Thursday, 1 December 2011

Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels (MaHarSHA) - Yahrtzeit 5 Kisleiv

Rabbi Shmuel Eidels - the Maharsha
(Singer, Isidore, and Cyrus Adler. 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. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1901. Print.)

The Yahrtzeit of the Maharsha (1555-1631) - Morainu HaRav Rav Shmuel Eliezer (ben Yehuda) HaLevi Eidels (Eidelosh) falls out today on the 5 Kisleiv.

He was born in Krakow, Poland, in the year 1555 and is considered one of the greatest Acharonim (later codifiers) of Jewish law. In addition to his mastery of Halachah, he was also an expert in Aggadah - the homiletic parts of the Torah. In fact any serious student of Talmud wanting to penetrate the deeper meanings of the beautiful stories contained in it, must study in-depth - the Aggadot Maharsha.

His father Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi was a direct descendant of Rabbi Yehuda HaChasid, the author of the well known work "Sefer Chassidim" - from the branches of the greatest sages of Kabbalah. On his mother's side, he was a direct descendant of Rabbi Loewe (the elder) from Prague from the branches of the Geonim and Ne'si'im. His mother was a first cousin of the famous Rabbi Yehuda Loewe - the Maharal of Prague.

At the tender age of 20 he was already running the great Yeshiva in Posen and was known as an outstanding Tzaddik. He was in great demand by numerous communities - but hated the Rabbanut - and pushed them away. When his mother-in-law, who had financed the Yeshiva for some 20 years, died, he closed the Yeshiva and was forced to begin working in the Rabbanut as Av Beis Din in Chelma (Chelm) In appreciation, due to her support the Maharsha later adopted her surname - Eidels. Later he worked as Av Beis Din and Rosh Yeshiva in Lublin. Thereafter he presided as authority in Tektin and thereafter in Ostrog - where he once again administered a large Yeshiva. He then published his book "Chiddushei Halachot Maharsha" on the majority of Shas (the entire Oral Law.) It is through these teachings that those wanting to pursue Halacha must pass through before being able to give Psak.

Later he authored another commentary on the Talmud - "Sefer Aggadot Maharsha" (Chiddushei Aggadot). Through these teachings, later authorities and commentators developed their own thoughts about the homiletic parts to the Oral Law.

Even though the Maharsha wrote the two works separately, he commanded that both be published together as one work - because they make up one Torah. If one finds something closed in one place - it will be open in another - and if open in one, it may be closed elsewhere. All in all, the two were needed together so that all of Torah could be studied. Indeed Halacha - Jewish law - and Aggada - the homiletic stories - are all part of one whole.

His son-in-law (Rav Moshe, who was Av Beit Din and Rosh Yeshiva in Lublin) said about him that all who argue against him, it is as if they argue against the Shechina Herself (i.e. against G-d.) The holy Baal Shem Tov said that all writings that were written up until (and including) the writings of the Maharsha were written with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Spirit) and are to be considered as true as the Torah itself. (The great authorities Shach (1621-1662) and Taz (1586-1667) are also included in this statement.)

They said about him that if only the world would know of his righteousness, people would lick the dust off of his grave!

He fulfilled the three main pillars upon which the world stands upon i.e. Torah, Avodah and Gemillut Chassadim: He was a Prince of Torah - pure and holy. His home was always open to guests - and upon the lintel of his home was engraved the words, "May no stranger lodge outside. I open my doors to guests."

On the eve of Motzai Shabbos 5 Kisleiv 5392 (1631), he died with a "kiss of death" and many outstanding works have been published bringing out the light of the depths of his holy words. 

~ Based upon Mavo HaShearim (an oustanding work on the biographies of the leading Rishonim and Acahronim.)

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