“Lo, I send to you” Eliyahu Ha-Levi, who has “listened to and tested” [i.e., carefully
weighed and formulated] pleasant words that “are carried throughout the earth to the
end of the world.” We refer to the two books that he authored about the grammar of
the holy tongue: first, a compilation that includes an explanation of every foreign and
complicated word in accordance with the grammar and, second, the book for the
“young man,” which includes the rules and principles of grammar, most of which are
matters that no one has previously set out, since “[previous scholars] left the matter
open for him to come and delineate it.” He has also been so kind to compose a table of
the grammar of verbs and conjugations to “endow the young with knowledge” and an
abridged “path of learning through grammar”, as the Sages said: “An [effective] teacher
will always teach his students in an abridged [i.e, precise and direct] manner.” And
since we know this man and his words and know that he “has a double portion of his
spirit” [i.e., he is doubly wise] regarding grammar and masorah [the rules of spelling,
lettering, and notation that precisely define the traditional text of the Bible], and that he
authored the writings referred to above with effort and labor and the devotion of many
days of his time, which is in addition to the considerable sums expended by the fine
brothers, Yitzhak, Yom Tov, and Yaakov, sons of our rabbi and teacher, Avigdor Ha-Levi,
may God protect him, who contributed their assets and selves to this project until its
fruition and printed the three works mentioned above.
“Perchance there is a stock sprouting poison weed and wormwood” [i.e., an
evil actor] who, in his heart, is planning that he, too, will print one or all of the
aforementioned works in a more attractive printing, and as a result Rabbi Eliyahu and
the aforementioned brothers will find themselves in the situation of having acted
nimbly, and yet having lost. Therefore, we take the initiative to stand against such
vandals. There is in Kiddushin [a tractate of the Talmud that principally concerns matters
of marriage and betrothal] a passage that states: “If a poor man is reaching for a crust of
bread and another comes and seizes it,
1. A rhyming play on words and reference to: “Lo, I will send to you
Eliyahu Ha-Navi [i.e., the prophet Elijah] before the coming of the
awesome, fearful day of the Lord.” Malachai 3:23.
2. Likening the author to the sage, Kohelet: “Because Kohelet was a sage,
he continued to instruct the people. He weighed and tested the soundness of
many maxims.” Ecclesiastes 12:9.
3. “The heavens declare the glory of God…. Their voice carries throughout
the earth, their words to the end of the world.” Psalms 19:2,5.
4. “Bakhur” means young man in Hebrew and was also the surname that the
author had previously adopted for himself.
5. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Holin 6:72.
6. “For endowing the simple with shrewdness, the young with knowledge and
foresight, the wise man, hearing them, will gain more wisdom.” Proverbs
7. The phrase derekh mavo ha-dikduk, appears to be a play on derekh
mavo-hashemesh, the “path of the sunrise,” or the west road at the entry
point of the Israelites into the land of the Canaanites, described in
8. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Psakhim 3:2.
9. “Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am
taken from you?’ Elisha answered, ‘Let a double portion of your spirit pass
on to me.” 2 Kings 2:9-10.
10. “Perchance there is among you some man or woman … whose heart is even
now turning away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those
nations – perchance there is among you a stock sprouting poison weed and
wormwood.” Deuteronomy 29:17.