||R. Meir Loeb b. Jehiel Michael Malbim (1809–1879), rabbi, preacher, and biblical exegete. The name Malbim is an acronym formed from Meir Loeb ben Jehiel Michael. Born in Volochisk (Volhynia), Malbim was a child when his father died. He studied in his native town until the age of 13, with R. Moses Leib Horowitz, among others. He married at the age of 14, but after a short time divorced his wife. He went to Warsaw, where he became widely known as the "illui from Volhynia." From there he went to Leczyca, where he married the daughter of the local rabbi R. Hayyim Auerbach, who maintained him, and he was thus able to devote himself to literary work. In 1834 he traveled to Western Europe to obtain commendations from contemporary rabbis for his Arzot ha-Hayyim (1837), visiting, among other places, Pressburg, Amsterdam, and Breslau. In 1839, on the recommendation of R. Solomon Zalman Tiktin of Breslau, he was appointed rabbi of Wreschen (district of Posen), where he remained for seven years. From there he went to Kempen and was therefore sometimes referred to as "The Kempener." While in Kempen he was invited to the rabbinate of Satoraljaujhely in Hungary but refused the offer. He finally agreed to accept the call of the Bucharest community, and in the summer of 1858 he was officially inducted as chief rabbi of Rumania.
Because of Malbim's uncompromising stand against Reform, disputes broke out between him and the communal leaders of the town, leading to his imprisonment. He was freed only on the intervention of Sir Moses Montefiore and on condition that he leave Rumania and not return. M. Rosen has published various documents which disclose the false accusations and calumnies Malbim's Jewish-assimilationist enemies wrote against him to the Rumanian government. They accused him of disloyalty and of impeding social assimilation between Jews and non-Jews by insisting on adherence to the dietary laws, and said, "this rabbi by his conduct and prohibitions wishes to impede our progress." As a result of this the prime minister of Rumania issued a proclamation against the "ignorant and insolent" rabbi for his effrontery in "publishing libelous letters against those eating meat from any butcher shop and he has preached against the idea of progress and freedom." In consequence the minister refused to grant rights to the Jews of Bucharest, on the grounds that the rabbi of the community was "the sworn enemy of progress" (from the official newspaper Moniturul March 6, 1864). Determined to refute the false accusations made against him, Malbim went to Constantinople to lodge a complaint against the Rumanian government, which was then under Turkish domination. Following the rejection of his appeal and his failure to obtain the help of the Alliance Isralite Universelle (in transmitting a memorandum written in 1864 in Paris in which Malbim, with the help of Adolphe Cremieux, addressed himself to the Rumanian ruler, stressing his patriotism), he was compelled to leave Rumania (1864). During his wanderings in the following years he suffered persecution and calumny. He served as rabbi intermittently in Leczyca, Kherson, and Mogilev and was persecuted by the assimilationists, the maskilim, and the Hasidim. He was invited to Mainz, and on his way stopped at Koenigsberg, where he remained for about four years. In 1879 he received an invitation from Kremenchug, Poltava oblast, to serve as its rabbi, but died in Kiev on his way there.
Malbim's fame and his immense popularity rest upon his commentary on the Bible, which was widely esteemed. His first commentary published was on the Book of Esther (1845), followed by one on Isaiah (1849). In 1860 his commentary Ha-Torah ve-ha-Mitzvah on the Sifra was published in Bucharest. His commentary on the Song of Songs, Shirei ha-Nefesh, was published first in Krotoszyn and then in Bucharest in 1860. The remaining commentaries to the books of the Bible were completed and issued during the years 1867–76. Malbim's commentary on the Bible was motivated by his opposition to the Reform movement, which in his view could potentially undermine the very foundation of Judaism. He wished to strengthen the position of Orthodox Judaism in the spheres of exegesis, knowledge of Hebrew, and the exposition of the Bible according to its plain meaning, and thereby counteract and weaken the Reformers in precisely those three spheres, in which they had made appreciable achievements. In his long introduction to the commentary Ha-Torah ve-ha-Mitzvah (1860) on the Book of Leviticus and the Sifra, Malbim refers to the Reform Synod at Brunswick in 1844 calling it a gathering of "rabbis and preachers as well as readers who butcher their communities." Because of these Reformers' negative approach Malbim decided that "it was time to act for the L-rd, and to fortify the wall around the Law, Written and Oral... so that violators could not assail and desecrate it." From that time he began to compose commentaries on the Bible with the aim of proving "that the Oral Law is the law given from heaven, and that all its words are necessary and implicit in the plain meaning of the verse and in the profundity of the language, and that the interpretation is only the plain meaning based upon accurate, linguistic rules."
The following of his talmudic works are noteworthy: Yalkut Shelomo (1938; 19662) was a collection of his novellae on the tractates of the Talmud, published (19662) after editing by Solomon Drillich, who also prepared and arranged a new edition of Ha-Torah ve-ha-Mitzvah, on the Pentateuch, with the title Sefer ha-Torah ve-ha-Mitzvah ve-ha-Hinnukh, in three parts (1967). Alim li-Terufah (1904) is a small work consisting of an exposition of the fourth chapter of Hilkhot De'ot in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. Arzot ha-Shalom (1838) contains nine sermons which reveal the profundity of his homiletical ideas. Characteristic of this work is the fact that the sermons are based upon biblical verses only and do not rely upon rabbinic dicta. Each sermon encompasses a specific subject and is preceded by a poetic introduction. This method was regarded by some as an innovation in sermonic literature. His oral sermons were distinguished by verbal precision and strict logic. His Erez Hemdah (Warsaw 1882) contains sermons on the Pentateuch and expositions of aggadot. His works on language, poetry, and logic include: Ya'ir Or (1892), on synonymous nouns and verbs, containing 662 synonymous nouns; selections from his commentaries on synonyms are found in the Likkutei Shoshannim (1875), and Ha-Karmel (1900) arranged by J. Greenbaum; Yesodei Hokhmat ha-Higgayon (1900), a textbook on logic in 20 chapters comprising a survey on the principles of logic; Mashal u-Melizah, first published by Jehiel Brill (1867), a visionary poem on the vice of hypocrisy. His autobiography was published in serial form in Ha-Levanon (vol. 2, 1865).