Rabinowitz-Teomim, Elijah David ben Benjamin

views updated


RABINOWITZ-TEOMIM, ELIJAH DAVID BEN BENJAMIN (ADeReT ; 1842/43–1905), Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jerusalem. Elijah David was born in Pikeln, Lithuania. His father Benjamin Rabinowitz, who was rabbi of Zamosc and later of Wilkomierz, was called "Benjamin the righteous" because of his great piety; it was said that he never slept the night through and never ate a meal before completing the study of a tractate. As Elijah David was a twin, his brother being Ẓevi Judah, the name Teomim ("twins") was added to the family surname. Elijah David was known from his youth as an unusual genius and in 1874 was chosen rabbi of the community of Ponevezh. In 1893 he was appointed rabbi of Mir which, though smaller than Ponevezh, was renowned for its large yeshivah. His decision to move to Mir started a controversy, and the leaders of Ponevezh sent "an open letter" to Mir asking that their rabbi be "freed," but the appeal was ignored. His period at Mir was regarded as the creative period of his life. There he published the most notable of his works, as well as articles which appeared in many periodicals – Ha Tevunah, Ha-Me'assef, Kevod ha-Levanon, Ha-Ẓofeh, Ha-Maggid, Keneset Ḥakhmei Yisrael, Ittur Soferim, Keneset ha-Gedolah, etc. In Mir he wrote no less than a hundred works, especially notes and glosses to the Talmud, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the Tur of Jacob b. Asher, the Shulḥan Arukh, and responsa. His novellae and glosses on the Jerusalem Talmud entitled Tuv Yerushalayim appeared in the Romm-Vilna edition (1922) and those on the Tur Ḥoshen Mishpat entitled Et Devar ha-Mishpat in the El ha-Mekorot (1959) edition of the Turim. His extraordinary erudition is discernible in his novellae and notes, and his great knowledge of historical matters from his correspondence on these subjects with Jacob Reifmann, Isaac Hirsch Weiss and others.

The following of his works may be mentioned: Oholei David, Matta'ei Hadar, and Heshiv Davar, responsa; Gefen Adderet, on the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud; Seder ha-Mo'adot, on the festivals and special seasons; Ma'as la-Melekh, on Maimonides' Mishneh Torah; Ẓiyyunim la-Torah, source references; and Kelei ha-Ro'im, on the aggadot of the rabbis. Among his published works are Zekher le-Mikdash (1889), on Hakhel; Aḥarit ha-Shanim (1893); Over Oraḥ, appended to N. Cahana, Orḥot Ḥayyim (pt. 2, 1898); notes and glosses on the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (1900); Teshuvah mi-Yirah (1906), on all topics in which Maimonides employs the phrase Yireh Li ("it seems to me"); Zahav Sheva (appended to Tosefot ha-Rashba, 1956), notes on the tosafot to Pesaḥim by Samson b. Abraham of Sens.

In 1899 a new period of his life commenced. When Samuel *Salant reached an advanced age and asked for a successor to be appointed chief rabbi of Jerusalem, extended negotiations with rabbis of the Diaspora began. At the recommendation of Ḥayyim Ozer *Grodzinski of Vilna, Elijah David was officially appointed in 1901. He succeeded in uniting the Jerusalem community, which was split into various *kolelim and suffered from inner dissension between the perushim (the non-ḥasidic Ashkenazi community) and the *Ḥasidim, and in forming a single organization for sheḥitah. He was also active in many communal spheres. He was the first treasurer of the Bikkur Ḥolim hospital, made regulations for institutions of learning and charity–particularly in the yeshivah Eẓ Ḥayyim–and arranged strict supervision of shops and merchants. His local regulations and customs are still in force, included in the annual calendar which is published by the Eẓ Ḥayyim yeshivah. The most famous of his sons-in-law, Abraham Isaac ha-Kohen *Kook, published a special brochure entitled Eder ha-Yakar (1906, 19672) describing his father-in-law's personality and quoting his testament, which shows the extraordinary humility and modesty of its author, and 20 of his letters.


A.I. Kook, Eder ha-Yakar (1906, 19672); J. Gelis, Mi-Gedolei Yerushalayim (1967), 116–35.

[Itzhak Alfassi]