||Eulogy for Mordecai Aaron Guenzburg by Abraham Dov Mikhailishker Lebensohn, (Adam ha-Kohen, 1794–1878), Hebrew poet and grammarian. He was known for his love of the language, and was the spokesman of Russian Haskalah during its early period, openly proclaiming his allegiance to the “Berlin” Haskalah and particularly to Moses Mendelssohn. He received elementary and yeshiva education in his native Vilna where he became a successful broker. His earliest published writings were occasional poems for weddings or funerals of Vilna notables, honoring Jewish and gentile dignitaries. From 1849 to 1853 Lebensohn, together with Isaac Benjacob and Behak, published a second edition of the Biur, the commentary and translation of the Bible by Moses Mendelssohn and his disciples, and appended materials not published in the first edition, under the title Be'urim Hadashim (1858). Following the death of M. A. Guenzburg in 1846, Lebensohn became the leader of Vilna's maskilim, and, because of his eloquence, served as the main preacher at their synagogue, Tohorat ha-Kodesh. He published several scholarly works in these fields - for example, Shnei Luhot ha-Adut, conjugations to make one conversent with, able to analyze, and interpret everything in these tablets, that is, two aspects of the language - and was an active contributor to the Hebrew press. The main theme underlying his poetry is the conflict between optimism (enlightened rationalism), expressed in poems such as “Higgayon la-Erev,” La-Boker Rinnah, Ha-Aviv, and the harsh, cruel reality of life (six of his children and his beloved son-in-law died during his lifetime. The dirges written for his children, Hesped Mar and Mikhal Dimah, are intensely emotional despite the ornamental style of his day.
Mordecai Aaron Guenzburg (1795–1846)was a Hebrew author and founder of the first modern Jewish school in Lithuania. Guenzburg was born in Salantai and earned a living as an itinerant tutor until 1835 when he settled permanently in Vilna. In 1841 he and the poet Solomon Salkind founded a modern Jewish school, which he directed as headmaster until his death.
Guenzburg became one of the leading spokesmen for the Vilna Haskalah, though he was a moderate who opposed radical change. He observed the practical mitzvot which, under Moses Mendelssohn's influence, he viewed as social regulations for the benefit of the Jewish community. He opposed the extremism of both the Orthodox and the secularists. When Max Lilienthal was invited to Russia by the authorities, Guenzburg joined the Vilna maskilim in attacking Lilienthal's attempts to win over the Orthodox and ridiculed his German ways and superficiality.
Guenzburg's books in the area of French and Russian history enjoyed wide circulation and helped improve his financial condition. In 1844 and 1862 he published Devir (2 vols.). Devir aroused in its readers a love for Palestine and influenced Abraham Mapu and Kalman Shullmann. His autobiography Avi'ezer, his most original work, appeared in 1864. Written in the style of Rousseau's confessions, it portrays the inner world of the Jewish child, and is a ringing attack on the heder system of education. Stylistically, Guenzburg surpasses his contemporaries by far. For the sake of accuracy he resorted to mishnaic Hebrew, introducing talmudic phrases and neologisms, many of which became commonly accepted and are still in use, for example, milhemet magen ("defensive war"), milhemet tigrah ("offensive war"), rahitim ("furniture"), beit-do'ar ("post office"), etc. Guenzburg was the literary forerunner of P. Smolenskin, J. L. Gordon, M. L. Lilienblum, and R. A. Broides. His other works include: Ittotei Rusyah Ha-Zarefatim be Rusyah (1843), on the Franco-Russian War of 1812; Pi-hahiroth (1843), a history of the wars of 1813–1815.