Extremely Rare Handwritten Manuscript from the Maharal, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, Prague, 16th ...
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Extremely Rare Handwritten Manuscript from the Maharal, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague, Prague, 16th century, from a private collection.
Extremely rare handwritten by the Maharal himself, part of a droshoh, speech that he had prepared to present to his community - part of it being crossed out by him and rewritten in the margins.
The Maharal was probably born in Poznań, Poland though Perels lists the birth town mistakenly as Worms in the Holy Roman Empire—to Rabbi Bezalel (Loew), whose family originated from the Rhenish town of Worms. Perels claimed that his grandfather Chajim of Worms was the grandson of Judah Leib the Elder and thus a claimant to the Davidic line, through Sherira Gaon. The Maharal's birth year is uncertain, with different sources listing 1512, 1520 and 1526. His uncle Jakob Ben Chajim was Reichsrabbiner ("Rabbi of the Empire") of the Holy Roman Empire, his brother Chaim of Friedberg a famous rabbinical scholar. There is no documented evidence of his having received formal religious education, leading scholars to conclude that he was an extremely gifted autodidact.
His family consisted of his wife, Pearl, six daughters, and a son, Bezalel, who became a Rabbi in Kolín, but died early in 1600. He was independently wealthy, probably as a result of his father's successful business enterprises. He accepted a rabbinical position in 1553 as Landesrabbiner of Moravia at Mikulov (Nikolsburg), directing community affairs but also determining which tractate of the Talmud was to be studied in the communities in that province. He also revised the community statutes on the election and taxation process. Although he retired from Moravia in 1588 at age 68, the communities still considered him an authority long after that.
One of his activities in Moravia was the rallying against slanderous slurs on legitimacy (Nadler) that were spread in the community against certain families and could ruin the finding of a marriage partner for the children of those families. This phenomenon even affected his own family. He used one of the two yearly grand sermons (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 1583) to denounce the phenomenon.
He moved back to Prague in 1588, where he again accepted a rabbinical position, replacing the retired Isaac Hayoth. He immediately reiterated his views on Nadler. On 23 February 1592, he had an audience with Emperor Rudolf II, which he attended together with his brother Sinai and his son-in-law Isaac Cohen; Prince Bertier was present with the emperor. The conversation seems to have been related to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism, Hebrew: קַבָּלָה) a subject which held much fascination for the emperor.
The Maharal is the subject of the legend about the creation of a golem, a creature made out of clay to defend the Jews of the Prague Ghetto from antisemitic attacks, particularly the blood libel. He is said to have used mystical powers based on the esoteric knowledge of how God created Adam. In 1592, the Maharal moved to Poznań, where he had been elected as Chief Rabbi of Poland. In Poznań he composed Netivoth Olam and part of Derech Chaim. Towards the end of his life he moved back to Prague, where he died in 1609. He was buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery, Prague.
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