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PESSELES, JOSEPH (ELIAS):

One of the foremost representative Jews of Wilna during the middle and latter part of the eighteenth century. His father, well known as Rabbi Elias Pesseles, was the grandson of Moses ben Naphtali Ribkas (author of "Be'er ha-Golah"), and also a relative and stanch and lifelong patron of the gaon of Wilna. A noteworthy feature in all that is known of the career of Joseph Pesseles, and one of interest to the student, is his correspondence, dated 1773, with David Friedländer about Solomon Dubno during the stay of the last-named at Pesseles' house in Wilna. The subject in question is Dubno's engagement to supervise the issue of some of Mendelssohn's manuscripts and his failure to perform his duties satisfactorily, according to Friedländer, who was deeply provoked thereby. Pesseles defends Dubno with a zeal well worthy his deep-rooted love for peace at any price and his eager endeavor to conciliate conflicting elements.

The most prominent feature in the correspondence, however, is Pesseles' remarkable toleration of and apparent intimacy with the forerunners of the Berlin Haskalah as represented by Mendelssohn and his followers. The affectionate intimacy here displayed between a descendant of a long line of rabbinical ancestry on the one hand and the disciples of Mendelssohn's progressiveness on the other is profoundly suggestive of the influence exerted by the Berlin Haskalah even on some Russian Jews at this early period.

Bibliography:
  • Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, pp. 138-143;
  • idem, Ḳiryah Ne'emanah, p. 77.
H. R. M. Gar.
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