Fraenkel, David ben Naphtali Hirsch

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FRAENKEL, DAVID BEN NAPHTALI HIRSCH (1707–1762), German rabbi and commentator on the Jerusalem Talmud. Fraenkel was born in Berlin. He was descended from the Mirels family that originated in Vienna and was also known as David Mirels. He studied under his father who was a dayyan in Berlin and under Jacob b. Benjamin ha-Kohen *Poppers, author of Shav Ya'akov. After living for a time in Hamburg, in 1737 he was appointed rabbi of Dessau, where Moses *Mendelssohn was one of his pupils. In 1739–42 his father Naphtali and his brother Solomon undertook the printing of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah on his initiative. In 1743 he was appointed chief rabbi of Berlin. Mendelssohn followed him to Berlin and continued to study under him (particularly Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed) and also provided for his material needs. In Fraenkel's letter of appointment it was expressly stipulated that he was not to act as judge or give rulings in cases where members of his family, of whom there was a great number in Berlin, were involved. Fraenkel's jurisdiction extended to the districts of Brandenburg and Pomerania.

Fraenkel's main achievement is his commentary to the Jerusalem Talmud which constitutes his life work. It is divided into two parts: the first part, Korban ha-Edah, following Rashi's commentary to the Babylonian Talmud, is a running commentary aimed at elucidating the plain meaning of the text; the second part, Shirei Korban, in the manner of the tosafot, gives novellae and various notes to reconcile contradictions in the Gemara and correct the errors and inaccuracies that had accumulated in the text. At times his explanations in this commentary differ from those in Korban ha-Edah. The commentary appeared in parts: part one (Dessau, 1743) on Mo'ed, part two (Berlin, 1757) on Nashim, and part three (ibid., 1760–62) on Nezikin. He commenced with Mo'ed because for Zera'im there already existed the commentary of Elijah b. Judah Leib of Fulda published in 1710. His commentary has become one of the two standard commentaries to the Jerusalem Talmud. He wrote Hebrew poems following various events in Prussia – the end of the Silesian wars (1745) and the victory of Prussia in the Seven Years' War (1757) – and published sermons that were translated, in part by Mendelssohn, into German.


E.L. Landshuth, Toledot Anshei ha-Shem u-Fe'ullatam be-Adat Berlin (1884), 35–60; M. Kayserling, Moses Mendelssohn (1862), 8ff.; M. Freudenthal, Aus der Heimat Mendelssohns (1900), 214ff., 229ff.; Z. Horowitz, in: Oẓar ha-Ḥayyim, 6 (1930), 188; Waxman, Literature, 3 (19602) 708ff.; E. Wolbe, Geschichte der Juden in Berlin (1937), 177, 188, 191; L. Ginzberg, Perushim ve-Ḥiddushim ba-Yerushalmi, 1 (1941), 55f. (Eng. introd.); J. Meisl, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 103; idem (ed.), Pinkas Kehillat Berlin (1962), index.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]