Wahl, Saul ben Judah

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WAHL, SAUL BEN JUDAH (in state documents of Poland-Lithuania, Saul Judycz ; 1541–c. 1617), merchant and parnas of *Brest-Litovsk Jewry; son of Samuel Judah b. Meir Katzenellenbogen, rabbi of *Padua, where he was born. In his youth Saul Wahl went to Brest-Litovsk to study, and remained there, becoming a wealthy merchant. In 1578 King Stephen Bathory leased him the salt pans in the grand duchy of Lithuania with the sole right to sell their products and in 1580 also the salt mine at *Wieliczka near Cracow. Later Wahl farmed the king's revenues in the Brest-Litovsk region, and in 1589 King Sigismund iii granted him the status of servus regis. From the 1580s Saul Wahl was among the parnasim of the Brest community and a leader of Lithuanian Jewry, taking an important part in the *Council of the Lands from the beginning of its existence. In 1593, through the mediation of Wahl, the Brest-Litovsk community was granted the right to adjudicate lawsuits between Jews, despite strong opposition from the city council. He built the women's gallery in the Brest-Litovsk synagogue in memory of his wife. Little is known of the last years of his life; S.A. *Bershadski has argued (in Voskhod, 5 (1889), 1–4) that Wahl died after 1622.

A number of legends grew up around the figure of Saul Wahl. Some scholars regard them as an expression of the economic and political achievements of the Jews in Poland before the catastrophe of the *Chmielnicki persecutions of 1648. One legend relates that, during the interregnum of 1587, before the election of King Sigismund iii to the throne of Poland, Saul Wahl was chosen to perform a high royal function; another legend even attributes to him the title of king for a day before the final ratification of the election of Sigismund. The legends explain Wahl's rise to greatness in the patronage accorded to him by Prince Radziwill (apparently Mikolaj Kraysztof "the orphan," 1549–1616) who at a critical time during a pilgrimage to Padua received immediate aid from R. Judah, Saul Wahl's father. Of Saul Wahl's sons, Meir Katzenellenbogen-Wahl was rabbi of Brest and one of the founders of the Council of Lithuania in 1623, and Abraham (Abrashka) was rabbi of Lvov for many years. According to legend, Saul Wahl married his beautiful daughter to a rabbi of Brest-Litovsk of the same name as his.


Halpern, Pinkas, index; S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), index; Akty vilenskoy arkheologicheskoy kommisyi, vol. 3, no. 204; H. Edelmann, Gedullat Sha'ul (19252); M. Balaban, Skizzen und Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in Polen (1911), 24–44; idem, Historja Žydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu, (1931–36), index; I.S. Eisenstadt and S. Wiener, Da'at Kedoshim (1897–98), 82–90; P. Bloch, in: Zeitschrift der historischen Gesellschaft fuer die Provinz Posen, 4 (1889).

[Alexander Carlebach]