Luria, David ben Judah

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LURIA, DAVID BEN JUDAH (1798–1855), Lithuanian rabbi and scholar. Luria was born in Bykhow, Mogilev region. He studied under Saul *Katzenellenbogen in Vilna, but in 1815 returned to his native town, where he remained for the rest of his life and where he founded a yeshivah. A false accusation that grew out of a family quarrel in Bykhow, supported by letters forged in his name attacking the czarist government, led to his imprisonment in the fortress of Schluesselburg, from which he was released when the forgeries came to light (1837/38). Luria was active in communal affairs and together with Isaac *Volozhyner met with Sir Moses *Montefiore when the latter visited Vilna in 1846 to investigate the condition of the Jews in Russia. Luria corresponded with I.B. *Levinsohn, encouraging the translation of his book, Zerubavel, as a useful weapon against the calumnious attacks on the Talmud by antisemites and the maskilim. In one of his responsa to the rabbis of Mantua, he vehemently attacked the reformists for their attempts to delete from the liturgy the prayers for the coming of the Messiah and the future redemption (Responsa, Ra-Dal (1898) 21c–d).

Luria was regarded as one of the Torah leaders of his generation, particularly after the death of his spiritual mentor, *Elijah b. Solomon (Gaon of Vilna). His literary works embrace almost all the books of the Oral Law. They are chiefly textual glosses, notes, source references, and expositions of the sayings of the talmudic scholars, reflecting extraordinary knowledge of Torah together with a feeling for scientific criticism and an understanding of the plain meaning reminiscent of the methods followed by the Gaon of Vilna.

Of his works the following are particularly worthy of note: his commentary to the Mishnah (Vilna, 1886–90); his notes to most of the Talmud, and his glosses to the Midrash Rabbah, which were published in the large Vilna (Romm) editions; his commentaries to the Midrash Samuel Rabbati (1852); to the Pesikta Rabbati de Rav Kahana (1893); to the Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (1852) with an extensive and detailed introduction; Kokhevei-Or (1877), notes to Sefer Yuḥasin and to Seder ha-Dorot; Kadmut Sefer ha-Zohar (1856), notes to the Zohar, aimed at proving that its author was indeed Simeon b. Yoḥai; notes to the She'iltot of *Aḥai Gaon (1861); Nefesh David (appended to the Yahal Or (1882) of the Vilna Gaon), expositions of the Zohar and the Zohar Ḥadash; a commentary on the Book of Esther (1887); and several responsa (1898). Luria also arranged for the publication of several works of the Vilna Gaon, adding to them his own notes: To'elet Eliyahu (1856) on the aggadot to Bava Kamma, the glosses of the Gaon on the Jerusalem Talmud; order of Zera'im, and Luria's own glosses on the order Mo'ed (1858). He also wrote notes on Aliyyot Eliyahu (1882), Joshua H. *Lewin's book on the Gaon.


S. Luria, in: D. Luria, Kadmut Sefer ha-Zohar (18872; repr. 1951), 2–16; I.B. Levinsohn, Be'er Yiẓḥak (1899), 163–5; Ḥ.N. Maggid-Steinschneider, Ir Vilna (1900), 157–9; S. Ginsburg, Ketavim Historiyyim (1944), 28–39.