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18****Rabbi Yehudah Loew of Prague - The Maharal

Rabbi Yehudah Loew of Prague - The Maharal

 Born: Posen, Poland, 1512

Died: Prague, Bohemia, 1609

Talmudist, Kabbalist, chief rabbi of Prague

Popularly known as the Maharal, the abbreviation of Moreinu Harav Loew.

The Maharal was born on the night of the Passover Seder, to a distinguished family of rabbis that traced its ancestry to King David. He was the youngest of four righteous brothers. The Maharal married at the "late" age of 32 to Pearl. He had six girls and one boy who was named after the Maharal's father, Beztalel.

 In 1553 he was elected rabbi of Nikolsburg and the Province of Moravia, where he remained for the following 20 years. In 1573 he moved to Prague, where he opened a yeshivah and became mentor of many outstanding disciples. The most prominent among these is Rabbi Lipman Heller, author of  Tosefot Yomtov on the Mishnah. In 1592 the Maharal accepted the position of rabbi in Posen, returning to Prague in 1598 to serve as its chief rabbi.

He was a prolific writer, and his works include: Tiferet Yisrael on the greatness of Torah and mitzvot; Netivot Olam, on ethics; Be'er Hagolah, a commentary on rabbinic sayings; Netzach Yisrael, on exile and redemption; Or Chadash, on the book of Esther; Ner Mitzvah, on Chanukah; Gevurot Hashem, on the Exodus; and many others. The Maharal's  works reveal his illustrious personality as a profound thinker who penetrates the mysteries of Creation and metaphysics, clothing kabbalistic themes in a philosophic garment. His unique approach to Jewish thought influenced the ideologies of Chassidism and Mussar.

The Maharal castigated the educational methods of his day where boys were taught at a very young age and insisted that children must be taught in accordance with their intellectual maturity. Thus, Talmud and certainly not tosafot should be introduced only when the child is developmentally capable of fully comprehending what is being taught. He recommended that the system proposed in Pirkei Avot be followed.

The Maharal was a staunch leader of his community, he became the hero of many legends in which he appears as the defender of Prague Jewry against all its enemies, assisted by a Golem, a robot he made and gave life to by placing sacred writings in his mouth.

The Maharal's company and advice was sought by kings and nobleman giving rise to many colorful legends.

The Maharal's synagogue, Altneu Schul, still exists today and is preserved as a shrine by the Prague municipal authorities, who in 1917 erected a statue in his honor. In the Torah world the Maharal lives on in his writings, which are an enduring source of wisdom and inspiration. 

*** Books about the Maharal: 

Maharal: Emerging Patterns (English)
The Golem of Prague (English)

The Maharal of Prague (English)

HaMaharal Mi-Prague (Hebrew)

May the merit of the tzaddik  Rabbi Yehudah Loew - The Maharal of Prague protect us all, Amen.

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