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Horowitz, Isaiah ben Abraham Ha-Levi


HOROWITZ, ISAIAH BEN ABRAHAM HA-LEVI (called Ha-Shelah ha-Kadosh , "the holy Shelah," from the initials of the title of his major work; 1565?–1630), rabbi, kabbalist, and communal leader. Horowitz was born in Prague, but as a youth he moved to Poland with his father, who was his first teacher. He studied there under Solomon b. Judah of Cracow, Meir of *Lublin (the Maharam), and Joshua *Falk and gained a reputation among Polish scholars while still young. In 1597 he published his father's Emek Berakhah with the addition of his own glosses in which the influence of kabbalistic teaching is already discernible. In 1600 he became av bet din of Dubno and in 1602 av bet din and head of the yeshivah of Ostraha. In 1606 he was appointed av bet din of Frankfurt on the Main. After the expulsion of the Jews from there in 1614, he returned to his native Prague, where he was rabbi until 1621. In that year, after the death of his wife, he moved to Ereẓ Israel and settled in Jerusalem, where he remarried and became the rabbi of the Ashkenazi community. He was active in the strengthening of the Ashkenazi community in the capital and in the expansion of the settlement of Ashkenazim in the country. In 1625 he was imprisoned together with other scholars by the pasha and ransomed for an exorbitant sum. He died in Tiberias where his grave (close to that of Maimonides) is still visited. Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz (1590?–1660?) was his son.

Horowitz, who belonged to a wealthy family, lived in comfortable circumstances all his life and practiced philanthropy extensively, particularly in supporting Torah scholars. In Ereẓ Israel too, he and his wife had a servant, and though he refused to accept a salary, he stipulated that "they give me an imposing and elegant dwelling." He lent money to the Jerusalem community, which remained in debt to his daughter after his death. Horowitz settled in Erez Israel with the aim of sanctifying himself and fulfilling the precepts that can only be fulfilled there. He regarded himself as fortunate to have been privileged "to disseminate Torah in Erez Israel and in the holy city of Jerusalem." He hoped and planned that many would follow in his wake and that he "would achieve wonders in Torah study and the conduct of the community …" (extracts from letters to his children published in Shomer Ẓiyyon ha-Ne'eman, nos. 141–2 (1853), 281b, 283b). He looked forward to the revival of the Jerusalem community under his spiritual guidance, and as a result of his connections with the Ashkenazi communities in the Diaspora. He welcomed the opportunities of association with the Sephardi-Oriental congregations and, with the great respect he had for them, he allowed himself to be influenced by them. He delighted in the fact that he was able to preach to them "in the holy language, very clearly," and he accepted some of their liturgical customs.

In Ereẓ Israel he was greatly impressed by the manuscript notes of Isaac *Luria, Moses *Cordovero, and Joseph *Caro, "those three outstanding saints … truly angels of the Lord of Hosts," and they increased still more the kabbalistic elements in his teaching. For Horowitz, Kabbalah was the teaching of "the sages of truth who entered the secret of the Lord received in unbroken tradition by word of mouth from Moses at Sinai." He held that the time had come to reveal the "secret wisdom of the Zohar as a preparation for the imminent redemption": "this final generation" is permitted to engage publicly in esoteric study because "they are close to the redemption … and will not fall into error." Accordingly, he preferred the view of *Naḥmanides and other kabbalists in their approach to Torah, precepts, and faith, to that of Maimonides and the rationalists.

Horowitz' chief work is the Shenei Luhot ha-Berit ("Two Tablets of the Covenant"; known as She-La-H) first published in Amsterdam, 1649 (with many later editions by his son Shabbetai who offered as an introduction his own Vaveiha-Ammudim). In this extensive work, halakhah, homily, and Kabbalah are combined for the purpose of giving directions as to how to live an ethical life. He wrote it "for his children after him" but for general guidance also. The work contains excerpts of homilies and comments which he had written before going to Ereẓ Israel, but it was arranged and completed in Ereẓ Israel. The vastness of the material and its various strata impair its clarity. Among the works which influenced him or which he recommended for study, Horowitz mentions most ethical works – from Bahya's Ḥovot ha-Levavot to his father's Berit Avraham. The Shelah has a preface entitled Toledot Adam and a kabbalistic introduction called Be-Asarah Ma'amarot. The book consists of two parts, Derekh Ḥayyim, containing laws according to the order of the festivals in the calendar, and Luḥot ha-Berit, summarizing the 613 commandments in the order in which they appear in the Bible. There are three sections: Ner Mitzvah, dealing with the various precepts; Torah Or, elucidating the reasons for the precepts according to Kabbalah; and Tokhahat Musar, summarizing the ethical teachings stemming from the various precepts. The laws for every day of the year are arranged in the framework of tractates: those for ordinary days in tractate Ḥullin, for the Sabbath in tractate Shabbat, etc. The author deals with the 13 hermeneutical rules for interpreting the Torah (see *Hermeneutics) and also discusses talmudic methodology. He gave instructions that the last section of his work, called Asarah Hillulim, should not be published, since he wrote it as a testament to his children and pupils; nevertheless, his son Shabbetai Sheftel permitted its publication, commenting that the whole world was included among his pupils (introduction to the Vavei ha-Ammudim).

Horowitz was an outstanding halakhist and adduced many new laws, customs, and takkanot. He indicated his attitude to the methods and halakhic rulings of Moses Isserles and Solomon Luria in the words: "For each of them compiled and arranged *issur ve-hetter … but Isserles has already been accepted as the authority." Despite this, he stresses that "Solomon Luria came later with his arrangement of issur ve-hetter," so that "every man might be master in his own home, to purify himself, and to be strict with himself by following the stringencies of both" (Shelah (Amsterdam, 1968), 74b). Despite his advocating pilpul even in kabbalistic study, he strongly opposes it as a method, stating that there is "a sect of madmen who say that the hilluk ("the hairsplitting distinction") sharpens the wits – he who speaks thus is deserving of censure." He expresses pain in that "I spent most of my life in working out such ingenious and wondrous hillukim. I have sinned, I have committed iniquity, I have transgressed. I come therefore to warn future generations, and thereby my willful sins will be converted into merits" (ibid., 181a). But in his opinion "true pilpul" can bring a man "to discover most wonderful things in every single halakhah." He regards the Torah as a continuous revelation bringing about precepts which serve to ward off uncleanness: "The Holy One gave the Torah and gives it at every moment; the flowing fountain never ceases." He explains even the concepts of law and "within the strict line of the law" by this theory of continuous creativity in the Torah. To act "within the strict line of the law" (forgoing one's rights) is, as it were, "the giving of the Torah" by a man to himself in accordance with his personality at any given time.

Man's free will derives from the nature of the Creator's omniscience, since His "knowledge is will and … will is composed of opposites and contains all ways. Man is given freedom to choose his way … there is the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked and the source of all of them is the Supreme Will." The sin of Adam aroused new possibilities for revealing what was hidden in the Divine Will. The rabbinic statement that God showed to Adam "each generation and its leaders" means that "after he sinned there was opened to him the source … of good and evil … and He showed him … how the world's development in all its ramifications ought to take place." All envisioned development, however, is merely a potentiality; the existence of good and evil is created by man, for "there is a difference between the potential and the actual … the development and its ramifications ought to be in accordance with the revealing of the Supreme Source, but it is not actually so until man has made his choice."

Nevertheless, man's power is greater than the mere ability to choose between the two possible ways, "For into man's hands are actually given … the inner … and outer keys. And not merely to open a way for himself does he go forth but for the needs of the Most High, to profess the unity of the Great Name." In mystic fashion Horowitz points to the difference between the inner holiness of the people of God and the essential "externality" of the other nations: "The Israelite nation is called 'the assembly of Israel,' because they are especially assembled in one unity on account of their soul and they are the ones inside the temple of the King … i.e., the city where God is. The locality of the others, however, is outside: this is indicated esoterically in the verse, 'Esau was a man of the field,' and … when Israel withdraws to the outside of the city, all paths are potentially dangerous because of 'the field of Esau.' This field of Esau is Israel's battlefield."

*Kiddush ha-Shem ("sanctification of the Divine Name" = martyrdom) is a central doctrine with Horowitz and he composed the prayer: "Put into my mind and into my mouth to sanctify Thy Name in public … for the sake of Thy unity … and for the sake of Thy holy Torah … and for the sake of Thy people Israel – whatever may come, only be Thou with me, that pain should not prevent me from having my mind cleave to Thee, and I shall rejoice in my heart while suffering and increase the power of speech in my mouth – to speak and to sanctify with wisdom and understanding, with knowledge, in public, and openly and prominently to all." These words reveal a recognition of the ideal need to be on guard for the honor of the faith and of the nation, since the author recognizes that "a healthy and wealthy man whom God sets at peace … has no need of the redemption of Israel … hence much exercise of wisdom is necessary for him to be able to recite the blessings with devotion … on the redemption." This *kavvanah (devotion) is the essential of prayer. Horowitz put forward a complete method of education: the regular study of the whole Bible; the learning of "a great part of grammar while still young … then the whole of the Mishnah … to be learnt by heart; then the Talmud in length and depth, and *posekim; afterward he should engage in the wisdom of the Zohar." He was certain that "the abstention from the study of philosophy and its prohibition is clearly laid down by the early and later authorities."

The path of the individual is paved for the purpose of cleaving to the Creator and is illuminated by the light of rejoicing which must prevail in the heart of the worshiper. "Even when occupied with his necessary bodily needs, he should not abandon that devotion. When occupied with business let him think – 'I am occupied … but I look to the Lord to obtain profit … and with it I shall perform a good deed. I will support myself and my wife and children that they may live for the service of the Divine Name, and I will dispense money on charity and the study of Torah'… and similarly when he eats or goes to sleep, let him have in mind … that his body be strong to engage in Torah and perform precepts … hence if he follows this way all the days of his life a man continually cleaves to the Divine Name" (cf. Chapter 5 of Maimonides, Eight Chapters). Since with the proper intention man can cleave to his Creator while pursuing his normal physical and economic tasks, he advocates the sublimation of one's failings; to convert jealousy into the zeal of scholars, desire into desire for the concealed delight (i.e., Torah), and hatred to the hatred of the wicked …" In practice he advised "let the man who wishes for eternal life repent all his life … let him always belong to holy associations, visiting the sick and burying the dead; practicing charity and holding the child for circumcision … and let him perform … precepts … with animation of heart and with joy … and always be with the righteous … and associate with them … and always be occupied with books on repentance." Generations of Jews in Central and Eastern Europe until the end of the 18th century walked in the light of "the holy Shelah," and it is probable that he exercised a powerful influence on Hasidism; many of its principles – the conversion to good of evil propensities, joy in every action – had great influence upon this movement.

The most important of Horowitz' other works is the prayer book Sha'ar ha-Shamayim (Amsterdam, 1717), published by the author's great-grandson. Besides the glosses to his father's works, Emek Berakhah (Cracow, 1597) and Yesh Nohalin (ibid., 1615) he also wrote a commentary on the Mordekhai (of which only Bigdei Yeshaibid., 1757 – the section on Mo'ed was published); novellae (published in the Hiddushei ha-Ritba al Hamesh Shitotibid., 1729); and glosses on the calendar of Mordecai b. Hillel (1787). Letters he wrote from Ereẓ Israel have been preserved with contents of autobiographical importance (A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 210–21), and remaining in manuscript are Mitzvat Tefillin and glosses on the Zohar. Biographical material about him is found in his son's Vavei ha-Ammudim (appended to theShelah). Tokhaḥat Musar, an anthology excerpted from his works, is found in the Derekh Ḥayyim (Zolkiew, 1802) arranged by Isaac Samuel b. Ephraim and in the 1871 edition of Ir Miklat (1871) of David Lida. Sefer ha-Ma'amadot (Vienna, 1816) consists of selections from the Bible and Talmud for the seven days of the week.


M. Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, ed. by J. Unna (1969), 44 ff.; G. Klemperer, in: hj, 12 (1950), 48–50; P. Pesis, Ateret ha-Leviyyim (1902); S.M. Chones, Toledot ha-Posekim (1910), 580–83; Frumkin-Rivlin, 1 (1929), 146–58; S.A. Horodezky, in: Ha-Tekufah, 22 (1924), 290–323; 24 (1928), 389–415; idem, Olei Ziyyon (1947); idem, Ha-Mistorim be-Yisrael, 4 (Talelei Orot, 1961), 54–113; Z.(H.) Horowitz, Toledot Mishpahat Horowitz (1936), 18–21; A. Drimer, in: Amanah, 1 (1939), 292–310; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 221–25; A. Shochat, in: Zion, 16 (1951), 36–38; H.H. Ben-Sasson, Hagut ve-Hanhagah (1959), index; J.L. Maimon, Or ha-Mizrah, 7 no. 2 (1960), 3–11; H.R. Rabinowitz, Deyokena'ot shel Darshanim (1967), 243f.

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]

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