Shalom Shakhna ben Joseph

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SHALOM SHAKHNA BEN JOSEPH (d. 1558), founder of talmudic scholarship in Poland. He came from an affluent family and was a pupil of Jacob *Pollak. At an early age he was appointed rabbi and rosh yeshivah in Lublin. His letter of appointment as chief rabbi of Lesser Poland by the government in 1541 is still in existence. It even included the right of capital punishment. His yeshivah soon became known as a great center of study to which students flocked from all over Europe, and his rabbinical court attained countrywide prominence. From that time on Lublin was a center for Talmud study and one of the important communities, where from time to time the *Council of Four Lands held its meetings. His mode of study closely adhered to the casuistic method of *pilpul. None of his works is extant; our knowledge of him is derived from the statements of his son, Israel, and those of his distinguished disciples, such as Moses *Isserles, his son-in-law, who refers to him in terms of great esteem (responsa 41, 61), *Ḥayyim b. Bezalel, and Benjamin Aaron Solnik (cf. also the letter of his son Israel to Isserles, ibid. 25), David Gans, Ẓemaḥ David, 1 (1592), 314, and the preface of Ḥayyim Bezalel to his Vikku'aḥ Mayim Ḥayyim (1712). These statements, mostly in Isserles' responsa, reveal his logical and sound common sense, avoidance of dogmatism, and due consideration for contemporary circumstances and needs. As a result, he was reluctant to have his decisions be accepted as final, and for the same reason refused to write any halakhic work. Nevertheless, some of his written responsa have been found and printed. He showed considerable independence and firmness (responsa, Solomon *Luria (16); Meir of Lublin (138) and Masat Binyamin (16) of Benjamin Aaron Slonik).


S.A. Horodezky, Shelosh Me'ot Shanah shel Yahadut Polin (1945), 15ff.; Ch. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 3 (1947), 38ff.; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 171ff.; Fishman, in: Sinai, 4 (1939), 218–20; Assaf, ibid., 532ff.

[Shlomo Eidelberg]