Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) online

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crees, advocated by the lesser clergy and the Jesuits,
were opposed by other powerful Church magnates,
the bishops and the archbishops, who, as landed
proprietors, availed themselves of the services of the
Jews. Thus in the Catholic Church itself there
were two parties, one favorable and the other an-
tagonistic to the Jews ; and it is often found that
the archbishops and bishops were in opposition to
the Church councils.

On the whole, the animosity toward the Jews pro-
duced by various economic evils had taken such deep
root that Ladislaus, well-meaning as he was, found
himself unable to stem the tide of class dissensions.
The Jews themselves felt grateful for whatever
efforts he made in their behalf, as was thus voiced by
one of the leading rabbis of his time, Shabbethai ben
Meir ha-Kohen of Wilna (SHaK) : " He was a right-
eous king, worthy to be counted among the just;
for he always showed favor to the Jews, and was
true to his promise." The Jewish masses, who had
found safety on the estates of the landed nobility, ulti-
mately became scapegoats in the bitter struggle of
the Greek Catholic peasantry with the Polish nobles
and Roman Catholic clergy, a struggle which cul-
minated in the Cossacks' Uprisino.

The fury of this uprising destroyed the organiza-
tion of the Lithuanian Jewish communities. The
survivors who returned to their old homes in the
latter half of the seventeenth century were practi-
cally destitute. The wars which raged constantly in
the Lithuanian territory brouglit ruin

Effect of to the entire country and deprived the
Cossacks' Jews of the opportunity to earn more
Uprising, than a bare livelihood. The intensity
of tiieir struggle for existence left tiiem
no time to reestablish the conditions which iiad ex-
isted up to 1648. John Casimiu (1648-68) .soiight
to ameliorate their condition by granting various
concessiotvs to the Jewish communities of Lithuania.




Attempts to return to the old order in the com-
munal organization were not warning, as is evident
from contemporary documents. Thus in 1673 Jew-
ish elders from various towns and villages in the
grand duchy of Lithuania secured a charter from
King Michael Wishnevetzki (1669-73), decreeing
"that on account of the increasing number of Jews
guilty of offenses against the Shlyakhta and other
Christians, which result in the enmity of the Chris-
tians toward the Jews, and because of the inability
of the Jewish elders to punish such offenders, who
are protected by the lords, the king permits the
kahals to summon the criminals before the Jewish
courts for punishment and exclusion from the com-
munity when necessary." The efforts to resurrect
the old power of the kahals were not successful.
The impoverished JewLsh merchants, having no
capital of their own, were compelled to borrow
money from the nobility, from churches, congrega-
tions, monasteries, and various religious orders.
Loans from the latter were usually for an unlimited
period and were secured by mortgages on the real
estate of the kahal. The kahals thus became hope-
lessly indebted to the clergy and the nobility.

Numerous complaints to King John Sobieski
<1674-96) by the Jews of Brest against their com-
munal leaders, led him (May, 1676) to grant the
rabbi of Brest, Mark Benjaschewitsch, jurisdiction
in criminal cases over the Jews of his community,
and to invest him with the power to impose corporal
punishment and even the sentence of death. Under
this ruler the Lithuanian communities saw a partial
restoration of their old prosperity, and the authority
of the Lithuanian Council served to bring some
order out of the chaotic condition of the Lithuanian
Jewry. Still the real stability of the old communi-
ties was destroyed, and frequent conflicts arose in
regard to the territorial limits of the jurisdiction of
the kahals. In the middle of the eighteenth cen-
tury all the Lithuanian kahals were insolvent (see
Jew. Encyc. vii. 410b, s.v. Kahal).

In 1793 the Jewish population of Lithuania was
estimated at 350,000 (as compared with 130,000 in
1569). The whole of the commerce and industries
of Lithuania, now rapidly declining, was in the hands
of the Jews. The nobility lived for the most part on
their estates and farms, some of which were managed
by Jewish leaseholders. The city properties were con-
centrated in the possession of monasteries, churches,
and the lesser nobility. The Christian merchants
were poor. Such was the condition of affairs in Lith-
uania at the time of the second partition of Poland
<1793), when the Jews became subjects of Russia.

The founding of the yeshibot in Lithuania was
due to the Lithuanian-Polish Jews who studied in
the west, and to the German Jews who migrated
about that time to Lithuania and Poland. Very lit-
tle is known of these early yeshibot. No mention
is made of them or of prominent Lith-

Judicial uauian rabbis in Jewish writings until

Function the sixteenth century. The first
of the known rabbinical authority and head

Rabbis. of a yeshibah was Isaac Bezaleel of

Vladimir, Volhynia, who was already

an old man when Luria wentto Ostrog in the fourth

decade of the sixteenth century. Another rab-

VIII.— 9

binical authority, Kalman Haberkaster, rabbi of
Ostrog and predecessor of Solomon Luria, died in
1559. Occasional references to the yeshibah of Brest
are found in the writings of the contemporary rabbis
Solomon Luria (d. 1585), Moses Isserles (d. 1573),
and David Gans (d. 1589), who speak of its ac-
tivity. Of the yeshibot of Ostrog and Vladimir in
Volhynia it is known that they were in a flourishing
condition at the middle of the sixteenth century,
and that their heads vied with one another in Tal-
mudic scholarship. Mention is also made by Gans
of the head of the Kremenetz yeshibah, Isaac Cohen
(d. 1573), of whom but little is known otherwise.
For other prominent scholars in Lithuania at that
time see Brest-Litovsk ; Grodno ; Kremenetz;


At the time of the Lublin Union, Solomon Luria
was rabbi of Ostrog, and was regarded as one of the
greatest Talmudic authorities in Poland and Lith-
uania. In 1568 King Sigismund ordered that the
suits between Isaac Borodavka and ]\Iendel Isako-
vich, who were partners in the farming of certain
customs taxes in Lithuania, be carried for decision
to Rabbi Solomon Luria and two auxiliary rabbis
from Pinsk and Tykotzin.

The far-reaching authority of the leading rabbis of
Poland and Lithuania, and their wide knowledge of
practical life, are apparent from numerous decisions
cited in the responsa. They were always the cham-
pions of justice and morality. In the " Etan ha-Ez-
rahi" (Ostrog, 1796) of Abraham Rapoport (known
also as Abraham' Schrenzel; d. 1650), Rabbi Meir
Sack is cited as follows: "I emphatically protest
against the custom of our communal leaders of pur-
chasing the freedom of Jewish criminals. Such a
policy encourages crime among our people. I am
especially troubled by the fact that, thanks to the
clergy, such criminals may escape punishment by
adopting Christianity. Mistaken piety impels our
leaders to bribe the officials, in order to prevent
such conversions. We should endeavor to deprive
criminals of opportunities to escape justice." The
same sentiment was expressed in the sixteenth cen-
tury by R. MeiT Lublin (Responsa, § 138). Another
instance, cited by Katz from the same responsa,
likewise shows that Jewish criminals invoked the
aid of priests against the authority of Jewish courts
by promising to become converts to Christianity.

The decisions of the Polish-Lithuanian rabbis are
frequently marked by breadth of view also, as is in-
stanced by a decision of Joel Sirkes ("Bet Hadash,"
§ 137) to the effect that Jews may employ in their
religious services the melodies used in Christian
churches, " since music is neither Jewish nor Chris-
tian, and is governed by universal laws."

Decisions by Solomon Luria, Mei'r Katz, and Mor-
decai Jaffe show that the rabbis were acquainted
with the Russian language and its philology. Jaffe,
for instance, in a divorce case where the spelling
of the woman's name as " Lupka " or " Lubka " was
in question, decided that the word is correctly
spelled with a "b," and not with a "p," since the
origin of the name was the Russian verb " lubit "
= " to love, " and not " lupit " = " to beat " (" Lebush
ha-Buz we-Argaman," § 139). Meir Katz ("Ge-
burat Anashim, " § 1) explains that the name of Brest-




LitovsK is written in divorce cases "Brest" and not
"Brisk," "because the majority of tlie Lithuanian
Jews use the Russian language." It is not so with
Brisk, in the district of Kujawa, the name of that
town being always spelled "Brisk." Katz (a Gor-
man) at the conclusion of his responsum exjiresscs
the hope that when Lithuania shall have become
more enlightened, the people will speak one lan-
guai^e only — German — and that also Brest-Litovsk
will be written "Brisk."

The responsa throw an interesting light also on
the lifeof the Litliuauian Jews and on their relations
to their Christian neighbors. Benjamin Aaron Sol-
nik states in his "Mas'at Binyamin " (end of si.x-
teenth and beginning of seventeenth century) that
"the Christians borrow clothes and jewelry from
the Jews when they go to church."
Items from Joel Sirkes {I.e. ^ 79) relates that a
the Christian woman came to the rabbi

Responsa. and expressed her regret at having
been unable to save the Jew Shlioma
from drowning. A number of Christians had looked
on indifferently while the drowning Jew was strug-
gling in the water. They were upbraided and beaten
severely by tlie priest, who appeared a few minutes
later, for having failed to rescue the Jew.

Rabbi Solomon Luria gives an account (Responsa,
§ 20) of a quarrel that occurred in a Lithuanian
community concerning a cantor whom some of the
members wished to dismiss. The synagogue was
closed in order to prevent him from exercising
his functions, and religious services were thus dis-
continued for several days. The matter was there-
\\\wn carried to the local lord, who ordered the re-
opening of the building, saying that the house
of God might not be closed, and that the cantor's
claims should be decided by the learned rabbis of
Lithuania. .Joseph Katz mentions ("She'erit Yo-
sef," $ 70) a Jewish community which was for-
bidden by the local authorities to kill cattle and to
sell meat — an occupation which provided a liveli-
hood for a large portion of the Lithuanian Jews.
For the period of a year following this prohibition the
Jewish community was on several occasions assessed
at the rate of three gulden per head of cattle in
order to furnish funds wherewith to induce the ofli-
cials to grant a hearing of the case. The Jews
finally reached an agreement Avith the town magis-
trates under which they were to pay 40 gulden an-
nually for the right to slaughter cattle. Accord-
ing to Ilillel ben Herz ("Bet Hillel," Yoreh Ds'ah,
§ 157), Naphtali says the Jews of VVilna had been
compelled to uncover when taking an oath in court,
but later purchased from the tribunal the privilege
to swear with covered head, a subsequently
made unnecessary by a decision of one of their
rabbis to the effect that an oath miglit be taken
with uncovered head.

The responsa of MeVr Lublin show (| 40) that the
Lithuanian communities frequently aided the Ger-
man and the Austrian Jews. On the expulsion of
the Jews from Silesia, when the Jewish inhabitants
of Silz had the privilege of remaining on condition
that they would pay the sum of 2,000 gulden, the
Lithuanian communities contributed one-fifth of the

The influence in communal life of prominent rab-
liinical scholars, such as Mordecai Jaffe, Moses
Isserles, Solomon Luria, and Moir Lublin, proved
but a slight check to the growing misrule of the lia-
hals. The individuality of the Lithuanian Jew was
lost in the kahal, advantages were thus largely
counterbalanced by the suppression of personal lib-
erty. The tyranny of the kahal administration and
the external oppression drove the great mass of the
Lithuanian Jewry to seek consolation in the dry
formalism of Talraudic precepts. The Talmud and
its endless commentaries became the sole source of
information and instruction. Every Jew was com-
pelled by the communal elders to train his children
in Talmudic lore. The Halakah olTered a solutiim
for every question in Jewish life, while the poetry
of the llaggadah supplied alleviation for sorrow and
hope for the future. Reformers arising among the
Lithuanian Jews were forced by the kahal elders
either to leave the community or to bend to the will
of the administration. All was sacrificed to the in-
violability of customs sanctioned by tradition or by
the letter of the Law. The ties of friendship and
family relationship were subordinated to the interests
of the community. Hence it is little to be wondered
at that the Cabala found fertile soil in Lithuania.
The marked indications of approaching political an-
archy were the chief causes of the organization of
the Lithuanian Council.

Bibliography : Antonovich, Mnnogrnfii pn Istnrii Zapadnni
i Yuyo-ZapadJioi Romi, vol. i., Kiev, 1885; Hershadski, Li-
tovskie Yeinri, St. Petersburg, 1883; idem, liiittsko-Yevrei-
ski Arkiv, 2 vols., ih. 1882; Czacki, Rozprava o Zi/dnch i
Karaitnch, Wilna, 1807; idem, O LitewskUh i Pul^kich
Praivach, Warsaw, 1800; Dubnov, Yevr-ei.'fkam Moriija,
vol. ii., X.V., Odessa, 1897 ; Graetz, Histnrfi of the, Jc u'l^, Hebrew
ed., vols. vii. and viii., s.v.; Harkavy, In 7i?/,sc//6 Revue,
vols, xxii., xxiii., St. Petersburg, 1883-^4 ; Jaroszewicz, Obraz
Litwy . . . od Czasow Najdawtiiejszijch do Konca Wieku,
xviil., Wilna, 1844; Kraushaar. Hmorua Zydfrww Polsce, 2
vols., Warsavr, 1865-66 ; Leontovich, Moricheskoe Izslyedn-
vanie n Pravnkh Litov.'fk/y-Riu^nkikh Yevreyew Kiev, 1864 ;
Maciejowski, Ziidzi w Polsce na R>m i Litxvie, Warsaw,
1878; Narbutt, JJzieje Narodu Litcicxkieon. part viii., p. 490;
Neubauer, ^ms der Peterslniroer lilhlwthek, Leipsic, 1866;
Regesty i NadpM, vol. 1., St. Petersburg, 1H99 ; Sternberg,
Geschichte der Jiiden in Polen, Leipsic, 1878; SUttemali-
cheski Ukazatel, s.v., St. Petersburg, 1893; Sbomik Budush-
chnosti, i. ~44.

H. R.

Medinot Lita, or Wa'ad ha-Medinot ha-Ra-
shiyyot de-Lita) : Long before the Union of Lub-
lin, probably with the beginning of tiie sixteenth
century, the Jews of Poland and Lithuania were
taxed as a single body, the pro rata assessment being
made by the Jews themselves. In 1613 Sigismund
III. decreed separate assessments for the Jews of
Lithuania and Poland. The former were obliged to
pay 9,000 gulden and the latter 7,000 gulden, the
per capita payment being the same in each case.
In order to a.ssure an equitable distribution of the
taxes among the several communities, and because
of the d(!sire to secure uniform legislation in relig-
ious matters and to protect theircommunal interests,
the .Tews of Lithuania organized, in 1623, a .separate
councilof their own, thiscouncil being known as the
"Wa'ad ha-Medinot ha-Rashiyyot de-Lita." Pre-
viously, from the Union of Lublin in 1369 until 1623,
the Jews of Lithuania, not being, perhaps, in urgent
need of a council of their own, had their represent-
atives in the Council of Three Countries (Poland,




liussia, Lithuania), or in tlie Council of Five Lauds
(see Council of Foi:u Lamds).

It was customary for tlie Lithuanian delegates to
liold prL-iiniinary meetings at Brest-Litovsk before
taking part in the deliberation of the general coun-
cils. It lias not yet been determined, however, to
wliat extent tiie Lithuanian Jews were governed by
the decisions of these councils; only this much is
certain, that while they Averewell represented at the
coimcils' sessions they occasionally refused to obey
their rulings. The Lithuanian councils were orig-
inally composed of delegates from the three most
important communities— Pinsk, Brest, and Grodno.
Wilna was added in 1652, and Slutsk in 1691. The
councils were designated in accordance with the
number of communities represented.
Relation as " Wa'ad Shalosh [Arba', or Ha-
to Council mesh] Medinot Kashiyyot de-Lita " ( =
of Four •' Council of Three [Four, or Five] Main
Lands. Districts of Lithuania"). The Lithua-
nian Council in time became an author-
itative body in all local Jewish affairs ; but, while
practically an independent body, it assumed a sub-
ordinate position to the Council of Four Lands. At
times the two councils worked in unison in matters
of common interest during the sessions of the Coun-
cil of Four Lands, but where differences occurred,
the authority of the latter prevailed. Thus, in the
dispute in regard to Tykotzin, in the government of
Lomza, a boundary town between Poland and Lith-
uania, it was decided to place the town under the
jurisdiction of the Council of Four Lands, although
formerly it had been regarded as Lithuanian terri-
tory. Similarly, in the dispute between Tykotzin
and Grodno concerning the less important neighbor-
ing comnuinitiesof Zabludov, Horodok, and Khvor-
oshcha, the latter were assigned by the Council of
Four Lands to Tykotzin. In this case, however,
the decision was not accepted as final (" Sefer ha-
Yobel," pp. 257-259).

The Lithuanian Council, like that of the Four
Lands, had no fi.xed meeting-place ; it assembled
biennially or triennially at Zabludov, Seltzy, or
elsewhere. Like that of the Four Lands, also, it
served to cement the interests of the Lithuanian
and other Russo-Polish Jews at a time when disso-
lution and demoralization reigned in the Polish king-
dom, and it acted as a bulwark against the rancor
of the Christian clergy, especially the Jesuits, who
made continuous attacks on the Jews. The records
of the Lithuanian Council are better preserved than
those of the Council of Four Lands. There is ex-
tant a complete list of the meetings held by the
Lithuanian Council from 1623 to 1762, when it was
abolished, after over 1,000 regulations (" takkanot ")
had been adopted. These takkanot were made
with the following ends in view:

(1) To encourage and endear to the people the study of the
Talmud by establishing yeshibot, and to supervise the conduct
of students. (3) To protect the interests of the Jewish people
as a whole and as individuals against the malice of non-Jews,
by pleading the cause of the Jews in the Polish Diets. (3) To
supervise the conduct of the communities as well as of Individ-
uals, in order to prevent them from rousing the antagonism of
Ibeir neighbors by indulging in improper and illegal trades.
(4) To determine and properly distribute the government taxes
imposed upon Jews. (5) To determine the boundaries of each
kahal district. (6) To determine the duties of each community

and its .>>hare in the common efforts and expenditures in cases
where blood accusations were to be contested. (7) To deter-
mine the right of membership to be granted to new settlers in
the comiriunities (" heskat yishshub") : as each Jewish commu-
nity stood re.sponsible for the conduct of its individuals, restric-
tions were necessary to regulate the granting of nieiiibersliip to
newcomers. (8) To aid poverty-stricken communities and indi-
viduals. (9) To maintain and aid poor settlers in Palestine.

Of the regulations enacted at the meetings of the
Lithuanian Council the following deserve mention,
since they afford an insight into the state of culture
of the Lithuanian Jews and into the character of the
council itself: "Every community shall carefully
guard against card- and dice-playing, and offenders
shall be fined and subjected to corporal punishment"
(1623; No. 51). "Beggars invading Lithuania and
Russia [meaning White Russia], especially those
who disguise themselves as scholars and pious per-
sons while committing secretly various wicked acts,
shall not be allowed to remain in any one commu-
nity more than twenty-four hours" (1623; No. 87).
" It shall be the duty of the communal leaders to
expose any attempts at fraud which may be discov-
ered on the part of Jews borrowing money or goods
from a ' shlakhtitz ' [peasant], or leasing from lords
estates, taxes, and other sources of revenue. On the
refusal of the parties likely to be defrauded lo heed
the warning of the communal leaders, the latter
shall declare the transaction void, using force if nec-
essary, in order that the Christians concerned may
not suffer loss" (No. 26). "It is incumbent upon
the three chief communities of Lithuania to arrange
annually for the marriage of thirty poor girls, giving
each a dowry of thirty gulden."

Among the takkanot there are also regulations re-
garding competition in business, against luxury, and
against expensive and gaudy dresses.

In 1654-56, when the Russians invaded Lithua-
nia, the activities of the Lithuanian Council relaxed.
It convened less frequently, and the regulations
adopted between 1656 and 1670 deal in the main
with financial accounts. After 1670, however, it
resumed its former energy.

The Lithuanian Council was abolished about 1762,
at the same time and for the same reason as the
Council of Four Lands. Thenceforward taxes were
no longer imposed on Lithuania as a whole, but on
each community separately, the prime motive for
the union of the communities being thus abolished.

H. R.

congressman and manufacturer; born in Glovers-
ville, N. Y., Jan. 20, 1859. He graduated from Har-
vard University in 1878, after which he engaged in
the glove-manufacturing business with his father,
whom he succeeded in 1882. He was elected in 1896
to the 55th Congress as Republican representative
of the 25th District of New York and has been re-
elected to each succeeding Congress. He has served
as a member of the Committee on Appropriations.

Bibliography: The Congressional LHrectorii of the 5Sth
Congress ; American Jeunsh Year Book, 19(»-3.


German Literature.

German Talmudist ; flourished at the beginning of

liittle Bussia



the nineteenth century. He wrote: "IggeretYis-
sakar," on morahty and religion, in the form of a let-
ter to his son (Budapest and Lemberg, 1826); "Da'at
Yissakar," commentary on Rashi to the Pentateuch
and the Five Megillot (Budapest, 1827).

iBJSLiOGRAPHY : Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 184, Warsaw,
1886; Furst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 253; Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl.
No. 5281.

H. R.

A. S. W.



LITURGY : The Jewish religious service falls,

generally, into two main divisions— instruction and

prayer. " This division of the service has existed

since the earliest times. In the time of Isaiah the

people gathered in the courts of the

Divisions Temple to receive instruction from the

of Divine Prophets and to pray (Isa. i. 12-15),

Service. while on the day of the New Moon
and on the Sabbath women also visited
them (II Kings iv. 23). At the Feast of Tabernacles
in the Sabbatical year the Law was read to the as-
sembled people (Deut. xxxi. 10-13), and Ezra re-
cited passages from the Pentateuch to the commu-
nity (Neh. viii. 5-8). In the course of time this led
to the custom of reading certain portions of the
Scripture, especially of the Pentateuch, to the peo-
ple on the Sabbath, on feast-days, and even on Mon-
days and Thursdays, as well as on New Moon and
fast-days, and by the first century of the common era
this was regarded as an ancient usage (Josephus,
"Contra Ap." ii. 17, end; Acts xv. 21; B. K. 82a et
passim ; comp. Philo, ed. Mangey, ii. 568, 630;
Winer, "B. R." ii. 549; Zunz, "G. V." pp. 1-7).
This part of the worship is described under Hafta-
rah; Megillot; Law, Reading from the. The
second division, that of prayer, is still more ancient,
and is frequently mentioned in the Bible (I Sam. i.
10; I Kings viii. 12 et seq. ; II Kings xx. 2 et. passim),
while Deutero-Isaiah speaks of the house of God as
a "house of prayer for all people" (Isa. Ivi. 7; on
the form of prayer and posture see Guthe, "Kurzes
Bibelworterbuch," pp. 82 et seq., and other diction-
aries; also Adoration, Forms of). In general, it
may be said that in the earliest times the prayers
were short, and were used only occasionally in pri-

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) → online text (page 34 of 169)