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Mathias Strashun

STRASHUN, MATHIAS (Mattityahu; 1819–1885), talmudic scholar, founder of the Strashun Library. Mathias, the son of Samuel *Strashun, was born in Vilna. His family was well-to-do and at the age of 13 he married the eldest daughter of the wealthy Joseph Elijah Eliasberg and was financially independent during his whole life. According to his own testimony (Ha-Maggid, 3 (1859), 158), in his youth he already began to make marginal notes on every book he read and acquired a profound mastery of every branch of Jewish scholarship. He knew Greek and Latin, as well as Russian, Polish, and German, and had an extensive knowledge of philosophy, history, and astronomy. When H.M. *Pineles and H.S. *Slonimski had a difference of opinion on an astronomical-calendrical point, they agreed to submit the dispute to Strashun for his final decision (ibid., 12 (1868), 149). He was approached to accept the position of rabbi of Berlin but refused. Besides his scholarly activities, he was a prominent communal leader, the head of the Ẓedakah Gedolah (which in effect was the official organization of the community of Vilna) of the ḥevra kaddisha, and was responsible for the collection of funds for Ereẓ Israel. He was one of the heads of the *Mekiẓe Nirdamim society. Independent, he adopted a firm attitude and showed considerable initiative. Strashun was held in esteem by the government authorities; he was appointed to the city council of Vilna and was a member of the Vilna branch of the Russian Imperial Bank in 1869, and was decorated by the government.

Only one work by Strashun has been published, the Mattat Yah (1892), a commentary on, and annotation to, the Midrash Rabbah, edited by his friend Shalom Pludermacher, who included it in a bibliographical list of Strashun's 316 periodical publications. It was in those publications, including Pirḥei Ẓafon, Kerem Ḥemed, Ha-Maggid, and Ha-Levanon, that, generally under the title Minḥah Belulah ba-Shemen, Strashun published his researches, but mostly not under his own name, using a wide variety of noms de plume, either initials, or such names as Ani Ve-Hu, Ve-Hu Ve-Hu, etc. They also appeared in the Israelitische Literaturblatt (1883) and his annotations to the Midrash were published in A. *Wuensche's German translation of the Midrash Rabbah. His selected writings appeared in Hebrew in 1969.


D. Radner, in: Keneset ha-Gedolah, 1 (1890), 3rd pagination, 25f.; Ha-Asif, 2 (1886), 45–47; 3 (1887), 122; S. Pludermacher, "Zikkaron la-Ḥakham," in: M. Strashun, Mattat Yah (1892); K. Lunski, in: Y. Yeshurin (ed.), Vilne; A Zamlbukh … (1935), 273–87; J.L. Maimon, Middei Ḥodesh be-Ḥodsho, 6 (1960), 111ff.; Z. Haravy, Le-Ḥeker Mishpeḥot (1953), 47f.; idem, in: Aresheth, 3 (1961), 426–9; idem, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, 3 (1965), 345–55; S. Federbush, Ḥikrei Yahadut (1965), 319–24; M. Berger, in: Z. Scharfstein (ed.), Ha-Ḥinnukh ve-ha-Tarbut ha-Ivrit be-Eiropah Bein Shetei Milḥamot ha-Olam (1957), 511–9; Ḥ. Lunski, Me-ha-Getto ha-Vilna'i (1921), 54ff.; Ḥ.N. Maggid-Steinschneider, Ir Vilna, 1 (1900), 283–7.

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