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Moses ben Israel Isserles

(c. 1525 - 1572)


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Moses ben Israel Isserles, considered the "Maimonides of Polish Jewry," was one of the greatest Jewish scholars of Poland. Born in Cracow, he was the great grandson of Jehiel Luria, the first Rabbi of Brisk. He studied in Lublin at the Shalom Shachna Yeshiva where he met his first wife, Schachna’s daughter. She died young, at the age of 20, and he built the Isserles (later known as the Remu) Synagogue, in her memory. Isserles remarried the sister of Joseph ben Morechai Gershon Ha-Kohen.

Isserles founded a Yeshiva in Cracow. He became a world-renowned scholar, a Posek, and was approached by many other well-known rabbis for Halachic decisions, including Joseph Caro, Solom Luria and Joseph Katz. One of his most well-known commentaries was the Mappa (the Tablecloth), a commentary on the Shulhan Arukh, written by Joseph Caro. The Shulhan Arukh focuses mainly on Sephardic rite and customs, while the Mappa emphasizes Ashkenazic customs, henceforth expanding the influence of the work to Eastern European Jewry.

Not only was Isserles well versed in Talmud, he also studied Kabbalah and Jewish mystical writings, as well as history, astronomy and Greek philosophy. Isserles is considered one of the forerunners of the Jewish enlightenment.

Isserles died in Cracow and was buried next to his synagogue. Thousands of pilgrims visited his grave annually on Lag b’Omer, until the Second World War.


Sources: Article written by Rebecca Weiner

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