Ungar, Joel of Rechnitz

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UNGAR, JOEL OF RECHNITZ (1800–1885), Hungarian rabbi. Ungar was born in Rechnitz, where his father Eliezer was a merchant. At about the age of 15, he went to the yeshivah of Mordecai *Banet in *Mikulov (Nikolsburg) and finally to the yeshivah of Moses *Sofer in Pressburg. In addition to his talmudic studies, he studied German, French, and mathematics. In 1824 he married the daughter of the wealthy Joseph Yust of Csejte, who wished him to devote himself to commerce. Once, however, when traveling to the Vienna fair on behalf of his father-in-law, he called upon his teacher and became so engrossed in halakhic discussion that he arrived too late for the fair, bringing about the impoverishment of his father-in-law. As a result, Ungar was compelled to accept the rabbinate of Csejte and became known as an outstanding Torah scholar. He was later appointed rabbi of *Paks, where he remained until his death. He maintained and administered a large yeshivah and several of the great Hungarian talmudists were his pupils. His protest against the resolutions of the Brunswick conference in 1844 was printed in the Torat ha-Kena'ot (1845). He was nevertheless opposed to the schism of Hungarian Jewry, and when it took place, he withdrew from national Jewish affairs, devoting himself wholly to his own community and to teaching.

He was very strict in his personal life. On the morrow of the Day of Atonement, he would eat only such minute quantities of food as did not constitute eating according to the halakhah because of his doubt as to whether one was obliged to fast for two days, so that he would technically be fasting. After his death, his son-in-law Susman Sofer published several of his responsa on the four parts of the Shulḥan Arukh under the title Teshuvat Riba (Riba = Heb. acronym R abbi J oel B en E liezer).


Magyar Żsidó Szemle (1886), 134–9; Sofer, in: J. Ungar, Teshuvot Riba (eh, Ḥm; 1924); S.B.D. Sofer, Mazkeret Paks (1962), 116–26.

[Samuel Weingarten-Hakohen]