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Mintz, Moses ben Isaac

MINTZ, MOSES BEN ISAAC (15th century), German talmudist. Moses was born in Mainz sometime between 1420 and 1430. He studied under his father, Israel *Isserlein, and Jacob *Weil. During his extensive travels, he visited various towns, investigating their customs and communal regulations. His first rabbinate was at Wuerzburg where he served for a short time, until the expulsion of the Jews from the town in 1453. He proceeded to Mainz, where he stayed until the expulsion of 1462. From there he went to Landau and in 1464 to Ulm. In 1469 he was appointed rabbi of Bamberg. Four years later he went to Nuremberg and the following year to Posen. While there he decided to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel; he had already made all final preparations when for some reason he had to abandon his plan, and it appears that he remained in Posen until the end of his life. The year of his death is unknown.

Mintz's influence spread in Germany and beyond. He was involved in communal affairs and individuals, including outstanding scholars, as well as communities turned to him with their problems and disputes. Concern for the community and its general welfare was of paramount importance to him. He directed a yeshivah and engaged in discussions with his pupils. In 1456–57 R. Seligman Bing Oppenheim and R. Menahem Bachrach convened a council in *Bingen for the purpose of enacting takkanot that would be binding on other communities also – a step which did not meet with the approval of the rabbis of Germany. Despite his esteem for Seligman Bing, Mintz strongly opposed them and the takkanot were not adopted. Similarly, when he felt that Bing had been guilty of faulty judgment, he did not hesitate to criticize him, though there was nothing personal in his criticism. In another dispute in Italy, when Liva Landa placed a ban upon the rabbis of Padua, including Mintz's cousin Isaac Mintz, Moses agreed to place Landa under a ban although he was a venerable scholar and teacher, "unless he withdraw his ban and appease the rabbis of Padua," and at the same time he appealed to the rabbis of Padua "to waive their rights and show respect for a sage." Should Landa remain obdurate, however, "then the ban on him is to remain in force." Moses concludes: "I do this neither for my own honor nor for the honor of my family, but for the sake of Heaven to prevent the increase of strife in Israel." Moses was an accomplished ḥazzan and conducted the services on the high holidays. His best-known pupil is *Joseph b. Moses, author of the Leket Yosher.

Moses Mintz's fame rests on his responsa (krakow, 1617); the 119 published, chiefly on civil and matrimonial law, abound in references to local customs and takkanot, ancient and new, including those ascribed to *Gershom b. Judah of Mainz and takkanot ShUM (Speyer, Worms, and Mainz). The index lists 120 responsa, but the last one has been omitted from all editions. This may be because of its subject, which the author describes as: "The stern words I wrote to the seven elders of the Regensburg community. It lays down that one who has a right of settlement in a community and leaves, subsequently to return, has not lost his previous right… And it explains that a scholar should not take advantage of his status to act haughtily." The main source for Moses' biography is the responsa, where it is related that his wife Minlan was "crowned with the crown of the Torah and piety." They also include many local takkanot introduced by Mintz, some of a social character, including rulings on the vestments a reader should don when conducting the service, how a man should conduct himself during prayer, etc.

Of special value are three responsa in manuscript entitled "The Three Branches," which are an important source for the history of the yeshivot of Germany in the 15th century. They depict the woeful condition of pupil-teacher relations, which had broken down as a result of the arrogance of the teachers and their exaggerated concern for their dignity, as well as because of the pupils' desire for greater freedom of activity and the acquisition of social status. The laymen, too, did not accept the authority of the rabbis and disregarded their rulings. The responsa reflect other aspects of the life of the Jews in Germany: their economic, social, family, and religious life, study, the attitude of the Jews to gentiles, persecutions, and expulsions, etc.


Joseph b. Moses, Leket Yosher, ed. by J. Freimann, 2 (1904), 45 no. 103 (introd.); Guedemann, Gesch Erz, 3 (1888), index; M.A. Szulwas, Die Juden in Wuerzburg (1934), 77; Tal, in: Sinai, 40 (1957), 228–47, 278–92.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.