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Lublin, Meir ben Gedaliah

LUBLIN, MEIR BEN GEDALIAH (Maharam of Lublin; 1558–1616), Polish talmudist and halakhic authority. His acronym, MaHaRaM, stands for Morenu Ha-Rav Meir, "Our teacher, Rabbi Meir." Meir was apparently born in Lublin. His principal teacher was his father-in-law, Isaac b. David ha-Kohen Shapiro, head of the yeshivah and dayyan of Cracow. Meir's eminence in learning was such that he became the head of the yeshivah at Lublin (1582–87) at the age of 24, and before he was 30, he was appointed dayyan and head of the yeshivah at Cracow (1587–95). He was rabbi in Lemberg from about 1595 until 1613, when he was appointed rabbi as well as head of the yeshivah at Lublin, where he died. Meir of Lublin was one of the greatest teachers of his generation. Wherever he settled, he established a yeshivah to which numerous pupils flocked from all parts of Poland and beyond. From all over Europe rabbis turned to him with halakhic questions or problems of communal concern, or for advice. He encouraged them by stressing his readiness "to reply to anyone putting a problem to me, for in this I find pleasure" (responsum no. 18).

In the introduction to his responsa, his son Gedaliah states that Meir wrote seven works, which he enumerates (see below). Only two, however, have been published. Me'ir Einei Ḥakhamim ("Illuminating the Eyes of the Wise") was published by his son Gedaliah (Venice, 1619). Regarded as a most important talmudic work and often republished, it was later printed in all editions of the Talmud. It is a commentary on most of the tractates of the Talmud and mainly centers around the statements of Rashi and the tosafists. In it Meir displays profound acumen, and although he treats the remarks of the tosafists with every respect as embodying the truth and not to be negated, he was nevertheless sometimes critical of them and emended various passages which he maintained had been wrongly inserted by copyists. His commentary, unlike the lengthy lectures he gave to his pupils, is distinguished by its brevity.

The other published work, Manhir Einei Ḥakhamim ("Enlightening the Eyes of the Wise"; ibid., 1618), containing 140 responsa, throws light on the religious, economic, and political life of the Jews of Poland and of other countries (cf. Responsa 13, 15, 40, 56, 81, 86, 118, 128, 137, et al.). These responsa reflect his method, temperament, and qualities. Although he was influenced in his halakhic decisions by French, German, and Polish scholars, he displayed independence and was critical of his predecessors. Despite the importance of the Shulḥan Arukh as a supreme halakhic authority, Meir refrained from "building the basis of any ruling upon the implications of its words, since they were not derived from a single source, but were … compiled from unconnected collections of sayings" (Responsa No. 11). On several questions, particularly in cases involving loss of money or livelihood, he adopted a lenient view (ibid. 50), and he showed concern for the status of women (ibid. 81) and for protecting the rights of widows and orphans (ibid. 109). Insistent that his decisions be accepted, he more than once declared that his opinion was "the clear truth" (ibid. 92, 111, et al.).

Although Meir, like his contemporaries, was given to casuistry in his responsa, a thread of clear thought and logic runs through all his statements. His responsa are one of the earliest sources for knowledge of the *Council of the Lands (ibid. 40, 125) to which he ascribed great importance and in whose meetings he participated on several occasions (ibid. 84, 88). Meir had hundreds of pupils, the most distinguished of them being Isaiah *Horowitz and *Joshua Heschel of Cracow. The five unpublished works mentioned in Gedaliah's introduction are Ma'or ha-Gadol, a commentary on the Arba'ah Turim of Jacob b. Asher; Ma'or ha-Katan, a commentary on Sha'arei Dura; Ner Mitzvah, on the Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (Semag) of Moses of Coucy; Torah Or, a commentary on the Pentateuch; and Or Shivat ha-Yamim. To this day, Meir's works are used to interpret the Talmud and are quoted in the application of the halakhah.


S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), 132f.; J. Loewenstein, in: Ha-Goren, 1 (1898), 39–54; S.A. Horodezky, ibid., 55–61; idem, Le-Korot ha-Rabbanut (1911), 175–82; idem, Shelosh Me'ot Shanah Shel Yahadut Polin (1946), 68–72; S.B. Nissenbaum, Le-Korot ha-Yehudim be-Lublin (1900), 31f.; Halpern, Pinkas, index; Z. Karl, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 312f.; C. Tchernowitz, Toledot ha-Posekim, 3 (1947), 120f.; I. Rivkind, in: A. Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 427f.; N. Shemen, Lublin (Yid., 1951), 365ff.; I. Rosenthal, in: Sinai, 31 (1952), 311–38; B.Z. Katz, Rabbanut, Hasidut, Haskalah, 1 (1956), 65–69; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 190f.; J. Meisl, Geschichte der Juden in Polen und Russland, 1 (1921), 312f.; Waxman, Literature, 2 (1933), 117f., 187.