Horowitz, Phinehas (Pinhas) ben Ẓevi Hirsch Ha-Levi

views updated


HOROWITZ, PHINEHAS (Pinhas ) BEN ẒEVI HIRSCH HA-LEVI (1730–1805), German rabbi. Horowitz was born in Czortkow, Poland, where his father was rabbi. He studied first under his father and then under his two brothers, Nahum (introduction to the Shevet Aḥim) and Samuel Shmelke *Horowitz, later rabbi of Nikolsburg. During that period the two brothers were attracted to the circle of *Dov Baer of Mezhirech and Horowitz visited Dov Baer, first in Mezhirech and then in Rovno. As a result of these visits he made the acquaintance of *Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founder of *Ḥabad Ḥasidism.

Horowitz was rabbi at first of Witkowo, Poland and then of Lachowicze (1764). In 1771 he accepted a call to the rabbinate of Frankfurt, a post he held until his death. During his later years he was frequently ill and eventually became totally blind. Horowitz was held in the highest respect by the rabbis and scholars of Frankfurt, and particularly noteworthy was the cordial relationship which existed between him and Nathan Maas, author of the Binyan Shelomo and av bet din of Frankfurt. Horowitz maintained a close and friendly relationship with Nathan *Adler, although he opposed him in certain matters and later was one of the signatories to the 1779 proclamation signed by the leaders and rabbis of the community against Adler because of his ḥasidic leanings. His congregants also admired Horowitz because of his saintliness and integrity, and on one occasion he gave assistance to a Catholic priest who was in distress. Horowitz had a private *minyan where he followed the Sephardi rite, whereas the traditional Ashkenazi rite of Frankfurt was otherwise followed.

Horowitz vigorously opposed the *Haskalah movement. On the eve of the new moon of Tammuz 1782 he preached a powerful sermon (known as Tokhaḥat Musar, "ethical rebuke") against Mendelssohn's German translation of the Pentateuch and its commentary, the Be'ur (Biur). In this sermon, regarded as the first public statement reflecting fierce opposition to the Haskalah, Horowitz referred to the Biur as a work "which resuscitated heretical works in scoffing at the words of our sages." The opinion has been expressed that his opposition to the translation was directed chiefly against the special system of translation and the "dogmatic tone" of the commentary and not against the translation itself. It should be noted that despite his polemics against the aims of the Haskalah movement, he did not refuse to give his approbation to the German translation of the festival prayer book of Wolf *Heidenheim. In 1795 he issued a ban on the proposed establishment of a teaching institute in Frankfurt, fearing that it would result in a diminution of the study of religious subjects, but under pressure from the civic authorities he was compelled to rescind the ban. On the other hand he was alive to contemporary problems of the community and participated actively in the concern of the communal council to create a harmonious relationship with the government.

Conspicuous among his prominent pupils was Moses *Sofer, author of the Ḥatam Sofer, who revered him for his talmudic genius and his halakhic authority. He stated that despite Horowitz' attraction to Ḥasidism, he was averse to giving expression to ḥasidic or kabbalistic ideas. In the view of many scholars the whole tradition of Horowitz' Ḥasidism is open to doubt.

The most important of Horowitz' works, on which his fame chiefly rests, is the Sefer Hafla'ah, in three parts: pt. 1, Sefer Ketubbah (Offenbach, 1787), consists of halakhic and aggadic novellae on tractate Ketubbot with an appendix entitled Shevet Aḥim on the Shulḥan Arukh Even ha-Ezer, laws of ketubbah chapters 66–118; pt. 2, Sefer ha-Makneh (ibid., 1801), to tractate Kiddushin and to Even ha-Ezer, 26–45. Horowitz wrote a homiletical introduction to these parts entitled Pitḥa Ze'ira. The Hafla'ah to tractate Berakhot and on the laws of meat and milk (1895) and on various tractates (3 vols., 1900) were published posthumously. Among his other works the best known is part 3 of Sefer Hafla'ah, his commentary to the Pentateuch, Panim Yafot (Ostrog, 1824), published by Ephraim Zalman *Margulies. That the 1876 Warsaw edition is still in print is evidence of the continued popularity of this work. In this commentary pilpulistic halakhic expositions are combined with kabbalistic and ḥasidic elements. He also wrote Shevet Aḥim in two parts; pt. 1 Netivot le-Shabbat, a commentary to Even ha-Ezer 1–23 (1838), pt. 2 Givat Pinḥas, 83 responsa (1838). A commentary to Psalms entitled Panim Yafot collected from his various works was published by Pinḥas Finkelstein (1924). Various explanations by him of scriptural verses are found scattered in the works of his contemporaries and pupils. A commentary on the Passover Haggadah appeared in 1860 (reprinted in Jerusalem, 1994). On the occasion of the coronation ceremonies of the emperors Leopold ii and Francis ii in the years 1790/92 he compiled special prayers which were issued with German translations.

In his introductions to the Hafla'ah and the Makneh, Horowitz stresses the great value of Torah study and attaches special importance to the spirit of communion with God that man can attain by devoting himself to the study of the Torah. The Sefer Hafla'ah is regarded as one of the classical works of halakhic pilpul, and because of it the author became known as the "Ba'al ha-Hafla'ah." He applied himself to three branches of talmudic study – pilpul, halakhic exposition, and aggadah. In the Sefer Ketubbah he stressed that, although in a few places his intention was to sharpen the minds of the students, "nevertheless the arguments are based on foundations of truth." In the Shevet Aḥim he distinguished between those who engaged in talmudic commentary without paying attention to halakhah, and those who confined themselves to the *posekim, but did not understand the principles of Jewish law. As a result the Torah had become "as though it had two separate faces." In his opinion "it is desirable for brothers to dwell together" (shevet aḥim, hence the name of the work), "that there be both clear study and clear halakhah in one and the same place, since, in truth, only through a profound study of the halakhot and a concentration on their results it is possible to understand the early posekim and the profundity of their systems." He testified of himself that when pondering the halakhah and the commentaries, it was his custom "to study closely at the same time the words of the posekim and not to set up a barrier between them." Horowitz participated in the controversy over a ruling given by R. Ezekiel Landau (Resp. Noda bi-Yhudah, Mahadura Kamma, eh no. 75) who had invalidated a bill of divorce given to a woman by a messenger against her will (Givat Pinḥas no. 29). The strong stand which Horowitz took, siding with the opinion of the rabbis who upheld the divorce, caused him to be widely known. In his responsum Horowitz stresses that Landau "had greatly overreached himself." In a case of ḥaliẓah (no. 40) he stresses in opposition to the view of rabbis who desired to take a lenient view, "because they had compassion on the dignity of the daughters of Israel," that though he too indeed "loves mercy, yet mercy is no argument in the law of the sacred Torah," and as a result he decided that the woman had to undergo the ceremony. In that same responsum he emphasizes that "we have no authority to act leniently in opposition to the plain language of the Shulḥan Arukh."

Horowitz had two sons: meir jacob (1759–1785) whose Torah novellae are mentioned in the Hafla'ah and in the Maḥaneh Levi, and Ẓevi Hirsch *Horowitz, author of the Maḥaneh Levi and the Laḥmei Todah.


P. Horowitz, Panim Yafot (1824), introd.; Ḥ.D. Friedberg, Toledot Mishpaḥat Horowitz (1911), 9f.; I. Kracauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt a. Main, 2 (1927), 324, 327, 336; Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 3 (1931), 434–40; P. Sandler, Ha-Be'ur la-Torah shel Mendelssohn ve-Si'ato (1941), 202f.; M. Eliav, Ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah bi-Ymei ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emanẓipaẓyah (1961), 35f.; Y. Katz, in: Studies in Mysticism and Religion presented to G. Scholem (1967), Heb. pt. 118f.; M. Horowitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen ed. by I. Unna (1969), 202–53; M.S. Samet, in: Meḥkarim… le-Zekher Ẓevi Avneri (1970), 246–8.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]

About this article

Horowitz, Phinehas (Pinhas) ben Ẓevi Hirsch Ha-Levi

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article


Horowitz, Phinehas (Pinhas) ben Ẓevi Hirsch Ha-Levi