Schlettstadt, Samuel ben Aaron

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

SCHLETTSTADT, SAMUEL BEN AARON

SCHLETTSTADT, SAMUEL BEN AARON (second half of the 14th century), Alsatian rabbi and rosh yeshivah. Samuel took his name from Schlettstadt, the town where he was apparently born. *Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim (in Sefer ha-Mikneh, written in 1546, publ. 1970) describes him as "a pious man, head of the exile," but biographical details about him are scant; however there is some information about a calumny in Strasbourg in which Schlettstadt was involved and which was the cause of his wandering to various countries. The affair is recounted in two sources: by Joseph of Rosheim (ibid., 7f.), and in the documents of excommunication published by N. *Coronel in Ḥamishah Kunteresim (1864), 107b ff. Two Jews from Strasbourg were involved in a conspiracy with the knights of Andlau who were in the vicinity of the city. After Samuel issued an unheeded warning to the conspirators, the citizens approached him to pass judgment on them, and he sentenced them to death. The sentence was carried out on one of the informers, but his companion fled to the knights and apostasized. When the knights discovered that the informer had been put to death, they went to war against the men of Strasbourg, and Samuel was compelled to flee the city. He escaped, concealing himself in the fortress of Hohenlandsberg near Strasbourg, and lived there together with the students of his yeshivah for a number of years (1370–76). It seems likely that some of the members of the community had a hand in the incitement against Samuel, who waited in vain for the community leaders to take the steps that would enable him to return (it seems that it was necessary to appease the knights of Andlau with money).

In 1376 Samuel left his hiding place and traveled to the East. On his way he passed through several communities in Germany, where he received letters from various rabbis (including *Meir b. Baruch ha-Levi of Vienna) referring to him in complimentary terms and calling for action on his behalf. After 1381 he arrived in Babylonia, where he obtained a deed of excommunication from the nesi'im David (b. Hodaiah?) and Jedidiah (b. Jesse?), apparently directed against those individuals in Strasbourg who were involved in the affair. It laid upon the members of the community the duty of doing everything necessary to enable Samuel to return to Strasbourg and compensate him for his suffering and losses. From Babylonia he proceeded to Jerusalem, where he obtained two documents (published by Coronel) signed by various scholars (among them immigrants from Italy and Germany) supporting the excommunication by the nesi'im. As proved by H. Frankel (Ha-Mikneh, introd. 17), Joseph of Rosheim relied on this deed in his account of the incident, although there are certain variations between his description of the affair and that retailed in the deed. Equipped with these documents, Samuel made his way back and reached Regensburg. The people of Strasbourg made their peace with him. When he reached the Rhine, the students of the yeshivah came to meet him, accompanied by Samuel's son Abraham, whose boat capsized; he was drowned in the river before his father's eyes. There is a theory that Samuel met his death in the expulsion and massacre of the Jews of Strasbourg in the years 1380–88.

Samuel's best-known work is his Ha-Mordekhai ha-Katan (so called by Israel *Bruna in his responsa, Stettin 1860 ed., nos. 163, 170, 181a, 194 p. 72a, 207, 244), also referred to as Ha-Mordekhai ha-Kaẓar (Israel Isserlein, Terumat ha-Deshen, pesakim no. 192; Jacob Weil, responsa no.88), and Kiẓẓur Mordekhai (Azulai, Sh-G s.v.). As its title indicates, it is an abridgment of the Mordekhai by *Mordecai b. Hillel (in the Rhenish version). This work is mentioned by Jacob *Moelln (Responsa (Hanau 1610 ed.) nos. 87 and 174), and in Minhagim, Hilkhot Sukkah (Warsaw, 1874 ed., 52a) it is referred to as the "Mordecai [sic!] compiled by Samuel Schlettstade" and by Jacob *Landau in his Agur. From the extensive use made of it, it would appear that it had an independent value. The work has not yet been published, though many manuscripts of it are known. The work was compiled in 1376 (according to information in Ms. Parma, De Rossi no. 397, written in 1391), while Samuel was in the fortress of Hohenlandsberg. The date (1393) given in an Oxford manuscript (Neubauer, Cat., no. 672) is not, as Neubauer thought, the date of composition, but of the copying.

Samuel added notes containing rulings and additions from the work of various posekim to the Mordekhai which appear as an appendix in the printed editions (since the 1559 edition of Riva di Trento). These notes were written in the margins of the Rhenish version of the Mordekhai and included additions which are apparently extracts from the Austrian version (see Kohn, bibl.). Samuel's authorship of these notes, which was established by Zunz (hb, 9 (1869), 135), is clear from the notes to the Mordekhai, Gittin 456: "And i Samuel the unworthy," and Yevamot 111: "And see there in Ha-Mordekhai ha-Katan which I compiled"; it is possible, however, that not all the notes were compiled by him. The question of the author of the minor halakhot (ẓiẓit, mezuzah, Sefer Torah, and tefillin) in the Mordekhai is not yet clear. Ḥ.J.D. Azulai pointed out that Mordecai b. Hillel was not their author and that they did not occur in the Mordekhai. Zunz's conclusion that the author is Samuel because they are found in Ha-Mordekhai ha-Katan is not reliable, because, although it is certain that the minor halakhot found their way into the Mordekhai from it, it is not indisputable that Samuel was the author. An inscription in the Oxford manuscript (Neubauer, Cat, no. 672) of Ha-Mordekhai ha-Katan seems to indicate that Samuel was the author. It states: "The Alfasi and the Mordekhai did not compile works on the minor [tractates]. In consequence I, the unworthy, have done so …"; so too in the inscription on another such manuscript (Oxford 673). Nevertheless, the notes on the minor halakhot are certainly by Samuel and they contain allusions to his notes on the Mordekhai (no. 968) and vice versa (Mordekhai Haggahah Shab. 456, end of ch. 2). Jacob Weil (Responsa, 147) mentions a responsum written by Samuel.

Samuel's grandson, Abraham's son, compiled a work called Shem ha-Gedolim, containing biographical and bibliographical information (published by I. Benjacob in the collection Devarim Attikim, 2 (1846), 7–10).

bibliography:

E. Carmoly, La France Israélite (1858), 138–44; Graetz-Rabbinowitz, 6 (1898), 14f.; Graetz, in: mgwj, 24 (1875), 408–10; M.S. Kohn, ibid., 26 (1877), 429–32, 477–80, 517–23 (= Sinai, 14 (1944), 38–45); Zunz, in: hb, 9 (1869), 135; Zunz, Ritus, 215; Neubauer, Cat, nos. 672, 673, 675, 676, 2444; N. Coronel, Ḥamishah Kunteresim (1864), 111b–2b; M. Wiener, in: Achawa Vereins-Buch fuer 18675627, 110–3; J. Freimann (ed.), Joseph b. Moses, Leket Yosher, 2 (1904), introd. 35 no. 73; H. Frankel-Goldschmidt (ed.), Joseph of Rosheim, Sefer ha-Mikneh (1970), 15–18 (introd.), 7–9, 24–29; Weiss, Dor, 5 (19044), 174f.

[Shlomoh Zalman Havlin]