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Avraham ben Avigdor

(d. 1542), rabbi. The inscription on Avraham ben Avigdor’s tombstone in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague states that he was a chief rabbi and head of Prague’s yeshiva for more than 20 years. Avraham ben Avigdor is also mentioned in the memorial book of the Altneuschul (fol. 20a) and in David Gans’s chronicle Tsemaḥ David (1592). In the Prague municipal register, Avraham is cited as the author of a legal verdict in a dispute between two parties and as a witness involving the purchase of realty. His name, and the fact that he wrote a liturgical poem, has led to the unsupported view that he was a descendant of Avigdor Kara.

In 1534, Avraham ben Avigdor supported Yosef Rosheim, who had come to Prague to propose new communal statutes (takanot) to help the Jewish community resolve internal conflicts. When Jews were expelled from Prague in 1541, Avraham was one of 15 community members allowed to remain; the Czech version of his name—Abraham Viktorinův—appears at the top of a list of Jews allowed safe conduct. His name is on a similar list for 1544–1545, although he was no longer alive. Another list from 1546 cites his son Tsadok—“Sadoch, orphan son of master Abraham.”

The expulsion of 1541 inspired Avraham to write the elegy “Ana Elohe Avraham,” which became part of the collection of the Prague Jewish community’s penitential prayers (seliḥot) recited on Yom Kippur. Among his extant literary works is a four-volume commentary on Ya‘akov ben Asher’s Arba‘ah turim, the first volume of which (Oraḥ ḥayim) was published in Prague in 1540 (a complete series, titled Turim, was issued in Augsburg in the same year). While Avraham oversaw the publication of the Prague edition at the Gersonides printing house, his pupil Ya‘akov ben Barukh was in charge of the Augsburg edition. Another work, mentioned by David Gans, is a supercommentary on Rashi, cited by Shim‘on ben Yitsḥak Ashenburg (or Aschenburg; in Devek tov; 1590) and Yehudah Leib ben ‘Ovadyah Eilenburg (in Minḥat Yehudah; 1609). A commentary on the siddur and maḥzor according to the Polish rite, produced in 1549–1550, is also attributed to him.

Suggested Reading

Otto Muneles, “Die Rabbiner der Altneuschul,” Judaica Bohemiae 5.2 (1969): 92–107; Otto Muneles, Ketovot mi-bet-ha-‘almin ha-yehudi he-‘atik bi-Prag (Jerusalem, 1988); Leopold Zunz, Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie (1865; rpt., Hildesheim, Ger., 1966).



Translated from Czech by Stephen Hattersley