Teomim, Joseph ben Meir

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TEOMIM, JOSEPH BEN MEIR (c. 1727–1792), rabbi, author, and halakhic authority. Born in Steritz (Szczerzec), near Lvov, Galicia. Teomim was educated by his father, who was dayyan and darshan ("preacher") in Lvov and the author of Birkat Yosef. Despite his distinction as a talmudic scholar, which he already evinced in his youth, Teomim had to resort to teaching to eke out a precarious livelihood. For some years he lived in Komarno, but then returned to Lvov, and in 1772 moved to Berlin, where he continued his studies in the well-known bet ha-midrash of Daniel Jaffe. This was the most fruitful period of his life. Although he became renowned for his scholarship, he evaded all who turned to him on halakhic or practical affairs, and devoted himself entirely to his studies. In 1774 he was called to succeed his father in Lvov, and in 1781 acceded to the request of the community of Frankfurt on the Oder to accept the position of rabbi, stipulating at the same time that they provide for the maintenance of 10–12 yeshivah students. It was requested that he agree to remain with them for at least six years, but in fact he remained there for the rest of his life.

Teomim's fame rests upon his classic commentary to the Shulḥan Arukh, the Peri Megadim, and he is referred to by that name alone. Peri Megadim on Yoreh De'ah is a supercommentary on the two main commentaries of the Shulḥan Arukh, the Turei Zahav and the Siftei Kohen, and its parts are entitled, respectively, Mishbeẓot Zahav and Siftei Da'at. The work was first published in Berlin in 1771–72 and has since appeared in all large editions of the Shulḥan Arukh. The Peri Megadim on Oraḥ Ḥayyim similarly consists of Mishbeẓot Zahav on the Turei Zahav, and Eshel Avraham on the Magen Avraham, and was first published in 1787 in Frankfurt and subsequently in all editions of the Shulḥan Arukh. Three aims can be distinguished in Peri Megadim; to explain the Turei Zahav and the Siftei Kohen, to add to them those laws which they had omitted, and to add forewords and principles to all the halakhot. In connection with the first aim he cites all the rishonim upon whom these commentators based themselves, subjecting their statements to a thorough and painstaking analysis. Although he decides between differing views, at the same time he emphasizes that his decision is not to be taken as a definitive halakhah. His "Introduction and Principles of the Peri Megadim" to the literature of the posekim is of considerable value, since he collates and presents in a complete form the various principles hitherto scattered in the different works. Of particular importance is the introduction to the laws of the admixture of forbidden and permitted foods in the section Yoreh De'ah, entitled Sha'ar ha-Ta'aruvot. In it he collects all the scattered halakhot on this topic and at the same time summarizes the minutest details to be derived from them. The work became a standard one in the rabbinic world, was accepted by all circles of Jewry, and numerous commentaries have been written on it. Even ḥasidic authorities postulated that "the Heavenly bet din too" decided halakhah in accordance with Teomim.

In addition to Peri Megadim, Teomim compiled other works, all of which went through many editions: Porat Yosef (Zolkiew, 1756), novellae to tractates Yevamot, Ketubbot, and Bava Kamma, as well as expositions of Alfasi's code and of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah; Ginnat Veradim (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1767), 70 methodological rules for understanding the Talmud – both works compiled in his youth; Tevat Gome (ibid., 1782; Gome is derived from the initials of Gemara, Midrash, Aggadah), a new edition of novellae on the Torah, contained in Rav Peninnim (ibid., 1772), a work by his father on the Pentateuch; Shoshannat ha-Amakim, a talmudic methodology, comprising expositions of 24 talmudic principles which appeared first in the Rav Peninnim and then separately (ibid., 1782): No'am Megadim (in Seder Hegyon Lev, 1845), sources for the prayers and their laws; and Notarikon (1910), completed in the last year of his life, consisting of ethical sayings, novellae, and sermons. He also wrote Rosh Yosef to tractate Ḥullin (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1794); to Berakhot, Shabbat, Megillah, Pesaḥim, Beẓah (1863); and to the remainder of the order Mo'ed (1883). Some of his novellae were also published in his father's work Birkat Yosef ve-Eliyahu Rabba (Zolkiew, 1747). Teomim's responsa that appear in his various works were collected and published under the title Teshuvot Peri Megadim (1935). A collection was also made of his sayings on reward and punishment, entitled Mattan Sekharan shel Mitzvot (1874). He also wrote Ha-Maggid, comments on the Pentateuch and *haftarot; and Em la-Binah, a lexicon of Hebrew and Aramaic roots in alphabetic order. Teomim also mentions unpublished works.


Z.J. Michelsohn, Toledot Yosef, appended to J. Teomim, Notarikon (1910); S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), 95–97; L. Loewenstein, in: mgwj, 57 (1913), 354f.; S. Knoebil, Toledot Gedolei Hora'ah (1927), 106–10; S.M. Chones, Toledot ha-Posekim (1910), 498f.; Waxman, Literature, 3 (19602), 713f.; Y.A. Kamelhar, Dor De'ah, 2 (1935), 92–95; A. Freimann, in: Kobez al Jad, 3 pt. 2 (1940), 218, 221–4; Ch. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 3 (1947), 193–201; R. Margaliot, in: Sinai, 27 (1950), 353–5; B. Yasher (Schlichter), in: Sura, 1 (1953/54), 439–42; eg, 4 (1956), 414; A. Blau, Massu'ot (1965), 143–51; O. Feuchtwanger, Righteous Lives (1965), 57–60.

[Itzhak Alfassi]