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Mosheh Me’ir ben El‘azar Perles of Prague

(1666–1739), communal scribe, preacher, author, and burial society official; a descendant of Yehudah Löw (Maharal of Prague) and an ancestor of El‘azar Fleckeles. A native of Prague, Me’ir Perles studied under Avraham Gombiner (the “Magen Avraham”) in Kalisz. He traveled through Germany and Holland, working for Samson Wertheimer (a court Jew and rabbi in Vienna) and remaining under his patronage after returning to Prague.

Two books by Perles remain extant. The first, Megilat sefer (1710), is a commentary on the biblical book of Esther. In his introduction, Perles recounts difficulties he faced in the winter of 1709 when weather trapped him in a small Austrian village during Purim and the preceding Sabbath. Unable to fulfill the commandment to read the biblical portion of Amalek from a Torah scroll, Perles wrote Megilat sefer as a remembrance of that event. A second text, Megilat yuḥasin, was commissioned by Perles’s relative Yesha‘yah Katz. It was written in 1727, first published in the back of Mosheh Katz’s Mateh Mosheh (1745), and republished many times. In this book, Perles outlines the family trees of Maharal and Maharal’s son-in-law Yitsḥak Katz, interweaving tales about them and their families. Megilat yuḥasin is one of the earliest sources for legends of the Maharal, and is notable for its absence of stories of Maharal as creator of the Golem. Another work by Perles, Torah or, is a commentary on Genesis and the first part of Exodus, and is preserved in manuscript, as are several sermons and other items. He wrote additional homiletical works that did not survive. As a scribe, Perles recopied the regulations of Prague’s burial society, which had been destroyed by a fire in 1689.

Perles’s brother David, a cantor, wrote an elegy in Yiddish on the death of Emperor Leopold I (1705). A son, Aharon, wrote Sefer tohorat Aharon (1722), a guide for removing forbidden fat from kosher animals, framed as a commentary to Seder ha-nikur and incorporated within Yitsḥak ben Aba Mari’s Sefer ha-‘itur. Another son, Mosheh, wrote Mishmeret ha-bayit (1739), a collection of ethical sermons to which Perles added a poetic introduction. Additional children included daughters Gittel and Miriam and a son, Eliyah, who was also a scribe.

Suggested Reading

Simon Hock and David Kaufmann, Mishpeḥot kehilat kodesh Prag: ‘Al-pi matsevotehen (Pressburg, 1892), pp. 280–282; David Kaufmann, “Der Stammbaum des Eleasar Fleckeles: Eine Ahnenprobe Moritz Hartmanns,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 37 (1893): 378–392, includes original source material published as Hebrew appendixes; Vladimír Sadek, “The MSS Collections of the State Jewish Museum in Prague: Manuscript Works by Jewish Scholars in Bohemia and Moravia, 18th–19th Centuries,” Judaica bohemiae 8 (1972): 16–35.