Page 94 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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RABBI EZEKIEL LANDAU AND HIS
LITERARY ACTIVITIES
On the 250th Anniversary of His Birth
B
y
S
o l o m o n
W
i n d
R
a b b i
Ezekiel Landau (1713-1793) was born in the city of
Opatow, Poland, to a wealthy family of high social posi-
tion in the Jewish community. Many of its members had served
for decades with preeminent distinction in the Council of Four
Lands—the supreme governing body of Polish Jewry vested
with a large measure of autonomy.
Rabbi Landau traced his descent to Rashi, the famous Bible
and Talmud commentator whose genealogy went back to Rabbi
Judah the Prince, compiler of the Mishnah in the third cen-
tury, himself a direct descendant of Hillel the Elder, President
of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in the first century B. C. E. Thus
Rabbi Landau was heir to high spiritual and intellectual en-
dowments which served him well in the turbulent eighteenth
century transition era teeming with anti-traditional tendencies.
His energetic leadership during this period of storm and stress
staunchly championed and upheld the banner of Jewish tra-
dition.
Fame came to Rabbi Landau at an early age. At twenty he
was appointed head of the rabbinical court at Brody, a sig-
nificant center of Jewish learning. At thirty he was elected to
the rabbinate of Yampol in Poland, where he established a
venerable Yeshiva for the study of the Talmud; and at forty
he was elected to the Rabbinate of Prague, capital of Bohemia.
Here he officiated as teacher, author, and communal adminis-
trator for the rest of his life.
An insatiable student and expounder of the Law, he inter-
preted and taught the ethical concepts of Judaism both by word
of mouth and by his voluminous writings. He possessed a happy
predilection for establishing and maintaining affable relations
between the Austrian government and its Jewish subjects. He
was ever on the alert to promote peace and to preserve the
solidarity of the Jewish community. At the same time, he was
zealously on guard against the incursion of anti-traditional ten-
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