His pure and precise style, his good-natured, Horace-like, delicate, yet unmistakable, humor, he showed in a series of books bearing the name of Asaf, which still must be counted among the gems of Hebrew literature. The Meassefim, the name generally applied to all who participated in the publication of the Meassef, were shocked by what they regarded a profanation of the sacred tongue.
Mendelssohn, the master admired and respected by all, contributed, as was mentioned before, only minor controversial articles to Ha- Meassef. His preface to the Biur and his commentary on Maimonides' treatise on logic are in good style.
Mendelssohn encouraged the publication of the Meassef; he did likewise, and contributed several articles to the journal. But, unlike his master, or, as he claimed, like his master in secret, he held exceedingly latitudinarian views on Judaism. In his later years he advocated abolishing the study of Hebrew in the schools and discarding it from the prayer book.
There was a crying need in Russia for a work of the sort. In Germany the very Government encouraged organizations and publications aiming at enlightenment. Accordingly, a Society for the Promotion of the Good and the Noble was started, and the Meassef was published. In Russo-Poland not even a Hebrew printing-press was permitted, and certainly no periodical publications would have been tolerated.
Its readers were to be familiarized with the social and aesthetic demands of modern life, and induced to rid themselves of ingrained peculiarities. Besides its success in these directions, it must be set to the credit of Ha- Meassef, that it was the first agency to gather under one banner all the champions of the Haskalah in the several countries of Europe.