Lot 23: Chiddushei HaRitva - Prague, 1735 - Copy of Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschutz
November 15, 2016
Jerusalem, IsraelLive Auction
Description: Ritva novellae on Tractate Chulin. Prague, . Printed by the grandsons of Moshe Katz. First edition of the Chiddushei HaRitva on Tractate Chulin. On the front flyleaf are many ownership inscriptions, including a German inscription: "This book belongs to Mr. Jonas Nathan Eybeschutz, chief preacher and chief rabbi of the Jewish communities in Prague as well as in Metz in Lothringen at that time in Prague Anno 1741 the 10th of June 1741". Next to this inscription is another inscription in Hebrew by a different writer: "I was very when I saw that this book belonged to Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz author of Urim V'Tumim, Kreiti U'Pleiti, Tiferet Yehonatan, Bnei Ahuva, Ye'arot D'vash, Ahavat Yonatan and other books which have not yet been printed". On the verso of the flyleaf is a note of receiving the book from R. [Natan] Neta son of R. Yehonatan Eybeschutz signed by "Yitzchak Itzik Netir". [R. Yitzchak Itzik son of R. Hertz Netir of Butzweiler - a Dayan in Metz in 1765, see enclosed material]. On the title page is an undeciphered signature: "I have purchased this from Rabbi G.[?] Zalman ". Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeschutz (1690-1764) was a renowned Torah scholar, posek, kabbalist and head of yeshiva in his days. Orphaned from his father, R. Natan Neta who was Rabbi of the city of Eybeschutz, the young child Yehonatan, already known as an outstanding genius, was sent to Prost?jov to the home of R. Meir Eisenstadt, author of Panim Me'irot, who raised him as son and disciple [R. Yehonatan wrote about him "The Torah scholar renowned for his Torah knowledge and for his fear of Heaven, my teacher in my youth ", Ya'arot D'vash Part 1 Drush 4]. At 14, he wed the daughter of R. Moshe Yitzchak Shapira Rabbi of Mlad? Boleslav (Bumsla), resided there for two years teaching in his father-in-law's yeshiva and thereafter moved to Hamburg studying Torah with the rabbi of the city R. Yechezkel Katzenellenbogen, author of Knesset Yechezkel. In 1714, at the age of 19 [!], he was summoned by the Prague community, (at that time the central Jewish community in Bohemia) to serve as orator. His sermons greatly impressed his audience and shortly after, he was appointed head of the Prague yeshiva and taught his disciples with his special method of Torah in-depth study (pilpul). At that time, he also joined the Prague Beit Din and the Jews of Prague considered him second only to R. David Oppenheim who was the Chief Rabbi of the city. Due to his exceptional wisdom, the city officials and governors were fond of him and with his pleasant manners he succeeded in influencing them to ease the harsh attitude and decrees placed upon the Jews. He cleverly and ingeniously debated with gentile scholars on tenets of the Jewish religion and Talmudic wisdom [In the introduction to his book Kreiti U'Pleiti, he mentions "which I have written and debated with Christian scholars and officials to eliminate Christian insults"]. He used his connections to help him print the Talmud, since at that time it was still prohibited to print the Talmud. After receiving approval, he printed Tractate Berachot with several omissions of Aggadah (printed under the name Hilchot Berachot). He had contact with leading medical experts and in his books he cites things which he proved to his friends, leading physicians in Halle and in Prague on the topics of terefot and nidah. In 1741, he was chosen as Rabbi of the city of Metz, France, succeeding R. Ya'akov Yehoshua Falk, author of Pnei Yehoshua (who moved to Frankfurt am Main to serve as Rabbi and Av Beit Din). That same year, Prague was seized by France during the War of the Austrian Succession. In the introduction to Kreiti V'Pleiti he writes about those times: "G-d caused me to arise and leave Prague to the large city of scholars Metz, with compassion he took me out before G-d's anger erupted with the bad things which took place in the Prague community ". During the war, the Austrians accused Rabbi Yehonatan of collaborating with the French and they confiscated all his property which he left in the city of Prague [possibly, the German inscription on this book was written at the time his property was confiscated in Prague]. He served in the Metz rabbinate for about nine years until 1750 and relocated to serve in the rabbinate of Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek succeeding R. Yechezkel Katzenellenbogen, author of Knesset Yechezkel. (This was the leading position of the Ashkenazi communities). At that time, R. Ya'akov Emden lived in Altona and he suspected R. Yehonatan to have Sabbatean beliefs, which developed into a fierce and bitter strife. R. Yehonatan who was one of the cleverest and astute Torah scholars in his days headed a yeshiva gedolah most of his life, first in Prague and later in Metz and Altona. Thousands of disciples studied in his yeshiva and many rabbis in his generation were his disciples or were taught by his disciples. Numerous books with his teachings were published. Besides the book Kreiti U'Pleiti on Yoreh De'ah printed in his lifetime in Altona in 1763, more of his works were printed after his death by his descendants and his disciples: Tiferet Yisrael on the laws of nidah (Karlsruhe, 1766); 613 mitzvot in rhyme (Prague, 1765); Urim V'Tumim on the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat (Karlsruhe, 1775); Ye'arot D'vash homilies (Karlsruhe, 1779) and many more works on the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, Talmudic novellae, commentaries and homilies on the Torah and on the Passover Haggadah, etc. 27 leaves. 33 cm. Printed on bluish paper. Fair condition. Stains. Worming. Worn and damaged binding.