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Ganzfried, Shelomoh ben Yosef

(1804–1886), Hungarian rabbi and author. Born in Ungvár and orphaned at the age of eight, Shelomoh Ganzfried was raised by the chief rabbi of that city, Tsevi Hirsh Heller, and later followed him to Bonyhad. After his marriage he turned to commerce, but the failure of his business drew him to a rabbinical career.

Ganzfried’s first book, Keset ha-sofer (The Scribe’s Inkhorn; 1835), written while he was still in business, was on the halakhic aspects of inscribing Torah scrolls, phylacteries, and mezuzahs by hand. The preeminent rabbinical authority Mosheh Sofer (the Ḥatam Sofer) enthusiastically endorsed the book, added a commentary, and determined that the text was mandatory reading for every sofer setam (copyist of Jewish holy books). Ganzfried later added a complementary section, “Lishkat ha-sofer” (The Scribe’s Chamber). He also compiled and published ‘Avodat Yisra’el (Service of Israel; 1839), giving interpretations of the texts of Jewish prayers.

Ganzfried began serving as rabbi of Brezewicz in 1843; in 1849 he was designated as rabbi and dayan (rabbinical court judge) of Ungvár. His most famous work is the Kitsur [Abridged] Shulḥan ‘arukh (1864), a text that summarizes, in simple, straightforward language, the main practical religious commandments to be observed in everyday life. Ganzfried states in his introduction that his primary sources, in addition to Yosef Karo’s Shulḥan ‘arukh itself, were the halakhic works of the rabbis Ya‘akov Lorbeerbaum of Lissa (Leszno), Shneur Zalman of Liady, and Avraham Danzig, and whenever their opinions divided, he concurred with the majority ruling.

The Kitsur Shulḥan ‘arukh was very popular during Ganzfried’s lifetime; indeed, it was one of the most widely accepted halakhic books for the religious public. Dozens of editions were printed, and the book was translated more than once into English, Yiddish, French, German, and Hungarian. Various commentaries on the Kitsur were written as well—although Ganzfried had opposed this, as he wished to retain the concise format of his original version.

Between December 1868 and February 1869, Ganzfried attended the Jewish Congress in Buda as a delegate. In an open letter to the participants, he displayed his uncompromising opposition to the Neolog (moderate Reform) movement, objected to the establishment of a rabbinical seminary in Hungary, and advocated the separation of Orthodox communities from the “general” Jewish communities.

Ganzfried also published books on the laws of ritual slaughter (Torat zevaḥ; 1849), on mikveh (ritual bath) laws (initially titled Perat ve-Ḥidekel and later changed to Leḥem ve-simlah; 1861), and on entering names in Jewish writs of divorce (Ohole shem; 1878). He wrote interpretations and commentaries on the Talmud tractates Bava’ metsi‘a’ (lost) and Bava’ batra’ (Pene Shelomoh; 1846), and a commentary (in a somewhat homiletic style) on the Torah (Apiryon; 1864). Some of his compositions remained in manuscript, including an interpretation of the book Ḥaye adam by Avraham Danzig, a Hebrew grammar textbook, and a commentary on the Zohar.

Two years before Ganzfried’s death, a harsh critique against his books, mostly against his rulings in Ohole shem, was written anonymously by Rabbi Mordekhai Eli‘ezer Weber (Milḥemet ḥovah; 1882). Ganzfried fought back, in no less aggressive a tone (Mikhseh la-ohel; published as an appendix to the Kitsur, 1884). The stormy debate that resulted distressed him in the final years of his life.

Suggested Reading

Jack E. Friedman, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (Northvale, N.J., 2000); Chaim Tchernowitz (Rav Tza’ir), Toldot ha-poskim (New York, 1947), pp. 288–290; Yitsḥak Naḥum Weiss, “Toldot zekenenu ha-ga’on ha-tsadik Rabi Shelomoh Ganzfried” in Kitsur she’elot u-teshuvot Ḥatam Sofer (Brooklyn, N.Y., 2000).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann