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Loebel, Israel

LOEBEL, ISRAEL

LOEBEL, ISRAEL (late 18th century), preacher and dayyan, opponent of Ḥasidism. He was probably born in Slutsk, or at least lived there in his childhood, was preacher in Mogilev, and in 1787 was appointed permanent preacher and dayyan in Novogrudok. While he was still in Mogilev, his opposition to the Ḥasidim grew as a result of his brother's joining their ranks. When *Elijah b. Solomon, the Vilna Gaon, issued a proclamation against the Ḥasidim in 1797, Loebel obtained from R. Saadiah, an emissary and disciple of the Gaon, a letter of recommendation authorizing him to preach against the sect wherever possible, and approval for the publication of his books. He was likewise granted the approval of the *parnasim of the Slutsk community, and at the gathering of the leaders of the Lithuanian communities at Zelva he was evidently authorized to travel throughout Poland and beyond, in order to disseminate anti-ḥasidic propaganda. His two booklets against Ḥasidism, Sefer Vikku'aḥ and Kivrot ha-Ta'avah, were printed in Warsaw in 1798; the latter is no longer extant. In his preachings in the communities of east Galicia, Loebel conducted anti-hasidic propaganda. According to his own testimony, Loebel was granted an audience with Emperor Francis ii at Vienna in early 1799, as a result of which public meetings of Ḥasidim were prohibited in all the provinces of Poland which had then come under Austrian rule. There is, however, no historical evidence for this.

Sefer Vikku'aḥ describes a disputation between a Ḥasid and a Mitnagged. The author compared the Ḥasidim with heretical sects that had arisen within Judaism throughout its history. He denied the ḥasidic principle that considers prayer more important than Torah study and the ḥasidic emphasis on joy as a basic element in prayer; and objected to such ḥasidic customs as the acceptance of the Sephardi prayer rite and not observing the fixed times of prayer. He likewise attacked the hasidic leaders, claiming that they were ignoramuses whose every command was obeyed, who exploited the masses and enjoyed a rich life at their expense, and who deluded them with the belief that the ẓaddik atoned for their sins. Sefer Vikku'aḥ and its author became the target of attacks by the Ḥasidim, who prepared to reply with a pamphlet entitled Mul Maggid Peti ("Against the Foolish Preacher"), though it is not clear if this was in fact printed. They bought up practically the whole edition of Sefer Vikku'aḥ and tried to destroy it "by tearing up the book and trampling on it as on mud in the streets." In the 1820s the Hebrew writer Joseph *Perl made an unsuccessful attempt to reprint the book.

Loebel also wrote a booklet in German, Glaubwuerdige Nachricht von einer neuen und zahlreichen Sekte unter den Juden, die sich Chassidim nennt… (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1799). Though the original is not extant, it has been preserved in a reprint in the journal Sulamith, 2 (Dessau, 1807), 308–33. His homiletic works are Ozer Yisrael (Shklov, 1786), printed anonymously; Takkanat ha-Mo'adim (before 1787); Iggera de-Hespeda (possibly unpublished; the last two works are not extant); Middot Ḥasidut; and Ta'avat Ẓaddikim (both Warsaw, 1798); the latter, which is ambiguous in the original, includes a chapter against Ḥasidism. His Even Boḥan (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1799) is a polemic against the maskilim.

bibliography:

M. Wilensky, Ḥasidim u-Mitnaggedim (1970); Dubnow, Ḥasidut, 278–86 and index; G. Scholem, in: Zion, 20 (1955), 153–62; I. Bacon, ibid., 32 (1967), 116–22; H. Liberman, in: ks, 26 (1950), 106, 216; M. Mahler, Ha-Ḥasidut ve-ha-Haskalah (1961), index.

[Esther (Zweig) Liebes]

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