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)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Mandelkern, Shelomoh

(1846–1902), Hebrew poet, author of a major biblical concordance. Born in Mlynów, Volhynia, Shelomoh Mandelkern received a broad traditional education. At the age of 16 he was sent to Dubno to continue his studies, and for some time he lived in Kock (Kotsk), Poland. There he studied Kabbalah and Hasidism with David, the son of Menaḥem Mendel of Kotsk. Drawn to secular studies in the early 1860s, Mandelkern began to send articles to the Hebrew press. While attending rabbinical seminaries from 1865, first in Zhitomir and then in Vilna, he associated with the poet Adam ha-Kohen (Avraham Dov Lebensohn). Under the latter’s patronage, Mandelkern published his first book of poetry, the biblical long poem Bat-Sheva‘ (1866). In that year he also published a collection of satirical verses called Ḥitsim shenunim (Sharp Arrows), as well as a Hebrew translation of the story “‘Ezra ha-sofer” (Ezra the Scribe) by Ludwig Philippson.

In 1868, Mandelkern was ordained as a state rabbi, and afterward pursued three academic degrees: in the Department of Oriental Languages at the University of Saint Petersburg, in the Department of Law at the University of Odessa, and at the German University of Jena, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on a biblical topic. In Saint Petersburg, he was commissioned by the Society for the Spread of Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia (OPE) to write a comprehensive, three-volume book on Russian history (Divre yeme Rusyah; 1875).

In 1873, Mandelkern took up the post of state rabbi in Odessa; however, in 1880 he was fired from this position and left Russia permanently, after intentionally misleading the editors of the weekly Ha-Melits by publishing a false report on a blood libel that had never taken place. His action—which he apparently took out of anger against the journal’s editor, Aleksander Zederbaum—caused the censor to shut the paper down temporarily. From 1880, Mandelkern lived in Leipzig, the center of printing and publishing in Germany.

Among Mandelkern’s works from his Leipzig period are his collected poems, Shire sefat ‘ever (Poems in the Hebrew language, 3 volumes; 1882, 1889, 1901); a translation of Byron’s Hebrew Melodies into Hebrew (Shire Yeshurun; 1890); a translation of Lessing’s proverbs into Russian (1885); a translation of Mapu’s novel Ahavat Tsiyon (Love of Zion) into German (Tamar, 1885, with the original author’s name omitted); a book of Russian grammar (1884), and a Russian–German dictionary (1895). His main work, however, for which he invested some 20 years of labor, was his concordance to the Bible, Hekhal ha-kodesh (1896), issued as well in a shorter version titled Tavnit ha-hekhal (1897).

The exhausting labor that Mandelkern devoted to the concordance undermined his mental and physical health, and in his later years he had to be hospitalized frequently. Nevertheless, in 1897 he took part in the First Zionist Congress and later traveled to the United States (1899–1901) to distribute this work. He died during a visit to Vienna in 1902 and was buried in Leipzig.

As a poet, Mandelkern belonged decidedly to the group of poets associated with the Ḥibat Tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement, and he favored narrative poetry. He drew materials from the Bible, Jewish history, as well as from such current events as pogroms in Russia. He was one of the first Hebrew poets to adopt the genre of the ballad, a form into which he incorporated supernatural motifs. His collected poems also include translations from Russian, German, and English poetry. Nevertheless, Mandelkern is remembered primarily for his life’s work, the concordance. Its completeness, clarity, thoroughness, and ease of consultation led to praise from generations of readers, and it was used intensively until the end of the twentieth century.

Suggested Reading

Hillel Barzel, “Perek shevi‘i: Tanakh ve-historyah,” in Shirat Ḥibat Tsiyon, pp. 163–226 (Tel Aviv, 1987); Joseph Klausner, “Dr. Shelomoh Mandelkern,” in Historyah shel ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ha-ḥadashah, vol. 5, pp. 243–255 (Jerusalem, 1955); Hans H. Wellisch, “Hebrew Bible Concordances, With a Biographical Study of Solomon Mandelkern,” Jewish Book Annual 43 (1985): 56–91.



Translated from Hebrew by Jeffrey Green