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Steinhardt, Joseph ben Menahem


STEINHARDT, JOSEPH BEN MENAHEM (1720–1776), German rabbi and posek, Steinhardt studied at the yeshivah of Jacob b. Benjamin ha-Kohen *Poppers, in Frankfurt. In 1746 he lived in Schwabach, Bavaria. He later served as rabbi of Alsace, with his seat at Rixheim. In 1755 he was appointed chief rabbi of Niederenheim in Lower Alsace, and from 1763 until his death served as rabbi of Fuerth. Among his pupils were Mordecai *Banet of Mikulov, Moses Tobiah Sondheimer of Hanau, and Benjamin Ze'ev Wolf *Heidenheim. His fame as a halakhic authority was such that problems were addressed to him from Hungary (his: Zikhron Yosef 4c, et al.), Italy (5c, 48a, 87b), Amsterdam (84c), and Switzerland (58b). He maintained a regular correspondence with his brother-in-law, Isaiah b. Judah Leib *Berlin, with whom he communicated on various problems. In his work Steinhardt quotes comments and novellae by his learned wife, Kreindel, Isaiah Berlin's sister; Kreindel also urged her husband to publish his work. He was the author of: Zikhron Yosef (Fuerth, 1773), responsa and rulings on the four divisions of the Shulḥan Arukh, with an appendix of his novellae and sermons: Mashbir Bar (1828), commentaries on the Pentateuch; and Ko'aḥ Shor, novellae to Bava Batra. The last two works were published by his grandson, Akiva Steinhardt, the rabbi of Kubin, Hungary. He declined to give a ruling on his own authority in difficult problems, emphasizing that he was one of "those apprehensive of giving rulings," and suggested that the concurrence of authoritative rabbis be sought (Zikhron Yosef 39a–b, 65b, 77b, et al.). He took a firm stand on fundamental issues that were likely to undermine morality and religion. He was especially opposed to mixed dancing, and stressed in his responsum that "any rabbi and instructor is obligated to protest and to abolish any type of mixed dancing that is planned for his city during a festival." In the course of his responsa, he describes how he canceled a dance arranged in Niederenheim, even after the Jewish community had obtained permission from the secular authorities (22d no. 17). In the introduction to his responsa he inveighs against the Shabbateans, and particularly against the *Ḥasidim. Because of his inimical attitude toward them, the Ḥasidim took steps to have those sections of his introduction directed at them removed, and in many editions the whole of the introduction is indeed missing.

Steinhardt mentions that he was "greatly punished by the death of children and grandchildren … and few of many remained to him." His son moses (d. 1799) was the author of a Judeo-German commentary to the Sha'ar ha-Yiḥud of Baḥya's Ḥovot ha-Levavot (Fuerth, 1765).


Loewenstein, in: jjlg, 6 (1908), 190–9, 218, 222f.; Y.A. Kamelhar, Dor De'ah (1935), 90f.; R.N.N. Rabinovicz, Ma'amar al Hadpasat ha-Talmud (19522), 123f.

[Yehoshua Horowitz]

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