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Heller, Aryeh Leib ha-Kohen

(1745–1813), rabbi and Talmudist. Aryeh Leib ha-Kohen Heller was born in Kałusz, Galicia. Known as the Ketsot ha-Ḥoshen after his famous work, he served as rabbi in Rożniątów and in 1788 was appointed district rabbi in Stryj, where he served until his death. Two of his sons also were rabbis, and his daughter married the Galician maskil Shelomoh Yehudah Rapoport, the rabbi of Tarnopol and Prague. Heller was a fierce opponent of the Hasidic movement.

During his lifetime, Heller was widely known as the author of three works of halakhic and Talmudic analysis, and his works eventually were included among the principal texts studied in the Polish and Lithuanian yeshivas of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many erudite scholars perceived Heller’s essays as a paragon of halakhic analysis, fit for imitation. His writing was unique in its attempt to define theoretically the internal principles of the philosophy of Jewish law while at the same time demonstrating an impressive expertise in religious literature, even as he maintained his own independent logical deductions and explanations.

Heller’s first and most celebrated text is Ketsot ha-ḥoshen on the Shulḥan ‘arukh, Ḥoshen mishpat (2 parts; 1788 and 1796). Two Galician rabbis responded to the work in the years following its publication: David Buchner of Brody in his Ahavat David vi-Yehonatan (1801), and Ya‘akov Lorbeerbaum of Kałusz in his Netivot ha-mishpat (1809). Although Buchner’s criticism stemmed from personal reasons, the debate with Lorbeerbaum was an academic debate between the two learned scholars. Heller treated Lorbeerbaum with respect and replied to the latter work in his Meshovev netivot, published posthumously in 1815.

Heller’s next two works also achieved great repute: Shev shema‘teta, a scholarly discussion of seven Talmudic issues (1804); and Avne milu’im on the Shulḥan ‘arukh, Even ha-‘ezer (written in 1790; the first part was published in 1815, and the second in 1826). Critiques and notes to his works continued to be written well into the twentieth century and include Mosheh Aryeh Leib Shapira’s Taba‘ot zahav (1956) on Ketsot ha-ḥoshen; Ḥayim Lopian’s Ravkha shema‘teta (1939) on Shev shema‘teta; and Ḥayim Pinḥas Sheinberg’s Milu’e even (1974) on Avne milu’im.

Suggested Reading

Menaḥem Mendel Gerlits, “Bi-Ketseh ha-yeri‘ah,” in Ketsot ha-Ḥoshen ha-shalem: ‘Im penim ha-Shulḥan ‘arukh, by Aryeh Leib ben Joseph ha-Kohen Heller, vol. 1, pp. 13–60 (Jerusalem, 1988); Mayer Herskovics (Me’ir Hershkovits), Shene ha-keruvim (Jerusalem, 2000), pp. 225–300; Louis Jacobs, “Rabbi Aryeh Laib Heller’s Theological Introduction to His Shev Shema‘teta,Modern Judaism 1.2 (1981): 184–216; Chaim Tchernowitz, Toldot ha-poskim, vol. 3 (New York, 1947/48), pp. 246–258; Me’ir Vunder, “R. Aryeh Leb ha-Kohen,” in Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 3, cols. 292–300 (Jerusalem, 1986).



Translated from Hebrew by David Strauss