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Horowitz, Sarah Rebecca Rachel Leah


HOROWITZ, SARAH REBECCA RACHEL LEAH (18th century), author of Tkhine Imohes ("Supplication of the Matriarchs"). Leah Horowitz (as she was known) was the daughter of Jacob Jokel ben Meir ha-Levi *Horowitz (1680–1755) and Reyzel bat Heshl and spent most of her life in Bolechow, Polish Galicia. Three of Leah's brothers were rabbis, of whom the most eminent was Isaac *Horowitz. As the sister of eminent brothers, Leah disproved the claim that the only educated women were the daughters of learned rabbis who had no sons.

Leah Horowitz was renowned for her exceptional knowledge of Talmud and Kabbalah. The memoirist Ber of Bolechow reports that Leah helped him prepare for his Talmud lesson with her brother, Rabbi Mordecai. The anonymous work Sefer Oẓar Siḥot Ḥakhamim also describes her as "a great scholar, well versed in the Talmud" and recounts her talmudic discussion with another learned woman, Dinah, the wife of Saul Halevi (chief rabbi of The Hague from 1748 to 1785).

Horowitz was the author of the Tkhine Imohes, an eightpage, trilingual prayer for the Sabbath before the New Moon, a traditional focus of women's piety. (Another work, Tkhine Moyde Ani, was attributed to her erroneously.) The Tkhine Imohes contains a Hebrew introduction, a piyyut (liturgical poem) in Aramaic, and a Yiddish prose paraphrase of the poem. This text has historical importance as one of the few extant works written by an 18th-century East European Jewish woman. In the Hebrew introduction to her tkhine, Horowitz defended the legitimacy of female involvement in talmudic and halakhic discourse and discussed the significance of women's prayer. She argued that since women's prayer can bring the redemption, women should pray in synagogue twice each day; she also explained that true prayer is not for human needs, but for the reunification of the sundered sefirot (divine attributes) of Tiferet and Shekhinah. However, Horowitz's arguments were largely ignored by contemporaries. After the first few editions, the Hebrew introduction and the Aramaic piyyut were no longer printed, leaving the Yiddish paraphrase, the only portion accessible to most female readers.

The Yiddish text laments the bitterness of the exile, naming the New Moon as a time of favor and invoking the protection of each of the four biblical matriarchs. Horowitz's central theme is the midrashic trope of the children of Israel weeping at Rachel's grave as they go into exile. Rachel, a symbol of the Shekhinah, then entreats the Holy Blessed One (Tiferet), with tears, to redeem the Israelites. Leah suggests that women in her day should follow the example of the children of Israel and of "our faithful Mother Rachel" to hasten redemption through prayers and tears. Together with Horowitz's images of the other matriarchs, Tkhine Imohes combines an appreciation of women's traditional roles with the assertion that women have far more spiritual power than is usually recognized.


C. Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs, ch. 7 (1998); H. Liberman, "Tehinnah imahot u-Tehinnat Sheloshah She'arim," in: Kiryat Sefer, 36 (1961),112–22; Ber of Bolechow, Zikhronot R. Dov mi-Bolehov, ed. M. Vishnitzer (1922), 44.

[Chava Weissler (2nd ed.)]

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