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Ezekiel Landau

The Kabbalistic Culture of Eighteenth-Century Prague: Ezekiel Landau (the 'Noda Biyehudah') and His Contemporaries by Sharon Flatto (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization: Littman) This is the first critical account of the life and writings of Ezekiel Landau, chief rabbi of Prague from 1754 to 1793 and one of the most significant figures of eighteenth-century Jewish history. His counsel was sought by a wide spectrum of rabbinic leaders, scholars, and laity, and his writings continue to shape Jewish law and rabbinic thought to this day. This study reconstructs the intellectual world of the traditional society in which Landau lived. In doing so it emphasizes the dominance of rabbinic culture in the city at this period, the importance of kabbalistic ideas and practices, and its numerous distinguished figures and institutions. In focusing on the city's vibrant rabbinic culture and analysing the spiritual trends that animated it, it demonstrates that Prague's late eighteenth-century rabbinate was more influential, more conservative, and less open to modernization and Haskalah than previously recognized, and shaped more by eastern European Jewish culture rather than by Western influences. Landau is best known for his authorship of the rabbinical responsa published as Noda Biyehudah and is generally seen as staunchly opposed to esoteric practices. This study challenges that view, exposing the central importance of kabbalah in Landau's works and thought and showing that he frequently blended teachings from diverse kabbalistic schools and trends in a syncretic and original manner. It also identifies the factors underlying his reluctance to discuss kabbalah publicly. Instead of focusing solely on the history of events, this work examines the ideas that remained widespread among Prague Jews despite the tumultuous times in which they lived. Landau devoted much of his career to shaping the values and practices of his community and frequently tailored his works to their needs, beliefs, and mentalities. Accordingly, his writings and numerous other contemporary sources provide us with a unique glimpse into the spiritual and psychological world of eighteenth-century Prague Jews. All Landau's rabbinic writings are utilized in this book, as well as a variety of archival and published German, Yiddish, and Hebrew sources. By unraveling and examining the many diverse threads that were interwoven into the fabric of Prague's eighteenth-century Jewish life, this study offers a more complete portrayal of rabbinic culture during the last years that it thrived in one of most important centres of European Jewry.

About Author: Sharon Flatto is Assistant Professor in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and specializes in early modern Jewish history, early modern and modern Jewish thought, and Kabbalah. Her research interests include the role of mysticism in seventeenth and eighteenth-century Prague, interactions between early hasidim and mitnaggedim (opponents of Hasidism), and the modernization of Central European rabbinic culture. Professor Flatto received her PhD in Jewish history from Yale University in 2000, after which she spent two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Brown University. She has taught courses in Jewish history and thought at Yale University, Queens College, Brown University, and Brooklyn College. The recipient of many awards and grants, she has contributed to learned journals and written articles for the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Kabbalah was both venerated and feared in eighteenth-century Prague. Some Jews maintained that it contained essential truths that must be disseminated. Others viewed it as a sacred mystical system that had to be restricted. Kabbalistic concepts, always controversial, were both incorporated into numerous prayer books and banned from study in certain Prague circles. Even more remarkable, however, is the profound inner struggle visible in the teachings and pronouncements of Prague's traditional leaders. Many of the city's rabbinic authorities and communal figures simultaneously concealed and disclosed mystical traditions. Promoters of kabbalah emerged from a broad swath of Prague's society, including the rabbinic elite, the community's laity, and sectarian groups, which threatened to undermine rabbinic Judaism. Caught in a web of tentative and tense interrelationships and harbouring a range of attitudes towards kabbalistic study and practice, these believers often had to veil their kabbalistic secrets in order to advance them.

This book describes the multi-layered mystical rabbinic culture of eighteenth-century Prague.' It reveals the largely overlooked prominence of kabbalah in traditional life, particularly in the biography and writings of one of the towering figures of Ashkenazi (east and central European) Jewry, Ezekiel Landau (1713-93), Prague's chief rabbi from 1754 to 1793. In exploring the deep roots of mysticism in this eighteenth-century capital of rabbinic culture, it sheds light on a central aspect of the life and world-view of a large number of early modern Ashkenazi Jews.

Certain themes and methodological assumptions surface throughout the book. (A description of the book's sections is appended at the end of the introduction.) Among its main themes are the neglect of Prague's rabbinic culture; the importance of Prague as a meeting ground between East and West; the centrality of kabbalah for Prague Jews and its persistence over the longue durée; the tremendous influence of Landau in Prague; and the hitherto unnoticed importance of kabbalistic ideas in Landau's thinking and their dissemination in many of his Prague writings, albeit at times obliquely as a result of his complex relationship with emerging mystical and modernizing trends. After addressing these themes the book charts and analyses the wide range of kabbalistic materials that Landau and Prague Jews drew upon, and explores this phenomenon in the light of earlier scholarly discussions of the range of mystical sources that influenced seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Ashkenazi Jews. Another of my aims is to frame this project within the context of various developments in contemporary Jewish studies. This book builds on, but also amends and revises, recent influential scholarly contributions in the areas of central and east European Jewish history, hasidism, Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment), and kabbalah. It thus contributes to the broader fields of early modern Jewish history, Jewish mysticism, and the cultural-anthropological study of the modernization and acculturation of traditional communities.

Despite the pre-eminence of Prague's eighteenth-century Jewish community and its rich kabbalistic and halakhic traditions, there has been little scholarship on the city's Jewish culture during this transitional period because of erroneous assumptions made by scholars with an anti-traditional bias. These scholars maintained that the authority of the central European rabbinate and the vibrancy of traditional Jewish communities waned during the latter half of the eighteenth century.2 In fact, however, the rabbinic culture and leadership of Prague's Jewish community, one of the largest and most prestigious in the world at this time,3 flourished, and arguably reached its peak, during this era. As a result of these misconceptions, the history of Prague's eighteenth-century rabbinate, as well as its impact on numerous Ashkenazi Jewish communities, has been neglected.

A survey of the historical works on Habsburg Jews during this period highlights their focus on the incipient modernization of the minority of late eighteenth-century Jewry, and their oversight of its prevailingly traditional society. Emblematic of this trend is Ruth Kestenberg-Gladstein's magisterial Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den böhmischen Ländern, which examines this transitional age for Bohemian Jewry, stressing primarily Prague's Haskalah along with the relatively small number of elite Jews who modernized, but not its rabbinic culture.

Kestenberg-Gladstein, like most scholars of Habsburg Jewry, neglects the wealth of historical material contained in the vast number of eighteenth-century rabbinic writings, including sermons, responsa, commentaries, and polemical treatises, replete with information on Prague's rabbinic authorities, values, and institutions. While some scholars, such as William McCagg in his History of Habsburg Jews, openly acknowledge that they pay more attention 'to the assimilationist elite than to the broad traditionalist masses of Jewry', others do so less explicitly!

By focusing on the small group of eighteenth-century Prague Jews who became involved in the Haskalah or who assimilated, and by ignoring the nature of the traditional milieu, these studies present a skewed portrait of this period of Prague Jewish history, actually dominated by rabbinic culture. In addition to distorting the importance of the prevailing traditional society, this omission hampers scholarship's understanding of the maskilim (advocates of Jewish Enlightenment) and assimilationists, who both emerged from this traditional society and responded to it. This book seeks to redress this imbalance by examining the factors that allowed Prague Jewry's traditional life to persist during the eighteenth century and by documenting its continued vitality. It focuses on Prague's major rabbinic figures and institutions, and extensively analyses the spiritual, and especially kabbalistic, trends that shaped and animated Prague's traditional Jewish culture.

Notwithstanding initial inroads of various modernizing and potentially subversive mystical movements, which were soon to weaken Prague's traditional authority, and despite Habsburg emperor Joseph II's (1741-90) official abolition of the Jewish community's autonomy through his 1781 Toleranzpatent (Edict of Toleration), Prague's Jewish community continued to thrive during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Slow socio-economic transformation, a powerful rabbinate, and unrelenting antisemitism contributed to the continued existence of Prague's traditional society. This book demonstrates that Prague's late eighteenth-century rabbinate was more influential, more conservative, and less open to modernization and the Haskalah than has been recognized (see especially Part I below). Even with numerous changes legislated by the Habsburg state, the main rabbinic institutions, such as the Jewish high court, talmudic academies, and traditional elementary schools, functioned and retained their influence throughout Landau's tenure. During the late eighteenth century Prague was also home to over fifty prominent rabbinic scholars and judges, who have been almost entirely overlooked. Furthermore, Landau's sermons, which span his Prague career, are replete with criticisms of Prague Jews' minor ritual lapses, suggesting that this community largely continued to live within the framework of halakhah. Prague's vibrant rabbinic culture during the latter half of the eighteenth century stands out in comparison to west European Jewish centres such as Berlin, where several scholars have dated the incipient decline of traditional values and practices to the early eighteenth century.

Between East and West

A more nuanced depiction of Prague's rabbinic culture during this transitional age requires a reassessment of its place within the matrix of East and West. Most studies of this period focus either on the modernization of west European Jewry or on the traditional life of east European Jewish society, while the culture of central European Jews, and specifically that of Prague, has been largely neglected. Gershon Hundert's The Jews in Poland—Lithuania during the Eighteenth Century laments that Jewish historiography has not concentrated enough on the areas where most Jews lived." This oversight has included the vast Jewish population of central Europe, and particularly its largest centre, Prague. Moreover, the few extant studies that do address Prague Jews during this era investigate only their interaction with the West, ignoring the enormous impact of east European trends on Prague's culture and society. Situated at the crossroads of Europe, Prague was inevitably affected by immigrants, students, merchants, and travellers from both eastern and western Europe. Several of its prominent rabbinic authorities, including Mordecai ben Abraham Jaffe (c.1535-1612, commonly called the Levush), Ephraim Solomon of Luntshitz (1550-1619, popularly referred to as the Keli Yakar), Isaiah Horowitz (c.1565-1630, also known as the Shelah), and Jonathan Eybeschütz (c.1690-1764), were educated Landau too spent the first forty years of his life studying in eastern Europe.

educational institutions and serving in rabbinic posts in various districts of Poland. At the same time, because of Prague's position as a geographical and cultural nexus, some of its traditional mores were challenged by nascent groups emerging in eastern and western Europe during the latter half of the eighteenth century: the Frankists and new hasidim in nearby eastern Europe and the maskilim in neighbouring Prussia. This book expands the limited scholarship on central Europe, and demonstrates that while Prague's culture was shaped from both directions, its primary influence was actually the East. It was especially affected by east European Jewry's emphasis on pilpul (casuistic or dialectical talmudic study), its absorption of eclectic kabbalistic teachings, and its embrace of the mystical and ascetic ideals of the old-style hasidim (pietists).

In studies on Poland and Lithuania, Gershon Hundert and Moshe Rosman have emphasized the popularity of kabbalah in the daily practices and beliefs of eighteenth-century Polish and Lithuanian Jews. Both have shown that, during this period, kabbalah became an integral aspect of the 'grammar' of many east European Jews' religious, literary, and popular expression. Nevertheless, several scholars have observed that even more work remains to be done on the story of kabbalah's widespread dissemination among the masses during this era. This careful study of Prague's eighteenth-century rabbinic sources and institutions continues along these lines by uncovering the centrality of kabbalah for a large segment of eighteenth-century Prague Jews. In this process, vital cultural similarities between east and central European Jewry emerge.

Given Landau's central role in Prague, any effort to understand the rabbinic and kabbalistic outlook of its Jewish community has to focus on his life and writings. As chief rabbi and head of both the Jewish court (befit din) and a major talmudic academy in a city that boasted one of the largest European Jewish populations, a distinguished rabbinic tradition, and scores of prominent scholars, Landau held a position of great distinction. His official status, recognized by the Habsburg government, made him Prague Jewry's supreme authority for judicial, religious, and political affairs. Surprisingly, no one has written a critical account of either his life and works or the impact he had on Prague's Jewish community.

Landau's primary contributions were to Jewish legal scholarship and the defence of traditional Judaism, which makes his efforts at popularizing kabbalah all the more intriguing. In order to appreciate the significance of his kabbalistic involvement and teachings, it is necessary to recognize his wide-ranging influence.

His extraordinary mastery of the entire corpus of classical Jewish texts enabled him to play a pivotal role in shaping normative rabbinic law. His counsel in halakhic and communal matters was sought by a wide spectrum of rabbinic leaders, scholars, and laity. As a result, he composed over 85o responsa, addressing almost every facet of Jewish law. These responsa were published in a monumental two-volume collection, the Noda biyehudah (Known in Judah'), in Prague in 1776 and 1811 respectively. This collection is so well known that Landau is commonly referred to as the Noda Biyehudah. The lasting impact of his legal rulings and analysis is best demonstrated by the enduring authority of this work, and also by the popular reception of his talmudic commentary, the Tselah, both of which have become part of the standard rabbinic canon.

In addition, Landau's extensive writings include numerous sermons delivered at Prague's nine synagogues, a gloss, Dagul merevavah (Pre-eminent among Ten Thousand') on the classic legal code Shulhan arukh, as well as recently discovered glosses on Hayim Vital's (1542-162o) kabbalistic texts, Derekh ets hayim and Peri ets hayim. Recognizing Landau's astounding legal erudition and authority, the Habsburg monarchs Maria Theresa (1717-80) and Joseph II also consulted with him on matters relating to Jewish law and public policy. Landau's proposals, some of which are found in tracts and responsa composed especially for these occasions, were often adopted by the monarchs.

Throughout his career, Landau had tremendous influence on Jews in various parts of the world and was accordingly often referred to as the 'Rabbi of the entire Diaspora'. He played a decisive role in many of the seminal intracommunal controversies plaguing eighteenth-century Jewry. Records of his interventions survive in scattered sources, including letters to other leaders, sermons, and rabbinic writings. These are collected and analysed for the first time in this study. Best known among the communal controversies that Landau refereed is the dispute between the two towering Ashkenazi rabbinic figures, Jacob Emden (1697-1776) and Jonathan Eybeschütz, concerning mystical amulets written by Eybeschütz, and their alleged connection to the Sabbatian heresy. Had it not been for Landau, this dispute might have split Ashkenazi Jewry. Another cause célèbre in which Landau intervened was the disputed 1766 Cleves get (bill of divorce). His validation of this divorce writ and the inclusion of his lengthy letter addressing this matter in a work entitled Or hayashar stirred the wrath of Frankfurt's rabbinic leaders. As a result, Frankfurt's court decreed that no Landau family member could hold a rabbinic seat in Frankfurt for the next three generations. Even more dramatically, perhaps, Landau's well-known sermons and diplomatic letters against the Berlin Haskalah made him a notorious figure to many radical maskilim. Landau's harsh critiques of both the maskilic educator Naphtali Herz Wessely (1725-1805) and the 'father of the Haskalab' Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86) had widespread repercussions and were frequently cited in traditional and maskilic circles.

Landau's legal responsa, which often dealt with issues pertaining to the incursion of modernity upon Ashkenazi Jewish communities, had a permanent influence on the praxis of Ashkenazi Jews in both eastern and western Europe. Decisively responding to a wide range of issues that arose during this transitional era, his bold decisions informed almost all late eighteenth-century and subsequent discussions of these matters, often stirring vehement debates. Illustrative of such cases are Landau's granting permission for men to shave under certain circumstances on intermediate festival days; his consent to the performance of autopsies in specific situations; his discussion of the permissibility of eating sturgeon;42 and his prohibition on the use of the recently introduced gadget, the umbrella, on the sabbath.43 His harsh responsa pertaining to hasidism, the nascent mystical movement in eastern Europe, also had an enormous impact on Ashkenazi culture, informing the attitude of many of his contemporaries towards this pietistic movement. Landau's tremendous stature meant that recipients of his critiques, including various hasidic masters, often felt the need to respond to—and ironically even at times to internalize—them.

Landau's influence the rabbis might have had a very fragmented, localized, and idiosyncratic understanding of Christianity combined with genuine or strategic lack of interest. On the other hand, our historical perspective might lead us astray: examining the rabbis' view of Christianity might be historically objectionable not only because there were many rabbinic views but also because the question itself is misleading. The terms "Christian" and "Christianity" evoke, even in the mind of a critical scholar, associations that have little to do with the phenomena experienced by the late ancient rabbis.

"Christianity," just like "parody," is in this sense a modern phenomenon that should be applied to ra sources from Prague's Jewish community, and the writings of Landau's students, especially those of his chief disciple, Eleazar Fleckeles (1754-1826).

Landau's Kabbalistic Proclivities and their Interplay with Prague's Mystical Culture

Landau's writings and teachings have continued to shape halakhah and rabbinic thought to the present day. His dominant legacy is that of a rigid and austere legal authority who staunchly opposed esoteric studies and practices.47 This image largely derives from Landau's repeated protestations that he refrained from all esoteric matters, as well as his vocal opposition to the nascent mystical hasidic movement. My work challenges this widely held conception.

In fact, Landau's public discomfort with esotericism must be understood in the context of his staunch resistance to emerging mystical and modernizing trends. Underlying his reluctance to discuss kabbalah, even while he is promoting its central ideals, are several factors. First, he deemed it necessary to advance traditional learning given the recent shift in Prague Jewry's educational priorities that resulted from state-mandated secular education and the Enlightenment. He was also extremely concerned about the strong sectarian Sabbatian and Frankist presence in Prague. His objection to the Sabbatians' and Frankists' use of kabbalah was a function of his broader denunciation of these mystical groups, who based a large portion of their antinomian practices on kabbalistic ideas. Landau's frequent harsh condemnation of the Sabbatians and Frankists reflects his contention that they were an even greater threat to traditional Judaism than either the Habsburg state or the maskilim. Finally, he felt threatened by the increasing success of hasidism and its mass popularization of kabbalistic secrets. Ironically, his denunciation of these groups further masks his involvement with kabbalah and his dissemination of its teachings.

Notwithstanding his oft-repeated assertion that he did not 'delve into esoteric matters', my research exposes the centrality of kabbalah for Landau, its integration into his halakhic world-view, and its frequent incorporation into his writings and public addresses. Seminal kabbalistic notions, such as the exiled Shekhinah, gilgul neshamot (the transmigration of souls), the sefirot (the ten aspects, or potencies, of the Divine), and the theurgical role of the commandments, are pivotal to Landau's thought, informing his hermeneutical approach to the Torah and aggadah (rabbinic legends and homiletic passages). The redemption of both the divine sparks and the Shekhinah is the prism through which he views the goals of religious activity. Remarkably, he makes extensive use of kabbalistic terms, such as tikun (mending or restoration), sefirot, kelipot (shells; demonic forces), and devekut (cleaving to or achieving a mystical union with God) in almost every one of his Prague homilies. In these sermons, he both builds on mystical concepts known to Prague Jews and introduces them to less familiar ones. Beyond his use of basic mystical terms, various recondite kabbalistic comments in his sermons, commentaries, and, especially, in his recently found glosses on Hayim Vital's Derekh ets hayim and Peri ets hayim, highlight his deep engagement in kabbalistic speculation.

Due to the length of his illustrious Prague career and his consequent influence over several generations of its inhabitants, the rabbinic and kabbalistic teachings and practices of Landau and his colleagues often converge with those of Prague Jews at large. Landau's charismatic and authoritative leadership enabled him to play an exceptionally significant role in directing and sustaining the culture of Prague's Jewish community. At the same time, his writings were informed by and reacted to existing cultural mores in the city. As a result Landau, who devoted much of his career to shaping the practices and values of his community, regularly tailored his works to their needs and outlook. What is especially captivating about the writings of both Landau and other figures in eighteenth-century Prague is that, in the terms of the French cultural historian Roger Chartier, they often reveal the convergence of cultural and religious values that were 'shared' by the elite and the laity.

In this vein, kabbalah influenced some popular rites promoted by Landau and observed by Prague Jews, even as he moderated them in accordance with his fear of various challenges posed to traditional Judaism in Prague. In several homilies, he recommends that his congregants continue to conduct the nightly kabbalistic tikun hatsot vigil and that they adopt other practices espoused by Safed kabbalists. In repeated sermons, he stresses that specific nomian (halakhic) and anomian techniques as well as proper intentions during prayer lead to the kabbalistic goal of elevating the Shekhinah and the loftiest mystical ideal of devekut. Landau even seems to have been active in compiling a 1786 Prague prayer book Tikun nefesh (Restoration of the Soul'), which is replete with kabbalistic concepts and liturgical texts. This work, with Landau's name on its title page, was reprinted in Prague several times. Nevertheless, his public comments on various kabbalistic customs, such as the recitation of the leshem yihud formula, a practice he himself endorsed on occasion, are frequently much more guarded even in his Prague writings. In his responsa, he often rejects such practices.

What emerges, then, is that although Landau uses kabbalistic motifs in all genres of his work, they are given different weight and meaning depending on where they are used. His Prague sermons are laced with kabbalistic images, as are his glosses on aggadic material in the Tselah. In his responsa, nowever, his discussion of kabbalistic matters is extremely restrained, and at times even dismissive. Yet even there his veneration for kabbalah surfaces 'between the lines' in certain queries. An explanation for this discrepancy is that his homilies and Talmud commentaries were primarily directed at a Prague audience who were acquainted with and admired kabbalah. In contrast, in his responsa, which were addressed to a broader and more diverse audience, Landau felt uncomfortable revealing kabbalistic ideas, fearing that they would reach places where they were unknown, and that they might be rejected or misused. In addition, in his halakhic writings he was especially careful to observe the traditional Ashkenazi hierarchy of giving halakhah precedence over all other disciplines, including kabbalah.

Prague's Eclectic Mystical Canon

Beyond demonstrating the pervasiveness of mysticism in Prague's rabbinic society, this book aims to provide a comprehensive reconstruction of the nature of this mystical world. In the course of analysing the kabbalistic texts and tenets that influenced Landau and Prague Jews, this study charts the diverse kabbalistic schools that were dominant in eighteenth-century east European rabbinic circles. By tracing the eclectic kabbalistic sources that permeated Prague's Jewish culture, this work employs the approach advocated by Moshe Idel in Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, which calls for a 'panoramic' analysis of early hasidic writings that takes into account the wide array of mystical sources, in addition to Lurianic kabbalah, that shaped hasidism. Idel demonstrates that the mystical sources of the teachings of numerous eighteenth-century hasidic masters were more eclectic than previously depicted. However, despite Idel's advocacy of a panoramic analysis of the influential kabbalistic works during this period and his application of this approach to early hasidic texts, he does not apply this analysis to works of non-hasidic rabbinic leaders of the era.

In Part III I extend the panoramic approach to the writings of eminent non-hasidic eighteenth-century Prague rabbis, most prominently Landau, highlighting the centrality in both Landau's works and numerous other Prague sources of a wide range of kabbalistic materials. Emphasis is placed on the Zohar (The Book of Splendour), a classic work of Jewish mysticism written primarily during the thirteenth century, and on later kabbalistic doctrines developed in sixteenth-century Safed, especially those of Moses Cordovero (1522-7o) and Isaac Luria (the Ari; 1534-72).62 Many of Prague's rabbinic and liturgical writings draw on ideas from these and other kabbalistic works, exhibiting a unique blend of rabbinic and mystical motifs, and this is explored in Part IV. This study is the first to document the role of disparate and even competing systems of medieval and early modern kabbalah in the culture of a major Jewish community and the works of a distinguished eighteenth-century rabbi.

Landau's writings reveal that he seldom engaged in original kabbalistic speculation. This actually highlights the sincerity of his belief in kabbalah. For him, as for most kabbalists, the goal is to study, practise, and transmit kabbalistic teachings, not to alter them. His view of kabbalah as ancient lore leads him to disseminate its teachings with integrity and with as little of his own 'contributions' as possible. While modern scholars' interest in the 'novelty' of a thinker's kabbalistic writings is a worthwhile academic pursuit, it is not a helpful measuring stick for evaluating kabbalah's role for a specific thinker or for his milieu. Despite Landau's fidelity to older kabbalistic texts, his kabbalistic discussions do display creativity however. On various occasions, his syncretic manner of blending together and juxtaposing ideas from different periods and diverse kabbalistic schools is highly original.

Both the lack of critical biographies on Prague's prominent eighteenth-century rabbis and historians' neglect of the majority of their writings have contributed to scholarship's oversight of the significance of a broad range of kabbalistic texts in eighteenth-century Prague. An array of the city's rabbinic, liturgical, and other texts exhibits Prague Jews' familiarity with eclectic kabbalistic sources and doctrines. In Landau's sermons and commentaries, he often prefaces his discussions of concepts from the Zohar, musar treatises, and Lurianic literature with the assertion that these kabbalistic notions 'are already well known'. He also employs zoharic, Lurianic, and Cordoverian motifs as a means of rebuking and inspiring change in the praxis of Prague Jews, demonstrating his belief that members of his community valued these teachings.

The Broader Context

Because of the prominence of both Prague's Jewish community and Landau, this study forces us to revisit certain general assumptions and historical theories about eighteenth-century Jewish society and culture. The undocumented impact of several kabbalistic schools on Landau and Prague Jews necessitates a re-examination of kabbalah's overall influence. Further, it calls for the reassessment of kabbalah's evolution, accounting for the coexistence of several kabbalistic systems in eighteenth-century Jewish thought. The documentation of the diverse kabbalistic sources that affected central and east European Jews also reinforces Isaiah Tishby's, Bracha Sack's, and Moshe Idel's challenge of the older scholarly theory that the almost exclusive reign of Lurianic kabbalah set the stage for the proliferation of Sabbatianism and hasidism.

The writings of Landau, an eminent opponent of hasidism, or mitnaged, ironically demonstrate that many of the ideals conventionally ascribed to the new hasidic movement then emerging in eastern Europe were prevalent in eighteenth-century traditional rabbinic society at large. This discovery forces us to reassess non-hasidic rabbinic culture, the novelty of hasidism in general, and the nature of the rabbinic opposition to this nascent movement. Scholarship has been misled by the explicit polemical claims of the opponents of hasidism that great matters of principle separated them from the hasidim. This book aims to present a nuanced portrait of the relationship between the early mystical hasidic movement and the culture of non-hasidic traditional Ashkenazi Jews.

Until now, most of the sparse scholarship on eighteenth-century non-hasidic culture has been devoted solely to centres into which hasidism penetrated, such as Vilna and Shklov. Scholars have tended to focus on the rabbinic opposition to hasidism and the culture that was championed in these places, especially the teachings of Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna (1720-97) and his disciples. This narrow focus has contributed to scholars' inattention to the diverse landscape of eighteenth-century rabbinic society.72 It has also led to the neglect of many of the prominent centres of eighteenth-century Jewry, including Frankfurt, Metz, and Prague.

This book is one of the first attempts to redress these oversights. In particular, it exposes the tremendous impact of east European rabbinic and kabbalistic traditions on Prague's traditional culture and specifically on its preeminent rabbinic authority, Ezekiel Landau. This careful examination explores the rabbinic institutions, writings, and values as well as the kabbalistic schools, practices, and doctrines which, at the onset of modernity, were paramount for Prague Jews and Landau. It accordingly offers a more complete portrayal of rabbinic culture during the last years that it thrived in one of the most important centres of European Jewry.

Part I provides an overview of the history and inner workings of the eighteenth-century Jewish community of Prague. This section focuses on the efflorescence of Prague's rabbinic culture during the latter half of the century despite Joseph II's Toleranzpatent, which officially abolished the Jewish community's autonomy. It chronicles the continued importance of halakhah and kabbalah within this culture, and surveys Prague's largely overlooked talmudic academies, Jewish court system, and numerous rabbinic scholars. The wide political and religious influence of Ezekiel Landau is specifically charted and analysed. The final chapter identifies various trends and developments which threatened Prague's traditional culture during the last decades of the century, including the Haskalah, the increasing centralization of the Habsburg state, and Sabbatianism. The unique responses of Prague's rabbinate to these challenges are examined.

Part II explores the role of kabbalah in Landau's thought, writings, and even his halakhic reasoning. His education in Poland, his observance of various mystical customs, and his eclectic works all reflect his intense involvement with this esoteric lore. The irony of Landau's frequent claim that he does not engage in kabbalah, which often prefaces his kabbalistic remarks, is noted and investigated. Finally, this section reveals the various factors underlying his reluctance to discuss kabbalah publicly.

Part III identifies the specific kabbalistic schools, sources, and trends that Landau and other eighteenth-century Prague rabbis employ in their diverse writings. In particular, it focuses on Landau's appropriation of tenets which originate in zoharic, Cordoverian, Lurianic, and other kabbalistic 'schools'. This section also demonstrates that although he is primarily a transmitter of earlier mystical traditions, he occasionally uses and combines terms and concepts unique to a particular kabbalistic school in an original and daring manner.

Part IV offers a thematic analysis of the major mystical tenets found in Landau's works and in numerous other eclectic Prague sources. Unlike the kabbalistic ideas discussed in Part III, these teachings are common to many schools, and cannot therefore be traced to an individual kabbalistic school with certainty. In addition, this section shows both Landau's syncretic use of kabbalistic, rabbinic, and philosophical texts and the interweaving of ideas from different genres in the world-view and writings of many Prague and other Ashkenazi Jews. This section's close study of the prominent mystical doctrines that shaped the mentalité of Prague's rabbinic elite as well as that of its laity highlights the widespread importance of this lore in eighteenth-century Prague.