ROKEAḤ or ROKAḤ (Landau), ELAZAR BEN SHMELKE


ROKEAḤ or ROKAḤ (Landau), ELAZAR BEN SHMELKE (1665–1741), rabbi. Rokaḥ was born in Cracow, and after serving as rabbi in Rakov (1705) and Tarnow (1709), he was appointed av bet din (c. 1714) and subsequently rabbi of Brody. The Jewish community of Brody flourished greatly during this period. It possessed a Klaus, which was composed of kabbalists and talmudic scholars, and during his period of office, the first group of adherents of *Israel Ba'al Shem Tov was established in Brody. At this time also a considerable number of scholars from Brody and the neighborhood, such as R. *Abraham Gershon of Kutow and R. *Pereẓ b. Moses, immigrated to Ereẓ Israel.

In 1735 Rokaḥ accepted a call to Amsterdam, despite the violent controversy which had raged there since the death of the previous incumbent, R. Abraham Judah of Halberstadt. Rokaḥ was very well received, and a medallion was even struck in his honor, which roused the antagonism of R. Jacob *Emden. This was not the only dispute which surrounded him, and as a result, in 1740 he decided to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. He settled in Safed, where he became the head of the small Ashkenazi community, applying himself to their immediate needs to such an extent that they accorded him the title "the Nasi of Ereẓ Israel," which was given to those who devoted themselves to the support of the yishuv in the country.

Rokaḥ was a determined and unwearying opponent of every sign of the Shabbatean heresy. While still in Brody, he violently attacked Moses Ḥayyim *Luzzatto, whom he accused of this heresy, and gave his approval to the banning of his works. In Safed he became so involved in a conflict with a group of Shabbateans there that he thought of emigrating from Ereẓ Israel, but he died suddenly exactly a year after his arrival here.

With his death the position of the Ashkenazi community deteriorated and they appealed for help to the *Council of Four Lands, mentioning the great help which Rokaḥ had obtained for them as a result of his contacts with Poland and Amsterdam.

Among Rokaḥ's works are Ma'aseh Roke'aḥ on the composition of the Mishnah (Amsterdam, 1740) and on the Pentateuch (Lemberg, 1850), and Arba'ah Turei Even (Lemberg, 1789).

[Jacob Barnai]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.