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Babad Family

Leading wealthy rabbinic family in Galicia. Beginning in the seventeenth century, many members of the Babad family served in rabbinic posts in Poland and Lithuania; others were quite wealthy and held a variety of leadership positions in their communities. The founder of the line was Yitsḥak Krakover (1650–1705), rabbi of the city of Brody from about the year 1690. His children were called by the name Babad, an acronym for Bene Av Bet Din (Children of the Head of the Rabbinic Court); in state records they are referred to by the name Rabinowitz. Some of Krakover’s sons were merchants; two of them, Mordekhai (d. 1752) and Ya‘akov Yokel (d. 1748), were communal leaders in Brody in the first half of the eighteenth century, as were a number of their descendants.

From the beginning of the eighteenth century, various members of the Babad family served as rabbis of the city of Tarnopol. The first to hold this position was Yehoshu‘a Heshel, son of the founder of the dynasty, who held this position intermittently between 1711 and 1750. In 1792, another member of the family, Shemu’el Falkenfeld (1737–1806), was appointed to the position; in 1801, he was replaced by his cousin, similarly named Yehoshu‘a Heshel Babad (1754–1839). The latter had been a rabbi in several communities in Galicia; he then held the post in Tarnopol for almost 40 years, until 1837. In 1828, Yehoshu‘a attempted to move to the Polish city of Lublin, but he fell into a dispute with some communal leaders there who were not pleased with his Hasidic inclinations. They arranged for him to be removed from his post a short time after his arrival, on the grounds that he had not obtained a permit from Galician authorities to settle across the border.

Yehoshu‘a Babad was a well-known rabbinic authority who enjoyed fame and prestige during his lifetime, especially after the publication of his book of responsa and novellae, Sefer Yehoshu‘a, in 1829. He opposed the growing circle of maskilim in Tarnopol and polemicized against their patron, Yosef Perl. In 1830, Babad became ill and in 1838 was replaced as rabbi, still during his lifetime, by the maskil Shelomoh Yehudah Rapoport (known as Shir).

Control of the community’s rabbinate returned in 1857 to Yehoshu‘a’s grandson, Yosef Babad (1801–1874), who remained in that position until the year of his death. He devoted most of his time to Torah study—with a very restricted, but loyal, circle of students—and remained out of the limelight; almost never intervening in communal affairs and issuing few halakhic rulings directed outside of Tarnopol. Succumbing to pressure from his disciples, Yosef Babad anonymously published a scholarly work, Minḥat ḥinukh (1869), in which he discussed the 613 biblical commandments, following their order in the Sefer ha-ḥinukh, sometimes ascribed to Aharon ha-Levi of Barcelona. Minḥat ḥinukh is today recognized as a signal achievement of nineteenth-century rabbinic scholarship.

Following Yosef Babad’s death, first his son Shim‘on Babad (1839–1909) and then his grandson Yehoshu‘a Heshel Babad (1867–1919) were appointed to replace him; they, in turn, were succeeded by David Menaḥem Munish Babad (1865–1937) and Yehoshu‘a Heshel Babad (1892–1942). Other members of the family served as rabbis and rabbinical judges in the communities of Zbaraż, Mikulińce, and Śniatyn from the middle of the nineteenth century.

Suggested Reading

Eliyahu Amsel, Toldot ha-minḥat ḥinukh (New York, 1995/96); Nathan Michael Gelber, ‘Arim ve-imahot be-Yisra’el, vol. 6, Toldot yehude Brodi (Jerusalem, 1955), pp. 82–88; Nathan Michael Gelber, “Toldot yehude Tarnopol,” in Entsiklopedyah shel galuyot, vol. 3, Tarnopol, cols. 21–108 (Jerusalem, 1955), see esp. cols. 30–35; Me’ir Vunder, “Ba’bad,” in Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 1, cols. 358–411 (Jerusalem, 1978).



Translated from Hebrew by David Strauss