Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
6 2
Rabbi Judah ben Kalonymos of Speyer, German historian and
talmudic lexicographer who flourished in the second half of
the twelfth century. Rabbi Maimon first published this treatise
on the basis of manuscripts at Oxford University and at the
Jewish Theological Seminary of America. His introduction re-
fleets the same erudition and prodigious learning that character-
ize his forewords to many other historical and scholarly works.
They merit publication in their own right as distinct contribu-
tions to Torah learning and to Judaic lore.
Conspicuous among his achievements is his six-volume collec-
tion of history and folklore bearing the title
Saray Ha-Meah
(Princes of the Century). In these books Rabbi Maimon,
employing a sparkling and luxuriant style, reconstructs from
personal memories and essays the life histories of famed Jewish
religious personalities of the last century. These life histories
are, however, more than conventional biographies. They skill-
fully weave words and events, actions and conversations, into
felicitous patterns that mirror the greatness of soul and the
breadth of spirit which enabled these “princes” in Israel to
depict Judaism in its pristine majesty. In truth, a remarkably
consistent harmony pervades all of Rabbi Maimon’s efforts and
attainments. His labors as thinker, researcher and writer, his
activities in politics and in the religious world, merge into a
compendious unity. In his literary strivings he combined the
attributes of the medieval
gaon
and the modern scientific scholar.
In addition to his works on Jewish law (
halakhah
), Rabbi
Maimon wrote in the fields of history, biography, and bibliog-
raphy. He excelled also in editing literary compilations, historio-
biographical anthologies, and period writings. A proliferation
of notes in his own handwriting adorn the margins in hundreds
of his books, evidencing his mastery in all branches of Hebrew
literature.
An Early and Ardent Zionist
Rabbi Judah Leib Maimon (Fishman) was born December
10 (Kislev 12), 1875, in the town of Markulesti, Bessarabia.
His father, Abraham Elimelech the Scribe, son of Rabbi Mor-
decai Hacohen Maimon, migrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1904 and
died in Tel Aviv in 1930. While still very young, Judah attended
the Lithuanian yeshivot. He studied in Vilna and Kovno and
became a disciple of Rabbi Jehiel Michael Halevi Epstein,
author of
Arukh Ha-Shulhan,
from whom he received ordination.
He was also ordained by the distinguished Rabbi Solomon
Cohen of Vilna, by Isaac Danzig of St. Petersburg, by Hillel
David Hacohen of Rivash, editor of
Hapisgah,
and by the
Sephardic Hayyim Hezekiah Medini, author of
Sede Hemed .