Skip to main content

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."


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]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Joseph ben Mordecai Gershon Ha-Kohen of Cracow." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . 20 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Joseph ben Mordecai Gershon Ha-Kohen of Cracow." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . (February 20, 2019).

"Joseph ben Mordecai Gershon Ha-Kohen of Cracow." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.