This text was prepared by William Gross:
The Travels of Benjamin the Third (מסעות בנימין השלישי, Masa'ot Binyamin Ha-Shelishi) is a Hebrew satirical work from the writer Mendele Mocher Sforim. The work was published first in the year 1878 in Yiddish, and, from then, until today, it has been considered by some to be the greatest satire on Jewish life in the Diaspora.
The story tells of the travels of Benjamin the Third along with his assistant and partner Sandril. The two travel far and wide to find the "Red Jews" beyond the Sambatyon. Benjamin III and Sandriel are based on the characters of Don Quixote and his famous assistant Sancho Panza. Benjamin III himself is a historical continuation of the two previous "Benjamins" who were known for their travels - Benjamin of Tudela and Benjamin II. The work has also inspired a number of plays, the first of which was presented in the 1930s on the stages of the Ohel and Habima theaters.
The book's author, Mendele Mocher Sforim (lit. "Mendele the book peddler), was born Sholem Yankev Abramovich in Kapyl on January 2, 1836. He was a Jewish author and one of the founders of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature.
Mendele was born to a poor family. His father, Chaim Moyshe Broyde, died shortly after Mendele became Bar Mitzvah. He studied in yeshiva in Slutsk and Vilna until he was 17; during this time he was a day-boarder under the system of Teg-Essen, barely scraping by, and often hungry. Mendele next traveled extensively around Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania at the mercy of an abusive beggar named Avreml Khromoy. In 1854, he settled in Kamianets-Podilskyi, where he got to know writer and poet Avrom Ber Gotlober, who helped him to understand secular culture, philosophy, literature, history, Russian and other languages.
Mendele initially wrote in Hebrew, coining many words in that language, but ultimately switched to Yiddish in order to expand his audience. As did Sholem Aleichem, he used a pseudonym because of the perception at the time that as a ghetto vernacular, Yiddish was not suited to serious literary work — an idea he did much to dispel. His writing strongly bore the mark of the Haskalah. He is considered by many to be the "grandfather of Yiddish literature," a name applied by Aleichem in the dedication to his novel Stempenyu; his style in both Hebrew and Yiddish has strongly influenced several generations of later writers.