||Only edition of this rare and little known volume of pilpulim on the Torah from R. Jonathan Eybeschuetz with annotations by R. Ezekiel ben Naftali Grossfeld. The title page notes several of R. Eybeschuetz’s and notes that this unknown work was in the possession of R. Grossfeld who has brought it to press. R. Grossfeld was the author of Binyan Ohel Mo’ed (Munkach, 1887) also offered in this auction.
R. Jonathan Eybeschuetz (1690/95–1764) was a noted Talmudist and kabbalist. A child prodigy, he studied in Poland, Moravia, and Prague. In his youth, after the death of his father, he studied in Prossnitz under R. Meir Eisenstadt and . Eliezer ha-Levi Ettinger, his uncle, and in Vienna under R. Samson Wertheimer. He married the daughter of R. Isaac Spira, the av bet din of Bunzlau. After traveling for some time he settled in Prague in 1715, and in time became head of the yeshivah and a famous preacher. When he was in Prague he had many contacts with priests and the intelligentsia, debating religious topics and matters of faith with them. He became friendly with Cardinal Hassebauer and also discussed religious questions with him. Through the help of the cardinal, R. Eybeschuetz received permission to print the Talmud with the omission of all passages contradicting the principles of Christianity. Aroused to anger by this, R. David Oppenheim and the rabbis of Frankfort had the license to print revoked.
The people of Prague held R. Eybeschuetz in high esteem and he was considered second only to R. David Oppenheim. In 1725 he was among the Prague rabbis who excommunicated the Shabbatean sect. After the death of R. Oppenheim (1736), he was appointed dayyan of Prague. Elected rabbi of Metz in 1741, he subsequently became rabbi of the “Three Communities,” Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek (1750). Both in Metz and in Altona he had many disciples and was considered a great preacher.
His position in the Three Communities, however, was undermined when the dispute broke out concerning his suspected leanings toward Shabbateanism. This controversy accompanied R. Eybeschuetz throughout his life, and the quarrel had repercussions in every community from Holland to Poland. His main opponent was R. Jacob Emden, also a famous talmudist and his rival in the candidature to the rabbinate of the Three Communities. The quarrel developed into a great public dispute which divided the rabbis of the day. While most of the German rabbis opposed R. Eybeschuetz, his support came from the rabbis of Poland and Moravia. A fruitless attempt at mediation was made by R Ezekiel Landau, rabbi of Prague. Most of R. Eybeschuetz’ own community was loyal to him and confidently accepted his refutation of the charges made by his opponent, but dissension reached such a pitch that both sides appealed to the authorities in Hamburg and the government of Denmark for a judicial ruling. The king favored R. Eybeschuetz and ordered new elections, which resulted in his reappointment. Yet the literary polemic continued, even prompting several Christian scholars to participate, some of whom, thinking that Eybeschuetz was a secret Christian, came to his defense. After his reelection as rabbi of the Three Communities, some rabbis of Frankfort, Amsterdam, and Metz challenged him to appear before them to reply to the suspicions raised against him. R. Eybeschuetz refused, and when the matter was brought before the Council of the Four Lands in 1753, the council issued a ruling in his favor. In 1760 the quarrel broke out once more when some Shabbatean elements were discovered among the students of R. Eybeschuetz' yeshivah. At the same time his younger son, Wolf, presented himself as a Shabbatean prophet, with the result that the yeshivah was closed. When Moses Mendelssohn was in Hamburg in 1761, R. Eybeschuetz treated him with great respect, even publishing a letter on him (Kerem Hemed, 3 (1838), 224–5), incontrovertible testimony to R. Eybeschuetz' awareness of Mendelssohn's ideological approach.
R. Eybeschuetz was considered not only one of the greatest preachers of his time but also one of the giants of the Talmud, acclaimed for his acumen and particularly incisive intellect. Thirty of his works in the field of halakhah have been published. His method of teaching aroused great enthusiasm among the pilpulists, and his works, Urim ve-Tummim on Hoshen Mishpat (1775–77), Kereti u-Feleti on Yoreh De'ah (1763), and Benei Ahuvah on Maimonides (1819), were considered masterpieces of pilpulistic literature. To the present day they are regarded as classics by students of the Talmud. They are unique in that the many pilpulim they include are in most cases based on clear, logical principles that give them their permanent value. His homiletic works, Ya'arot Devash (1779–82), Tiferet Yonatan (1819), and Ahavat Yonatan (1766), also found many admirers. In succeeding generations his reputation was sustained by these works. Since (apart from Kereti u-Feleti) his works were not printed in his lifetime, it is clear that his great influence among his contemporaries must have derived from the power of his oral teaching and from his personality, both of which were highly praised by many writers. Of his books on the Kabbalah, only one was printed, Shem Olam (1891), but during his lifetime Eybeschuetz was considered a great kabbalist.