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Löw, El‘azar

(1758–1837), rabbi and yeshiva head. El‘azar Löw was born in Wodzisław, Poland to a rabbinical family; his father, Aryeh Leib, was a wealthy merchant. El‘azar studied with his grandfather Pinḥas Zelig, author of ‘Ateret paz, until the age of 16. After his marriage the following year, he was elected a dayan (rabbinic judge) of his native town. At age 20 he was appointed rabbi of Pilica, Poland, where he served for two decades. In 1800, he became the rabbi of the Moravian community of Triesch (now Ťrešt’), at the recommendation of Moravia’s chief rabbi, Mordekhai Benet.

A dynamic personality, Löw moved about the Habsburg monarchy, serving various communities: Pilsen-Klattau in Bohemia (1812–1815); Triesch once again (1815–1821); Liptószentmiklós in Hungary (today Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia; 1821–1830); and finally Abaujszántó (1830–1837). In all his posts, he led yeshivas that attracted many students; some of his written works are based on his lectures. His approach tended toward rational analysis rather than pilpul (dialectic) style.

Shemen rokeaḥ, the first book by which Löw is popularly known, was published before he was 30, and became a standard work of rabbinical literature. Unusual at the time, he published another dozen books in his lifetime ranging from homiletics, commentaries on the codes (Yoreh de‘ah),responsa, and novellae. Löw played an important role in the battle against religious reform. He vehemently opposed the Reform rabbi Aharon Chorin, and included stringent views against the temple in Hamburg in Eleh divre ha-berit (1819).

After the death of Löw’s wife in 1792, he married the daughter of Avraham Yitsḥak Katz, the rabbi of Pińczów and author of Keter kehunah. Löw’s numerous descendants played important roles throughout the Habsburg monarchy. Most notable of his children was Binyamin Ze’ev (Volf) Löw, known by the work Sha‘are Torah and respected in his position as rabbi and head of yeshivas in Kolín and Verbo.

Binyamin Löw’s son and successor as rabbi of Verbo was Yirmiyahu (Jeremiás) Löw, who went on to be the rabbi of Sátoraljaújhely (Újhely). Although he led the Orthodox camp vociferously in the 1860s, he ended his career as a rabbi of what is termed the Status Quo community of that town. Yirmiyahu’s son El‘azar succeeded his father and later was the rabbi of Ungvár; he was possibly the most important Hungarian Orthodox rabbi at the end of the nineteenth century. A great-grandson of El‘azar Löw, Leopold (Aryeh Leib) Lipschitz, rabbi of Abaújszántó, went on to head the nationwide Orthodox organization in Hungary.

Lipschitz’s brother, Hermann Lipschütz, by contrast veered toward modern Orthodoxy, serving as rabbi of Status Quo communities such as Debrecen and Marosvásárhely. A leading role among Bohemian Jewry in the mid-nineteenth century was assumed by another grandson of El‘azar Löw, Albert Kohn, the rabbi of Raudnitz. Kohn’s half-brother, Moses Bloch, served first as rabbi of Leipnik and later taught Talmud at the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest. Other descendants were the Münz and Singer families of modern rabbis and scholars; two prominent Hungarian intellectuals, Lajos and Menyhért Palágyi, who were Jewish activists during the Law of Reception; and Nathan Birnbaum, the early Zionist, Yiddishist, and Agudas Yisroel leader.

Suggested Reading

Yitsḥak Yosef Kohen, Ḥakhme Hungaryah veha-sifrut ha-toranit bah (Jerusalem, 1996/97), pp. 217–223; Me’ir Vunder, “R. Aryeh Leb Mints,” in Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 3, cols. 855–857 (Jerusalem, 1986).