(1690 - 1764)
Jonathan Eibeschutz was born
at the end of the 17th century in Poland.
He was a child prodigy in Talmud.
He settled in Prague in 1715 and became head of the yeshivah and
a famous preacher. In Prague, Eibeschutzhe
had many contacts with priests and the intelligentsia,
debating religious topics and matters of faith
with them. He became friendly with Cardinal
Hassebauer and also discussed religious questions
with him. Through the help of the cardinal,
Eibeschutz received permission to print the
Talmud with the omission of all passages contradicting
the principles of Christianity. This angered
the rabbis of Prague, and they revoked the printing license.
The people of Prague held
Eybeschuetz in high esteem and he was considered
second only to David Oppenheim. In 1725, he
was among the Prague rabbis who excommunicated
the Shabbatean sect. In 1736, Eibeschutz was appointed dayyan
of Prague. He became rabbi of Metz in 1741.
In 1750, he was elected rabbi of the "Three
Communities:" Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek
Eibeschutz was considered a great preacher,
and his pilpul approach to Talmud was highly
In 1751, a huge controversy
broke out between Eibeschutz and Jacob Emden,
which affected most of German
Jewry. Like Eibeschutz, Emden was a great
talmudist, He had applied for the rabbinic
post where Eibeschutz served. Eibeschutz had
apparently written some amulets while rabbi
of Metz. Emden analyzed them and declared
that they were Shabbatean. A huge uproar ensued,
and Emden had to flee to Amsterdam for a while.
Eibeschutz denied the accusation, which in
any case could not be proved with certainty.
The majority of the greatest rabbis in Poland, Moravia, and Bohemia,
as well as the leaders of the Three Communities supported him, either
because the accusation was utterly incredible, or because they feared
the repercussions of a scandal if their leading rabbi was found to be
Emden disregarded these considerations vehemently. He fought his opponent
and his numerous supporters by writing numerous books and pamphlets.
The controversy was so divisive that both sides appealed to the authorities
in Hamburg and the government of Denmark for a judicial ruling. The
king favored Eibeschutz and ordered new elections, which resulted in
The controversy just wouldn't go away, however. After
his reelection as rabbi of the Three Communities, some rabbis of Frankfurt,
Amsterdam, and Metz challenged him to appear before them to reply to
the suspicions raised against him. Eibeschutz refused, and when the
matter was brought before the Council of the Four Lands in 1753, the
council issued a ruling in his favor.
In 1760 the quarrel broke out once more when some Shabbatean elements
were discovered among the students of Eibeschutz' yeshivah. At the same
time his younger son, Wolf, presented himself as a Shabbatean prophet,
with the result that the yeshivah was closed.
The great bitterness this controversy stemmed precisely
from his being recognized as a true master of the Torah.
It was hard to believe that a man who had himself signed a cherem against
the Shabbateans could have secretly held their beliefs. Scholars continue
to argue both sides of the question.
Sources: Gates of Jewish