Page 91 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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In 1858 Malbim was elected Rabbi of the Jewish community
of Bucharest, Rumania. In deciding to leave Kempen, he may
have been encouraged by the prospect of generous financial sup-
port in the new post for the publication of his works. As a matter
of fact, he was promised tha t Hebrew p rin ting facilities would
be established in Bucharest (see:
Journal of Jewish Bibli-
1940, pp. 112-115). This aspect of the arrangement
was soon realized, as evidenced by the fact tha t
was published in Bucharest in 1860. Also
Malbim’s unique commentary on the Song of Songs,
appeared here in the same year. Regrettably, other aspects of
an eagerly anticipated fruitful relationship ended in dismal
Malbim attempted with unrelenting determination to
strengthen Jewish life and elevate standards of religious ob-
servance. Unfortunately, his efforts met with defiance and rejec-
tion on the part of the lay leadership. These leaders considered
themselves enlightend modernists and sought to conform to the
mores of the non-Jewish majority. They scorned separatist reli-
gious practices like kashruth and strict Sabbath observance. An
ideological and emotional conflict between rabbi and influential
laymen became unavoidable, and soon a chain reaction was
set in motion.
Accused of impeding social progress, Malbim was forbidden
to deliver sermons. When this step failed to intimidate him,
his salary was discontinued. Other forms of pressure were ap-
plied, including interventions with the civil authorities. The
prime minister issued a statement denouncing him as an in-
solent rabbi who had the effrontery to preach against progress
and freedom! T he campaign finally culminated in the ugly
accusation tha t Malbim was an agent of a foreign government.
On Friday morning of March 18th, 1864 (Erev Shabbat Zakhor),
gendarmes burst into his home, pu t chains on his wrists and
dragged him into jail as a dangerous criminal. Accused of trea-
son, he was condemned to death by a military tribunal. But
for the swift intervention of Sir Moses Montefiore he would
have been executed. Instead he was expelled from Rumania.
His efforts at the Sultan’s court in Constantinople—Rumania