« Previous Page Table of Contents

[Page 269]

Personalities and Figures

 

Rabbis and Notables of Wlodimierz

by Moshe Chenowicz

Translated by Dr. David Dubin

Edited by Jack Bader

 

Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels (son of Rabbi Yitzchak)

This rabbi is the first rabbi of Ludmir known to us, and his name was perpetuated through his rabbinic law correspondence found in books of his generation. Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels was the head of the rabbinic court and rabbinic teacher in Ludmir back in the days of the earliest scholars who arrived to spread Torah among the Jews of Poland, Wolhynia (“Wolyn”) and Lithuania. He authored a commentary on the Talmud and on the commentaries of the “Rosh” and the “Mordechai” (Kelilat Yofi, part 1).

He was a contemporary of the Torah giant Rabbi Shalom Shachna (Teacher of the “Rema”) who was the student of the first Torah luminary in Poland, Rabbi Yaakov Pollak, and he was head of the rabbinic court and rabbinic teacher in Lublin along with Rabbi Kalman of Worms who was head of the rabbinic court and rabbinic teacher in Lvov.

Rabbi Yitzchak appears as rabbi and teacher in Ludmir approximately in 1547[1] and it seems he lived a long life thereafter until about 1570[2].

When Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the “Maharshal”) arrived in Ostroh (before c. 1550) and was still relatively young compared to the Rabbi of Ludmir, he honored the rabbi and sent him his rabbinic verdicts for his approval. And we find the Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (letter of approbation) of Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels in the collected correspondence of the Maharshal (Section 61?) in these words: “He intended and wrote correctly, signed Rabbi Yitzchak son of Rabbi Bezalel of blessed memory, who lives in Wolodimierz.”

After a short time, Sigismond August, King of Poland, published a decree (1551) giving Israelite communities in Poland the right to choose their own rabbis and judges. These leaders were authorized to judge “by the laws of Moses,” to excommunicate heretics and to punish them. This right was given to Lesser Poland (Krakow, Lublin) and Red Russia (Lvov), Lithuania and Wolyn included.

This edict gave impetus to the autonomous organization of the Jewish community, which was built on a religious basis, and on this foundation the organization of the Polish Jewish communities was established and expanded in the form of the Council of the Four Lands,

[Page 270]

with the Land of Wolyn a special sector within the framework of this overall regional organization.

The Land of Wolyn was divided into four principal communities: Ludmir, Ostroh, Kremenets and Lutsk. The rabbis of these principal communities tended to have a specific jurisdictional authority, and with attention to the importance of rabbinic jurisdiction large yeshivot sprung up all over Poland to spread rabbinic authority.

In Ludmir, the central community, a large yeshiva also was founded by its rabbinic leader, the aforementioned Rabbi Yitzchak son of Rabbi Bezalels[3].

Rabbi Yitzchak of Ludmir gained renown throughout Poland. He is mentioned very honorably in the responsa of the “Rema” (Rabbi Moshe Isserles of Krakow) who describes him as “The prodigy, our teacher, the rabbi Yitzchak Zalel, he should be preserved, who is in Ludmir.” Other famous talmudists hearkened to his words and honored him, among them Rabbi Josef Katz, author of She”erit Josef (brother-in-law of the “Rema”), and also Rabbi Natan Shapira, author of Mevo She”arim.

The latter rabbi described RabbiYitzchak son of Rabbi Bezalel (in the New Responsa of the “Bach,” section 75) in these extolling words: “And I also saw in manuscript of the wise and complete, wonder of this generation Yitzchak son of Bezalel as his spirit breathes…and attached as a further explanation is that the sage, the complete one, our teacher, rabbi Yitzchak as his spirit breathes also allowed her to marry anyone (regarding allowing an aguna to marry), and we can apply the statement “the sage has already set a precedent,” and how wonderful are the words of the sage”s mouth whose statements are based on precious stones, and the judgment is correct and just.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Hacohen Shapira, father-in-law of the Maharam of Lublin (see in the Maharal of Prague”s Netivat Shalom) also wrote of him admiringly, and similar words are also found in the responsa of the “Bach” mentioned above (section 70) to his contemporary the sage Rabbi Joel Jaffe Sirkes, “and there it is found signed: “the words of Yitzchak son of Bezalel of blessed memory, residing in Ludmir.”

[Page 271]

The sage Rabbi David Gans in his book Tzemach David (ands similarly Rabbi Yechiel Halperin in his Seder Hadorot) writes regarding the generation of the Maharal: “…And in his days the giants of the world spread Torah among the Jews in the Land of Poland and Russia, Rabbi Yitzchak son of Bezalel head of the yeshiva in Ludmir,” and his activity took place around 1540-1570, more or less.

 

Sons-in-law of Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels (Rabbi Avraham Pollak and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi)

Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels had two sons in law who were bona fide Torah giants.

One of them was Rabbi Avraham Pollak, a relation of Rabbi Yakkov Pollak (the elder), known to us as the first Torah luminary in Poland, and as the original pioneer in disseminating Torah learning throughout this country that had become a refuge for the Jews of Germany and surrounding areas. He was appointed among the first ten great rabbis of Poland, who added their haskamot (letters of approbation) to the publication of the commentary “Matenot Kehuna” on the Midrash Rabbah written by Rabbi Joel Hakohen of Szczebrzeszyn. He is also mentioned in the responsa of the “Bach” (Section 4). His relatives include well known personalities in the rabbinic and Jewish world, among them the renowned Pines family in Lithuania and White Russia.

Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels” other son-in-law was the pious rabbi, emissary and philanthropist Rabbi Shmuel Halevi who was among the most celebrated in the Ludmir community, and it is written regarding him that he combined Torah knowledge and personal greatness.

 

Grandsons of Rabbi Yitzchak Reb Bezalels (Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi and Rabbi David “The Taz”)

The Ludmir notable Rabbi Shmuel merited two famous sons, namely Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi and Rabbi David, author of the Turei Zahav, who enriched the rabbinic Talmudic literature with their great writings.

Especially famed was Rabbi David who was born to his abovementioned father in 1587 and was known as a stalwart of Israelite rabbinic authority and added illuminating pages to the rabbinic Talmudic literature. (About the life of this exceptional man we accord a special concise biography in its own right.) Here we will merely mention that this prodigy took pride in the crown of glory of his grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak son of Reb Bezalels, the Ludmir rabbi, the first one known to us. And in four places in his aforementioned Turei Zahav he mentions him among his rabbinic decisions (Orach Chayim section 153, Yoreh Deah section 113, Even Ha-Ezer section 129 and Choshen Mishpat section 3).

The insights of Rabbi Yitzchak Son of Reb Bezalels are mentioned also among the “insights” of his other grandson Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi (his namesake) and also in Tiferet Shmuel by the famous Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Koidnover, and in the Shnei Luchot Ha-Berit (Shelah) by the famous rabbi and known kabbalist Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz.

Regarding Rabbi Yitzchak Son of Reb Bezalels one other notable thing should be mentioned: This first Ludmir rabbi (and also the author of Mashabat Binjamin) would regularly write the name of this town as it was originally pronounced “Wladimir”, though afterwards the Polish pronunciation “Ludmir” predominated, and the Rema a resident of Krakow, the Polish capital -- already used that name. Yet when writing writs of divorce they wrote the name until the last day according to the old version, “the town Wladimir on the Stachi River, etc.” (see the books Tiv Gittin and Shaar Ephraim).

[Page 272]

Rabbi Yitzchak son of Rabbi Shmuel Halevi (grandson of Rabbi Bezalels)

Rabbi Yitzchak was named after his grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak son of Reb Bezalels. He apparently married in Lvov, as we find him there in 1609 as an outstanding personality in that city. The Maharam of Lublin who was then the head of the rabbinic court in Lvov, and also the author of the Sefer Meirat Einayim praised and honored him and agreed to include his liturgical poem “A song of redemption” (written to commemorate the opening of the Lvov synagogue after its enforced closing by order of the Catholic priests). In the body of the prayer is mentioned that it be recited on the Sabbath after Purim (the date of the repeal of the edict). It was recited like the poems of the ancients in the framework of the “prayers of the synagogue.” He later became rabbi in Chelm, and in 1627 he was acting in the capacity of Head of the Academy in Poznan, capital of Greater Poland.

Rabbi Yitzchak”s brother, Rabbi David Halevi, author of the Taz, who was years younger than he, received Torah knowledge from him and asked him about matters of Jewish law like a servant before his master.

Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi”s learning method utilized the starightforward meaning of the text. The great personalities of his era asked him their questions. He was lenient regarding agunot (women unable to remarry), and also regarding issues entailing monetary loss, loss of capital and emergency requirements going beyond the letter of the law.

During his life he succeeded only in publishing his essay “Siach Yitzchak” regarding Hebrew grammar published in Hebrew in Basel 1627 and Prague 1628, with the Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (letter of approbation) of the author of the Tosafot Yom Tov. In this essay there is also an exposition of kabbalistic matters, and remarkably one can see in it his great love for the Hebrew language and his immersion in it and its grammar. It is understood that Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi was one of the only rabbis of his era dealing with matters of the Hebrew language. Related to his knowledge in this field it should be noted that Rabbi Yitzchak also wrote the book Brit Halevi about compound words and ambiguous words in the Bible. However, this work was lost over the years, as were also lost his cherished essays on Rashi's commentary on the Torah, a book of sermons and innovations about the Talmud, Be”er Esek and Be”er Rehovot (respectively).

The date of his death is not known to us, and apparently the town of Poznan was where he spent his final days.

Long after his passing, two of Rabbi Yitzchak”s works found their way to publication, as follows: his didactic and legal responsa called Responsa of the Mahari Halevi (Germany 1737) and also his insights on Talmudic tractates called Insights of Mahari Halevi.

 

Rabbi Ephraim Naftali son of Rabbi Josef Jonah

In those days the yeshiva in Ludmir was able to appoint Rabbi Ephraim Naftali son of Rabbi Josef Jonah.

Researchers have determined that Rabbi Yitzchak Ephraim of Ludmir”s early ancestors were among the first to disseminate Torah learning in Poland after the era of Rabbi Yaakov Pollak. The details are as follows: The patriarch of this rabbinic family is the famed rabbinic decisionmaker Rabbi Jonah, author of Issur ve-Heter He-Aroch (The Compendium of the Forbidden & Allowed, published in Ferrara, Italy 1555) comprising sixty chapters relating to the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, laws regarding immersion of vessels and laws of preserving human life on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. The son of this decisor was Rabbi Klonimus Kalman, father of Rabbi Jonah, head of the rabbinic court of Ostroh and the province of Lesser Russia. Rabbi Jonah was the legal adversary of the sage Rabbi Shalom Shachna of Lublin. The sages of his generation

[Page 273]

praised and honored him. He passed away in 1550.

This Rabbi Jonah had a son named Rabbi Klonimus Kalman who lived in Krakow. This man was famed as a righteous man and he behaved as prescribed by the kabbalists. He died there in 1578.

The same family also produced Rabbi Ephraim Naftali head of yeshiva in Ludmir (according to the books Ha-orvim U-Benei Jonah by Carmuli and Anaf Etz Avot of Sh. Z. Kahane, Krakow, 1903.

Specific details about this head of the Ludmir yeshiva have not survived. We only know that before Ludmir he was a head of yeshiva in Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today).[4] Rabbi Ephraim Naftali died 25 Tammuz 1622 in Ludmir, and this was his tombstone inscription: “Here is buried the vessel of manna, a faithful shepherd, a glorious philanthropist, fruit of the beautiful tree, He prepared himself in the antechamber (to heaven, i.e., in this world), grace and glory of Israel, no wise and sage man like him could be found in his generation, also in greatness and character he was marvelous, in Torah and good deeds he shone and gathered hands full, he died and departed Our Teacher Rabbi Ephraim Naftali son of Rabbi Josef (Jonah) of blessed memory, may his soul be bound in everlasting life (the abovementioned Anaf Etz Avot”).

This Rabbi Ephraim of Ludmir merited a famous son, who was one of the most well known throughout Poland, namely Rabbi Jakob, head of the rabbinical court of Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today) and in Lublin who left many students, among whom many later became pillars of Torah inside and outside of Poland. They said about him: “Between Jakob (Pollak) and (this) Jakob, no Jakob arose in the Land of Poland.” This Rabbi Jakob, as stated above, was rabbi in Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today) in 1630 and later in Lublin, city of “the Four Lands,” and he died there in 1644.

His son was the renowned sage, outstanding in his generation in his wisdom and Torah knowledge, Rabbi Avraham Joshua Heschel, who was known in the rabbinic world as “Reb Heschel” who renewed the crown of the Torah after the depredations of 1648-1649 and 1656-1657 in Poland. He took his father”s place in the rabbinate (in Lublin and later in Krakow).

 

Rabbi Moshe (The “Matteh Moshe”)

Around that time, more or less, we find as head of yeshiva in Ludmir Rabbi Moshe author of Matteh Moshe. This rabbi was son-in-law of the philanthropist Reb Shmuel (Halevi?) of Ludmir. He wrote the following in the introduction to his aforementioned book: “And he brought me to the city and stronghold in Israel Wladimir home of my father-in-law the philanthropist, the established leader of Israel as Mr. Shmuel.” Rabbi Moshe strengthened a yeshiva of students in Ludmir as he had before in the community of Belz “in that he surrounded it with many students heeding His words and longing to hear the word of God.” He himself describes to us (in the introduction to the above) that he served in a Torah way “the great rabbi, light of the exile, glorious sage of Israel our teacher and rabbi Shlomo Luria who established thousands of students and rabbis and was among those dining at his table and saw and attended his traditions and rules.”

From Ludmir he moved on to the Przemysl community, where he served as head of the rabbinic court and head of yeshiva. In 1591 he published his abovementioned book Matteh Moshe in Krakow, which he completed in 1585. This work comprises a compilation of blessings and prayers, works and explanations, and there are many matters of

[Page 274]

traditions, and they indirectly give a glimpse into Jewish existence in Poland in the latter half of the sixteenth century.

From Przemysl Rabbi Moshe moved to become rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Lyubomyl in Wolyn and from there to Opotow in the Krakow region, where he died in 1606. He also wrote a second work Ho”il Moshe (Prague 1612) comprising sermons and interpretations on the Torah and Rashi”s commentary and a few sermons and interpretations of the words of the great rabbis.

Rabbi Moshe participated in the conclave of the rabbis of the Four Lands in 1603 which took place in Jaroslaw which had the purpose of “keeping an eye on the publication of new books which have arrived from nearby.” Among the participants of this meeting were the sages: Joshua son of Alexander Falk, author of the Sefer Meirat Einayim, the Maharsha, Binjamin Aharon son of Abraham Solnik, author of the Responsa Masat Binyamin and others.

 

Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors

His real name was Rabbi Menachem son of Yitzchak, and was called Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors after his father-in-law. Rabbi Avigdor was also known as Rabbi Yeshaya Menachem (because he was sickly and the name Yeshaya was added). This name appears on his work Ne”orim Kabdu Hashem (The Enlightened Ones, Honor God which was published posthumously. In the responsa of the Bach (section 76) he is mentioned as Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors, and in the Kuntres ha-Sema he is called Rabbi Mendel.

This rabbi was rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Ludmir around 1590. We do not have particulars about his biography, but we do know the following facts about him: He was the author of the definitive text of the Heter Iska in contractual loans (circumventing the laws of accepting interest), which was accepted in the world of religious practice. Rabbi Yehoshua Hakohen Falk author of the Sema (Sefer Meirat Einayim), who himself was a rabbi in Ludmir, mentions explicitly that in this matter “Our teacher Rabbi Mendel acted when he was head of the rabbinical court in the Ludmir congregation” (mentioned in the book Nachlat Shiva by Rabbi Shmuel Halevi). We know also that before Ludmir Rabbi Mendel was a rabbi in Szczebrzeszyn. Rabbi Yisachar Berman son of Naftali Hakohen mentions him in this capacity as a man of Szczebrzeszyn in his well known opus Matenot Kehuna about the Midrash Rabba (Vayikra Rabba 62).

In 1587 Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors signed among thirty famous Polish rabbis who assembled at the Gremnitz, Germany fair the city of the Four Lands meeting banning the selling of rabbinical ordination… among these rabbis we find famed sages such as: Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe author of the Levushim, the Maharsha, the Maharam of Lublin, Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz author of the Shelah, Rabbi Ephraim Luntshitz author of the Kli Yakar, the author of Sema and others.

In the Jaroslaw fair in 1597 the above ban was renewed. Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors appears again confirming this ban, and he was already rabbi in Krakow (in place of the Maharam of Lublin, who had left there for Lublin).

As rabbi of Krakow this Rabbi Mendel gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (letter of approbation) to the book Luach ha-Dikduk (Krakow 1598) along with two other sages, Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe “The Levush” and The Maharal of Prague; and he had many students in Krakow, including the kabbalist Rabbi Elijahu Luantz (Baal Shem) of Worms, Germany. [According to his introduction to the Zohar (in manuscript) he called him by the name Rabbi Menachem Mendel Reb Avigdors.]

Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors died in 1559, and in 1605 his son Rabbi Moshe published his work Ne”orim Kabdu Hashem.

[Page 275]

It is worth mentioning that in 1591 Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors sat at the full convocation of the Four Lands in Jaroslaw, as far as we can tell from the Responsa of the Bach (section 77) by Rabbi Joel Sirkes.

See about this rabbi: Ir Ha-Zedek, Kelilat Yofi Tel-Aviv; Luchot Zikaron (Memorial Tablets); Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands) and others.

 

Rabbi Joshua son of Alexander Hakohen Falk

After Rabbi Yeshaya Menachem, known as Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors, left Ludmir for Krakow around 1595, his place in the Ludmir rabbinate was taken by the famed sage Rabbi Joshua son of Alexander Hakohen Falk, author of Sefer Meirat Einayim (Sema). We learn this from his edicts of 1607 in the presence of rabbis of the Three Lands in Lublin, where he himself mentions “until God brought me to be head of the rabbinical court in the congregation of Ludmir (cited in the book Nachlat Shiva of Rabbi Shmuel son of David Halevi, above).

We have the merit to know a great deal of detail of the biography of this great sage of Jewish Ludmir, some of which follows:

He was the son of the sister of the emissary Reb Yisrael Isserl of Krakow (father of the Rema), he learned in his youth by the Rema in Krakow, the city of his birth, and also from the Maharshal. He spent some time as rabbi in Ludmir.

Yet he returned to Lvov where he had lived with his father-in-law, the fabulously wealthy Reb Yisrael son of Josef, who was also a philanthropist, and he acquired a large yeshiva which had a far-reaching reputation. He spent a good deal of time with communal and religious affairs, but eventually he left this and immersed himself in learning in his famous yeshiva. Regarding this, his comment about himself is noteworthy: “I have merited to lead the communities and to acquire a yeshiva in the greater public… and when I saw the great hardships imposed on the rabbi and leader of a community and God heard my prayers and He placed in the heart of my father-in-law the officer and philanthropist and leader in the congregation in Lvov and its suburbs, well known in the city, whose name is Rabbi Yisrael son of Josef of blessed memory --- and he gave me a house of stone, and I cloistered myself with students who arose early and went to bed late” (from his introduction to the book Meirot Einayim).

Regarding his involvement in religious public affairs it is noteworthy that in 1587 he was one of the first to sign the ban on purchasing rabbinic ordination. In 1603 he participated in the convocation of the rabbis of the Three Lands among famous rabbis providing supervision of publication of new books which were coming from nearby. In 1607 he presided over the rabbis of the Three Lands at a fair during which he announced the famed rabbinic decrees about forbidden foods, shaatnez (forbidden mixtures of threads), and especially the ban on charging interest, which he established “with the consent of his rabbis and colleagues meeting in the Gramnitz fair.”

Rabbi Joshua son of Alexander Hakohen drew renown as one of the leading sages of his generation the generation of the Maharam Jaffe, Maharam of Lublin, the Maharsha, Rabbi Binjamin Aharon author of Mashabat Binjamin, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Lunschitz (Leczyca) and others. He authored works on all areas of Torah, philosophy and wisdom. However, all these works were burned in fires in Lvov after his death, and only sparse responsa of his about sporadic rulings appear in collections of responsa of later sages, the Responsa of the Bach, old & new, and the responsa Mashabat Binjamin.

Many years after his passing a pamphlet of stern advice and a booklet of the rabbinical edicts about forbidden foods, shaatnez (forbidden mixtures of threads), and especially the ban on charging interest were published (Salzbach edition 1697 and later editions). These edicts “were heard and established (The “Sema”) when the heads of yeshivas of the Three Lands gathered, and they

[Page 276]

maintained and accepted upon themselves to guard and follow all these matters set forth in this pamphlet.” Another edict which was promulgated in 1611 generated a great controversy among the rabbis of that generation. The Maharam Jaffe author of the Levushim and Maharam of Lublin annulled it, but most of the generation”s sages, especially Rabbi Joel Sirkes (the Bach) refuted their defining arguments and stood at the Sema”s right hand insisting that he was correct in this matter.

The crowning glory of this sage was his great commentary on the Shulchan Aruch of our master Rabbi Josef Karo which appeared in the preceding generation, and thanks to his commentary which supplemented the Shulchan Aruch as decision maker by also mentioning the sources for it in the earlier books of the Tur (Rabbi Jacob son of Asher) the Shulchan Aruch (with the Mapa of the Rema appended) took root also among the Ashkenazi communities as the definitive authority with a lofty provenance.

The great commentary of Rabbi Joshua Falk comprises four sections on the Shulchan Aruch. The first three sections are subsumed under the name “Beit Yisrael” and the fourth is the book Meirat Einayim. The first three sections are: “Explanation,” “Exposition” and “Definitions.” Section One comprises sufficient explanation of the Tur by going back to the original source material. Two: he brings proof for the proper explanation and together with this he engages in fine argument with the “Beit Josef” (commentary on the Tur) when he veers from its interpretation. Three: takes the form of comments on Darchei Moshe of the Rema and he mentions rabbinic law concluded after completion of the Tur and Beit Josef from the wider responsa literature written in later generations. The fourth section, which is the most important, includes an expansive explanation of the Shulchan Aruch itself, comments on the Shulchan Aruch and in particular the comments of the Rema and expounds on them comprehensively. Sometimes he disagrees with the Shulchan Aruch and bases his opinion on reasoning and research of his own. The method of the Rema is to mediate between the author of Shulchan Aruch and the Beit Yosef and Rabbi Moshe Isserles (Rema, in his commentaries and additions to the Shulchan Aruch) when they seem to contradict each other.

The abovementioned three sections were completed by the author on all four sections of the Tur (Orach Chayim, Yoreh Deah, Even-Ezer and Choshen Mishpat), but the fourth section , the book of Meirat Einayim known as “Sema” which succeeded in perpetuating his name in rabbinic Talmudic literature he completed only on the Choshen Mishpat, because in the interim he went the way of all flesh in 1614. (See about him in the research of Rav Tzair in “History of the Shulchan Aruch and its dissemination” which appeared in Shiloah volume 7, Summer 1899 and also History of Jewish Sages by Dr. M. Margaliot, Part 2.)

His wife Aydels was learned, and she is portrayed as a woman who searched after wisdom. She remained a widow for many years. She later moved to the Land of Israel where she died. Among his students it is worthy to note: the sage Rabbi Joshua son of Josef author of Meginei Shlomo and responsa Pnei Yehoshua, Rabbi Abraham Schrenzel Hakohen Rapoport author of Eytan Ha-Ezrahi and other famous (rabbis).

 

Rabbi Jehuda Leib son of Rabbi Chanoch Altschul

His father Rabbi Henoch (Chanoch), the progenitor of the illustrious Altschul family was one of the rabbis in the city of Prague and among its Torah luminaries, and he was known also by the name Jerushalmi. A family legend states that they were natives of Jerusalem in earlier generations and they wandered because of the troubles and arrived in Prague. They brought with them stones from a ruined synagogue of Jerusalem, and from them were built the old synagogue of Prague (the “Altschul”).

Among the aforementioned Rabbi Chanoch”s sons were Rabbi Jehuda Leib Henochs Altschul and Rabbi Moshe Henoch-Jerushalmi

[Page 277]

Rabbi Jehuda Leib Henochs (Chanoch) went to Poland and learned Torah from Rabbi Yitzchak Bezalels in Ludmir and Rabbi Shlomo Luria in Ostroh. He became rabbi in Ludmir and at the end of his life rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Poznan and died there in 1620.

The aforementioned Rabbi Jehuda Leib Chanoch was among the great sages of his generation. He is mentioned in books by others and “approves” (gives rabbinic approbation) to books by famous authors together with other prominent Polish rabbis of his era. In his approbation he signs himself: Jehuda son of Reb Chanoch, Jehuda son of Chanoch Altschul, Rabbi Jehuda Leib Henochs Altschul. He composed many responsa and other innovations. He gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (letter of approbation) to the explanations of the Semag (Sefer Mitzvot ha-Gadol) in 1605, Mekor Chochma, Tal Orot, Siach Yitzchak and others.

In 1611/1612 Rabbi Jehuda Leib was rabbi in Ludmir. He is mentioned there in the Old Responsa of the Bach (section 70) as rabbi in Ludmir at that date. His response concerns Mordosh son of the midwife in Ludmir and the testimony that the aforementioned Rabbi (Jehuda) Leib sent on November 24, 1611 regarding allowing an aguna (woman of uncertain marital status, namely the wife of said Mordosh) to marry, and undersigned are three rabbinic judges of Ludmir, Rabbi Shmuel known as Zainwel Ashkenazi, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch son of Rabbi S. Margaliot and Rabbi Meir son of Natan who should live a long life.

This Ludmir rabbi traded rabbinic questions and answers with the sages of his generation, including Rabbi Joel Sirkes, the Bach (see also Responsa of the Bach section 80) and also with the Maharal of Prague who apparently knew him from his birthplace of Prague (see Chinuch Beit Jehuda sections 90 and 75).

In one of his responsa (ibid., section 20) the Ludmir Rabbi answers about practical Jewish law in a way that shows the state of Jewish existence in Wolyn of that era, approximately 350 years ago. He was asked when he was rabbi in Ludmir about the impermissibility of slaughtering animals during the “nine days” from the first day of Av until the ninth (the fast of Tisha B”Av), whether it is allowable to slaughter and sell on the market day falling in that week. And his answer was: Slaughtering is done as part of business practice as usual in this land where this is most of ones livelihood, and therefore one is allowed to slaughter during the “nine days” in such a situation.

Specific details about the biography of Rabbi Jehuda Leib have not survived.

On the other hand, we do have details about his descendants. His son Rabbi Wolf Altschuler was also a Torah sage and was rabbi in several communities in Poland and apparently died before 1648. He authored the following books: Mishnat Hasidim wich comprises matters of musar (discipline) and middot (personal behavior), Ammud Esh (about laws of menstruant woman and immersion in a mikva (ritual pool), Esh Le-Ha”ir about laws of slaughtering and checking kosher meat, and one of his responsa is found in the book Chinuch Beit Jehuda (section 63).

Rabbi Jehuda Leib merited that one of his sons-in-law fathered a well known rabbinic dynasty lasting several generations who moved (back) to Germany, became entrenched there and spread Torah in several communities. I mean to mention the following famous rabbis: One of the sons-in-law of the aforementioned Ludmir rabbi is in the person of Rabbi Abraham, rabbinic judge in Poznan, the capital sity of Greater Poland. His son Rabbi Chanoch describes him as pious, humble and an excellent judge.

This Rabbi Chanoch was born around 1600-1610, excelled as a preacher in Poznan, the city of his birth, and later became rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in the community of Gniezno in the aforementioned region of Greater Poland. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of the famous Ginsburg family, part of which went to Poland and Lithuania during the Thirty Years” War in Germany. Rabbi Chanoch was also famous as a Torah sage.

[Page 278]

While in Gniezno his work Vikuach Josef ve-ha-Shevatim was published (Amsterdam 1650), and this is only an example of his other books that ought to have appeard during this time. In 1657-1658 when depredations and exterminations broke out affecting Greater Polish Jewry by the hordes of the persecutor, the Polish Hetman Charnatski, who accused the Jews of the region of siding with the Swedes who had previously invaded Greater Polish villages, the community of Gniezno was also desolated for a certain period.

Rabbi Chanoch rushed to pick up the gauntlet of the wanderers in his hand and left as a refugee to Western Europe, stayed in Prague, the city of origin of his maternal grandfather”s family, for a while, arrived in Germany, and in 1659 he became rabbi in Ettlingen (hard to read in original) in southern Germany.

Rabbi Chanoch was one of the rabbis who wrote kinnot (elegies) about the depredations of 1648-1649, and while he was still rabbi in Gniezno he published his book Nachalat Jakob at the end of which appear elegies about the edicts leading to the murder of the Jews of “the Ukraine region,Wolyn, Caslav (hard to read in original) and its vicinity and about the states of Lithuania and Lesser Poland,” apparently these elegies were accepted widely to be read on fast days, the twentieth of Sivan in the capacity of “selichot (penitential prayers)” in memory of these awful depredations.

This Rabbi Chanoch”s son was Rabbi Jehuda Leib, who was rabbi in Paberze (Shneithal? (hard to read in original) and its neighborhood. He was considered among the great South German rabbis in those days and was a rabbinic legal authority consulted by the rabbis in his area. He received his Torah scholarship from the Sage Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Koidnover, author of Tiferet Shmuel while said rabbi was serving for a time as rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in the renowed Frankfurt-am-Mein. This Rabbi Jehuda Leib”s son was Rabbi Chanoch (II) who occupied the seat of the rabbinate in Schneittach, and at the end of his life he lived as a private citizen in Frankfurt-am-Mein.

This Rabbi Chanoch published in 1708 the two books Reishit Bikurim about homietics and Chinuch Beit Jehuda which comprises responsa about halacha (religious practice). In the first book Rabbi Jehuda Leib son of Rabbi Chanoch”s (“my father my teacher”) sermons are collected. In the second book were collected and included responsa of the aforementioned Rabbi Jehuda Leib, and also of Rabbi Jehuda Leib Reb Chanochs Altschul, the Ludmir rabbi, and of the sages of the era like the Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz author of the Shelah, Rabbi Menachels (hard to read in original) of Poznan, and other great luminaries, among them Rabbi Meshulam Zalman Mirels head of the rabbinical court of Altona-Hamburg and Wandsbeck (A”hu). These responsa comprise a great resource regarding the internal workings of the Jewish community of the era. In the introduction to this book the publisher notes the greatness of Rabbi Leib Reb Henochs, the Ludmir rabbi “who was a giant among the Jews and beloved amongst his brethren the great sages in the country of Poland, and he was the principal student of the sage Maharshal and our teacher and rabbi Rabbi Yitzchak Bezalels.”

 

Rabbi Moshe Reb Mendels

He was rabbi in Ludmir in the year 1619. We learn this fact from the words of Rabbi Binjamin Aharon Solnic, among the great rabbis of Lvov, who wrote him in that year regarding rabbinic law in these words: “To the holy congregation of Ludmir, to the greart rabbi, glory of the rabbinate, endeared of the wise men, a disseminator (of Torah) son of a disseminator, that is, my beloved, my mechutan (father of my son- or daughter-in-law) the sage, our teacher, Rabbi Moshe whose light should continue to burn son of the wise man, the pious our teacher Menachem Mendel of blessed memory (from the abovementioned book Masat Binjamin). Rabbi Binjamin Aharon Solnic adds more about this Ludmir rabbi whose praise follows: “And behold, I know that no secret is hidden from him, and the paths of the Talmud and the rabbinic decisions are light for him as one of the great sages of our generation.” According to this source it is also worth mentioning that this rabbi Mendels is the son of the previous Ludmir rabbi,

[Page 279]

the aforementioned Rabbi Yeshaya Menachem son of Yitzchak known as Rabbi Mendel Reb Avigdors.”

We can see that Rabbi Moshe Reb Mendels was among the more famous rabbis of his generation also by the fact that in 1614 he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the monumental book Meirat Einayim (the Sema) written by the sage Rabbi Joshua.

And this Rabbi Moshe signed his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot as follows: “Moshe son of Yeshaya Menachem of blessed memory, known as Rabbi Moshe Reb Mendels.” Among the others giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot are found two other Torah sages, Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz author of the Shelah and Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Lunschitz (Leczyca) author of the Kli Yakar and Olelot Ephraim (these two rabbis were then active in Prague, where the book was published.

Rabbi Moshe Mendels did not remain in Ludmir. In 1622 we find him as rabbi and head of yeshiva in Prague, filling the position left by the rabbi, author of Shelah who had gone to the Land of Israel. In 1623 his wife Sarah died there. From Prague he returned to Poland and merited to become rabbi in the famed community of Krakow; at that time the sage Rabbi Joel Jaffe Sirkes author of the Bayit Hadash (Bach) was active as another rabbi and head of the yeshiva there. Regarding his rabbinate in Krakow (in 1635) it is notable that he is mentioned in the book Shaarei Zion of Rabbi Yaakov Tevli: “when I was in Krakow the giants, the heads of the rabbinic court Our Teacher Rabbi Joel and Our Teacher Rabbi Moshe Reb Mendels ordered the sextons in the synagogues to announce “keep good and quiet during the prayers.”” Together with this the abovementioned author notes that Rabbi Moshe Mendels was pious, humble and possessed of a holy mouth. In one of his responsa brought in the book Chinuch Beit Jehuda (Frankfurt am Mein 1708) he is described as “the famed genius.”

In 1639 Rabbi Moshe Mendels appears in a gathering of rabbis of the Four Land in Lublin together with the sages Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (who was then head of the rabbinical court in Ludmir), Rabbi Meir son of Abraham Zack head of the rabbinical court in Lvov (outside the city) and Rabbi Joshua son of Josef head of the rabbinical court in Lvov (within the city). However, soon thereafter we find him installed as rabbi in Poznan, and he died there. The reason for his leaving Krakow and arrival in Poznan a smaller city is explained by the fact that in Krakow two rabbis served in the rabbinate together, while at the time the rabbi of Poznan was the single leader of the Jewish community.

The father-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Mendels was Rabbi Shlomo son of Meshulam who wrote addenda to the book Yeriat Shlomo (Frankfurt on Oder edition, 1690) and he adds homilies about valuation and about the order of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

Rabbi Meir son of Rabbi Josef

In the capacity of rabbi in Ludmir at this time we find Rabbi Meir son of Rabbi Josef. Before Ludmir he was rabbi in Ostroh, and later was rabbi in Lublin and Lvov, where he died in 1638.

One of the great rabbis of Lvov, Rabbi Abraham Hakohen Schrenzel Rapoport, eulogized him, and he brings the eulogy in his book Eitan (Ha-)Ezrah(i) . The inscription on his tombstone was copied by Rabbi Solomon Buber in his book Anshei Shem which comprises the history of the rabbis, Torah giants and wise men of Lvov. The tombstone inscription describes him: “Meir (literally, “he enlightened”) as the praise of the dawn light, O how darkness has come as the Sun at noontime, The crown of Israel has fallen, the vibrant, active man of Kavziel (I don”t understand the reference), the great sage Our Teacher Rabbi Meir son of Our Teacher Rabbi Josef.”

Regarding his greatness in this Ludmir rabbi”s Talmudic learning it is noteworthy that at the same time as he was head of the rabbinic court in Ostroh, the well known sage and kabbalist Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz, author of the Shelah served there as head of the yeshiva, and from Ostroh he was accepted as head of the rabbinic court and head of yeshiva in the community of the illustrious Frankfurt-am-Mein in the country of Germany.

[Page 280]

Rabbi Meir of Ludmir

In the book Yalkut Hadash (Lublin 1648) by Rabbi Yisrael head of the rabbinical court and head of yeshiva in Elovitz and head of the rabbinic court in Lublin we find a eulogy for “the sage Our Teacher Rabbi Meir of Ludmir of blessed memory,” who was head of the rabbinic court in the community of Brisk (Brest, Belarus) and died before Rosh Hashana 1638, “and I gave a eulogy in Hentzin (Checiny) in 1640.”

 

Rabbi Nachum

We are also aware of another rabbi active in Ludmir around that time by the name of Rabbi Nachum.

His daughter Beyla was betrothed in a second marriage to Rabbi Meir Wohl of Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today) whose father was the leader Rabbi Saul Wohl of Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today). In his first marriage Rabbi Meir Wohl was son-in-law of leader Pincus Horowitz of Krakow, who was the brother-in-law of the Rema (according to Gedulat Saul by Zvi Hersch Edelman). This Beyla died in 1632 in Ludmir.

 

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (the “Tosafot Yom Tov”)

From 1634-1642 the well known Torah giant Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller author the Tosafot Yom Tov on the Mishna and other works served as rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir. He came to Ludmir from Nemirov in Podolia where he served as rabbi from 1632 on. About this great prodigy we will portray a concise biography, but we will add additional details about the rabbinic tenure of this prodigy in Ludmir.

Regarding his actions in Ludmir, we see he elevated the honor of the (Ludmir) rabbinate to near the pinnacle of all of Wolyn. This prodigy mentions in his famed autobiographical work Megillat Eyva the four major communities then in Wolyn: Ludmir, Ostroh, Kremenets and Luts'k. He also mentions there that his son Abraham acquired a yeshiva in the congregation of Sakalvia in the Ludmir region, and his son-in-law Rabbi Jakob Josef acquired a yeshiva in the congregation of Turiysk, also in the Ludmir region.

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller appears as the head rabbi of the Ludmir community in the meeting of rabbis of the Four Lands taking place in 1636, 1639, 1640, 1641 and 1642. When Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller was rabbi in Ludmir he initiated the ban on purchasing rabbinic ordination for money. He saw this ban as imperative in that era. The ban was renewed in 1640 at the Jaroslaw fair.

Regarding this it it worthy to mention his personal testimony about this subject in his autobiographical work:

“More so I awakened myself and traveled to the Jaroslaw fair in that year (1640) in convocation with many heads of yeshiva and also leaders and officers of the Four Lands of Greater and Lesser Poland, Russia and Wolyn. And it was announced with great fanfare all the bans on which over thirty sages of these lands had signed, with many additions that we added, in all the synagogues in Jaroslaw. Also in the synagogue called the Four Land Synagogue we contributed in any way that might help.”

Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman who sermonized well amd acted well, guarded the power of this ban in the communities of the Ludmir area, and he never allowed a purchased rabbinic position in any shape or form. He similarly states in his abovementioned work: “And I in my poor state in the congregation of Ludmir along with the leaders and heads in this region created a fence around the words of the ancients, and we also added to them,

[Page 281]

for the ancients prescribed lashes, but I and these leaders added edicts and excommunications.”

This matter caused Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller great troubles to the point that he was forced to leave the rabbinate of Ludmir over this matter by the edict of the government. He writes regarding this:

“And for this reason I was goaded by my unreasonable enemies and false detractors for no reason and for naught until they caused me great pain. Despite all this I never retreated with God”s help, and even during a convocation in Vishnitz in Luts”k province, when the heads of the four holy communities in the Wolyn area, namely Ludmir, Ostroh, Kremenets and Luts”k, met. There we also aroused ourselves on the eighth day of Adar, all of us heads of yeshiva in the four communities with the proxy heads of the provinces as usual, and we renewed the edicts and bans, and we excommunicated in the presence of the community and congregation in a meeting of the multitudes.”

In 1641, the matter of purchasing rabbinic ordination was again adjudicated, at the request of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, with testimony, acceptance and verification of the former decrees banning the practice with full force (the abovementioned Megillat Eyva) (Read all about this in Vaad Arba Aratzot by Yisrael Halperin.)

In 1642 when the prince of the province passed through the city of Ludmir a complaint was presented against Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman. He orderd that he be banished from the city, but with the intercession of the great personages of the city he was returned to office. Yet he already found his position there uncomfortable, and when an opportunity came he left Ludmir (1644), and he later merited to become head of the rabbinic court in Krakow (and over time head of the yeshiva there), and he died in Krakow in 1654 at the age of 75.

 

Rabbi Yechezkel son of Reb Moshe Jakob

After the “Tosafot Yom Tov” we find occupying the post of head of the rabbinic court Rabbi Yechezkel son of Reb Moshe Jakob. We do not know any biographical details about him, but he was among thegreat rabbis of his time. As proof, on the seventeenth day of Cheshvan, 1645 this Ludmir rabbi gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) on the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (the first edition with the commentary of the sage Rabbi Shabtai Kohen) together with other famous great sages, eighteen in number, among them the author of the Tosafot Yom Tov in Krakow, Rabbi Heschel head of the yeshiva in Lublin, the author of Maginei Shlomo, the head of the yeshiva in Krakow and others.

 

Rabbi David Halevi, author of the Taz native of Ludmir

Rabbi David Halevi was born around 1590-1595 in Ludmir. When he was still young he was already seen to have a future of enlightening the Israelite world with his Torah learning. He acquired his Torah learning from his elder brother Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi, and also by the sage Rabbi Heschel who was famed as astute and a formidable logician. With his great studiousness and awesome intellect Rabbi David of Ludmir became one of the lions among the cadre of younger scholars. His great notoriety reached such levels that the sage Rabbi Joel Sirkes author of the Bach took him as a son-in-law, and by his great father-in-law he completed his mastery of the Torah, learning with him with great diligence and assisting him with his instruction. All the while he maintained a great deal of humility and would convey any of his questions and uncertainties to his aforementioned elder brother Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi, acting as a student before his rabbi. He later left his father-in-law”s home, establishing his Torah study center in glorious Krakow. He maintained a correspondence with his sage father-in-law and asked about his thoughts on

[Page 282]

answers (to religious questions) which he had already given to others, and his father-in-law, our master, author of the Bach invariably agreed with him in matters of both law and practice.

He became rabbi of the small town of Potelych, and when he saw that he was too confined there he sought out Torah learning in the community of Ostroh, the primary congregation in the Province of Wolyn, the land of his birth. He became famous as a noted sage, ans well known sages and famous old rabbis assembled tremblingly before him especially after his publication in the year 1646 of the Lublin edition of his well known treatise Turei Zahav (abbreviated as “Taz”) on the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah section appearing with the haskamot (rabbinic approbations) of the sages of Poland. After the depredations of 1648-1649 during which nearly all the communities of Wolyn and southeastern Poland, including Ostroh, were destroyed, Rabbi David Halevi fled this killing field. He spent some time in Lublin, roamed beyond Poland, and reached Moravia where refugee rabbis of Poland had settled in the meanwhile. After the storm of the wars in Poland settled he returned to the land of his birth in 1654 and was accepted as head of the rabbinic court and head of yeshiva in the glorious community of Lvov. There in Lvov his honor was elevated in Torah and action. He became the first among equals of the sages of Poland and the leadership of the gatherings of the Four Lands, and he proclaimed edicts and merited a good yeshiva and grandchildren of whom several became famous rabbis and founders of large yeshivas.

Late in his life, when word was going out in Poland regarding the false messiah, Shabtai Zvi, Polish Jewry, with the agreement of Rabbi David Halevi, decided to send emissaries to Shabtai Zvi to investigate him and bring back reliable information on the character of this man. Two sons of Rabbi David Halevi were chosen, Rabbi Yeshaya, rabbi of Komarno, and his stepson Rabbi Arye Leib son of Shmuel author of the responsa Shaagat Arye ve-Kol Shahal. They came to Shabtai Zvi who was at that time imprisoned at Abydos, and he sent a letter of peace back with them, also sending a silk cloak to wrap Rabbi David as a charm for his health to strengthen the delicate state of the elderly sage who was then eighty years old.

Rabbi David Halevi died in Lvov in 1664. On his tombstone it states: “The city of Ludmir sired and gave birth to him; the city of Krakow raised its plaything; “woe unto her” says Lvov; for she has lost her beloved vessel.” He is also described there as “The great sage, light of the exile… with the light of his Torah he enlightened for many generations; therefor the Shulchan Aruch and Arbaah Turim: remain alive. He already merited that Torah law has been decided according to his verdict; his instruction is comprehensive, pure and organized.”

Rabbi David Halevi left hundreds of students who became renowned rabbis. The most famous of them are the following important rabbis:

  1. Rabbi Shmuel son of Rabbi David Halevi, head of the rabbinical court in Hamburg in southern Germany author of the important rabbinical work Nachlat Shiva
  2. Rabbi Yisrael son of Rabbi Shmuel of Taprnopol head of the rabbinic court and head of yeshiva in Ludmir and Luts”k
  3. Rabbi Menachem Mendel son of Zvi Hirsch head of the rabbinical court in Zmigrod and Wegrow author of the book Zinzenet Menachem about the legends of the Talmud.
  4. Rabbi Arye Leib son of Rabbi Shmuel Zvi Hertz head of the rabbinical court of Pinczow, son of the Bach of blessed memory, and he was the stepson of his rabbi the Taz, for in the Taz”s old age his wife Rebbetzin Rivka, daughter of the sage author of the Bach, died, and he took as a wife his sister-in-law, widow of his brother-in-law, the abovementioned Rabbi Shmuel Zvi Hertz. Rabbio Arye Leib was head of the rabbinic court and head of yeshiva in illustruous communities in Lithuania and Poland. He was the rabbi in Svirzh, Stopnica, Zamość , Tykocin and Krakow, and at the end died in Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today), and there is his hallowed resting place.
[Page 283]

Rabbi David Halevi immortalized his name with his famous commentary Turei Zahav on the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chayim, Even Ha-Ezer, Choshen Mishpat and Yoreh Deah by our master Rabbi Josef Karo. His commentary on Choshen Mishpat is highly regarded and accepted throughout the world of rabbinic decisionmaking. Even though it was published posthumously (Hamburg 1642), this work was printed along with the text of the Shulchan Aruch, along with the commentary of the sage Rabbi Abraham Abli Gumbiner with the support of the heads and leaders of the Four Lands. His commentary is named “Magen David (Shield of David)” and the other named “Magen Avraham (Shield of Abraham)” together are called “Maginei Eretz (Protectors of the Land).” This commentary of the author of the Taz on Orach Chayim has the format of the commentary on Shulchan Aruch, as it is attached to each section and elucidates each paragraph. Many famous authors wrote notes and emendations to it, among them Rabbi Josef son of Rabbi Meir author of Pri Megadim, which explains all the difficult passages.

The commentary on Even ha-Ezer, like that on Choshen Mishpat was published approximately ninety years after his passing (Zelechow 1744). He wrote this commentary in two editions. That which we have is the first edition, but Rabbi Shmuel Halevi author of Beit Shmuel on Shulchan Aruch, Even ha-Ezer (Furth 1694) had a second edition, and he used it for his abovementioned work.

The commentary of the Taz on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat were compiled by him at the same time as his commentary to Yoreh Deah, but he did not merit to see it come to publication until many years after the death of the author. It was published (Hamburg 1692) by the sage Rabbi Zvi Ashkenazi author of Chacham Zvi (only up to section 246) with many notes with his own insights along with insights of Rabbi Shmuel Koidnover (author of Birkat ha-Zevach and Tiferet Shmuel), and a few insights of Rabbi Jonah Teomim head of the rabbinic court of Metz author of the book Kikayon de-Yona. The complete work on all of Choshen Mishpat was published in Berlin in 1766.

However, because it was published in a dedicated volume, not surrounding and together with the words of the Shulchan Aruch it never gained a foothold in the rabbinic and scholarly world like his work on Orach Chayim and Yoreh Deah, and in its place the book Meirat Einayim (the Sema) was given precedence. In fact, the Turei Zahav (“The Taz”) on Choshen Mishpat is not a direct commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, but is rather mostly incidental fine arguments regarding the Tur or the Talmud and its commentaries. And he elaborates greatly with logical arguments and insights, not directly related to the topic in the Shulchan Aruch, but rather important topics in their own right.

The outstanding commentary of all the sections of the Taz is that to the Yoreh Deah, which acquired for Rabbi David Halevi an eternal name in the world of rabbinic decisionmaking literature for every generation. This work spread in the rabbinic world which accepted his decisive word, and without studying this work no yeshiva boy would have the nerve to accept rabbinic ordination. This work is often paired in publication with the commentary of the Shach (Siftei Kohen by the sage Rabbi Shabtai Kohen of Vilna and head of the rabbinic court of Holesov) and the two were published together as Ashlei Ravrevei (Willemsdorf 1677), and thus they were connected to each other in all subsequent publications of Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah.

In this book the author of the Taz brings the rabbinic decisions of the Rashal, the Levush, a homily of the Sema and the like, compares their decisions with the decisions of the Shulchan Aruch and from all of them he derives a definitive decision and conclusive precedent, so that every decided law appears transparent and clear. He places the Rashal at the first rank, and he usually decides the issue according to his view, but when the Rema concludes differently he often leans to the Rema”s opinion; he sometimes disagrees with the author of the Levush and even with the Bach, his teacher and father-in-law. He provides a precedent from previous rabbinic decisionmakers for every law in the Shulchan Aruch, whether from the Beit Josef or the Darchei Moshe of the Rema, and when he finds a contradiction between the Shulchan Aruch and these two books he tries to compare and “reconcile” them, and when he cannot find a true reconciliation

[Page 284]

he subordinates their words to those of the Shulchan Aruch, who to him is the last word in matters of religious law and instruction.

From the Taz there remain many responsa and books in manuscript. Only a few of his rabbinic answers were printed, which appeared in the important Responsa of the Bach, Responsa of the Latter-Day Sages, Responsa of the Penei Joshua by the sage Rabbi Joshua son of Josef. Also, appearing (much later) was the book Divrei David to explain the words of Rashi”s of blessed memory commentary on the Torah.

Mr. Mendel Buber publisher of the book Mazkeret Le-Gedolei Ostroh (Memories of the Torah Giants of Ostroh) found in manuscript a book of selichot (penitential prayers) which the Taz composed for the 20th of Sivan (and 26th of Sivan) and published them together with his instructions in the book Yalkut Menachem.

Regarding the greatness of the Taz to the ensuing generations, it is worth mentioning the words of praise for him by Rabbi Jakob Joshua Falk, author of the Pnei Joshua (on the tractates of the Talmud) as follows: “The ruling follows his decision in most places. And we walk following his light, as he is the greatest of the later generations, none of which excel him….”

 

Rabbi Yechezkel son of Rabbi Moshe Jakob

This Ludmir rabbi signed his name on a rabbinic approbation as: “Yechezkel son of the sage Moshe Jakob.”

We only know that his son Rabbi Aharon Jakob was in his declining years the rabbi of Ludmir. But this was at the late date of 1669, putting it in the second section of our list of Ludmir rabbis and sages which begins after the depredations of 1648, a year which marks a turning point in the history of this ancient community.

It is also noteworthy that on the eve of 1648 in one of the Councils of the Lands, at the conference of Belzyce (1643) is mentioned the champion of the Jews, son of our rabbi, our teacher Rabbi Leib from the holy congregation of Ludmir (see Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot [Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands], page 69, by the abovementioned Yisrael Halperin).

Around that era we see two authors of Torah works: Rabbi Jakob Kopel Margaliot “from the city of Vladimir” who wrote the book Kol Yaakov and Rabbi Abraham son of Shmuel Ashkenazi author of Tzaar Bat Rabim comprising details about the depredations of 1648, and Sam ha-Chayim comprising moral sayings in verse.

The first, Rabbi Jakob Kopel Margaliot, who is described as the “chief rabbi” tells us in the introduction to his abovementioned book that he was one of the captives during the events of 1648 and describes it to us in detail as follows: “… specifically, when the events of the time buffeted me during the times of the evil depredations that came upon us in the land of Poland … and I am amongst the exile where they imprisoned me and my son(s) and daughter, and they brought (us) into exile in chains of iron, suffering in leg irons, and they made us wander … to another land … and God made mercy fall on me before the chosen people, namely the reputable people inhabiting the land of the merciful children of the merciful, the holy community of Constantinople. And they redeemed me, their habitations should be peaceful, there should be peace in their ramparts for ever and ever…”

At the end of this small book is found an elegy which the author composed about the wise men of Poland.

The second Ludmirite, Rabbi Abraham son of Shmuel Ashkenazi, was a pharmaceutical salesman “in the city of Ludmir” in Wolyn province. He was among those exiled during the depredations of 1648 and he lived in Ludmir, and he composed a book Tzaar Bat Rabim (The Sorrow of the Masses) about the tragedies in Poland. He himself escaped to Venice, Italy, and came to the leader of the rabbis there by the name of Rabbi Moshe Zacut to ask for his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) and comments on his abovementioned small book, but because of the pressure of the times this never was published, and we also do not know what became of this Ludmir rabbi.

Nevertheless, this manuscript was preserved all along in the British Museum in London, and it was published in 1888. The scholarly reseacher

[Page 285]

Gurland in Otzar Sifrut Yisrael in the context of his timeline of the events of the persecutions of the Jews with the appendix of comments, corrections and addenda by the aforementioned Jonah H. Gurland.

The booklet Sam ha-Chayim was published in Prague in 1590, and has remained all this time in the Bodleian Library (Oxford), and because of its monetary value is almost unknown to the public. The abovementioned scholar J. H. Gorland saw fit to republish this author”s dedication written in Hebrew and Yiddish, and it incidentally reveals to us contemporary Wolynian Yiddish: The Yiddish words of this Ludmir resident are as follows (in translation): So is named this book, it comes from a far land. It was done by a blessed hand, the rabbi R'Avraham Ashkenazi Apoteker was his name. He sends it to the people [lit. world] as a friend, since he knows that every person should guard himself against sin and damage, and any person who does right will be known as God's servant. Therefore do not let this book out of your hand and thanks to it you will come to the Holy Land.

About the great massacre among the Jews of Ludmir in 1648 we find in the book Tzuk ha-Itim by Rabbi Meir son of Shmuel of Szczebrzeszyn these few words (using a Hebrew play on words): “In the holy community of Luts”k and the holy community of Ludmir they oppressed without respite, just as the overflowing wagon weighs heavily.”

 

The rabbis of Ludmir after the persecutions of 1648

After the depredations of 1648-1649 the community of Ludmir began to recover from the tribulations which befell this community during this era of destruction. We find Ludmir renewing its activity in the public affairs of Polish Jewry. It again gained notoriety among the communities and rabbis in Poland and Wolyn due to its famous rabbis, its public activists and its well known philanthropists who participated in the General Council of the Four Lands of Polish Jewry. An specifically, the philanthropists of Ludmir (and not the philanthropists of Ostroh) participated in the general assembly of this central autonomous council.

Already in 1666 one Ludmirite, Rabbi Abraham son of Rabbi Shlomo, appears as the head scribe of the Jews living in the Kingdom of Poland, and later as a “trustee of the House of Israel” in the Four Lands (Council). He held these offices in that council in 1670, 1672, 1678, 1682 and 1684, and he is also described as “the exalted champion of Torah.” (see Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands) by Y. Halperin)

Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer son of Ephraim Naftali he was rabbi and head of the rabbinic court of Ludmir in 1655. In the Grodno Proceedings Book, that of the leading congregation of Lithuania, his signature appears at the Lublin Council at that date. Details about this Ludmir rabbi have not survived at all (see Daat Kedoshim about him).

Rabbi Nachman son of Shlomo Naftali was rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir in 1664. In that year this rabbi gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) as the Ludmir rabbi at the Lublin Council to the book Amudeha Shiv”a by Rabbi Bezalel son of Shlomo of Kobryn. And he signed second, after the sage Rabbi David Halevi author of the Turei Zahav. Among the others giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot are also found the famous rabbi, Rabbi Moshe son of Yitzchak of Krakow, rabbi and head of rabbinic court

[Page 286]

of Lublin and son-in-law of the Maharasha. This shows the greatness of this Ludmir rabbi in the eyes of the established rabbis of his generation.

Rabbi Nachman son of Shlomo was later accepted as rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in the gloried community of Vilna (Wilno). In 1673 while he was rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Vilna he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) during the convocation of the council of the land of Lithuania in Saločiai to the book Sha”arei Shamayim by Yechiel Michel son of Aryeh Segal of Kalisz. Among the others giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot are also found rabbis of the leading communities of Lithuania, Rabbi Mordechai son of Rabbi Binjamin Wolf of Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today), Rabbi Moshe son of Yisrael Jakob of Pinsk and the abovementioned Rabbi Nachman in Vilna. In 1674 Rabbi Nachman gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the book Migdal David by Rabbi David of Lida head of the rabbinic court of Amsterdam and other commmunities.

In the book Beit Lechem Jehuda the author writes (Yoreh Deah section 265): “I heard when I was in the city and motherland of Israel the holy congregation of Vilna, that the sage Rabbi Nachman taught (and) in the book “Lev Arye” on the Torah words of Torah are brought in the name of the great rabbi of his generation” (namely, him). (Details about him are in Ir Vilna by Hillel Noah Magid-Steinschmidt.

 

Rabbi Aharon Jakob

In 1669 the rabbi and head of the rabbinic court was Rabbi Aharon Jakob. In this rabbi”s Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the book Or ha-Chayim by Rabbi Chayim Bochner of Krakow, on the above date he signed his and his father”s name: “the great Rabbi Yechezkeli.” Biographical details have not survived, but perhaps Rabbi Yechezkel, father of this Rabbi Aharon Jakob, was he who was the previous rabbi of Ludmir (1646?) (see the previous article). We know only that Rabbi Aharon Jakob was the son-in-law of the sage Rabbi Mendel Krochmal head of the rabbinic court of Nikolsburg and author of the Tzemach Tzedek (according to Kitvei ha-Geonim).

 

Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol

This rabbi served as rabbi and head of rabbinic court in Ludmir approximately 1670-1677. Biographical data on this Ludmir rabbi are unknown. Only the following few details have survived: He was from Tarnopol, since he signs his name using this city”s name. Before Ludmir he was head of the rabbinic court in Pinsk, which was the leading city in Lithuania. In 1667 he appears as rabbi of the congregation of Pinsk during the meeting of the council of the Land of Lithuania which took place in the city of Khomsk (the region of Brisk, Luthuania, today Brest, Belarus). In 1670 this rabbi was already head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir, although he appears at the council of the Land of Lithuania in Saločiai with the title of rabbi of Pinsk. (There was) another rabbi of Pinsk, Rabbi Naftali Hertz son of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Ginsburg. Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol participated in the assembly of Council of the Four Lands of Poland as follows: in 1673 in Pinczow and he signed his name there as “The youngest of the hosts of Israel son of my beloved father Our Teacher Our Rabbi Shmuel, his memory will last to the days of the world to come, of Tarnopol, now residing in the holy congregation of Ludmir God should preserve its form and maintain it.”

In 1677 we find him in the meeting of the Council in Jaroslaw and in 1678 in Lublin. In this meeting of 1678 during the arguments between the Council of the Four Lands of the Land of Poland and thousands of officers and leaders of the Land of Lithuania (the second time), the Council of the Four Lands chose two of its own rabbis to present arguments against the other side, the Lithuanians, in a rabbinic legal case that was impending between the two sides. The two chosen were the rabbi of Lublin and Rabbi Yisrael (son of Shmuel of Tarnopol) of Ludmir. In that same year Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel was chosen as rabbi in Luts”k, which was also a leading community in Wolyn, and he preferred it to Ludmir.

[Page 287]

In 1680 Rabbi Yisrael participated in the meeting of the Council in Jaroslaw in the capacity of rabbi and head of the rabbinic council of Luts”k, and similarly in subsequent meetings of this council in 1681 in Łęczna (Lublin Province) and in 1683.

Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (Rabbinic approbation) at the above meetings to the following writers: In 1673 to the books Dvar Shmuel (homilies on the Torah, Amsterdam 1675 by the preacher Shmuel Zangwill son of Chanoch of Lublin on the Lev Arye by Rabbi Jehuda Leib son of Joshua Hesky head of the rabbinical court of Boćki) and on Olat ha-Tamid (on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim) by Rabbi Shmuel son of Josef (Amsterdam 1681). In 1677 and again in 1678 he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the printing of a Bible with a German-Yiddish translation (by Josef Attias of Amsterdam), and he appears as first signatory of the rabbis on the publication of this Bible which was of utmost importance “for the daughters of Zion, righteous and serene women to understand in simple language (namely, Yiddish), and it will also help the youngsters of the Children of Israel who have not learned the Book and the language of the pure.” Among the rabbis of other major communities who gave their approval of printing the Bible in Yiddish were the rabbis of Lublin, Poznan, Lvov and Ostroh in Wolyn. In 1680 Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel gave a Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the book Kneh Chochma by the preacher Rabbi Jehuda Leib son of Josef Pochowiczer of Pinsk, and in 1683 on the work Maginei Zahav by Rabbi Joel son of David of Szczebrzeszyn, grandson of the Taz, who defends thehonor of hisgrandfather the sage and answers the comments of the Shach in Nekudot ha-Kesef.

It is also noteworthy that Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol was student and contemporary of the sage Rabbi David Halevi, author of the aforementioned Taz. He was also the brother-in-law of Rabbi Josef Jasky head of the rabbinic court in the Lvov suburbs and the area of Minsk (in Lithuania), and at the end of his days rabbi in two of the primary communities, Kovel and Dubno, in Wolyn. Apparently this rabbi was a properous man. He gave an appropriate donation to publish Even ha-Ezer in Krakow. We also find that a Jewish man in Ludmir owed him 1200 gold pieces in 1671 (see the abovementioned Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot [Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands] page 126)

 

Rabbi Abraham Abli Harif Head of yeshiva in Ludmir

In that era, Rabbi Abraham Abli Harif served as head of the yeshiva in Ludmir. This Ludmir rabbi gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the abovementioned book Lev Arye in 1673 along with the head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir, Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol. Rabbi Abraham Abli signed in this Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot by the name “Abraham son of Binjamin Bunim” and designates “the congregation of Wolodimir” as a city filled with wise men and scribes.

A few details have survived regarding the biography of Rabbi Abraham Abli , this head of the yeshiva:

He was the son of the sage Rabbi Meir (Maharam) of the Zack (Zera Kodesh) family, who was a student of the Maharam of Lublin, and he was also a relation of the holy family of the “Rosh.” Rabbi Abraham Abli had a son named Rabbi Jakob who lived in Ludmir and was a son-in-law of Rabbi Gershon Hakohen Rapoport head of the rabbinical court of Belz. This Ludmirite Rabbi Jakob”s son was Rabbi Yisrael was head of the rabbinical court in Lokachi in Wolyn (son-in-law of Rabbi Aharon head of the rabbinic court in Terebovlya and Z#322;oczew in Galicia) author of the book Halcha Adam mi-Yisrael (Żelechów 1739). In this book, Torah insights of his paternal grandfather Rabbi Abraham Abli Harif are brought regarding the opinions of the Tagarei Lod. And Rabbi Abraham Abli and his abovementioned grandson Rabbi Yisrael”s descendants included several famous rabbis in Wolyn and eastern Galicia. It is also worthy of note that towards the end of his life Rabbi Abraham Abli was rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in the community of Hrubieszów.

[Page 288]

Rabbi Asher son of Rabbi Yitzchak, Rabbi and Head of the Rabbinic Court in Ludmir

At the end of the month of Elul 1677 we already find another head of the rabbinical court in Ludmir in place of the previous rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael son of Shmuel of Tarnopol. This was the notable Rabbi Asher son of the holy notable Rabbi Yitzchak (God should avenge his blood) from Chęciny (region of Lesser Poland Krakow). This is known by the fact that we see this rabbi participating in the convocation of the rabbis of the Council of the Four Lands in Jaroslaw in 1677, and there he signs: “now residing in the holy community of Ludmir.” At this meeting he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the book Olat ha-Tamid (on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Amsterdam 1681) by Rabbi Shmuel son of Josef.

About this Ludmir rabbi we only know the following two details: Before Ludmir he was the rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Szczebrzeszyn. In 1673 in that capacity he participated in the Council of the Four Lands in Pinczow. He was only rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir for a short time, for soon thereafter (after 1677) he was accepted as head of the rabbinic court inBelz , and as rabbi of that congregation he participated in several meetings of the rabbis of the Council of the Four Lands, and gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the works of assorted authors.

This Rabbi Asher was one of the great sages of the generation; and testimony to this is the fact that his predecessor in Belz as rabbi and head of the rabbinic court was Rabbi Nachman Hakohen Rapoport and his successor was Rabbi Zachariah Mendel son of Rabbi Arye Leib the Great of Krakow, author of Ba”er Heitev.

These two rabbis were among the outstanding rabbis of that generation.

 

The Notable, the Philanthropist Rabbi Arye Jehuda of Ludmir emissary of the community of Lvov in the Council of the Four Lands

At that time we also find a well known person in Lvov, a native of Ludmir, who appears many times at the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands as a philanthropist in glorious Lvov at this central council, who always notes his birthplace of Ludmir. Our meaning here is to “Rabbi Arye Jehuda son of Rabbi Moshe, his memory should last into the world to come, of Ludmir who lives in Lvov in the exile (external, i.e., the suburbs of the city of Lvov).”

The signature of this Ludmirite philanthropist appears at the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands in 1677 in Jaroslaw, where the rabbis and financiers of the Council of the Four Lands turn to the leaders of the community of Amsterdam and its two rabbis, Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhab (Sephardic) and Rabbi Meir Stern (Ashkenazic) to arrange a monetary collection in their community for the purpose of redeeming captive Jews of Podolia who, because of the tribulations of that era, fell into captivity in Turkey-Constantinople. And the Jews of Poland did not have the monetary resources to redeem them by themselves.

Rabbi Arye Yehuda of Ludmir also gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) during the period of the Council meeting to the books of various authors, among them on the Jerusalem Talmud, Order Zeraim with the commentary of Rabbi Elijahu of Fulda and to the Midrash Rabbah put out by Rabbi Naftali Hirsch son of Shimon with a short commentary to it entitled Naftali Ayala Shelucha. In 1693 he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the books Toldot Jakob (never printed) and Beit Jakob by Rabbi Jakob son of Rabbi Shmuel head of the rabbinic court of Węgrów. The very fact that the Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot of Rabbi Arye Yehuda of Ludmir appears on this book testifies that in Poland among the circles of rabbis and writers he was considered outstanding in his Torah scholarship. For among the other rabbis giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to this book appear the following two rabbinic giants: Rabbi Naftali Hakohen head of the rabbinical court of Poznan and Rabbi Mordechai Ziskind son of Rabbi Moshe, rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Lublin and its provinces. He similarly gives his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the well known work Beit Hillel on the Shulchan Aruch, Even ha-Ezer and Yoreh Deah by the famous Rabbi Hillel son of Rabbi Naftali Hertz (in 1681 at the Jaroslaw Council) who was the head of the rabbinic court in Zhovkva, Kėdainiai in Lithuania and Altona-Hamburg-Wandsbek (this book was published in Dyhernfurth in 1691).

[Page 289]

It is noteworthy that in the convocation of the Council of the Four Lands in 1681 in Łęczna Rabbi Arye Jehuda Leib son of Rabbi Moshe of Ludmir appears, living in Lvov, together with the prior head of the Lumir rabbinic court, the abovementioned Rabbi Yisrael son of Rabbi Shmuel of Tarnopol. In the meeting of this Council the disagreement between the Council of the Four Lands and the Council of Lithuania regarding monetary outlays for general political activities of Polish and Lithuanian Jewry the fraction of the outlay required of Lithuanian Jewry was settled. Among the rabbis making this decision were also the rabbis who were emissaries of the major communities Rabbi Naftali Hirsch son of Binjamin Wolf of Brest in Lithuania (now Belarus) and Rabbi Moshe son of Abraham “MiGeza Zvi” of Gironda.

Rabbi Solomon Buber in his book Anshei Shem attempts to identify this Ludmirite Rabbi Arye Yehuda with Rabbi Leib Hasid of the Meisels family who was the head of the rabbinic court in Lvov (suburbs) and Przemy#347;l. However, according to Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands) by Yisrael Halperin there is no substantive proof for this.

 

Rabbi Yekutiel son of Rabbi Joshua Aaron

Rabbi Yekutiel was head of the rabbinical court in Ludmir in the years 1678-1700. About his biography we only know the following few details: His father was the great rabbi, Our Teacher Rabbi Joshua Aaron a descendant of the gloried congregation of Lublin. Before Ludmir Rabbi Yekutiel was rabbi and head of rabbinic court of Chelm. He was then already among the most famous rabbis of his generation. As rabbi of a major community he participated in the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands. He gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to works of Torah subjects during the above Council. The authors of the works regarded his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot with great importance, gave them the honor of placing them before the work, and this rabbi giving his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot is described as a “Gaon (sage).”

In 1671 Rabbi Yekutiel as rabbi of Chelm gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the book Lev Arye (on the Torah, Wilmensdorf 1674) by Rabbi Jehuda Leib son of Joshua Hoshki. In 1671 we find him participating in the holy convocation of the rabbis of the Council of the Four Lands which met in Jaroslaw, in 1673. when this Council met in Pinczow and in 1678 at the holy convocation in Lublin.

In 1678 he already preferred the rabbinate of Ludmir over that of Chelm, and at the abovementioned Council in Lublin he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot on the book Mayim Chayim by Rabbi Chayim Segal, and he signes his name: “The words of the young Yekutiel, son to my beloved father the great rabbi, Our Teacher Rabbi Joshua Aharon, his memory will last into the world to come, living in Ludmir (God should protect her) and its environs.”

In 1688 he participates in the capacity of “resident of the holy community of Ludmir and its environs” in the convocation of the Four Lands in Jaroslaw. He gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to the following books: Toldot Yitzchak by the preacher Rabbi Yitzchak son of Abraham Eberles Katz (homilies on the Torah, Frankfurt on Oder 1681); Ketonet Josef (sermons in Lublin, 1681) by the preacher and rabbinic judge Rabbi Josef son of Moshe of Przemysl and Kevod Chachamim about the legends in the Jerusalem Talmud.

In 1696 this rabbi of Ludmir participated in the Jaroslaw fair and signs his name as “Eliezer Yekutiel who dwells in the holy community of Ludmir and its environs” (the name Eliezer having apparently been added because of an illness).

[Page 290]

In 1700 he made his final appearance at the the well known convocation of the Council of the Four Lands. He participated in this convocation together with Rabbi Saul “who lives in the Krakow area” and Rabbi Naftali Hakohen “who lives in the Poznan area.” (see regarding his participation in the book Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot [Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands] by Yisrael Halperin).

Rabbi Yekutiel, the rabbi of Ludmir in mentioned in the pamphlet “Artzot Chayim” appended to the book of responsa Mayim Chayim by Rabbi Chayim Hakohen Rapoport head of the rabbinic court. According to the words of Rabbi Josef Luntschitz that the brother of Rabbi Yekutiel, this Ludmir rabbi, was Rabbi Jakob of Chelm, who is mentioned in his son”s comments to the book Minchat Kohen (Furth? 1741)by Rabbi Shabtai Hakohen of Siemiatycze.

Rabbi Yekutiel was a rich Jew. In the Proceedings of the Land of Lithuania his name is mentioned in 1679 in that the Council of the Land of Lithuania owed him money.

Note: In the “Yizkor Book” of the community of Chelm Rabbi Yekutiel is mentioned in the article on the rabbis of Chelm by J. Milner as a rabbi of the city, but as far as we know this rabbi was accepted after Chelm as head of the rabbinic court of Ludmir, and he served there as rabbi for over twenty-two years.

 

Rabbi Ephraim Fischel of Ludmir and his three famous sons

In that same era the notable Rabbi Ephraim Fischel, who was a donor of the Council of the Four Lands, was active in Ludmir. For many years he participated in each and every meeting of the Council and was one of the primary speakers among contemporary Polish Jewry. He was a gentleman with family connections, and well known personages among the Jews of Poland in the rabbinic-scholarly, Jewish representative and philanthropic fields were his relations.

Rabbi Ephraim Fischel”s father was the sage Rabbi Arye Leib the Great head of the rabbinic court of Krakow, and the brother of Rabbi Ephraim Fischel was the sage Rabbi Zachariah Mendel, rabbi of Belz and author of Ba”er Heitev on Yoreh Deah, Choshen Mishpat and Even ha-Ezer.

Rabbi Ephraim Fischel as mentioned above was a resident of Ludmir. In 1684 while at the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to publication of the book Ein Jakob. In 1721 Rabbi Ephraim Fischel was still living, as we learn from the words of his son Rabbi David Tebel.

Rabbi David Tebel was also a resident of Ludmir and a financier of the Council of the Four Lands. He participated in a meeting of the abovementioned Council of 1721 and gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the work Damasek Eliezer (Jasienica Rosielna, 1723) by Rabbi Eliezer son of Jehuda, head of the rabbinic courtin Pinczow. In this Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot he is signed as: “David, that is, the insignificant Tebel of Ludmir, son of the rabbi, the notable Rabbi Ephraim Fischel.”

The second son of Rabbi Ephraim Fischel Rabbi Shmuel was the head of the rabbinic court in Kremenets in Wolyn and found an important place in the rabbinic world. We know, for example, in the matter of the great controversy between Rabbi Shraga Feiwel Teomim and his rabbinic congregants of Przemysl, in which the rabbi supported his case in the work Teka Shofar (in the year 1718), behold among the rabbis taking his side also appears Rabbi Shmuel the head of the rabbinic court in Kremenets.

Rabbi Ephraim Fischel”s third son was Rabbi Jakob, who was head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir.

Rabbi Jakob head of the rabbinic court in Ludmir about this Ludmir rabbi, son of the abovementioned notable philanthropist Rabbi Ephraim Fischel, only

[Page 291]

one document survives which mentions his rabbinate in Ludmir. This document from 1713 is essentially a Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) to the book Brit Shalom (homilies) of his blood relation Rabbi Pinchas head of the rabbinic court of Włodawa (Frankfurt-am-Mein 1718). From the “market day” of the meeting of the Council of the Four Lands in Jaroslaw, he signs his name in this Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot as: “and the words of the author Rabbi Jakob son of the rabbi, the notable Our Teacher Rabbi Ephraim Fischel who lives in the holy community of Ludmir and its environs, God should protect and perpetuate her.”

Among the others granting heir Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to this work appear the famous rabbis: Rabbi Meir, rabbi of Opatów and later head of the rabbinic court in Lublin, Rabbi Menachem Mendel son of Moshe head of the rabbinic court in Krotoszyn, Rabbi Joshua son of Rabbi Shmuel Segal of Krakow who was later head of the rabbinic court of Chernivtsi and Siemiatycze and “trustee of the House of Israel in the Four Lands” and others.

According to this Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot of Rabbi Jakob the Ludmirite we know that his father Rabbi Ephraim Fischel was still living in 1713 (see Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (Proceedings of the Council of the Four Lands) by Yisrael Halperin, page 267).

It is also worth mentioning that Rabbi Jakob was the son-in-law of the famous Rabbi Yisrael Katzenellenbogen, head of the rabbinic court of Pinczow.

 

Rabbi Saul son of Rabbi Jakob head of the rabbinic court of Ludmir

Rabbi Saul was previously head of the rabbinic court in the community of Berestechko in Wolyn. In 1721he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) as rabbi of this community on the book Ateret Zvi (which comprises explications of the Choshen Mishpat, Jasienica Rosielna 1722) by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch son of Ezriel of Vilna. Among the others giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot, two famous rabbis are noteworthy: Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Harif head of the rabbinic court of Halberstadt and Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach head of the rabbinic court in Brody and Amsterdam.

After the death of his father Rabbi Jakob, Rabbi Saul became rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in the community of Ludmir. In 1742 Rabbi Saul participated in a meeting of the rabbis and donors of the Council of the Four Lands in Tyszowce and he gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot there to the book Mari Zvi.

Rabbi Saul occupied the position of “trustee” of the Province of Wolyn in the Council of the Four Lands, and he filled this position all the days of his participation in this central council of Polish Jewry. In 1751 he participated in a meeting of the Council which took place in Novokostyantyniv together with the noted sage Rabbi Shlomo of Chelm, author of the book Mirkevet ha-Mishne, and he signed there as “the insignificant Saul son of the late Rabbi the famous great light Our Teacher Rabbi Jakob the memory of the righteous is for the world to come who lives in the holy community of Ludmir and its environs.” He gives there his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot for the publication of the Amsterdam Talmud printed by the brothers Josef and Jakob Proops and the brothers Aaron and Zanwil sons of Rabbi Moshe Segal of Chernivtsi (Lesser Poland).

In 1742 Rabbi Saul gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot at the meeting of Council in Novokostyantyniv to the book Beit Abraham (Berlin 1743) by the famed Rabbi Abraham Hakohen head of the rabbinic court of Tarłów (Lublin Province). Among the other famous rabbis giving their Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot to this work should be noted the famed Rabbi Nathan head of the rabbinic court of Dobromyl', son of the sage Rabbi Jakob Joshua Falk author of the Penei Joshua.”

The well known historian Simon Dubnow mentions the rabbi of Ludmir Rabbi Saul in the Russian Jewish weekly Voskhod (October 1894). He is also mentioned in the Ostroh “pinkas (booklet of proceedings)” from 1765 when he was still alive.

Among the sons of Rabbi Saul of Ludmir, notworthy are Rabbi Pinchas and Rabbi Ephraim Zalman. Rabbi Pinchas himself was among the most honored residents of Ludmir. In his later years he resided in Ostroh near his son Rabbi Arye Jehuda Leib and became

[Page 292]

one of the leaders and a gabbai “sexton” of the “hevra-kadisha” (burial society) there. Rabbi Pinchas of Ludmir”s second son was rabbi of Tul'chyn in Podolia.

Rabbi Ephraim Zalman was head of the rabbinic court in Berestechko and later head of the rabbinic court in Dubno. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yisrael (Harif), head of the rabbinic court in Zaslawye and Ostroh.

Rabbi Saul of Ludmir”s brother (son of the aforementioned Rabbi Jakob) was Rabbi Shlomo Zalman head of the rabbinic court in Biala near Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today), son-in-law of the sage Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Rapoport head of the rabbinic court of Lublin. This Rabbi Shlomo Zalman was the father of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch head of the rabbinic court in the communities of Lokachi in Wolyn, author of the book Chemdat Zvi, whose son Rabbi Arye Leib was the father of the sage Rabbi Simcha Natan Ellenberg the leading rabbinic authority in Lvov (after the author of the Yeshuot Jakob).

 

Rabbi Elijahu son of Jakob of Ludmir in Furth

Around that time we find a philanthropist and well connected Ludmirite named Rabbi Elijahu son of Jakob, who because of the times and the chaotic situation was overtaken by events; he left his former residence of Ludmir, came to the Jewish communities in Germany and found a place of refuge in the community of Furth, a well known community in Bavaria, Germany.

Thei Ludmir native was the grandson of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Margaliot head of the rabbinic court of Przemyśl, related also to the sages Rabbi Meir head of the rabbinic court of Lvov and Rabbi Shimshon Bochner head of the rabbinic court of Ostroh and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch head of the rabbinic court of Krotoszyn.

In 1740 he published on the Furth press the book Minhat Kohen by Rabbi Shabtai Hakohen of Siemiatycze, which comprises an anthology of Torah insights of famous rabbis, especially those of the sage Rabbi Abraham Broda head of the rabbinic court of Prague, Metz and Frankfurt-am-Mein.

This Ludmirite publisher”s introduction is interesting for the hints it contains about the personal conditions attending his uprooting from Ludmir and his arrival in Furth in Germany. He writes regarding this in flowery rabbinic language as was the style of those times the following: “the great pressure, sorrows upon my sorrows and destruction upon my destruction, and the sound of troubles rising like a torch burning our holy congregation, and it burned down to Sheol (apparently there was a conflagration in Ludmir at that time), the holy crown, its glory recumbent is left in dire straits, and we had to cut our feet searching our paths and alleys, walking and walking in tears, this crying and that crying, and I am in the diaspora with crying and the voice of despair and approaching despair, troubled confusion, and the collector has arrived to collect, and my soul longs to be as one with the holy martyrs….”

 

Rabbi Joshua Heschel head of the rabbinic court of Ludmir

This rabbi seems to have been rabbi and head of the rabbinic court of Ludir after Rabbi Saul son of Rabbi Jakob.

He was also head of the rabbinic court of Krasnobród (near Lublin) and Szczebrzeszyn. As rabbi and head of the rabbinic court of Szczebrzeszyn this “Joshua Heschel Hakohen” gave his Pinkas Vaad Arba Aratzot (rabbinic approbation) in the year 1745 to the famous book Seder ha-Dorot by the sage Rabbi Yechiel Halperin head of the rabbinic court of Minsk together with other famous rabbis, among them Rabbi Joshua Heschel”s brother-in-law, the sage Rabbi Shlomo, author of Mirkevet ha-Mishne on the Rambam.

This Rabbi Joshua Heschel”s father was Rabbi Abraham Hakohen, head of the rabbinic court of Zamość, author of Beit Abraham which was mentioned above. Rabbi Joshua Heschel is mentioned several times in the responsa Tiferet Zvi by the sage Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Zamość , head of the rabbinic court of “Ahu (Altona-Hamburg-Wandsbek)” and other communities.

Apparently he was one of the Torah giants of his generation, and was a candidate for the rabbinate of glorious Lublin after the death of the sage Rabbi Ezriel Horowitz.

[Page 293/294]

Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Grossman Zionist Rabbi

A member of a Torah-oriented family in Bialystok. He received a rigorous Talmud education in the local yeshiva of his abovementioned home town and in the famous yeshivot of Lithuania. He continued his Talmudic education even after his marriage to the daughter of Charashchan from Bialystok. He was known as a member of the young guard of Torah educators in Bialystok. He involved himself in the religious and Torah education in the city. He was among the sextons and educational examiners of the high school students and yeshiva students in that city. He was also one of the leaders of the council of the advanced Talmudic ” Kibbutz” which was formed near the end of World War I.

After the abovementioned World War, he was appointed rabbi in Ludmir in Wolyn and afterwards as rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Grajewo, the seat of the rabbinate on which previously sat the famous fabbis Rabbi Elijahu Aaron Meliakowski (later Chief Rabbi of Krakow), Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel (later rabbi in Antwerp and Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv) and Rabbi Binjamin Elijahu Ramigolski.

Rabbi Y. I. Halevi Grossman was a Zionist and faithful member of “Mizrachi.” While he was still rabbi in Hasidic Ludmir, he overtly propagandized for two Zionist funds, The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet le-Israel) and the United Israel Appeal (Keren ha-Yesod), and he did much to train religious pioneers and assist their aliya (coming to the Land of Israel).

Already in 1925 while he was rabbi in Ludmir he joined a cadre of well known rabbis in Poland, Lithuania and other lands in participating in and donating to the Keren ha-Yesod.

In 1926 the name of Rabbi Y. I. Grossman of Ludmir among a group of rabbis appealing to the Jewish people to support the “Keren he-Chalutz (Pioneers” Fund)” of the Mizrachi.

In 1935 while he was rabbi and head of the rabbinic court of Grajewo his signature appears on a general announcement of the Organization of Polish Rabbis for the benefit of participating in fundraising for the Jewish National Fund and the immensity of the responsibility to contribute to it specifically, with emphasis on the establishment by the JNF of the “Ultra-Orthodox section.” In this announcement it is especially emphasized that this section was entirely dedicated to redeeming land from the heathens for the purpose of settling Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

In 1937 he was appointed rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in the congregation of Będzin.

Rabbi Grossman was killed toward the end of the Holocaust years, being brought to the gas chambers at Auschwitz with the last group of Jews from Będzin and Sosnowiec on January 15, 1944. There his soul left him in holiness and purity.

 

Footnotes
  1. We learn this from the responsa She”erit Yosef (Section 17) regarding the judgment on “encroaching on others” territory” in leasing whiskey from the governor. This issue is also dealt with in the Responsa of the Maharshal (Section 35). This case occurred in Lithuania (and according to the Responsa of the Maharshal occurred in 1447). The Ludmir rabbi Rabbi Yitzchak is described there as a Torah giant. Return
  2. According to Rabbi Dembitzer and also according to theEncyclopedia of the Giants of Israel, volume IV, Y. Margalit editor, he died in 1575. Return
  3. Among the students in the yeshiva it is worthy to note the famed rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda son of Ovadiah Eilenberg, who arrived in a singular way from the western districts to learn in the Yehsiva of Ludmir. He was a rabbi of various congregations also, apparently, in Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today). Afterwards he went to Nikolsburg, the principal community of Moravia, and he died there in 1618 at age 68. In his book Minhat Yehuda the abovementioned rabbi relates many Torah expositions which he heard from his rabbi and teacher Rabbi Yitzchak Bezalels (see: illegible “Beit Vaad LaChachamim (Wise Men”s Council”, Israelit, 1867) Return
  4. The Rabbi and head of the rabbinic court there at that time was his father-in-law Rabbi Jakob son of Moshe Halevi, son-in-law of the Maharam of Padua, grandfather of the officer and emissary Saul Wahl of Brisk, Lithuania (Brest, Belarus today), about whom the famous legend is told of his reigning as King of Poland for one day. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Volodymyr Volynskyy, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 30 Jul 2012 by JH