Miesis, Judah Leib

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MIESIS, JUDAH LEIB (1798–1831), leading member of the Galician Haskalah movement in the early 19th century. Born in Lvov, to a wealthy, prominent family, Miesis received a broad general education as well as a traditional Jewish one. His home was a meeting place for young maskilim, whom he encouraged and helped, and to whom he made available his large library. His first literary effort was the publication of a new edition of David *Caro's Tekhunat ha-Rabbanim (1822). Miesis' main work is Kinat ha-Emet ("The Zeal for Truth," 1823; 2nd ed. Lemberg, 1879), written in the form of a dialogue between Maimonides and Solomon Ḥelma (author of a commentary on Maimonides, Mirkevet ha-Mishneh). In the body of the work, as well as in an appendix containing quotations from Jewish scholars down through the ages, Miesis attacks the obscurantist beliefs in spirits, demons, mystical powers, and all the superstitious views fostered by the Orthodox rabbis. His highly rationalistic approach and his outspoken criticism of traditional beliefs were so extreme that even a number of maskilim, including his colleague and friend S.J. Rapoport, felt that he had gone too far and dissociated themselves from his views. Miesis also published a number of articles in the Hebrew journals (Ha-Ẓefirah, Bikkurei ha-Ittim, Kerem Ḥemed). He died of cholera in 1831.


Waxman, Literature, 3 (19602), 165; R. Mahler, Ha-Ḥasidut ve-ha-Haskalah (1961), s.v.; Zinberg, Sifrut, 6 (1960), 29–35; Klausner, Sifrut, 2 (19603), 267–82; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 343f. add. bibliography: Sh. Werses, Megamot ve-Ẓurot be-Sifrut ha-Haskalah (1990), index.

[Getzel Kressel]