Berlin, Isaiah ben Judah Loeb

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BERLIN, ISAIAH BEN JUDAH LOEB (Isaiah Pick ; 1725–1799), rabbi and author. Berlin was known also as Isaiah Pick after his father-in-law, Wolf Pick of Breslau, who supported him for many years. He was born in Eisenstadt, Hungary, but his father, an eminent talmudic scholar (who later became rabbi of Pressburg), moved to Berlin where the young Berlin studied under him. Later he studied under Ẓevi Hirsch Bialeh (Ḥarif), the rabbi of Halberstadt, at the latter's yeshivah. In 1755 Berlin moved to Breslau where he engaged in business. In 1793, when already advanced in years, he was elected to a rabbinical post, being appointed to succeed Isaac Joseph Te'omim as rabbi of Breslau. His election was marked by a dispute between the members of the community and the local maskilim, who had begun to organize themselves as a body and opposed Berlin, who, despite his love of peace, openly attacked their ideas. Berlin was elected by an overwhelming majority. According to ḥasidic sources, Berlin was sympathetically disposed toward that movement and extended a friendly welcome to one of its emissaries, Jacob Samson of Spitsevka. Berlin was renowned for his conciliatory attitude and for his avoidance of all disputes. Characteristically, he called a work She'elat Shalom ("A Greeting of Peace"), for "all my life I have been careful not to treat my fellow men with disrespect, even to the extent of not slighting them by faint praises." As a result of this moderation, leaders of the Breslau maskilim, such as Joel Brill and Aaron Wolfsohn, frequently visited him. Berlin corresponded on halakhic subjects with his brother-in-law Joseph *Steinhardt, Ezekiel *Landau of Prague, Eleazar b. Eleazar *Kallir, and Ephraim Zalman *Margolioth of Brody, among others. His chief claim to fame rests not on his rabbinic and halakhic but rather on his extensive literary activities devoted to glosses and textual notes on talmudic literature. He commented on the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Alfasi, Maimonides, the Arukh, and the whole corpus of the earlier halakhic authorities. Of his collated texts, in which he notes parallel passages and variant readings, the most important is that on the Talmud, entitled Masoret ha-Shas ("Talmud Tradition"), which supplements an earlier work by Joseph Samuel, rabbi of Frankfurt. First published at Dyhernfurth (1800–04), it has since been printed in every edition of the Talmud. Berlin not only cites parallel passages, but also amends and compares texts, displaying an acute critical faculty and a profound grasp of history.

His other works are (1) She'elat Shalom (Dyhernfurth, 1786), a commentary on Aḥai of Shabḥa's She'iltot, with sources and notes entitled Rishon le-Zion; (2) Hafla'ah sheba-Arakhin, glosses and annotations to Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome's Arukh (first published, part 1, Breslau, 1830, part 2, Vienna, 1859), and thereafter in many editions of the Arukh; (3) Minnei Targima, expositions on Targum Onkelos (Breslau, 1831); (4) Tosefot Rishon le-Ẓiyyon, notes and brief comments on the Mishnah (first published at Sulzbach, 1783–85, and often reprinted); (5) Kashot Meyushav (Koenigsberg, 1860), in which all talmudic passages concluding with the word kashya ("difficulty") are answered; (6) Omer ha-Shikḥah, containing talmudic halakhot not mentioned by the codifiers. This work, first published as an addendum to Kashot Meyushav, was later printed separately (Johannisberg, 1866).

There was no early work to which Berlin did not write glosses and explanations, as he was in the habit of annotating every book that he read. Thus he wrote glosses to (7) the Bible (Dyhernfurth, 1775; Lemberg, 1861); (8) the prayer book in Tikkun Shelomo (Dyhernfurth, 1806); (9) Alfasi (Pressburg, 1836); (10) Maimonides' Yad (Dyhernfurth, 1809); (11) Elijah Baḥur's Tishbi (his annotations appearing in Moses Koerner's Birkat Moshe, Berlin, 1834); (12) Malachi b. Jacob's Yad Malakhi (Berlin, 1852); (13) Elijah b. Moses de Vidas' Reshit Ḥokhmah (Dyhernfurth, 1811).

His unpublished works include (14) Yesh Seder la-Mishnah, a commentary in several volumes on the Mishnah; (15) Tena Tosefta, a commentary on the Tosefta; (16) Keneset Ḥakhmei Yisrael, responsa; (17) Shetarei ha-Me'uḥarin, novella on Rashi and tosafot to the Talmud, dealing with those passages where proof was deduced from later biblical verses but could equally well have been inferred from earlier ones; (18) glosses and notes on the minor tractates.

Berlin was the first in Germany to interest himself in the history of post-talmudic literature. He was also the first to offer a solution to the problem of the identity and the period of the paytanEleazar *Kallir, and although his conclusions are not accepted by scholars, they all use the extensive material cited by him (see J. Steinhardt's Zikhron Yosef to oḤ 13–15).


A. Berliner, in: mwj, 6 (1879), 65–89; Y.A. Kamelhar, Dor De'ah (19352), 87–89.

[Itzhak Alfassi]

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Berlin, Isaiah ben Judah Loeb

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