Born 1757 (not, as in Reyzen’s “Lexicon”, 1875, or as in
Shtif, 1758) in Copenhagen, Denmark ( not in
Konigsberg, as in the above biographies.) His great
grandfather’s name was Yechiel Levin. “Yechiel” became “Ikhl,”
from which derived the surname “Eykhl.” A. arrives at a
young age in Konigsberg, where he later studies at the
university and tutors the grandchildren of merchant/
banker Moshe Friedlander. He also befriends Moshe
(Moses) Mendelssohn and later becomes his first
His first significant
societal venture was to found in Konigsberg, supported
by the Friedlanders and aided by friends in Berlin and
Breslau, the “Chevra Dorshey Lashon Ever" (Society of
Friends of Hebrew Literature), which later became
“Chevrat Sochrey ha-Tov ve-ha –Tushiah” (Benevolent
Merchants Society) of Konigsberg and Berlin.
In 1778, the “Chevra” opened
its “Frayshul,” a modern Yiddish school in Berlin, and
in 1782, published, in Hebrew, a call for the founding
of such a school in Konigsberg, but due to strenuous
resistance from the Orthodox community, the plan was not
In the years 1784-8, the
“Chevra” publishes in Konigsberg its organ for the
revival of the Hebrew language, “ha-Measef,” edited by
A. and featuring reportage of his trip to Copenhagen,
where he headed on May 6, 1784. He returns to Konigsberg
in 1786 and publishes his German translation of the “Sidur,”
a Hebrew transliteration of which, published by David
Friedlander, appears in Berlin the same year.
In 1788, A. settles in
Berlin and brings “ha-Measef” from which he pulls back
1790, but in which he still published his articles.
He earns his livelihood as
manager of the print shop at “Chinuch Nearim” school and
later becomes bookkeeper at Meyer Warburg”s
In 1789, his Mendelssohn
biography, “Toldtr ha-Rambaman,” appears in Berlin
(reprinted Vienna, 1814.)
His translation &
explication of “Mshley” is published as well as the
first part of “Moreh Nevuchim” with Shlomo Maimon’s
commentary, “Givat ha-Moreh.”
Among various remaining
manuscripts is his comprehensive Hebrew translation of
In 1791-2 he co- founds,
with Mendelssohn’s eldest son, Yosef, Aharon Halle
Wolfssohn (author of the Yiddish comedy “Leichtsinn un
Frammelei”) and others, the “Society of Friends” to
provide material support to young scholars of the
Enlightenment. He devotes himself wholeheartedly to the
Society, serves on its board in 1792, as Secretary in
1795 and as Chairman from 1797-1801.
A. penned the first Yiddish
comedy, entitled “Reb Henech or What Do You Do With It,”
a family portrait in 3 acts.”(manuscript at the Yiddish
Theological Seminary in Breslau, Signature 46.)
The comedy is written in two
languages, Yiddish and German. It is (according to Max
Erik) a naturalistic comedy, which strives to mirror the
conduct, manners, language and style of its
protagonists, who fall into two camps – the enlightened
and the orthodox, and thus speak two languages: the new
generation – a pure German, the old - the purest, most
folk inflected Yiddish. Non-Jewish German characters
also speak pure German, while an Englishman and
Frenchman who figure in the comedy speak half German and
half English or French.
The comedy aims to point out
the harm of hypocrisy and even more so to underline the
struggle for reform in Jewish law in Prussia.
Not having familiarized
themselves with the subject matter of the comedy, a
whole slew of literary historians (relying on the
German-Jewish historian Jost) like Tsinberg, Dr. M.
Pines, Reyzen, held that it was an expression of his
scornful attitude towards Yiddish.
The Yiddish manuscript
contains thirty-one sheets (sixty-two pages). The many
errors in Hebrew words make it clear that it is a copy,
not written by the author himself.
The exact date when the
comedy was written is not known. Steinschneider
maintains that he saw a copy (unclear if print or
handwritten) dated 1797. Events mentioned in the work
indicate that it was written around 1793-4, and as such
is the first comedy written in Yiddish. It was not
written to be performed, but to be read.
A printed edition of the
comedy, entitled “Reb Henech, the Betrayed Bigot” or
“Der Entlarfte Shoneheilige,” in German with Hebrew
elements in Hebrew script, was published in 1846 by M.
Alenstein in Berlin. (A copy found in the library of
Noyech Prilutsky in Warsaw, is the basis for a Yiddish
version being prepared by Zalmen Reyzen).It consists of
fifty-six pages in octave form.
Both texts contain many
corrections apparently made by the author himself which
indicate that the German version is a later manuscript.
June 18, 1804 A. died in Berlin. In his will, dated
April, 28, 1804, he asks his wife to remember that she
needs to live on for her child. (A ‘s only son, Avraham,
was named after his grandfather. In his “Lexicon,” Z.
Reyzen mistakenly refers to Eykhl as Yitchak-Avraham.) A
lock of A.’s hair was found among some pages of his
Zalmen Reyzen — “Lexicon of Yiddish Literature,” Vol.
1, pp 79, 909.
B. Gorin – “History of Yiddish Theatre,” Vol. 1, p.
N. Shtif – Literature-Historical Legends, “The Red
World,” Kharkov, pp. 7-8, 10, 1926.
Dr. Yakov Shatsky – New Works from the Yiddish
Literature,” “Pinkus,” New York, 1-2, 1927, pp.
Max Erik – The First Yiddish Comedy, “Shriftn fun
Yiddish vaysnshaftlekhn institute,” Philadelphia
Shriftn, Vilna, 1929, Third Volume, pp. 555-584.