Chelm, Solomon ben Moses

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CHELM, SOLOMON BEN MOSES (1717–1781), Polish rabbi and one of the first *Maskilim in Poland. He was born at Zamosc, son of a wealthy merchant and scholar, under whom he studied. He apparently came under the influence of a circle of talmudists who pursued secular studies, since, according to his own testimony, he acquired an extensive knowledge of algebra, engineering, astronomy, philosophy, grammar, and logic. In his younger years, while still maintained by his father-in-law R. Moses Parnas, he was, according to R. Mordecai of Lissa, "already renowned for his keen intellect, his erudition and his many distinguished qualities and virtues." His first rabbinical position was at Chelm – hence his name. While there, he published in 1751 Mirkevet ha-Mishneh, which immediately established his reputation. He received a call first to serve as rabbi to the community of Zamosc and district in 1767, a post of considerable importance, and then, in 1771, to Lemberg and district. Solomon intervened in several disputes, among them the *Cleves Get, in which he supported the validity of the divorce document against the rabbis of Frankfurt and others who contended that it was invalid. His signature appears on the *Takkanot of the Council of Four Lands for the years 1742, 1751, and 1753. In 1777, after serving in the rabbinate for six years, he resigned, took leave of his family in Zamosc, and set out for Ereẓ Israel. En route he visited smyrna and constantinople (in 1779). He reached Tiberias and apparently went to Salonika as an emissary of Ereẓ Israel, where the printing of parts two and three of Mirkevet ha-Mishneh was interrupted by his sudden death. They were completed there a year later with the assistance of a local philanthropist and R. Joseph Ẓalmona. His Mirkevet ha-Mishneh (part 1, Frankfurt on the Oder, 1751; parts 2 and 3, Salonika, 1782 and New York, 1948; part 3, Jerusalem, 1956) contain novellae on the Talmud and the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, whom he vehemently defended against the criticisms of *Abraham b. David of Posquières. In the introduction, written in polished rhymed prose, he vigorously attacked those who opposed the study of the sciences, and made several hostile allusions to the pietistic and mystic sects of the era before *Israel Ba'al Shem Tov. Because of the metaphorical language some scholars thought mistakenly that he referred to the latter's followers. He wrote Sha'arei Ne'imah, on the intonations of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1766), republished by Judah Loeb b. Ze'ev as an addendum to his Talmud Leshon Ivri (Vilna, 1816), and a pamphlet entitled Berekhot be-Ḥeshbon on talmudic arithmetic and measures, appended to part 1 of Mirkevet ha-Mishneh. Other unpublished works are Lev Shelomo, consisting of 32 (the numerical value of "Lev") responsa, mentioned by Azulai in Shem ha-Gedolim and Ḥug ha-Areẓ on the geography of Ereẓ Israel. He wrote a comprehensive halakhic code in ten volumes, based on the Shulḥan Arukh, to which he gave the name Asarah Shulḥanot ("Ten Tables"). Only two of them were published – Shulḥan Aẓei Shittim, on the laws of Sabbaths and festivals (Berlin, 1762), and Ḥakham Lev, on the laws of marriage (Jerusalem, 1927). Chelm had extensive holdings which were successfully managed by two of his brothers, David and Ḥayyim of Zamosc.


Ḥ.N. Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 140a–144b; S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), 207–9, no. 525; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 305; Scholem, in: Tarbiz, 20 (1948/49), 228–40; Halperin, Pinkas, 334, 360, 389, 397, 529; Berik, in: Sinai, 61 (1967), 168–84.

[Itzhak Alfassi]