professional and the founder
of a school. As he himself asserted many times, he wrote only for the
purpose of spreading knowledge and morality among his readers, and in
many cases he permitted this purpose to overshadow the story. Most of
the modern critics condemn his style; his constant use of High-German
words, explained, often wrongly, in parenthesis; his quotations from
the Talmud and Midrashim with his own commentaries, retarding the flow
of the narrative; and his pausing at a dialogue or other interesting
point to insert a long sermon on the moral lesson to be drawn from
incidents described in the story. But in spite of all verbosity and
deviation, Dick was an excellent story-teller, having a power of
description, an insight into human character, and a sympathetic humor
which are given to few. His longer works are chiefly translations, and
are the least worthy of his writings; but among the shorter ones are
many original stories, some of which, if divested of superfluous
matter, could well bear an English translation. "Der Yiddischer
Posliannik" (The Jewish Ambassador), Wilna, 1880; "Note Ganaf" (Life
of Nathan the Thief), ib. 1887; and "Die Schöne Minka," ib. 1886, have
considerable merit; while some of his characters, such as "Shemaya Gut
Yom-Ṭob Bitter" (the holiday visitor), "Chaitzikel Allein," or "Der
Moiziter Bachur," rank among the best efforts of the present Yiddish

Bibliography: Obituaries in Ha-Asif and Aḥiasaf, Warsaw, 1894;
Wiener, History of Yiddish Literature, pp. 169-172, New York, 1899;
Zolotkoff, in Stadt-Anzeiger, Oct. 15, 1893;
Ha-Shaḥar, v. 349 et seq.;
Hausfreund, 1894, vol. iii.;
Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, pp. 585-603.H. R. P. Wi.

Khulyot Journal of Yiddish Research
No. 1 Winter 1993
Editor: Shalom Luria
Abstracts edited and/or translated by Leonard Prager. Names
are romanized according to the YIVO system.

David G. Roskies
Ayzik Meyer Dik: The Storyteller as Enlightened Maggid

Contrary to earlier studies (the author's included) that focussed on
Ayzik Meyer Dik as forerunner of all that was modern in Yiddish folk
literature, the present essay begins with Dik's departure from
politics and parody. For financial as well as ideological reasons, Dik
began to address himself exclusively to his "dear female reader," to
write in the cursed "Jargon" and to present himself as a staid scholar
who, for a change, told stories. From among all the available Haskala
genres -- parody, satire, quasi-biblical novel, sentimental novel --
Dik selected a middle path in which the fantastic clashed with other
modes, and satire waged war on Jewish folly in Czarist Russia. Thanks
to his phenomenal output, the insignificant mayse-bikhl ('chapbook')
has become a register of historical progress and a permanent gallery
of folk- types, from rabbis to robbers. And in one exceptionally
successful work, "Boruske the Watchman," Dik discovered a substitute
"I" in the person of his famous countryman, the Maggid of

Ayzik Meyer Dik
The Impoverished One (Yiddish original and Hebrew translation)

An interesting tale, "The Impoverished One" tells of a Jewish merchant
from Nicklesburgh (Yiddish: Niklsburg), Tsodek Pikante, who lost his
property in a fire and became a pauper. He left his wife at home and
went out into the world to gather donations.

A famous rabbi, Reb Shmelke, to whom Pikante told his story, took pity
on the merchant and provided him with a written recommendation.
Pikante managed to collect a sum of money and sold Reb Shmelke's writ
to another beggar. This beggar went abroad, where he died suddenly.
Reb Shmelke's writ was all that was found on the dead man, and notice
was sent to the widow that her husband was dead.

The widow remarried and gave birth to a son. On the day of the bris
('circumcision ceremony'), her former husband, Tsodek Pikante, came
home -- after having been robbed on the way. An acquaintance in Vilna
paid his fare home. The wife recognized her husband and, grasping her
tragic situation, fainted. Understandably, the tale did not have a
happy ending.



Saul Ginsburg
On the Panic of 1835/1836

The historian Saul Ginsburg (1866-1940), who also did research on
literature and folklore, discusses the historical background of Ayzik
Meyer Dik's Hebrew story, "The Panic." The panic was caused by a
supposed decree by Nicholas the First's minister forbidding Jewish
minors to marry, so that the government could conscript them for
military service. Word of that would-be decree of 1835 led to
widespread panic. Jews hysterically married off virtually any
unmarried child. The maskil Ayzik Meyer Dik mocks the panic, which he
probably witnessed in the town of Nieswiez (Yiddish: Nyesvizh).



Ayzik Meyer Dik
The Panic

Ayzik Meyer Dik first printed this story in Hebrew in 1867 in Hamelits
(nos. 41, 42, 43) and a year later, in 1868, in Yiddish in Vilna under
the title "The Town of Havoc." (The original has "The Town of Heres."
heres is Hebrew for 'ruin, havoc' -- it is used here as a
characteronymic, like Kaptsansk, etc.). We reproduce here the Hebrew
version which appeared in the Petrograd journal, HeAvar , 1918: 34-44,
since Saul Ginsburg notes in his introduction that he printed it from
a manuscript.

The story recounts in a humorous vein the response of the Jewish
community in the town of Havoc to the evil decree forbidding Jewish
girls under the age of twelve and Jewish boys under the age of
eighteen to marry. The community decided to follow their rabbi's
advice and immediately arrange marriages. The panic is described as a
mad whirlpool affecting one and all, with parents running amok in the
hope of "rescuing" their children.