WORMSER, SECKEL


WORMSER, SECKEL (Isaac Loeb; 1768–1847), talmudist and kabbalist, born in Michelstadt in Hessen. He received his talmudic education in Frankfurt on the Main, in the yeshivah of Nathan Adler, and followed in his footsteps, accepting a rigorously ascetic "hasidic" way of life and turning to kabbalistic studies. After his first marriage he returned, about 1790, to Michelstadt where he maintained a yeshivah for many years and served, at first unofficially, until 1822 as a recognized district rabbi. About 1810, after the death of his wife, he lived for some time in Mannheim. For years, his "ḥasidic" behavior and extreme vegetarianism created considerable tension between him and the majority of his small community, but his reputation as a master of occult powers spread rapidly and Wormser became known throughout Germany as the "Ba'al Shem of Michelstadt." He denied any such supernatural power but agreed to receive people who sought his advice and guidance, giving them natural remedies, specifics, and sometimes amulets. He became particularly known for his treatment of lunatics. Among the Jews of southern Germany many traditions survived regarding his miraculous cures and other feats. He studied German philosophy and was particularly attracted by Schelling. In 1825 his house and large library were destroyed by fire. Of his talmudic writings, preserved by his descendants, almost nothing was published. A catalogue of his second library is preserved in Ms. Heidenheim 206, in the Central Library in Zurich.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Wormser, Das Leben und Wirken des zu Michelstadt verstorbenen Rabbiners Zeckel Loeb Wormser (1853); H. Ehrmann (Judaeus), Der Baalschem von Michelstadt: kulturgeschichtliche Erzaehlung (1922; contains also memories about him from a contemporary manuscript).

[Gershom Scholem]


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