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Judah Leib Pukhovitser

PUKHOVITSER, JUDAH LEIB (c. 1630–after 1700), rabbi, scholar, and preacher in Lithuania, Poland, and Germany. His father had settled in Pinsk by the end of the 1620s. Judah Leib studied under Naphtali b. Isaac Katz, the rabbi of Pinsk (1639–44). His surname appears to have been derived from the townlet of Pukhovichi, near Minsk. In 1659, when he was rabbi of *Bykhov, he was an eyewitness to the conquest of the town by Muscovite soldiers, who massacred the Jews and killed one of his daughters. After 1667 Pukhovitser returned to his native Pinsk where he acted as rabbi and preacher. From time to time he left Pinsk, preaching in the communities of Pinsk province and the large communities of Lithuania and Poland. In 1681–82 he stayed in Frankfurt on the Oder, where he published his homiletic works in two parts, Keneh Ḥokhmah and Derekh Ḥokhmah. His work Divrei Hakhamim (in two parts) on Shulḥan Arukh was published in Hamburg (1692–93), and Kevod Ḥakhamim in Venice (1699–1700). Leaving Venice, he went to Jerusalem, where he died after 1700.

Pukhovitser lived during a period which saw tremendous changes in the lives of the Jews of Poland and Lithuania as a result of the massacres of 1648–49 and 1666–67. One of the fundamentals of his homiletic teaching is that the study of the Torah for its own sake must lead to good deeds and repentance. In his sermons, he urged that battei midrash in which Torah would be permanently studied should be maintained and every Jew obliged to fix regular times for Torah study; he thus gave a great impetus to the formation of study groups in Lithuania. Criticizing the prevailing methods of study in the ḥadarim and yeshivot, he called for a gradual progression from easier subjects to more difficult ones. He also attacked the situation which prevented the poor from studying in the yeshivot and demanded that several well-established members of the community provide for the upkeep of a Torah student. At the same time he condemned the method of study based on pilpul. Pukhovitser's works are imbued with kabbalistic motifs, containing many Lurianic elements. In a letter to the scholars of Jerusalem (Hamburg, 1692), he developed the idea that the future redemption of Israel would be effected by the community of Jerusalem when it had reached the degree of kenishtaḥada ("a unified community").


E. Pines, Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu (1753); Ḥ.N. Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, 1 (1888), 49–50; 2 (1893), 122; Frumkin-Rivlin, 2 (1928), 88ff.; A. Ya'ari, Meḥkerei Sefer (1958), 102–3; idem, Ta'alumat Sefer (1954), 17–21; G. Scholem, in: Beḥinot, 8 (1955), 79–95; A. Shochat, in: Ha-Ḥinnukh, 28 (1956), 410–2; M. Benayahu, in: Sefunot, 3–4 (1960), 134; I. Tishby, Netivei Emuna u-Minut (1964), 110ff.

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