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Chajes, Yitsḥak ben Avraham

(1538–ca. 1615), rabbi. The family of Yitsḥak ben Avraham Chajes probably had its origins in Provence. He was active as a rabbi in Prostějov (Prossnitz, Moravia) and in Prague, where in the 1580s he became chief rabbi and head of the yeshiva. According to David Gans (Tsemaḥ David; 1592), Chajes remained in Prague until 1584, later moving to Poland.

Chajes wrote many sermons and commentaries. Among his main works are Paḥad Yitsḥak (1573), Siaḥ Yitsḥak (1587), Pene Yitsḥak (1591), and “Kiryat arba‘” (unpublished). Paḥad Yitsḥak is a commentary on the agadah in BT Gitin concerning the destruction of the Temple. Siaḥ Yitsḥak contains a poem about Passover, to which are appended two elegies by Chajes’s son Menaḥem Monish on the fire of Poznań and on the death of Menaḥem’s brother. Pene Yitsḥak contains Chajes’s verse version, with commentary, of the Yoreh de‘ah portion of Yosef Karo’s Shulḥan ‘arukh. The Gersonides printing house in Prague also published Chajes’s Passover sermon (1584) and a Haggadah with an abridged commentary by Yitsḥak Abravanel and with Chajes’s notes in both Hebrew and Judeo-German (1590). As a scholar and teacher at the yeshiva, he followed the method of pilpul, which was widely used at the time but opposed by his contemporary, Yehudah Leib ben Betsal’el (Maharal).

Among the well-known members of Yitsḥak Chajes’s family were his sons Menaḥem Monish (who served as a rabbi in Vilna), Avraham, and Eli‘ezer. According to some sources, Chajes was Maharal’s brother-in-law.

Suggested Reading

Otto Muneles, ed., Prague Ghetto in the Renaissance Period (Prague, 1965); Otto Muneles, “Die Rabbiner der Altneuschul,” Judaica Bohemiae 5.2 (1969): 92–107; Moritz Steinschneider, Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana, vol. 2 (Berlin, 1931).



Translated from Czech by Stephen Hattersley