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Kluger, Shelomoh ben Yehudah

(1785–1869), Orthodox leader, rabbi, dayan (religious court judge), magid (preacher), and halakhic decisor. Shelomoh ben Yehudah Kluger was born in Komarów, Poland, and studied in nearby Zamość. Orphaned in 1801, he moved to Rawa Ruska in Galicia, where he married the daughter of one of the lay leaders of the community. From 1810 to 1820, Kluger officiated as rabbi in Kulików, Galicia, and in Józefów, Poland. In 1820 he was appointed dayan in the Galician community of Brody, where he then served as chief judge and magid for almost 50 years, until his death.

During the first 10 years of his term of office in Brody, Kluger relied on the support of prominent members of the communal leadership, including the learned businessman Efrayim Zalman Margoliot; the head of the community, Yudel Natanson; and others. In the early 1830s, however, many of his supporters died, and a new generation of wealthy laymen replaced the older oligarchy. As some of them actively favored the Haskalah and moderately pro-Haskalah rabbis, Kluger struggled anew on his own to safeguard the prestige of the conservative rabbinate of Brody. He was able to enlist the help of a new elite of Orthodox philanthropists—among them Yosef Natanson (1800–1882), leader of the community from 1838. At the same time, Kluger earned a reputation outside Brody as a leading halakhic decisor.

From the mid-1840s on, Kluger began to react forcefully to perceived threats to the rabbinical establishment and the authority of religious tradition. He effectively became the leader of a group of rabbis and communal leaders who opposed the inroads made by modern culture in Galicia. One of the first confrontations in which he was involved concerned a horse-drawn hearse brought to Brody in 1844. Kluger, opposed to any change in traditional burial practice, organized a campaign (which later became violent) against the hearse; consequently, he was imprisoned for a time. He thought of leaving Brody, but in the end remained in Galicia, moving in 1845 to nearby Brzeżany, where he officiated as rabbi. Immediately after his arrival, however, he became seriously ill, and upon recovery he decided to return to Brody.

From that time on, Kluger advocated defensive, conservative policies in many areas: in his reaction to the assemblies of Reform rabbis in Germany in the mid-1840s; in a dispute over a new matzo-baking machine; regarding the question, in the 1850s, of whether a Jew was permitted to buy land and become a farmer; and so on. These early activities of Kluger and his associates anticipated the political activity of the Orthodox establishment in the 1870s and 1880s, in effect preparing the ground for later efforts and furthering the growth of organized Orthodoxy.

In 1825 Kluger published his first volume of responsa, Sefer ha-ḥayim—the first of more than 170 books, only some of which have been published. About 70 of these summarize his sermons, delivered every Sabbath from 1803 to 1866. Another 40 volumes present various novellas and commentaries on the Talmud, the Shulḥan ‘arukh, and the prayer book, along with eulogies and other works.

Kluger also wrote an exceptional number of responsa, collected in more than 60 volumes. Some were published during his lifetime; the best-known works are Tuv ta‘am va-da‘at (4 vols.; 1852–1900), Shire tohorah (1854), Shenot ḥayim (1857), and Kin’at sofrim (1861). Among the volumes published posthumously were Ha-Elef lekha Shelomoh (1910) and U-vaḥarta ba-ḥayim (1934).

Kluger responded to queries from all parts of the Habsburg Empire, Romania, and the Russian Pale of Settlement, becoming the most prominent halakhic authority of Galicia in the first half of the nineteenth century. As a charismatic and multifaceted halakhic decisor, he was involved in the relief of ‘agunot (“chained” women, who are legally barred from remarrying owing to a husband’s desertion, unproved death, or refusal to divorce), in the appointment of rabbis and religious court judges and in various questions related to ritual slaughter and slaughterers. He was much in demand as an arbitrator in communal disputes, and in confrontations between Hasidic courts.

Suggested Reading

Haim Gertner, Gevulot ha-hashpa‘ah shel rabanut Galitsyah ba-maḥatsit ha-ri’shonah shel ha-me’ah ha-tesha‘-‘esreh: R. Shlomoh Kluger ke-mikreh mivḥan (Jerusalem, 1996); Solomon ben Judah Aaron Kluger, Toldot Shelomoh (Lemberg, 1888); Meir Vunder (Wunder), Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 4, pp. 478–509 (Jerusalem, 1990).



Translated from Hebrew by David Louvish