Falk, Jacob Joshua ben Ẓevi Hirsch

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FALK, JACOB JOSHUA BEN ẒEVI HIRSCH (1680–1756), rabbi and halakhic authority. Falk was born in Cracow and was a descendant of Joshua Heschel b. Joseph of *Cracow, the author of Meginnei Shelomo. He studied in Polish yeshivot and took up residence in Lemberg after his marriage to the daughter of Solomon Segal Landau, an important member of that community. There he was appointed inspector of the talmud torah. He became wealthy and was a leader of the community. In 1702 his wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and her father were killed by the explosion of a gunpowder storehouse, and he himself was miraculously saved. As a result he vowed "to apply himself diligently to the study of the Talmud and the Codes" (Introduction to the Penei Yehoshu'a). He left Lemberg and served as rabbi in the communities of Tarlow, Kurow, and Lesko (Lisko) successively. In 1717 he was invited to become rabbi of Lemberg, succeeding ẓevi Hirsch Ashkenazi (the Ḥakham Ẓevi). His yeshivah became the central yeshivah of Poland. Falk was one of the most extreme opponents of the *Shabbatean movement, then gaining ground in Poland, and he excommunicated the Shabbateans in 1722. In consequence of the opposition he had aroused, he was compelled to leave Lemberg in 1724 and went to Buczacz where he lived for some years. Between 1730 and 1734 he served as rabbi of Berlin. He then accepted an invitation to succeed Jacob *Reischer as rabbiof Metz and remained there until 1741.

From Metz he went to Frankfurt where he was rabbi until 1751. The hostile attitude of the town authorities and internal communal quarrels following his intervention in the controversy around Jonathan *Eybeschuetz, in which he sided with Jacob *Emden, caused his resignation and departure from the city, and he lived for a time in Mannheim and Worms. He continued his campaign against Eybeschuetz, sending him a letter entitled "the final warning" on Sivan 11, 1751 and in 1752 excommunicated him. In response to the demands of the Altona community that he rescind the ban, Falk demanded that Eybeschuetz appear before a bet din of three ordained rabbis to answer for his actions. H.J.D. *Azulai, who repeatedly praised Falk's wide knowledge (as well as that of his second wife), visited him in Worms in 1754. Falk told him some "dismaying details" about the affair, and Azulai expressed his shock at the "desecration of the Torah and the defamation of the Divine Name" as a result of the publication of the dispute between the Jewish scholars. From Worms Falk went to Offenbach, where he died. He was buried in Frankfurt and although he requested that no eulogy should be said after his death he was eulogized by Ezekiel *Landau (see Frankfurt Memorbuch, National Library, Jerusalem).

Falk became renowned through his Penei Yehoshu'a, regarded as one of the outstanding works of novellae on the Talmud. Since Falk's grandfather published responsa under the same title ("The Face of Joshua"), the grandson called his work Appei Zutrei ("The Small Face") to distinguish it from Ravrevei ("The Large Face") of his grandfather. The work is distinguished by its penetrating explanation of difficult talmudic themes. Originally published in separate parts – Berakhot and the order Mo'ed (Frankfurt, 1752); Ketubbot, Gittin, and Kiddushin, with Kunteres Aḥaron (Amsterdam, 1739); Bava Kamma and Bava Meẓia (Frankfurt, 1756), Ḥullin, Makkot, and Shevu'ot and a second edition on Mo'ed and the Tur, Hoshen Mishpat (Fuerth, 1780) – it was published together for the first time in Lemberg in 1809. Among his other works still in manuscript the following may be noted: Sefer Minhat Ani, novellae to Eruvin, Niddah, and Yevamot; Kelal Gadol, on the problem of "rov and *ḥazakah" (i.e., where the principle of following the majority, rov, conflicts with that of a previous presumption, ḥazakah), and responsa. Only a few of his responsa have been published (in various collections). His purpose was "to explain most of the difficulties raised by the tosafists on Rashi's commentary … as well as such points as the tosafists leave unsolved, or for which they admit that their solution is unsatisfactory, or where their answer appears forced." In his introduction to the Penei Yehoshu'a he asserts that he always took care that his conclusions should be in conformity with the halakhah of the Talmud and the Codes and was careful not to commit to writing any novellae which did not conform with the truth, "but whenever something new occurred to me on a talmudic topic or in explanation of Rashi and tosafot and it appeared to me to approximate to the truth, according to the method of our predecessors and teachers, I accepted it." He also stresses that his sole purpose was "to stimulate the scholar and to bring about a more profound analysis on the part of those who already know how to arrive at halakhic decisions." These features of the work explain its constant popularity among students, and its frequent reprints. He emphasizes that Kabbalah is sometimes of help in explaining the aggadot; but despite his reliance on the Zohar and on the works of kabbalists (Penei Yehoshu'a to Ber. 10a) he declares "we have no dealings with esoteric lore."

Falk had three sons, two of whom are mainly of note. issachar dov (1712–1744), who was born at Lesko, Galicia, studied under his father and Ẓevi Hirsch Ashkenazi of Halberstadt. He became the rabbi of Podhajce, Galicia, and in 1744 he was appointed head of the yeshivah at Metz, but died on the way there, in Berlin, before being able to take up the appointment. Four of his responsa were published in Kiryat Ḥannah of R. Gershon b. Isaac Moses Coblenz (Metz, 1785; nos. 41–44). His decision in the case of a get (bill of divorce), in which he disagreed with R. Jacob Yokel *Horowitz, is preserved in She'elat Ḥakham, and was published at the end of the responsa of R. Ḥayyim Kohen Rapoport (1957, pp. 243–4). Issachar Dov's novellae appear under the title of Ḥezkat Avahata in the book Tesha Shitot (1800, pp. 53b–80b) of his son Ẓevi Hirsch Rosanes.

His brother aryeh leib (1715–1789) accompanied his father to Germany. He was appointed rosh yeshivah in Frankfurt during his father's incumbency, and held the position from 1745 to 1750. When his father left Frankfurt, Aryeh Leib was appointed rabbi of Sokal, then in Poland. In 1754 he signed the excommunication against the *Frankists in Brody. From 1761 to 1789 he was rabbi of Hanover. In the affair of the Cleves *get he supported Israel *Lipschuetz. He published the fourth part of his father's Penei Yehoshu'a, adding to it his own novel-lae to Bava Kamma under the title Penei Aryeh (Fuerth, 1780). He was succeeded as rabbi of Hanover by his son issachar berish (1747–1807). Issachar's son, samuel, was appointed rabbi of Groningen, Holland, in 1802. After about seven years he succeeded his brother-in-law, Jehiel Aryeh Leib *Loewenstamm, as rabbi of Leeuwarden, Holland. In 1815 he succeeded his father-in-law as rabbi of the Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam, and finally served as rabbi of Amersfoort. He supported the *Haskalah movement among the Jews of Holland, approved the translation of the Bible into Dutch, and was the first rabbi in Holland to preach in the vernacular. Moses *Sofer refers to him in respectful terms (Ḥatam Sofer, pt. 2, eh, no. 139). He also encouraged the foundation of a general fund known as Kolel Hod, i.e., "H-olland and (Heb. ו) D-eutschland (Germany)," for the support of the poor of the Holy Land. Samuel's son issachar baer berenstein (1808–1893) was born in Leeuwarden and died in The Hague. From the death of his father until 1848 he served in Amsterdam as a dayyan. He was then appointed chief rabbi of The Hague, succeeding Joseph Asher Lehmann, and served there 45 years. He was highly esteemed by the Dutch government for his activities in organizing various communal institutions.


E.L. Landshuth, Toledot Anshei ha-Shem u-Fe'ulatam ba-Adat Berlin (1884), 27–34, 111; Bruell, Jahrbuecher, 7 (1885), 163–6; H.N. Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 108b–115b; 2 (1893), 77b; M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, 3 (1884), 5–61; S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), 43f. (on Aryeh Leib), 104–9, 125; J. Loewenstein, in: Ha-Peles, 2 (1902), 3 (1903); J.H. Simchovitz, in: mgwj, 54 (1910), 608–21; D. Kahana, Toledot ha-Mekubbalim…, 2 (19273), 23, 37–39, 44–52; Z.(H.) Horowitz (ed.), Kitvei ha-Ge'onim (1928), 28ff. (on Jacob Joshua), 67, 97–100 (on Issachar Berish); D. Wachstein, in: Studies in Jewish Bibliography … A.S. Freidus (1929), 15–31 (Heb. pt.); J.A. Kamelhar, Dor De'ah, 2 (1935), 19–26; D.A.L. Zins, Ateret Yehoshu'a (1936); N.M. Gelber, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 6 (1955), 108 n. 8 (on Aryeh Leib); J. Meisel, Pinkas Kehillat Berlin (1962), 502 (index s.v.Joshua Falk).

[Yehoshua Horowitz]