Rapoport (Rappaport), Solomon Judah Leib

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RAPOPORT (Rappaport ), SOLOMON JUDAH LEIB (known by his acronym Shir ; 1790–1867), rabbi and scholar, pioneer of Haskalah and *Wissenschaft des Judentums. Rapoport, born in Lemberg, Galicia, received a traditional education and became known for his brilliance as a talmudist. Under the influence of Nachman *Krochmal he took an early interest in Haskalah and secular learning, studying classical, Semitic, and modern languages, as well as science. Supported at first by his father-in-law Aryeh Leib *Heller, who was one of the leading talmudists of his time, Rapoport later had to take the position of a manager of the government kosher-meat tax. Without income again in 1832, Rapoport tried unsuccessfully to obtain a rabbinical position in Berlin and in Italy through recommendations by L. Zunz and S.D. Luzzatto, but his German was poor and he had no university education. After a period in business in Brody, he became rabbi of Tarnopol (1837), where he had to contend with the violent opposition of the Ḥasidim, whom he had attacked in a pamphlet (Ner Mitzvah, in: Naḥalat Yehudah, 1868) in defense of Haskalah in 1815 (see also his introduction to She'erit Yehudah, in: Bikkurei ha-Ittim, 8, 1827). Rapoport was appointed chief rabbi of Prague in 1840, successfully opposing the candidacy of Ẓevi Hirsch *Chajes for the same position.

After some youthful efforts at poetry and drama, including a paraphrase of Racine's Esther entitled She'erit Yehudah ("The Remnant of Judah," first published in Bikkurei ha-Ittim, 8, 1827), Rapoport turned to Jewish scholarship, publishing articles in Bikkurei ha-Ittim and Kerem Ḥemed. Dealing with biblical subjects, he considered the Book of Judges a composite work, certain Psalms to be post-Davidic, and some chapters in Isaiah as belonging to a later prophet. His real mark on Jewish scholarship was made in a series of bibliographical studies of the geonic leaders Saadiah, Hai, Hananel b. Hushi'el, Nissim b. Jacob, and Ḥefeẓ b. Yaẓli'aḥ, and of Eleazar ha-Kallir and Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome, author of the Arukh (published in Bikkurei ha-Ittim, 1828–31; and also separately and posthumously under the title Yeri'ot Shelomo, 1904, repr. 1913 and 1960). These studies illuminated a relatively obscure period of Jewish history and paved the way for later research; moreover, they set a new standard of critical methodology to be applied to the history of rabbinics. In them Rapoport traced the migration of rabbinic scholarship and tradition from Ereẓ Israel through italy to Central and Western Europe, and from Babylonia through North Africa to Spain.

Of importance, too, was his Erekh Millin, a talmudic encyclopedia dealing mainly with historical and archaeological aspects of the Talmud (vol. 1 (1852); the rest, 1914). Rapoport also wrote an introduction to Abraham b. Ḥiyya's ethical treatise Hegyon ha-Nefesh (ed. by Freimann, 1860, reprint 1967). Rapoport wrote articles for Abraham Geiger's Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift, Julius Fuerst's Orient, and Zacharias Frankel's Zeitschrift fuer die religioesen Interessen des Judentums and became editor of *Kerem Ḥemed. He was in close contact with these and other leading figures of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (see his correspondence in A. Harkavy, Zikkaron la-Rishonim (vol. 2, pt. 1, 1881); Iggerot Shir, ed. by S.E. Graeber (1885); M.S. Ghirondi, Peletat Soferim (1890); and B.Z. Dinaburg-Dinur (in ks, 3 (1927), 222–35; 306–19). Rapoport took a moderate line against radical writers such as Geiger (see his Or Torah, a detailed criticism of the latter's Urschrift, in: Naḥalat Yehudah, published posthumously in 1868 by Rapoport's son David). He strongly opposed the decisions of the Rabbinical Conferences held by the German Reform rabbis (1844–46), both for the divisive character of the proposed reforms and for the assimilationist tendencies which inspired them, but even so did not exclude the reformers from the Jewish people as long as they considered themselves Jewish (Tokhaḥat Megullah, with German translation by R. Kirchheim, 1845). Like Krochmal and Luzzatto, he wanted to see the national character of Judaism preserved. When Frankel's Darkhei ha-Mishnah was attacked by Samson Raphael *Hirsch and others on dogmatic grounds, Rapoport came to his defense (Divrei Shalom ve-Emet, 1861, repr. 1969; see Hirsch's reply in his Gesammelte Schriften, 6, 419–34).


E. Barzilay, Shelomo Yehudah Rapoport (Eng., 1969), incl. bibl.; A. Kurlaender, Biographie S.J. Rapoports … (18783); S. Bernfeld, Toledot Shir (1899); Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 874–6, incl. bibl.; Waxman, Literature, index.

[Victor A. Mirelman]