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Chajes, Ẓevi Hirsch


CHAJES, ẒEVI HIRSCH (1805–1855), rabbinic scholar. Chajes was born in Brody, Galicia, where he studied Talmud and rabbinics under R. Ephraim Zalman *Margulies and other prominent rabbis. His father was a highly educated banker who resided for fifteen years in Florence before settling in Brody. The boy was taught French, German, and Italian by his father, and also instructed in secular subjects such as natural sciences, history, and Latin. He mastered the two Talmuds and their commentaries when he was still very young, and at the same time became familiar with medieval Jewish philosophic literature. Ordained at the age of 22, he was elected to the rabbinate of the important community of Zolkiew. Here he formed an intimate friendship with the philosopher Naḥman *Krochmal, a resident of the town. Krochmal exerted an influence on Chajes' extraordinary knowledge which was reflected in his subsequent writings. Chajes devoted his efforts to introducing modern critical methods in talmudic and cognate studies, de-emphasizing *pilpul, but without sacrificing Orthodox principles. He corresponded with the leading maskilim of Galicia and Italy, such as S.J. *Rapoport, S.D. *Luzzatto, and I.S. *Reggio, although their relations were sometimes marred by scholarly disputes. He was the only rabbi of the old school who voluntarily submitted to a university examination (required by the Austrian law of 1845), as a result of which he earned a doctorate. Chajes supported plans for agricultural schools for Galician youth. He was a vigorous champion of a more modern approach to Jewish education. In 1852 he was elected chief rabbi of Kalish (Kalisz), Poland, but could not withstand the opposition of the ḥasidic and anti-Haskalah elements in that community. Being an Austrian subject, he also encountered hostility from the Russian authorities, and he left Kalish to return to Zolkiew shortly before his death. Despite his leanings toward Haskalah and secular studies, he was a staunch defender of Orthodoxy. Chajes opposed the Reform Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick (1844) in a monograph entitled Minḥat Kena'ot (1849). The following were also among his published works: (1) Torat Nevi'im (or Elleh ha-Mitzvot, Zolkiew, 1836), a study of talmudic tradition and methodology; (2) Iggeret Bikkoret (Przemysl, 1840), on the Targumim and Midrashim (republished by J. Bruell with annotations and additions, 1853; abbreviated German translation in Literaturblatt des Orients, suppl. to Orient, 1 (1840) nos. 44–8; 2 (1841), nos. 3 and 9); (3) Ateret Ẓevi (Zolkiew, 1841), six essays on talmudic and midrashic topics, including a new enlarged edition of Iggeret Bikkoret mentioned above; "Tiferet le-Moshe," a defense of Maimonides against S.D. Luzzatto; and "Darkhei Moshe," on Maimonides' method in Mishneh Torah (repr. with annotations in: J.L. Fishman, ed., Rabbenu Moshe ben Maimon, part 2, 1935, 1–74; and in an edition of Maimonides Mishneh Torah, 1956); (4) Darkhei Hora'ah (Zolkiew, 1842), an examination of talmudic rules for deciding religious legal questions; (5) Mevo ha-Talmud (ibid., 1845; R. Margulies, ed., 1928; English translation by J. Shachter, Student's Guide through the Talmud, with introduction and notes, 19602), perhaps his most important work; and (6) She'elot u-Teshuvot Maharaẓ (3 vols., ibid., 1849–50) in three parts: "She'elot u-Teshuvot," responsa; "Imrei Binah," six treatises on varied subjects; and "Minḥat Kena'ot."

Chajes' annotations to the Talmud appeared first in the Vienna Talmud edition of 1840–43, and later in the standard Vilna editions published by the Romm family. His writings on aggadah were also incorporated into the 1876 edition of Ibn Ḥabib's Ein Ya'akov. Most of his writings were republished in Kol Sifrei Maharaẓ Chajes (2 vols., 1958).

Chajes, Krochmal, and Rapoport formed the triumvirate of the important critical Galician school. Chajes' works are the first attempts of a modern Orthodox scholar to investigate the nature and authority of tradition. Solomon *Buber described him as "one of the rare Gaonim of his age, versed in all the chambers of the Torah and unequaled as a research worker." All subsequent researchers have benefited from his work, although he has not always been acknowledged. His sons, Leon, Ḥayyim, Joachim, Solomon (father of Hirsch Perez *Chajes), and Wolf, all merchants, were highly educated. His son, Isaac, was rabbi of Brody and the author of talmudic works.


Bodek, in: Kokhevei Yiẓḥak, 17 (1852), 93–4; 18 (1853), 53–59; 19(1854), 49–53; 20(1855), 60–63; Dinaburg (Dinur), in: ks, 1 (1925), 152–3; Ẓ.H. Chajes, Student's Guide Through the Talmud (1952), xi–xiv (introd.); N.M. Gelber, Toledot Yehudei Brody (= Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 6; (1955), 201; I.D. Bet-Halevi, Rabbi Ẓevi Hirsch Chajes (Heb., 1956), bibliography; B. Katz, Rabbanut, Ḥasidut, Haskalah, 2 (1958), 221–3; Herskovics, in: Hadorom, 12 (1960), 147–81; 13 (1961), 236–50; 14 (1961), 272–95; idem, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Eiropah, 3 (1965), 165–87.

[Encyclopaedia Hebraica]

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