מסכת זו עוסקת במצוקותיהם הכלכליות של המלמדים ובמעמדם החברתי הירוד, ומצד שני גם בחסרונותיהם וברמת ההוראה הירודה, במזרח אירופה במאה ה19.
להלן הדף הראשון מהמסכת:
חוקר ההומור ישראל דוידסון כתב בקורת חיובית על היצירה בספרו Parody In Jewish Literature:
This time it was the system of education among the Russian Jews that Brill chose to purge with his satire, choosing the Shulchan Aruch, or the Code of Joseph Caro, for his form of expression.
Having spent his whole life in teaching, Brill knew all sides of the profession. All the sorrows of the teacher's life, the stinging poverty, the crushing humiliation, the contempt and scorn to which he is subjected, the arrogance of the parents, the malice of competitors, the uncertainty of his income —
he had observed them all. On the other hand, he also knew that the schools lacked very much in system and method, and that many people unfit for any occupation took to teaching as
a last resort, and brought disgrace upon this noble profession.
And assuming ironically, that things were as they should be, in accordance with some unwritten law, he deduced these laws a posteriori and put them in the form of the 16th century code. Dickens has not made Salem House and Mr, Creakle more vivid to us than this code makes the Heder and the Melammed. It is a masterpiece of workmanship, and a priceless document for the student of education among the Jews in Russia.
Some eight years before, Levi Reuben Simlin in an excellent parody entitled Haggadah for Teachers, had pleaded the cause of the teacher, but his was a one-aided plea. The poverty of the teachers was depicted in flaming colors, while their failings were passed over in silence. Brill, on the other hand, spares neither parent nor teacher. He shows that both have failed to do their duty towards the child, and maintains, that the teachers are as much to blame for their ill fortune as the parents. Moreover, — if we may credit him not for what he says explicitly, but for what seems to be implied in his manner of saying— he feels that it is beyond the power of any individual to remedy this evil. To reform the systems of education among the Russian Jews in the Pale, it is necessary, first of all, to change their mode of living. Give them more room to move, more space to breathe, open for them more opportunities, grant them more freedom, and the rest will take care of itself. It is for this reason that he reproaches no one in particular. He merely stales things as they are. It seems as if he wished us to understand, that the laws which he codified were not made by the teachers nor by the parents, but grew out of the intolerable conditions under which these parents and teachers had to live and bring up their children.
To sum up, we find that this works of Brill show considerable versatility on his part. He reproduces with equal skill the conciseness of the Mishna, the quaintness of the Midrash and the idiom of the codices, and imparts to his imitations so much of the spirit of the originals, that the humor in claiming an ancient origin for them, as he does in his prefaces, is well sustained.
His interests are varied, ranging from the future of his people to the extortion of the tax collector. His love for his people does not blind him to their faults, and he has the courage to tell their errors to their face. On the other hand, he is clear-sighted enough to see that his people are not always to blame.
As a critic, moreover, he has done a great deal to improve the literary taste of his people and by his frankness, impartiality and keen observation has exemplified true criticism. And finally, as a humorist, he has displayed a keen sense of the ludicrous, and has infused into his writings an air of geniality, a delicate irony and a deep pathos, which make them far superior to common imitations of ancient models.
יוסף בריל נולד בגורקי, ליד מוגילב בבלארוס ב-1839. נתייתם מהוריו בילדותו, נתגלגל בערים ועיירות אצל קרובים וידידים ונתחנך בחדרים ובישיבות. באחת התחנות שלו, מינסק, הגיעו אליו ספרי השכלה ושם אף החלה ראשית כתיבתו ב"המגיד" (שנה ב', 1858). מאז היה מן הפוריים שבמשתתפים בעתונות העברית וכן במאספים השונים ונודע ביחוד בכינויו: "איו"ב (ראשי תיבות של "אני יוסף בריל") ממינסק". פירסם סיפורים, סטירות, מאמרים ומחקרים. היה מהראשונים שהכניסו נעימת הומור לספרות העברית ואף הכניס את הסופרים, הספרות העברית והמבקרים לכלל הנושאים של הסטירות. כל יבולו הספרותי במשך עשרות בשנים לא כונס ורק פה ושם יצאו תדפיסים ("קיצור שולחן ערוך", סטירה בנוסח שולחן ערוך, מ"אוצר הספרות" ג', "מדרש סופרים", סטירה על הסופרים והמבקרים העברים מ"השחר" י', ועוד). בריל מת במצוקה ובדחקות בראשית ימי המהפכה. (מתוך לקסיקון הספרות העברית החדשה, https://library.osu.edu/projects/hebrew-lexicon/02198.php)