||Important compilation of customs and laws by R. Jacob ben Moses (Maharil, Morenu ha-Rav Yacov Levi, c. 1360-1447), the leading halakhic authority of his time. Maharil was a student of R. Shalom ben Isaac of Neustadt (Sar Shalom) and the teacher of R. Jacob Weil (Mahariv, d. c. 1455). He was among the first, together with R. Shalom of Neustadt, to be given the title Morenu, done to prevent abuses in the performance of marriages and divorces by unauthorized individuals. Maharil was also known as Mahari Segal and Mahari Moellin, these various appellations resulting in some confusion as to whether they referred to one or more individuals. The slaughter of Jews in Austria in 1420 was followed by the Hussite wars, a time of great suffering for the Jews of central Europe. They beseeched Maharil to pray for them. He, in turn, requested that they fast for three days and pray, which they did (September, 1421). At the end of that period the Imperial army dispersed and the very soldiers who had harassed the Jews came to beg food from them. Maharil’s most important work is Sefer Maharil (Minhagei Maharil), composed by his pupil R. Eleazar ben Jacob (Zalman of St. Goar), from the discourses that he heard from Maharil. He frequently cites, and often follows the Sefer Ha-Aguddah of R. Alexander Susslin ha-Kohen (d. 1348). Sefer Maharil is not only a halakhic digest, but also a compendium of the customs of German Jewry.
Sefer Maharil begins with the laws pertinent to Nissan, for it, Ais the month concerning which the Torah writes, >This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you= (Exodus 12:2), therefore I am beginning the explanation of the customs relevant to each of the months of the year with [Nissan].@ The laws of Pesah, Shavuot, Yom Tov, Shabbat, fast days, Rosh Ha-Shanah, and concluding with the laws of Purim. These halakhot are followed by laws pertaining throughout the year, such as prayer, marriage, milah, divorce, dietary laws, ritual slaughter, zizit, tefillin, mezuzah, niddah, and mourning. Interspersed with these halakhot are various customs and laws that do not fit into any of the above categories. In hilkhot Hanukkah we find that much of Maharil >s income came from marital matches that he made, for the land followed his advice.
Sefer Maharil is a popular and influential work, much copied and often reprinted. One of the most basic sources of Ashkenaz custom and practice, it is frequently referenced by R. Moses Isserles (Rema) in his glosses to the Shulhan Arukh. An interesting feature of this edition is that the title page states, in very small letters, “with letters, followed in larger bold letters, “Amsterdam,” with no mention of Offenbach the actual place of printing. This was a not uncommon practice, reflecting the prestige of the Amsterdam presses.