Luria, Solomon ben Jehiel

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LURIA, SOLOMON BEN JEHIEL (1510?–1574), posek and talmudic commentator (known as Rashal or Maharshal = M orenu ha -R av S helomo L uria). Few biographical details are known of him. He was probably born in Poznan (Poland). His family was related to many of the important families of the time, including *Katzenellenbogen and *Minz of Padua. Luria was orphaned in his youth. He was educated by his maternal grandfather, Isaac Klober, a well-known scholar, and Luria took pride in the fact that he received most of his learning and traditions from him. Since his grandfather was his only teacher, Luria was primarily a self-taught scholar. This explains in part his sharp criticism of other sages and his unusual independence of thought. When 40 years old, he was appointed rabbi and rosh yeshivah of Ostrog. About 20 years later he moved to Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) where he may also have been rabbi before he went to Ostrog, and then to Lublin where he served as a rosh yeshivah, at first in the yeshivah founded by Shalom Shachna. However, after becoming involved in a quarrel with Israel, the son of Shalom, he left and in 1567 – with the permission of the government – founded his own yeshivah where he was able to teach in accordance with his own system. Although Luria raised many pupils who became rabbis in Poland and Lithuania during his own and the following generation, some left his yeshivah and went to R. Israel. Luria felt this desertion deeply and complained about it in harsh words. Among his outstanding pupils were Mordecai *Jaffe and Joshua *Falk.

Luria was unique for his time in the complete independence he showed in halakhic ruling and in the critical method which he employed. His magnum opus was the Yam shel Shelomo, a halakhic compendium that follows the order of the Talmud. For Luria, the Talmud was the ultimate source of Jewish law, which explains his decision to write his book as a halakhic commentary on the Talmud. At the same time, Luria felt that all the relevant sources should be used. Thus his legal decisions were based on a comparison of all the vast commentaries and halakhic material – both that compiled before and during his time – with the talmudic sources, showing remarkable profundity while strictly avoiding the pilpul and hairsplitting which then dominated the yeshivot of Poland, particularly that of Shalom Shachna. Luria valued Kabbalah to the point of quoting the Zohar and other kabbalistic works in his Yamshel Shelomo. However, he never used kabbalistic sources as the final arbiters of the law. Even though Luria meant his work to be of practical use, by tying his discussions to the order of the Talmud it became cumbersome to use. His rulings were accepted by most of his contemporary scholars with whom he was in correspondence and exchanged responsa. However, his extraordinary firmness – as well as his public accusations that many of the rabbis who were stringent in their rulings had their eye on monetary gain and "the benefit it brought them and their scribes" (responsum 21) – roused many opponents against him.

His criticism also included the quality of the printed text of the Talmud of which the first good and complete editions had been published in the preceding generation. His own personal glosses correcting the corrupt text were written into his personal edition of the Talmud. Despite the fact that these were made for his personal use, they were published, first as a separate work in 1581 and later in the margins of the printed Talmud texts. As a result, Luria had great impact on almost every page of the Babylonian Talmud, on its text, on Rashi's commentary, and on the Tosafot.

There is no doubt, as he himself states, that the method of pilpul was also used in Luria's yeshivah, but he distinguished between the oral teaching in the yeshivah which was designed to sharpen the minds of the pupils and that whose aim was purely to arrive at the truth, as well as between both these methods and the ability to posit the halakhah. His independence in his rulings was tempered with a great reverence for the school of Rashi and the tosafists and the early Franco-German authorities generally, and in particular for their traditions and customs, which he always accepted. In addition he relied heavily in halakhah on the decisions of Israel *Isserlein, the author of the Terumat ha-Deshen (Venice, 1519), even though he does not refrain at times from taking an independent line from him (responsum 39). Luria's works include an exceptionally wide range of literary sources, from commentaries and halakhic works, from the geonic period down to his own time, of which he had an extensive collection in his rich library – both of published works and manuscripts. In addition to his glosses and textual emendations of the Talmud, he also wrote on the liturgy, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the Turim (see *Jacob b. Asher), the Semag (see *Moses b. Jacob of Coucy), Rashi's biblical commentary, and other works. His interest encompassed many fields, including grammar and Kabbalah, to which he was greatly inclined, although he made very little use of it in his halakhic decisions. To philosophy and its study he was greatly opposed, and hard words on this subject passed between him and Moses *Isserles, his younger relative whom Luria held in high esteem despite the bitter dispute which arose between them toward the end of Isserles' life. Joseph *Caro's commentary to the Turim, Beit Yosef, was published at that time. Luria, though valuing the work for its own sake, was strongly opposed to the halakhah being decided in accordance with it since it was not primarily based upon the tosafists and the Franco-German scholars. Luria seems to ignore the Shulhan Arukh, although there is no doubt that he knew it.

Only some of Luria's works have been preserved, including the following:

(1) Yam shel Shelomo on the Talmud (on Bava Kamma; Prague, 1616–18; on Hullin; Cracow, 1633–35; etc.). It is not certain how comprehensive the original work was, only his comments to a few tractates having been preserved. The book is distinguished for its clarity and for its remarkably detailed, orderly, and erudite presentation of each topic. From it one can clearly follow the manner in which the halakhah with which he is dealing developed from the geonic period until his time;

(2) Ḥokhmat Shelomo (Cracow, 1582 or 1587), glosses on the text of the Talmud together with short comments. This work was published in most editions of the Talmud in a very abridged – and many times corrupt and meaningless – form, after many of his emendations had already been inserted into the actual text of the Talmud. Ironically, the corrupted text of his glosses was the result of further scribal and typographical error;

(3) Ammudei Shelomo (Basle, 1600), expositions of the Semag;

(4) Yeri'ot Shelomo (Prague, 1609), glosses and expositions of Rashi's Bible commentary and glosses to Elijah *Miẓrahi's supercommentary to it;

(5) Ateret Shelomo (Basle, 1599–1600), a commentary on the Sha'arei Dura (see *Dueren, Isaac Ben Meir);

(6) Responsa (Lublin, 1574–75). These responsa are exceptionally valuable for the insight they afford into the culture of the Jews of Poland and Lithuania in this period of their efflorescence, and the status and moral standard of the rabbinate of his time. Responsum 29 contains an early historical document on the chronology of the scholars of Germany from the time of *Gershom b. Judah, until the middle of the 14th century;

(7) Luria wrote a commentary to the Grace after Meals (Venice, 1603; Jerusalem, 1982);

(8) Luria also wrote a commentary to the Sabbath Zemirot (Lublin, 1596; Brooklyn, 1986) and expositions of scriptural verses;

(9) Hanhagot Maharshal (Brooklyn, 1986), Luria's personal customs, printed from manuscript.

His other works include a critique of Abraham Ibn Ezra's Pentateuch commentary; works on Kabbalah, including Sefer Menorat ha-Zahav (New York, 2002) and Perush ha-Ilan (in Mesekhet Aẓilut, Jerusalem, 2000); and other works.


Assaf, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… L. Ginzberg (1946), 45–63 (Hebrew section); Graetz-Rabbinowitz, 7 (1899), 338–42; S.A. Horodezky, Kerem Shelomo (1897); idem, Le-Korot ha-Rabbanut (1911), 123–44; S. Hurwitz (ed.), The Responsa of Solomon Luria (1938); R.N. Rabinovitz, Ma'amar al Hadpasat ha-Talmud (19522), 62f.; Raphael, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… S. Federbush (1961), 316–29; Shulvass, in: I. Halpern (ed.), Beit Yisrael be-Polin, 2 (1954), 16; ibid., 239 n. 14; A. Siev, Ha-Rama (1957), 49–59; Sonne, in: ks, 8 (1931/32), 128f.; H. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 3 (1947), 74–91. Add. Bibliography: M.

Rafeld, "Ha-Maharshal ve-ha-Yam shel Shelomo" (Dissertation, 1990); idem, in: Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri, 18–19 (1995), 427–37; Y. Ron, "Bikkoret Nusaḥ ha-Talmud ha-Bavli shel Rabbi Shelomo Luria" (Dissertation, 1989); idem, in: Alei Sefer, 15 (1990), 65–104; H.R. Rabinowitz, in: Ha-Darom, 44 (1977), 254–66.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma /

David Derovan (2nd ed.)]