Ma'aseh Toviyyah

Tobias Cohn or Tobias Kohn (or in Hebrew, Toviyyah ha-Kohen) was a prominent Polish-Jewish physician who was born in Metz in 1652, was educated in Padua, Italy, and flourished in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

HaKohen’s linguistic familiarity with almost a dozen languages made it possible for him to write his work Ma'aseh Toviyyah (Work of Tobias). First published in Venice, Italy in 1707, Ma'aseh Toviyyah was reprinted numerous times over almost two hundred years and was part of a medical repertoire used by both folk healers and physicians in the Pale of Settlement over that time period.

The encyclopedic Ma'aseh Toviyyah is divided into eight parts. The third, or medical section, begins with an illustration of a human body and a house side by side in an allegorical comparison.

Toward the end of Ma'aseh Toviyyah is a catalog of many regional and, at the time, newly discovered medicinal herbs. These plants were familiar remedies to healers in the Pale. Some examples are elder, elecampane, licorice, lemon balm, and columbine to name a very few. Check our book, Ashkenazi Herbalism for more in depth profiles of a selection of herbs traditional healers in the Pale of Settlement relied on well into the twentieth century.