This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of a great Jewish scholar, Rabbi Elijah Bahur. You will no doubt come across this name in the Jewish press. You will want to know more, about his life and work. So we take you through the Gallery of Our Great to meet this great man.

Elijah was the youngest of nine children whose father was Rabbi Asher Halevi. The family lived in Neustadt, a small town near Nuremberg, in Germany.

Those were the medieval times, when the poor and defenseless Jews were often driven from town to town, homeless, and stripped of their possessions. The Germans were notorious for their cruelty. And so one day the Jews of Neustadt, and of other towns, were driven out for no reason except that of being Jews and wanting to remain Jews.

Rabbi Elijah was already married and a father when the cruel expulsion was ordered. He took his family and wandered southward, until they reached Italy.

At about the turn of the century Rabbi Elijah reached Venice. There he found many Jewish scholars, and he decided to settle in that city. While earning a living through teaching others, the young Rabbi Elijah continued his own studies and soon people began to recognize his great scholarship.

In 1504 Rabbi Elijah went to Padua, another Italian city. He was poor, and supported himself by copying Hebrew books for rich Jews who liked to own manuscripts of the early Jewish writers. At the same time he gave lessons in Hebrew, and he became known as an excellent teacher. The number of his students grew, and many prominent non-Jews were among them. You may wonder why non-Jews should want to learn Hebrew in those days. Well, there was a movement in those days (which we call "Humanism") for scholars and educated persons to turn back to the ancient writings in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, to find knowledge and inspiration in, them. Many non-Jewish scholars and clergymen were not satisfied with the translations of the Bible, and wanted to study it from the original. But as yet there were not simple text books for the Hebrew language and grammar.

"Rabbi Elijah's many students begged him to write such a text book. And so he wrote a cornmentary on the Mahalach Shevilei Hadaath (journey on the Path of Knowledge), a Hebrew text book that had been written by Rabbi Moshe Kimchi, a brother of Rabbi David Kimchi (known as the ReDaK).

When the manuscript was almost ready, an epidemic broke out in Padua. Rabbi Elijah gave the manuscript to one of his students to have it copied and made ready for publication. The student proved most unworthy, for he published the work without the name of the true author. He had also made some changes, and had added various other texts of Rabbi Elijah Levita.

The book became a favorite textbook for the study of Hebrew. But about thirty-eight years later in 1546, Levita republished the book in Venice in a corrected form. In a poem which was included in the book, he told of the fate of the original manuscript.

After spending five years in Padua, Rabbi Elijah Levita was on the move again. Padua was taken and looted by the army of the League of Cambrai. Levita lost everything he had. He went to Rome. Here lived a liberal-minded Christian scholar, Egidio of Viterbo, who later became a cardinal. Egidio heard of the brilliant Jewish scholar, who was such an authority on the Hebrew language and grammar. He invited Levita and his family to stay in his palace, where they could keep their own household, and live comfortably and peacefully. Levita accepted the invitation. Here he found a fine library, where he spent many hours of study. He devoted considerable time to teaching his generous host Hebrew, and copying Hebrew texts for him.

Levita lived at Egidio's palace for about thirteen years. During these years he became acquainted with many of the greatest scholars of the day, and his fame spread far. But many Jews frowned upon his associations with the Christian scholars, and especially his teaching them Hebrew. The knowledge of Hebrew possessed by non-Jews, a knowledge which was rarely perfect, often proved dangerous for the Jews, when such knowledge was used with a feeling of hatred or jealousy. But Levita took pains to associate only with liberal-minded people. Even so, this association had a bad influence upon his children.

Those thirteen years were of the most. comfortable Levita had lived. Living in peace and security he could devote much time to study and writing. He translated Hebrew texts into Latin, and wrote many works of his own.

Most important of his works is the "Sefer Habahur," after the name of which the author became known as Babur. This is a book on Hebrew grammar. It is divided into four parts, each one of which has thirteen chapters. The total number of chapters is, therefore, fifty-two, which is also the numerical equivalent of the author's name "Elijah."

With the permission of Pope Leo X, a special Hebrew printing shop was set up by Viterbo to enable him to print Elijah's works.

"Sefer Habahur" was printed in 1518, and in the same year Rabbi Elijah published also his "Luach Bedikduk Hap'alim Vehabinyanim," another treatise on grammar. In the same year appeared also his "Sefer Haharkavah," a study of the irregular words of the Bible.

A further product of Levita's pen was his "Pirke Ellahu," which were a series of short essays on Hebrew grammar. In order to keep up the interest of the reader, the author wrote the first chapter in poetic form. It is called "Perek Shirah," and it describes the laws of the Hebrew letters and vowels in verse. Thus, speaking of the ten Hebrew vowels, of which five are "long" and five are "short," the author says: .

"And now I sing a glorious song

In words explicit plain;

Of the vowels ten will I speak

That part in classes twain:

Five of these are giant tall

And five like pygmies small."

Rabbi Elijah's peaceful life and work in the palace of the famous cardinal came to an abrupt end.

Rabbi Elijah's peaceful life and work in the palace of the cardinal in Rome came to an end, when the city was ransacked by the troops of King Charles V in May, 1527. Once again Rabbi Elijah lost everything he possessed, and had to take up the wandering staff together with his family. After wandering about for three years, Rabbi Elijah finally settled in Venice, where he had first found refuge after the Germans had driven the Jews from Neustadt.

In Venice there was a famous printing house, run by a Christian named Daniel Bomberg. Seeing the great interest in Hebrew books, such as Bibles, Bible commentaries, and books of the Talmud, this Christian printer had opened a Heb­rew printing house. His press played an important part in the early years of Hebrew printing, spreading the Hebrew word far and wide.

Daniel Bomberg bad beard of the fame of Rabbi Elijah Levita, and employed him as proof-reader and expert for his publications. This gave Rabbi Elijah an opportunity to revise, correct, and, in many instances, to identify many of the important works in Hebrew, printed in those days.

In 1538 Bomberg was obliged to close his printing house and Rabbi Elijah took up his old profession of teaching. He was now a famous authority on Hebrew grammar and style, and many famous scholars sought his instruction on these subjects. Among them was the learned ambassador of the French king to Venice, George de Selve, who later became Bishop of Lavaur. This great statesman and scholar was a great admirer of Rabbi Elijah Levita, and did everything in his power to further his literary work. Supporting him generously, the ambassador urged Levita to write a Biblical Concordance (a dictionary and reference book for all the words of the Bible). It was a gigantic task, but Levita completed it and called it "Sefer Hazichronoth." Gratefully, Rabbi Elijah dedicated it to his noble sponsor. De Selve sent his own secretary to take the manuscript to Paris to have it printed there. For various reasons, however, it was never published in full. Only the introduction and a few sections were printed centuries later. Thus, although Rabbi Elijah saw almost all his other works published, and some of them republished many times, his main work did not see the light of day in his lifetime. Indeed, it is still gathering dust in the French National Library in Paris.

However, the ruler of France, King Francis 1, a scholar and Humanist, was deeply impressed with Rabbi Elijah's work. In addition, De Selve had written him many enthusiastic praises of his instructor. As a result, the king of France offered Rabbi Elijah the chair of Hebrew at the University of Paris, one of the most famous of that day. But Rabbi Elijah refused to accept this honored post. Jews had not been admitted into France ever since their expulsion in 1394, and Rabbi Elijah did not wish to be the only Jew in France. He declined many other tempting offers to teach Hebrew at various Christian universities.

At the age of seventy, Rabbi Elijah Levita received an invitation from one of his famous disciples, Paul Fagius, to join him in the Hebrew printing house be had opened at Isny, a small town in Wuerttenberg, Germany. Leaving his family behind, Rabbi Elijah went' to Isny in 1540, where he worked with Fagius in the publication of many Hebrew books.of his own writings, such as "Tishbi," a dictionary of 712 Talmudic and Midrashic words, and "Meturgeman". a complete dictionary of the words contained in the various Aramaic Targumim. He wrote a Yiddish translation of the Chumash, five Megilloth and the Haphtoroth. (About the same time appeared also his "Bovo Buch," an adaptation of a popular book of adventures entitled "Sir Bevis of Hamton." -It is thought that Levita wrote this as a pastime, and as it was written in the German-Y'ddish dialect, it became very popular among Jewish women.) He also wrote his "Masoreth HaMasoreth," a book in three parts dealing with the Hebrew language and its history. This book aroused a lively controversy among Jewish and nonJewish scholars.

In Isny Rabbi Elijah made the acquaintance of many distinguished Christians, such as Johann Reuchlin, the great friend of the Jews and their defender, and his disciple Sebastian Muenster. The latter translated many of Levita's works. into Latin.

Fagius closed his press in Isny when he was called to the Hebrew chair of the University of Strassbourg. Later he went to Constance, where Levita accompanied him for a short time.

In 1542 Rabbi Elijah returned to his. family in Venice. He managed to write several new treatises, and a commentray on the ReDaK's "Michlol," entitled "Nimukim," before he died in that city in 1549.

Rabbi Elijah's contributions to the knowledge of the Hebrew language and literature are very great, but his association with non-Jewish scholars was a mixed blessing. He was severely criticized for teaching Hebrew to non-Jews, giving them an opportunity to call themselves experts on the Bible and the Talmud. Hostility to the Jews and to the Talmud was very strong in those days, and cruel attacks were made by men like Pfefferkorn and others in an effort to ban all Hebrew books. If such men were to obtain a knowledge of Hebrew, they would only use it to make their false accusations appear as if they were made by "experts."

On the other hand, some of Levita's friends and disciples ardently defended the Jewish cause, and were able to do so with a voice of authority thanks to Rabbi Elijah Levita.