Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Glasner, Mosheh Shemu’el

(1856–1924), rabbi and a founder of religious Zionism in Hungary. A great-grandson of Mosheh Sofer (author of the Ḥatam Sofer), Mosheh Shemu’el Glasner was the son of Avraham Glasner, who served as the rabbi of Klausenburg (Hun., Kolozsvár; Rom., Cluj) between 1863 and 1877. Following his father’s death, Glasner was chosen to succeed him at the age of 21.

In 1884, a Neolog community was formed in Klausenberg. The town’s Orthodox circles were extremely opposed to this development. During Glasner’s long term of service as the Orthodox spiritual leader, he also had to deal with the frequent intervention of Hasidim into community affairs, another factor that fueled tensions between different religious factions. Glasner was adamant in his refusal to change his viewpoints.

In his approach to Talmudic learning and halakhah, Glasner assigned the utmost importance to relying exclusively on legal consideration without accepting elements that transcended human reason. He also respected the independence of authorities to interpret and understand halakhah; legal scholars could pass judgment at their own discretion, based on accepted rules. The fundamental elements of Glasner’s method constituted an innovation, and even lay the foundations for a scientific approach to religious law. Like other prominent modern interpreters of halakhah, Glasner opposed “hair-splitting” pilpul (discussions of Talmudic meanings). He bemoaned the absence of analytical and critical skills and regarded this deficiency as an outcome of the exile “that eliminated our common sense and critical powers” (Dor revi‘i, p. 4b).

Glasner insisted on taking into account the source of particular halakhic rules; in granting or prohibiting permission, he drew distinctions between judgments originating in the Torah and rules that were rabbinical prescriptions. He was called upon to address halakhic issues such as civil marriage; in so doing, he explained that in a legal judgment “the exoteric and esoteric are (two) distinct issues” (introduction to Kuntres or bahir, 1908). This distinction, in his view, marked a principal difference between the thinking of the Hasidim and Misnagdim.

Glasner also believed there was a reciprocal linkage between religion and nationalism. He regarded the life of a people in its homeland as a natural state, and felt that “only there, as a free people and dwellers of the land, will we be able to develop and become a wise, clever people, a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Glasner, 1961, p. 67). In his view, a member of the Jewish people could not be a member of any other nation. He held these opinions within the confines of Transylvania after World War I, when Jews were granted the right of national self-determination. In his outlook, Glasner was a “political Zionist,” though his sympathy for the concept of a homeland for the Jewish people did not begin here but was deeply rooted in the essence of his scholarly religious outlook.

Suggested Reading

Yaakov Elman, “Dor Revi‘i, A Commentary on Tractate Chulin,” Tradition 25.3 (1991): 63–69; David Glasner, “Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner, the ‘Dor Revi‘i,’” Tradition 32.1 (1997): 40–56; Moses Samuel Glasner, “Ha-Tsiyonut be-or ha-emunah,” in Torah u-melukhah, ed. Simon Federbusch, pp. 63–82 (Jerusalem, 1961); Moses Samuel Glasner, She’elot u-teshuvot Dor revi‘i (Jerusalem, 1976); Moses Samuel Glasner, Dor revi‘i: ‘Al masekhet Ḥulin (1921; 3rd rev. ed., Jerusalem, 2003).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann