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Rabbi Mordechai (Halevush) Jaffe

Male 1530 - 1612


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  • Name  Rabbi Mordechai (Halevush) Jaffe 
    Prefix  Rabbi 
    Born  1530  Prague, Czech Republic Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Biography  Born in Prague, Jaffe was sent as a boy to Poland to study under Solomon Luria and Moses Isserles. There he devoted himself also to the study of astronomy and philosophy (apparently at the insistence of Isserles). At the same time he studied Kabbalah under Mattathias b. Solomon Delacrut. After a few years be returned to Prague, where in 1553 he was appointed head of the yeshivah. Very soon he discovered that the students were not interested in mere understanding of the Talmud but preferred "pilpul" and "were turning the word of the living God into false, corrupt, and evil words" (Preface to his Levush Malkhut). Jaffe chose therefore "to minimize the time spent with these students" and applied himself to writing constructive books. At that time Joseph Carols Beit Yosef appeared and "it was a cause for rejoicing by all who pursue the study of Torah," but Jaffe found it overlong and so began to write his Levush Malkhut. In this he presented the laws in abbreviated form, taking as a basis the principle followed in the Beit Yosef of reliance on the three "pillars of authority" (Alfasi,Maimonides and Asher b. Yehiel). While he was engaged in this work the Jews were expelled from Bohemia in 1561. Jaffe left Prague for Italy, settling in Venice, where he resumed his writing. The appearance of Carols Shulhan Arukh, a digest of his Beit Yosef, led Jaffe to consider whether he should continue writing his own work. on reflection, he concluded that there was room for it since it would contain "those laws observed by the Ashkenazai Jews of Bohemia." But word reached him that Moses Isserles "had been spurred in the same direction" and consequently he put aside his work. "Alone in a strange land without any of the friends or pupils I had in my homeland" he decided to set down in writing interpretations that he had acquired in his youth of the Guide of the Perplexed and the "Treatise on the Laws of the Jewish Calendar" by Maimonides and the kabbalistic Bible commentary of Menahem Recanati. After a stay of over ten years, Jaffe left Italy 1571-2for Poland, at that time the center of Jewish learning in the Diaspora. There he was appointed av bet din and head of the yeshivah of Grodno in Lithuania. Later, he was appointed a similar position in Lublin 1588 and subsequently to Kremeniec. In Poland, Jaffe was very active in the council of the Four Lands, being one of the chief signatories of some of its most important takkanot. It seems that his many activities were motivated by his high sense of responsibility. In 1592 he returned to his birthplace, Prague, and became av bet din in succession to Juda Loew b. Bezalel (the Maharal) when the latter was appointed to Posen. In 1599 Jaffe switched posts with Loew, who returned to Prague. Jaffe then remained in Posen until his death. When the critical and supplementary notes of Isserles to the Shulhan Arukh (called Mappah) appeared in Cracow in 1578, Jaffe felt that Isserles had been overbrief as had Caro in the Shulhan Arukh, and decided to resume his original work, "that will be midway between two extremes: the lengthy Beit Yosef on Caro on the one hand and on the other Carols Shulhan Arukh together with the Mappah of Isserles, which is too brief.', In all, Jaffe worked on his book almost 50 years. It contains ten "attire" (levushim). The first five are devoted to the laws expounded in the Beit Yosef; the sixth, Ha-orah is an elucidation of Rashi's biblical commentary; the seventh, Simha ve Sason, contains sermons for holidays and weddings; the eighth, Pinnat Yikrat, is a commentary on the Guide of the Perplexed; the ninth, Eder Yakar, is a commentary on the laws of the Jewish Calendar according to Maimonides and an additional commentary on Abraham b. Hiyyals geographical-astronomical Zurat ha-Arez; the last, Even Yikrat, is on Menahem Recanatils commentary on the Pentateuch. The last three "attires" Jaffe also termed collectively "rabbinic robes," considering that these should be learned by "every student in that order- philosophy, astronomy, and Kabbalah." Coming from a leader of 16th-century Polish and Lithuanian Jewry, these words attest to the influence of the Renaissance on Jewish scholars of that time. Jaffe regarded Kabbalah as the "crowning jewel of spirituality"; he also introduced it into the halakhic parts of the "attires" (e.g. Levush Hur, 651:11). He was at pains, however, to point out that such confirmation of the halakhah from Kabbalah was not authoritative. The Levushim were published between 1590 and 1604 at various presses in Lublin, Prague and Cracow. on their appearance, they drew criticism from almost every rabbinic authority. On the other hand Elijh Shapiro, the author of Eliyahu Zuta (the commentary on the first Levush, Prague, end of 17th century, Preface) speaks of it in the most glowing terms and testifies to its widespread acceptance.

    Dr. Nathan refers to Esther, chapter 8, verse 15, which I looked up and found as:
    “And Mordechai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad”
    He also mentions that Mordechai's gravestone was transferred from the old to the new Posen cemetery.
    He quotes from a book by his biographer Horodetzki “Rabbi Mordechai Jaffé” published in Krakau (Cracow) in 1899 which mentions that only one son survived him.  [1, 2
    Hebrew Death  3 Ada 5372 
    Occupation  Rabbi in Prague, Cracow 
    Residence  Prague, Czech Republic Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Residence  Posen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died  7 Mar 1612  Posen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID  I5209  Blank Family
    Last Modified  17 Nov 2010 

    Father  Abraham Jaffe,   b. 1513,   d. 1564, Prague, Czech Republic Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother  UNNAMED,   d. Yes - date unknown  
    Family ID  F1692  Group Sheet

    Family  UNNAMED,   d. Yes - date unknown  
    Children 
     1. Aryeh Leib Jaffe,   b. 1555,   d. 1620
     2. Bella Jaffe,   b. Yes - date unknown ,   d. Yes - date unknown
     3. Elka Jaffe,   b. Yes - date unknown ,   d. Yes - date unknown
     4. Sarah Jaffe,   b. Yes - date unknown ,   d. Yes - date unknown
     5. Rabbi Peretz Jaffe,   b. Yes - date unknown ,   d. 1647
    Family ID  F1693  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1530 - Prague, Czech Republic Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Prague, Czech Republic Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Posen, Germany Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 7 Mar 1612 - Posen, Germany Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Histories
    Books of the Levushim
    Books of the Levushim

  • Sources 
    1. [S14] Encyclopedia Judaica.

    2. [S5] Letter from, Dr. Nathan, Lawyer of the Hamburg Jewish Community.


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