SCHORR, JOSHUA HESCHEL (commonly known as Osias Schorr):

Early Career.

Galician Hebrew scholar, critic, and communal worker; born at Brody May 22, 1814; died there Sept. 2, 1895. His parents were rich, but, owing to the obscurantism which prevailed in Galicia, Schorr, received a rather scanty education in the ḥeder. Prompted, however, by an invincible desire for more knowledge, the boy sought the acquaintance of the Galician Hebrew scholars of the time, and finally became acquainted with Isaac Erter, under whose guidance he studied Hebrew, Talmud, foreign languages, and the secular sciences. It was chiefly Erter that influenced young Schorr, who learned from him his elevated style, his critical spirit, and also his sarcasm. Schorr was greatly influenced by Samuel David Luzzatto also with regard to criticism and the study of science; but with respect to Talmudical Judaism, as will be shown later, he was directly opposed to Luzzatto.

Schorr was married young to a woman of good family; and, having become independent, he devotedthe remainder of his life to literary pursuits. About 1865, however, his wife and only son died, and he besides lost the larger part of his fortune, so that after that time he lived almost in seclusion. These reverses seem to have preyed on Schorr's mind, as may be seen by the difference in tone between the first six and the latter parts of his "He-Ḥaluẓ" Schorr began his literary activity in Hebrew with articles on the history of Jewish literature for the periodical "Ẓiyyon," edited by Jost and Creiznach. As this periodical could not publish the large number of contributions from Hebrew writers, Erter resolved upon founding one of his own. He had already drawn up the plan of the new periodical and written part of the preface, when his labors were interrupted by death, and Schorr was left to carry out his master's plan. The new journal was entitled He-Ḥaluẓ.

Founds "He-Ḥaluẓ."

Schorr distinguished himself by his pungent style and the satirical humor with which he attacked his opponents. He was undaunted in his criticism of anything or any one that opposed the spread of modern civilization. Together with Erter and other champions of the Haskalah, he fought against Ḥasidism and obscurantism, but he went much farther than his contemporaries in that he even attacked the Talmud itself. He declared that the rabbis of the Gemara did not fully understand the meaning of the Mishnah, and that therefore their decisions were very often absurd and contrary to reason as well as to the spirit of the Mishnah. In his attacks upon the Talmud he cited particularly those passages which were not in accord with the modern spirit or which appeared to be obscene. Hence, while in the early volumes of "He-Ḥaluẓ," he had as collaborators men like Abraham Geiger, Abraham Krochmal, Steinschneider, Samuel David Luzzatto, and others, he remained almost alone in the later volumes. It is true that some of his former collaborators had died; but there were many others who turned against him and became the objects of his satirical shafts.

As a Critic.

Indeed, Schorr spared no one who was not of his own opinion, and with the exception of Nachman Krochmal's "Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman" and Geiger's "Urschrift" no work which came under his criticism was left unscathed. He was an able critic and had published as early as 1841, in "Ẓiyyon" (i. 147 et seq.), a critical essay on the "Shibbole ha-Leḳeṭ" and the "Sefer Tanya." In Biblical criticism he was influenced by Kennicott, and wrote in "He-Ḥaluẓ" many notes on the Bible, as well as numerous comments on Talmudic and midrashic passages.

Schorr, in the later numbers of his "He-Ḥaluẓ," became even more bitter in his attacks. This may have been due to the moroseness into which he was thrown by his reverse of fortune. There is even a difference of ideas evident in the later and the earlier issues of the periodical; for whereas in the early volumes Schorr declared that many of the sayings of the Rabbis are taken from Zoroastrianism and that most of the words are Persian (Pahlavi), in the later numbers he declared them to be of Greek origin. As was natural, many polemical works were written against Schorr, in which the authors did not refrain even from violent personal abuse; for example, Meïr Kohn Bistritz in his "Bi'ur Ṭiṭ ha-Yawen."

As a Communal Worker.

As a communal worker Schorr was indefatigable, interesting himself in all questions regarding the Galician communities. He fought together with Abraham Cohen of Lemberg for the abolishment of the meat- and candle-tax in Galicia, and strove to improve the education of the Jewish youth, insisting, in spite of his liberal ideas with regard to religion, upon the need of Jewish denominational schools, in which the Jewish spirit might be preserved in its purity. His articles in the "'Ibri Anoki," which he wrote on the occasion of the foundation of the Maḥaziḳe ha-Dat society in Lemberg, show clearly that he was a fervent Jewish nationalist. He bequeathed his property and his library, which was a considerable one, to the rabbinical seminary of Vienna.

  • G. Bader, in Pardes, iii. 181 et seq.;
  • A. Brüll, in Monatsblätter, xv. 244 et seq.;
  • Ha-Maggid, xxxix., No. 36;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. iii. 284-285;
  • Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. pp. 349-350.
  • For He-Haluẓ: Epstein, in Weissman's Monatsschrift, 1889, pp. 53 et seq.;
  • Geiger, Zeit. Jüd. Theol. iv. 67 et seq., viii. 168;
  • Wistinetzki, in Ha-Meliẓ, xxxiv., No. 12.
W. B. M. Sel.
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