Sachs, Michael

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SACHS, MICHAEL (1808–1864), German rabbi and scholar. Sachs, who was born in Glogau, Silesia, became a preacher in Prague in 1836, succeeding L. Zunz, and from 1844 was a preacher in Berlin, where he also served as dayyan at the bet din. He declined an invitation to become rabbi to the small but growing Orthodox congregation in Frankfurt, which eventually chose S.R. *Hirsch. A strong traditionalist, Sachs opposed the introduction of the organ – more for historical than halakhic reasons – although he consented to the omission of piyyutim from the synagogue service. His middle-of-the-road position earned him the suspicion and antagonism of the old-time Orthodox, while he disappointed the hopes of the Reformers (he threatened to resign when in 1860 the Berlin Jewish community planned to bury the Reform leader S. *Holdheim in the "Rabbis' Row" of the cemetery).

Sachs possessed a wide Jewish and general education, and was familiar with classics and Semitics and their modern philological-historical methodology no less than with Bible, Talmud, and particularly Midrash, as shown by his commentaries on the piyyutim. As a scholar, he was one of the leaders in the emerging *Wissenschaft des Judentums. He worked on a German Bible translation with Zunz, contributing 15 books, including Psalms (1835), which appealed to his lyric-poetical nature. Sachs' major work was Religioese Poesie der Juden in Spanien (1845, 19012), which consisted of renderings of the poetry of the great medieval Spanish-Hebrew poets, as well as a historical survey. This influential work probably inspired Heinrich Heine's Hebraeische Melodien.

Of a more philological nature were Sachs' Beitraege zur Sprach- und Altertumsforschung (2 vols., 1852–54), in which he treated the relationship between the classical world and that of the Talmud and Midrash. His Stimmen von Jordan und Euphrat (2 vols., 1853, 18912) is an anthology of aggadah. Sachs' edition of the maḥzor in both the German and East German (Polish) rites, with translation and notes (9 vols., 1855 and many subsequent editions), was highly popular with German Jewry, as was his edition and translation of the siddur (1858ff.). In an appendix to the maḥzor (Be'er Mikha'el, published posthumously by A.A. Ehrlich), Sachs occasionally expressed criticism of W. *Heidenheim, his great predecessor in this field. Sachs was an outstanding preacher, and two volumes of his sermons were published posthumously, Predigten (1867–69). A memorial volume was published on the 100th anniversary of his birth.


S. Bernfeld, in: M. Sachs, Religioese Poesie … (19012); idem, Michael Sachs … (Heb., 1900); J. Eschelbacher, Michael Sachs (Ger., 1908); L. Geiger (ed.), Michael Sachs und Moritz Veit, Briefwechsel … (1897).

[Ernst Daniel Goldschmidt]