||Enlarged edition with an introduction and notes of this biographical-bibliographic monograph on the renowned Maharal of Prague by Moses Meir Perels. The title page, which is undated and does not give the place of printing states that it is on the genealogy of the great gaon, unique in his generation, an angel of the Lord of Hosts, the wonder of his time, R. Judah Loew, av bet din Prague, known as the Maharal of Prague, who was of the root of Yeshai, of the house of King David. Also included is genealogy of the family of his son-in-law, R. Isaac Kohen and other geonim of the land. The notes, entitled Gevurot Ari were prepared by R. Noah Hayyim ben Moses Levin.
R. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (Maharal mi-Prag; c. 1525–1609 was the scion of a noble family which hailed from Worms. His father, R. Bezalel ben Hayyim, was brother-in-law of R. Isaac Klauber of Posen, the grandfather of R. Solomon Luria. Judah Loew's older brother, Hayyim b. Bezalel, and his two younger brothers, Sinai and Samson, were also scholars of repute. (According to one tradition, however, Judah was the youngest son.) His teachers are unknown. From 1553 to 1573 he was Landesrabbiner of Moravia in Mikulov (Nikolsburg) after which he went to Prague. There he founded a yeshivah called Die Klaus, organized circles for the study of the Mishnah, to which he attached great importance, and regulated the statutes of the hevra kaddisha, founded in 1564. He remained in Prague until 1584, and from then until 1588 served as rabbi in Moravia (according to others, in Posen), eventually returning to Prague. On the third of Adar 5352 (Feb. 16, 1592) he was granted an interview by Emperor Rudolph II, but it is not known what its purpose was. There seems little basis for the belief that it was due to their common interest in alchemy. Shortly afterward he left Prague for Posen, where he became chief rabbi, and several years later again returned to Prague, becoming its chief rabbi and remaining there until his death.
Maharal was revered for his piety and asceticism. He was a great scholar, whose knowledge was not confined to religious subjects, but embraced secular studies as well, particularly mathematics. He was an outstanding personality, held in the highest repute by Jews and non-Jews alike. The astronomer, Tycho Brahe, with whom he enjoyed a social relationship, is said to have arranged his audience with the emperor. He was a great educationalist whose pedagogic views are of contemporary relevance. Dissatisfied with current methods of education, he strongly criticized his contemporaries for not following the manner of education indicated in Mishnah Avot 5:21, which takes into consideration the age of the student and the subjects taught. The "fools nowadays," he said, "teach boys Bible with the commentary of Rashi, which they do not understand, and also Talmud, which they cannot yet grasp" Furthermore, he claimed that they neglected the study of the Mishnah. He also strongly opposed pilpul, and although he sharply criticized Azariah de' Rossi (Be'er ha-Golah, ch. 6) he favored scientific study which did not contradict the principles of Judaism. Judah Loew's works in the fields of ethics, philosophy, and homiletics are all based on the same homiletical system: exegetical and homiletical interpretation of the sayings of the rabbis of the Talmud. His whole life's work may be regarded as a new interpretation of the aggadah. Every chapter (and nearly every paragraph) in his many works opens with a quotation from the traditional sources, which he then goes on to interpret in his unique fashion. His close attachment to the aggadah may be the reason for his strong defense of oral tradition against its Italian critics, which was incorporated in his Be'er ha-Golah. Even his systematic work on ethics, Netivot Olam, which was to become one of the most popular and influential works in the field, is also based on reinterpretation of aggadic passages. Some passages in his writings, as well as some of his basic views regarding the transcendent meaning of the Torah, of prayer, etc., seem to point to familiarity with Kabbalah. Maharal never states kabbalistic ideas as such, but seems to have made use of them in his interpretation of talmudic passages. The most important questions which he tried to solve in his many works were the problem of the relationship between Israel and God, with the Torah serving as mediator between them, and the problem of the galut, the reasons for it, and the manner of its termination. His Tiferet Yisrael and Gevurot ha-Shem are completely devoted to these subjects, and he deals with them in his other works as well. In fixing the standard for halakhah, Maharal develops the view that the source of dispute in halakhah lies in the diversity of reality, and its numerous aspects, which human intelligence cannot fully comprehend, and since human methods of understanding differ -"each one receives one aspect in accordance with his lot" (Be'er ha-Golah, ch. 1).
Maharal is unique in the history of Hebrew literature by virtue of his not having belonged to any defined school, or having been followed by disciples who subscribed to his ideas. He was a lone thinker, who developed his own philosophy as well as its method of presentation. It is ironic that he is better known to later generations for the unfounded and atypical legend that he was the creator of the famous Prague golem (he seems not to have dealt with magic) than for his original and profound ideas (see Golem). Rabbi A. I. Kook used his sayings and methods extensively in his works, and a considerable revival of his ideas has taken place among 20th-century Jewish thinkers. Of his pupils, particular mention should be made of R. Yom Tov Heller, R. Elijah Loans, and R. David Gans.