||First edition of Eder ha-Yakar edited and arranged by R. Abraham Isaac Kook, first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of modern Erez Israel. R. Kook writes about his father-in-law, R. Elijah David ben Benjamin Rabinowitz-Teomim, chief rabbi of Jerusalem, describing his personality, quoting his testament, which shows the latter’s extraordinary humility and modesty. Eder ha-Yakar includes a number of R. Rabinowitz-Teomim’s letters.
R. Elijah David Ben Benjamin Rabinowitz-Teomim, (Aderet, 1842/43–1905), Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jerusalem was born in Pikeln, Lithuania. As he was a twin, his brother being Zevi Judah, the name Teomim (twins) was added to the family surname. R. Rabinowitz-Teomim was known from his youth as an unusual genius and in 1874 was chosen rabbi of the community of Ponevezh and in 1893 was appointed rabbi of Mir. In Mir he wrote no less than a hundred works, especially notes and glosses to the Talmud, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, the Tur of Jacob b. Asher, the Shulhan Arukh, and responsa. His novellae and glosses on the Jerusalem Talmud, entitled Tuv Yerushalayim, appeared in the Romm-Vilna edition (1922) and those on the Tur Hoshen Mishpat entitled Et Devar ha-Mishpat in the El ha-Mekorot (1959) edition of the Turim. His extraordinary erudition is discernible in his novellae and notes, and his great knowledge of historical matters from his correspondence on these subjects with R. Jacob Reifmann, R. Isaac Hirsch Weiss. and others. In 1901, at the recommendation of R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski of Vilna, R. Rabinowitz-Teomim was officially appointed to succeed R. Samuel Salant as chief rabbi of Jerusalem.
Ikvei ha-Zon, discourses and homilies by R. Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935). R. Kook rabbinical authorit, mystic, and philosopher, was born in Greiva (now Griva), Latvia. At a very early age R. Kook showed independence of mind and far-reaching curiosity. While a student in the yeshiva in Volozhin he supplemented his traditional Talmudic education with the study of the Bible, Hebrew language, Jewish and general philosophy, and mysticism. In 1888 he was appointed rabbi of Zaumel, and in 1895 became rabbi of Bausk (now Bauska). In 1904 he immigrated to Erez Israel, where he served as rabbi of Jaffa, chief rabbi of Jerusalem, and with the formation of the chief rabbinate in 1921, as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine. R. Kook held that the return to Erez Israel marked the beginning of divine redemption (athalta di-ge'ullah). In R. Kook's system the mystical urge for unity is meant to combine the communicable with the ineffable—to infuse the physical life of man with a religious purpose. There is no stress on self-abnegation in his mysticism.
Iggeret Teiman by R. Moses ben Maimon (Rambam) is his famed response to the Jews of Yemen. Abd al-Nabi ibn Mahdi, the Shiite Arab ruler of Yemen, instituted a religious persecution, giving the Jews the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Not only did many succumb, but there arose among those Jews a pseudo-Messiah, or a forerunner of the Messiah who, seeing in these events the darkness before the dawn, preached the imminent advent of the Messianic Age. In despair the Jews of Yemen turned to Maimonides, who in c. 1172 answered their request with the Iggeret Teiman (al-Risala al-Yamaniyya). Iggeret Teiman is addressed to R. Jacob ben Nethanel al-Fayyumi, who had raised several questions, such as what was the significance of the community’s suffering; how should they respond to the convert who had become a missionary for Islam, the false messiah, and could the date of the Messiah’s coming be calculated. Maimonides responded to R. Jacob’s inquiry, eloquently but also simply. He requested that copies be sent to every community in Yemen. Deliberately couched in simple terms so, “that men, women, and children could read it easily,” he points out that the subtle attack of Christianity and Islam which preached a new revelation was more dangerous than the sword and than the attractions of Hellenism. As for the pseudo-Messiah, active in Yemen at the time, he was unbalanced and to be rejected. These trials were sent to prove the Jews. The effect of the letter was tremendous. In gratitude for the message of hope, combined with the fact that Maimonides also used his influence at court to obtain a lessening of the heavy burden of taxation on the Jews of Yemen, the Jews of Yemen introduced into the Kaddish a prayer for “the life of our teacher Moses ben Maimon.”
Ohr Hameir by R. Simeon Zevi b. Meir Loeb Horwitz (1870-1946), Jerusalem rabbi and scholar on the exile and related topics.