Ornstein, Jacob Meshullam ben Mordecai Ze'ev

views updated


ORNSTEIN, JACOB MESHULLAM BEN MORDECAI ZE'EV (1775–1839), Galician rabbi and halakhist, son of Mordecai Ze'ev b. Moses *Ornstein. Ornstein, as a young man, married the daughter of Ẓevi Hirsch Wahl of Jaroslaw, who contributed greatly toward his material needs. After Wahl's death Ornstein was proposed as his successor, but because of the violent conflict that the suggestion aroused, he refused to accept the appointment. In 1801 he moved to Zolkiew, where he was appointed rabbi of the town and district. In 1805 he was appointed rabbi of Lemberg (Lvov) and remained there until his death. During his lifetime the Haskalah movement began to spread in Galicia. On the other hand, the ḥasidic movement also gained strength as a result of the establishment of new ḥasidic centers. Although Ornstein, who found himself at the center of these two opposing trends, did not incline to Ḥasidism and was regarded as a Mitnagged, he was at the same time opposed to the Haskalah movement and conducted a resolute campaign against it. He was supported in this struggle by his only son, Mordecai Ze'ev, an extremist who was regarded as the driving force in the war against the maskilim. Ornstein distrusted the circle of maskilim that was formed in Lemberg around Solomon Judah *Rapoport which included N. Krochmal, I. Erter, F. Mieses, and M. Letteris. As a result of the mounting tension between the two sides caused by Rapoport's sharp criticism of Ornstein's Yeshu'ot Ya'akov (see below), a ban of excommunication against Rapoport and the leaders of the maskilim in Lemberg was issued in 1816. It has been assumed that Ornstein's son Mordecai Ze'ev was its author but that it had his father's approval. The text of the ban refers to the "sins" of the maskilim in studying German and studying the Bible with Mendelssohn's commentary. The maskilim who ridiculed Ornstein by referring to him as "the Great Inquisitor of Galicia" translated the ban into German and complained to the government that it was illegal, since it had been forbidden to issue such bans in Austria from the time of Emperor Joseph ii. As a result Ornstein was compelled publicly to rescind the ban. Rapoport and the maskilim reacted to Ornstein's persecution with scathing articles and satires.

Ornstein was regarded as one of the great halakhists of his era, but his main fame rests on his Yeshu'ot Ya'akov, novellae and talmudic disquisitions on the whole of the Shulḥan Arukh (oḤ, Zolkiew (1828); yd, ibid. (1809); eh, ibid. (1809–10)). The four parts of the work, with additions from the author's manuscript and the glosses of his grandson Ẓevi Hirsch, were published in Lemberg (1863). The work is divided into a long and a short commentary; in the latter he merely gives explanations of the Shulḥan Arukh, but in the former he summarizes the views and arguments of the posekim while resolving the difficulties of the different novellae by casuistic arguments. Ornstein also wrote, under the same title (which he also used for his Bible commentary), responsa on the four parts of the Shulḥan Arukh (Pietrkov, 1906). Among the questioners and respondents mentioned in it are Moses Sofer (yd, 33; eh, 2) and Aryeh Leib *Horowitz (eh, 20, 26, 29, 30). Ornstein's commentary on the Pentateuch was published in 1907.

His son mordecai ze'ev refused to accept a rabbinical post for many years. He finally accepted an invitation from the Przemysl community to become its rabbi, but died in 1837, before he was able to take up his post. His responsa and novellae are to be found in his father's Yeshu'ot Ya'akov.

Mordecai Ze'ev's son, Ẓevi hirsch, was appointed av betdin of Brest-Litovsk, and remained there until 1874, when he had to leave by order of the Russian government on the grounds that he was a foreign national. He was then appointed av bet din of Rzeszow. On the death of Joseph Saul *Nathanson in Lemberg, Ẓevi Hirsch was appointed to succeed him and remained there until his death in 1888. Apart from being an outstanding talmudist he also had a wide general education. He treated the maskilim and progressives tolerantly and succeeded in attracting them. On the other hand, he was disliked by the Ḥasidim. At the great rabbinical convention of 1882 in Lemberg, he opposed the demands of the extremists (instigated by Simeon Sofer of Cracow) to confirm the text of a statute that would rescind the right of anyone to be elected to the committee of the community if he transgressed the laws of the Shulḥan Arukh, and as a result the proposed statute was rejected. He attempted to explain to Orthodox circles in 1884 that since the Austrian government was about to introduce compulsory general education, it was desirable to organize religious schools. Because of the extremist opposition to any change in the method of the ḥeder and its organization, however, the previous educational structure remained in force. Some of his novellae and responsa were published in the second edition of Yeshu'ot Ya'akov on the Shulḥan Arukh. After his death, his son-in-law Aryeh Leib Broda published a collection of his responsa under the title Birkat ReẒe-H (Lemberg, 1889; Jerusalem, 19652), together with his own additions and glosses, Milḥamot Aryeh, and containing his responsa from the years 1864–79.


Ḥ.N. Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 1506–56a; S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), 111f., 151, 199; idem, Kiryah Nisgavah (1903), 39; M. Weissberg, in: mgwj, 57 (1913), 519–22; S.M. Chones, Toledot ha-Posekim (1910), 286f.; Z. Horowitz, in: Oẓar ha-Ḥayyim, 5 (1929), 207f.; M. Balaban, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… M.Z. Brode (1931), 29–32; A. Kamelhar, Dor De'ah (1935), 188–96; M.Z. Brode, in: Keneset… le-Zekher Ḥ.N. Bialik, 8 (1943–44) 104f., 109; Z. Karl, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1950), 332f., 336; R. Margalioth, in: Sinai, 27 (1950), 357–60; 29 (1951), 220; eg, 4 (1956), 217–19, 221, 249, 257, 314–17, 416–18; Klausner, Sifrut, 2 (19522), index; Zinberg, Sifrut, 6 (1960), index.

[Josef Horovitz]