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Lachower, Yeruḥam Fishel

(1883–1947), literary historian, Hebrew critic, and editor. Yeruḥam Fishel Lachower was born in Horzel, western Poland. As a child and adolescent he received both a Jewish and a general education. Following his marriage in 1904, he settled in Ciechanów, where he worked in commerce (his father had tried unsuccessfully to introduce him to the business world). That same year, he published his first article in the newspaper Ha-Tsefirah, analyzing the poetry of Sha’ul Tchernichowsky. From 1906 to1907, Lachower contributed review essays on Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik and Ahad Ha-Am to Yosef Ḥayim Brenner’s monthly Ha-Me‘orer, and published other criticism on the burgeoning Hebrew literature.

In 1907, Lachower moved to Warsaw with the aim of devoting himself to the world of literature. Although acquainted with Hillel Zeitlin and Y. L. Peretz, he was especially close to David Frishman, who encouraged his writing. Within a short time, Lachower became a prominent publisher and editor, at first with the backing of Frishman and later on his own. Until the outbreak of World War I, he was occupied with the founding (with Frishman) and editing of the literary weekly Reshafim (1908–1910), the journal Sifrut (1909–1910), and the anthology Netivot (1913). At the same time, he launched the Sifrut and Aḥisefer publishing companies, issuing dozens of books, both original Hebrew compositions and translations.

Through his activities as a publisher, editor, and literary critic, Lachower consciously nurtured a modernist Hebrew literature that rejected the classic style of Mendele Moykher-Sforim and his followers. Most notable was Lachower’s distinct preference for the innovative literature of Mikhah Yosef Berdyczewski and Uri Nisan Gnessin. Lachower wrote groundbreaking essays about both these writers, with whom he enjoyed a close personal relationship.

During World War I, Lachower taught literature at a Warsaw Hebrew secondary school. In 1917–1918 he served as the literary editor of the weekly Ha-Tsefirah, and in 1919 he founded the journal ‘Arakhim. A discernible shift from his subjective, impressionist literary criticism to well-researched, analytical review essays occurred during this period. When the Stybel publishing house relocated from Moscow to Warsaw in 1919, Lachower was appointed its director. Together with Ya‘akov Cahan, he served as an editor of Ha-Tekufah, the publishing company’s comprehensive quarterly, until 1925. Lachower’s most memorable assignment at Stybel was his editing of Berdyczewski’s collected writings, which filled 20 volumes (1921–1925). In 1925, Lachower collected his own literary essays and published them under the title Meḥkarim ve-nisyonot (Studies and Experiments).

In 1927, Lachower moved to Palestine. Aside from his active involvement in the country’s literary life (e.g., he was a founding editor of the weekly Moznayim in 1929), he devoted most of his time to three major projects. The first was writing a history of modern Hebrew literature (Toldot ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ha-ḥadashah; 4 vols., 1928–1948), the nature of which fell somewhere between that of a serious historical work and a textbook. The second work was a detailed study of Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, which led to the publication of a definitive (yet unfinished) monograph on this writer (Byalik ḥavav vi-yetsirotav, 3 vols.; 1937–1948), as well as a comprehensive collection of Bialik’s letters (Igrot Ḥayim Naḥman Byalik, 5 vols.; 1938–1939). Lachower’s third and final task was a study of Jewish mysticism through the ages, the main product of which was the book Mishnat ha-Zohar (The Teachings of the Zohar, vol. 1; 1949), consisting of thematically arranged chapters translated into Hebrew and annotated by Lachower and Yesha‘yah Tishby. All these projects ended abruptly with Lachower’s sudden death in Tel Aviv in February 1947.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Fichman, “F. Laḥover: Kavim le-ḥayav veli-demuto,” in Toldot ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ha-ḥadashah, by Yeruḥam F. Lachower, vol. 1, pp. v–x (Tel Aviv, 1965/66); Shmuel Lachower, Fishel Laḥover: Bibliyografyah (Tel Aviv, 1947/48); B. Y. Michaly, “F. Laḥover,” in Le-Yad ha-ovnayim, pp. 188–199 (Tel Aviv, 1958/59).



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler