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Bidding Information
Lot #    17206
Auction End Date    3/13/2007 11:08:46 AM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Responsa by R. Zevi Ashkenazi (Hakham Zevi)
Title (Hebrew)    ' ' '
Author    [Ms.]
City    Europe
Publication Date    17th cent.
Item of
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   [1] p., 154:192 mm., light age staining, wide margins, ink on paper, neat Ashkenazi rabbinic script, all in the Rabbi's hand, signed, not dated.
Paragraph 1    Responsa by the scion of many prominent Jewish families. The Hakham Zevi's descendants include numerous Hasidic dynasties, distinguished scholars of major European families, and leading and important rabbis. His erudite scholarship has manifested itself thru the generations.
   Responsa #47 of the Hakham Zevi by R. Zevi Hirsch b. Jacob Ashkenazi (also known as the Hakham Zevi; 16601718), rabbi and halakhist. Both his father, R. Jacob Sak, a renowned scholar, and his maternal grandfather, R. Ephraim b. Jacob ha-Kohen, had escaped from Vilna to Moravia during the 1655 Cossack uprising. It was there that R. Ashkenazi studied under them as a youth. He wrote his first responsa in 1676, about the time he was sent to the yeshiva of R. Elijah Covo in Salonika to study the Sephardi scholars' method of study. During his stay in Salonika (167678?) and Belgrade (1679), he adopted Sephardi customs and manners and, despite his Ashkenazi origin, assumed the title "hakham," the Sephardi title for a rabbi and also the name "Ashkenazi." In 1680 he returned to Ofen and continued his studies. After his wife and daughter were killed during the siege of Ofen by the Imperial army of Leopold I, Ashkenazi escaped to Sarajevo where he was appointed hakham of the Sephardi community. His parents were taken prisoner by a Brandenburg regiment after the fall of Ofen and ransomed by Jews in Berlin. It seems that only much later R. Ashkenazi received the news that his parents were alive. He arrived in Berlin via Venice and Prague in 1689. There he married the daughter of R. Meshullam Zalman Neumark-Mirels, the av bet din of the "Three Communities" of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck. He later moved to Altona where for 18 years he devoted himself to teaching in the Klaus, which was founded for him by leading members of the congregation. On the death of his father-in-law (1707), he was elected rabbi of Hamburg and Wandsbeck, although he shared the position at Altona with R. Moses Rothenburg. It was eventually a violent controversy on a halakhic question between them (the "chicken without a heart," see below), which compelled him to resign his position in all three communities in 1709. He continued to act as the head of the yeshiva in the Altona Klaus until invited to serve as rabbi of the Ashkenazi community in Amsterdam in 1710. There, Ashkenazi's relations were initially excellent. His responsa, published in Amsterdam in 1712, were highly regarded by the rabbis of the Portuguese (Sephardi) community there, and he was on intimate terms with the Sephardi rabbi, R. Solomon Ayllon. This relationship, however, deteriorated with the arrival in Amsterdam of Nehemiah Hayon, the emissary of Shabbetai Zevi, who sought the help of the local Portuguese community in circulating his writings. Having been asked by the Portuguese elders (who did not rely on Ayllon) to rule on the matter, R. Ashkenazi and R. Moses Hagiz - who was then in Amsterdam as a rabbinical emissary from Jerusalem - decided against Hayon and his writings and later excommunicated him. In revenge for not having been consulted about Hayyon's writings, Ayllon managed to transform the issue into one of supremacy of the old Portuguese community over the newcomers' R. Ashkenazi one. A new commission under Ayllon was appointed and found Hayon's writings to be in accordance with traditional Kabbalah. Upon R. Ashkenazi's refusal to apologize to Hayon, a bitter controversy took place between the Portuguese and R. Ashkenazi. As a result of his opponents' incessant personal attacks, R. Ashkenazi finally resigned his position in Amsterdam in 1714. After a brief stay in London (at the invitation of the Sephardi community), and a short sojourn in Emden, he proceeded to Poland and settled in Opatow. From there he was invited once more to Hamburg to take part in a complicated lawsuit. In the beginning of 1718 he was appointed rabbi of Lemberg, but he died there after a few months.

R. Ashkenazi's chief work is his collection of responsa Hakham Zevi (Amsterdam, 1712). These responsa reflect his stormy life and his many wanderings. Questions were addressed to him from all parts of Europe - from London to Lublin and from Hamburg to "Candia in Italy" dealing in particular with problems which arose from the condition of the Jews in various countries. They shed light on the communal organization, its privileges and regulations (e.g., no. 131).

Three responsa (74, 76, 77) deal with the celebrated problem of the chicken which was allegedly found to have no heart. His decision that such a bird was kasher created a sensation in the rabbinic world, and was vigorously opposed by such leading rabbis as R. Moses Rothenburg, R. Naphtali Katz of Frankfort, R. David Oppenheim, and R. Jonathan Eybeschuetz, who vehemently attacked the decision. He was supported by his son, R. Jacob Emden. In one of his responsa (no. 93) R. Ashkenazi deals with the question of whether a golem could be counted in a minyan ("religious quorum"), one such being having been fashioned by his grandfather, R. Elijah of Chelm. When in 1705 R. David Nieto of London expressed views which were deemed by his community to be heretical and bordering upon the doctrine of Spinoza, the matter was brought before R. Ashkenazi, who accepted Nieto's explanations (no. 8). The mutual relations between Ashkenazim and Sephardim are dealt with in a number of responsa (14, 38, 99). For example, on the question of whether it is permissible for Ashkenazim to use a Sephardi scroll, written in accordance with the views of Maimonides for the public reading of the Torah, he concludes that Ashkenazi and Sephardi scrolls are equally valid since the subdivision into sections is the same in both cases. As to the question of whether the Zohar should be given priority and relied upon in halakhic rulings, he declares emphatically that "even if the Zohar were to contradict the halakhic authorities we could not discard the opinions of the halakhic authorities in favor of what is written in the esoteric law; for in the laws and their practical application we are not concerned with mystic lore. But in cases where halakhic authorities differ, it is proper to follow the decision of the Zohar" (no. 36). In 1692 he published his glosses to the Turei Zahav on the Hoshen Mishpat. Opposed to pilpul in the study of the Talmud, he demanded a systematic and fundamental analysis of the subject matter. R. Jacob Emden praised him for his qualities of "abstinence, meticulousness, true saintliness, and inner reverence." One of his other sons, R. Abraham Meshullam Zalman, was av bet din in Ostrog from 1745. His son, R. Zevi Hirsch, published his father's responsa and novellae under the title Divrei Meshullam (1783).

   EJ; M. M. Biber, Mazkeret li-Gedolei Ostraha (Ostrog) (1907), 10610; Waxman, Literature, 2 (1960), 1889
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Listing Classification
17th Century:    Checked
England:    Checked
Germany:    Checked
Holland:    Checked
Responsa:    Checked
Language:    Hebrew
Manuscript Type
Responsa:    Checked
Kind of Judaica