Tombstone of Avraham Shalom Friedberg, Warsaw, ca. 1903. At top, engraved on the open book, is verse 5 from Psalm 137, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” The volumes depicted on the tombstone bear the titles of the writer’s works, and underneath the clasped hands is Friedberg’s pseudonym, “Har Shalom.” Photograph by Helios. (The Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem)

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Friedberg, Avraham Shalom

(1838–1902), Hebrew author and translator. Also known as Har Shalom (or by the acronym Hash), Avraham Shalom Friedberg was born in Grodno, Lithuania. After he turned 13, he chose to study watchmaking, while continuing his traditional Jewish education. In 1854, Friedberg left Grodno to receive advanced training in his craft and to gain a firsthand impression of life in southern Russia.

Friedberg wandered from Brisk to Berdichev, Balta, and Kishinev. In the latter city, he worked as a watchmaker, studied Talmud, and began to investigate secular topics. It was in Kishinev that he read, among other things, Safah berurah (Clear Language) by Kalman Schulman, Ha-Nitsanim (The Buds) by Avraham Ber Gottlober, and Talmud leshon Rusyah (Learning the Language of Russia) by Shemu’el Yosef Fuenn.

Postcard celebrating Hebrew authors Perets Smolenskin (center) and (clockwise from top left) Shelomoh Mandelkern, Mordekhai Tsevi Mane, Avraham Ber Gottlober, and Avraham Shalom Friedberg. Publisher unknown, Russian Empire. (YIVO)

In 1858, Friedberg returned to Grodno and subsequently became the leader of the maskilim in that city. There he was introduced to Avraham Mapu’s novel Ahavat Tsiyon (The Love of Zion), a work that had a profound effect on him. He began corresponding with Mapu, who in turn was impressed by Friedberg’s style. In 1862, Friedberg traveled to Kovno to be a guest at Mapu’s home, a meeting that solidified their bond of friendship. In his novel ‘Ayit tsavu‘a (The Hypocrite), Mapu styled the attractive character of Aḥituv in Friedberg’s image.

Emulating his mentor, Friedberg began to write historic novels. His ‘Emek ha-arazim (Cedar Valley)—a historic tale, set in the days of the Spanish Inquisition and inspired by Grace Aguilar’s masterpiece Ha-Anusim—was published in Warsaw in 1876. A literary success, ‘Emek ha-arazim was subsequently adapted numerous times.

In 1881, in response to pogroms launched against the Jews of Russia, Friedberg was one of the first intellectuals to commit himself to the proto-Zionist Ḥibat Tsiyon movement. In 1883, he traveled to Saint Petersburg to assist in the editing of the Hebrew periodical Ha-Melits. In 1886, he was appointed assistant chief editor of Ha-Tsefirah. Among his own publications was a translation of a medieval historic tale, Ha-Rav le-hoshi‘ah, by A. Samter, subsequently published in Warsaw as a book (1886). In 1888, shortly after leaving Ha-Tsefirah, Friedberg began to edit the first Hebrew-language encyclopedia of Jewish and general knowledge, Ha-Eshkol, published in Warsaw by Yitsḥak Goldman and Son, and discontinued shortly thereafter for financial reasons.

Friedberg continued to edit, write, and translate for the Aḥi’asaf publishing house, publishing his collection of historic tales, Zikhronot le-vet David (Memories of the House of David), a history of the Jewish people from the time of the Second Temple to Naḥmanides. This collection, published in four parts between 1893 and 1897, had a massive following for several generations and was subsequently reprinted in many versions. In 1899, Friedberg published his Sefer ha-zikhronot (Book of Memories), containing his articles, feuilletons, and correspondence. Shortly before his death, he published the first part of a textbook, Safah la-ne’emanim (Language for the Faithful) in Warsaw.

Suggested Reading

Getzel Kressel, “Friedberg, Avraham Shalom,” in Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘Ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, vol. 2, pp. 657–659 (Merhavyah, Israel, 1965); Z. Maimon, “Avraham-Shalom Fridberg (Har-Shalom)” Ha-Toren 3 (1922): 88–90 (biography), 4 (1922): 91–95 (bibliography); Yehoshua Ḥana Rawnitzki, “Sofer le’umi: Le-Zekher Avraham-Shalom Fridberg,” in Dor ve-sofrav: Reshimot ve-divre-zikhronot ‘al sofre dori, pp. 170–174 (Tel Aviv, 1926).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann