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Joseph ben Mordecai Gershon Ha-Kohen of Cracow

JOSEPH BEN MORDECAI GERSHON HA-KOHEN OF CRACOW

JOSEPH BEN MORDECAI GERSHON HA-KOHEN OF CRACOW (1510–1591), Polish halakhic authority. Joseph, who was born in Cracow, was a brother-in-law of Moses *Isserles and a member of his bet din. For about 50 years he served as head of a yeshivah in Cracow. He is the author of She'erit Yosef (Cracow, 1590), comprising responsa, expositions of the Mordekhai of *Mordecai b. Hillel to the orders Nezikin and Mo'ed, the tractate Berakhot, and the Minor Tractates, and of Tur Ḥoshen Mishpat. The responsa were also published separately (Fuerth, 1767). In the introduction he notes that his sons, tanḤum (d. 1618) and aaron moses (d. 1616) "persuaded me to have it published." Most of his responsa deal with commercial and financial matters, in which he was especially expert. He was approached with problems from Moravia (nos. 7, 9, 40), Italy (33), and Turkey (6) and corresponded with Meir *Katzenellenbogen (no. 1) and Solomon *Luria (no. 17). The latter asked him to look into a certain ruling and express his opinion on it, and in reply Joseph wrote a complete responsum. He was inclined to be stringent, as Isserles (no. 111) testified, and when a grain of wheat was found on a salted piece of meat during Passover, he prohibited all the pieces that were in the vessel at the time (no. 46). At the end of this responsum he stressed that many "of my colleagues opposed me, saying that it was a new prohibition and one should take into account only those prohibitions imposed explicitly by our predecessors." Only after he adduced additional evidence in support of his ruling was it accepted as binding in Cracow. His individuality and independence in determining halakhic ruling is marked; for instance he opposed a ruling by Solomon Liebermann in the case of a doubtful betrothal and relied upon Katzenellenbogen, who agreed with his opinion (no. 28). He wrote glosses to and published Sefer ha-Aguddah (Cracow, 1571) by *Alexander Susslin ha-Kohen. In the introduction Joseph states that he found it necessary to add his glosses because of the succinct style of the work and the difficulty in understanding it. David *Gans, the author of Ẓemaḥ David wrote that Joseph "was adorned with four crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of the priesthood, the crown of greatness, and the crown of a good name."

bibliography:

I.M. Zunz, Ir ha-Ẓedek (1874), 23–26; Rabbinovicz, in: Ha-Maggid, 19 (1875), 311f.; H.N, Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 4b–8a; H.D. (B.) Friedberg, Luḥot Zikkaron (1897) 8f.; idem, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Polanyah (19502), 4, 6, 15; A. Siev, Ha-Rema (1957), 29f.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]

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