Landshuth, Eliezer

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LANDSHUTH, ELIEZER (Leser ; 1817–1887), liturgical scholar and historian. Born in Lissa (now Lezno) to poor parents, Landshuth decided to study for the rabbinate and at the age of 20 proceeded to Berlin, where he studied for some years in the yeshivah of R. Jacob Joseph Oettinger, the rabbi of Berlin. Landshuth always referred to him in terms of the greatest respect as his teacher and mentor. In 1842 he referred to himself as a candidate for the rabbinate and wrote an article, Die Verbindlichkeit des Zeremonialgesetzes fuer den juedischen Krieger (Allgemeines Archiv des Judenthums, 2 (1842), 246–75), which he published under a pseudonym. Shortly afterward, however (possibly influenced by Zunz and Geiger, with whom he was in contact), he changed his mind and with the assistance of some friends became a bookseller. He was not very successful and accepted a position as superintendent of the ancient cemetery of the Berlin Jewish community.

According to the testimony of his friends, Landshuth entertained the most extreme liberal views with regard to Judaism, but there is not even a hint of them in his work. Landshuth's reputation rests mainly on his research into the Jewish liturgy, and his work has retained its value to the present day. His method was to trace the prayers, their authors, and their sources in the Talmud and midrashic literature, and he wrote three works on this subject: the prayer book Hegyon Lev, published by H. Edelman (Koenigsberg, 1845), includes a commentary by Landshuth in the form of footnotes, entitled Kunteres Berakhah, in which he attempts to establish the period during which most of the prayers were composed. The commentary already reveals a real critical faculty and serious research. His second work is a Passover Haggadah with an introduction, Maggid me-Reshit (Berlin, 1855), which follows the same method. The third is Seder Bikkur Ḥolim, Ma'avar Yabbok ve-Sefer ha-Ḥayyim, a collection of prayers and meditations for the sick, the dying, and funerals (1867), with a scholarly introduction on the origin of these prayers and customs and an appendix (in some copies only) containing examples of typical tombstone inscriptions with biographical data.

His research in this field and his extensive knowledge of the various liturgical rites led him to compose his most famous work, a biographical and bibliographical dictionary on the paytanim, entitled Ammudei ha-Avodah (Onomasticon Auctorum Hymnorum Hebraeorum… Vol. i, 1857; Vol. ii, 1862, reprinted 1968). Although it was rendered somewhat obsolete by Zunz in his Synagogale Poesie which appeared in 1863, it contains valuable and accurate information. Possibly as a result of Zunz's work, the third volume was never published. He then devoted himself to the history of the Berlin Jewish community and published Toledot Anshei Shem u-Fe'ulatam, on the rabbis of Berlin up to 1800 (Part 1, 1884, Part 2 was not published), as well as Ateret Ẓevi, a biography of Hirschel *Levin. Geiger in his Geschichte der Juden in Berlin made use of the material Landshuth collected without acknowledging the source. A portion of Landshuth's manuscripts passed to Dr. S. Neumann, and another to the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judenthum. A pamphlet he wrote on the rabbis of his birthplace, Lissa, Zikkaron ba-Sefer, served as a source for many details in L. Lewin's Geschichte der Juden in Lissa (1904).


L. Lewin, Geschichte der Juden in Lissa (1904), 293–6.

[Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt]