Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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FABER / MEIR LOEB MALBIM
Malbim’s next move, in 1872, was to Mogilev on the Dnieper.
In his first public sermon as the newly appointed Rabbi he faced
an unusually large assembly. He appeared to address himself
to the simple folk deliberately ignoring the learned and affluent.
Sensing their disillusionment at not being treated to a dis-
course in the style of
Artzot ha-Hayyim,
he allegedly exclaimed:
“I know the art of pilpul, bu t prefer not to use i t” (H.M.,
p. 217). Whereupon the offended walked out in protest. This
incident was to become symbolic of the relationship between
rabbi and community. Although admired by the humble and
impoverished, Malbim was treated with disdain by the rich
and by the religious functionaries. The large attendances at his
sermons soon aroused the suspicions of the czarist civil admin-
islration and he was forbidden to deliver public lectures. Not
long thereafter the governor of Mogilev issued an edict expell-
ing him from Russian territory.
By the middle of the 1870s Malbim probably realized that
it would be virtually impossible for him to obtain a position
in Eastern Europe. Luckily he received an invitation from Dr.
Meir Lehman, rabbi of Mainz, to settle in that city. Assured
of a financial subsidy, he could look forward to continuing his
scholarly work there undisturbed. Moreover, Jehiel Brill also
resided in Mainz at the time, having transferred there the
publication of
Ha-Levanon
during the Prussian siege of Paris
in 1870. On the first leg of his journey westward Malbim
stopped in Koenigsberg. He was immediately offered the oppor-
tunity to assume leadership of the Lithuanian-Polish congrega-
tion, a post left vacant since the passing of Rabbi Jacob Zevi
Meklenberg (author of
HaTorah ve-ha-Kabbalah)
in 1865. Mai-
bim consented and remained in Koenigsberg for three years,
from 1876-1879. During these years he shared in decision mak-
ing on some of the vital issues confronting the rabbinic world in
the second half of the 19th century. He thus continued to dem-
onstrate his competence as a Halakhist even though his primary
interest lay in Bible exegesis.
In 1879, Malbim received an offer to become Chief Rabbi
of New York City. T h a t position was in the process of being
furthered by a group of local Orthodox synagogues. Malbim
declined because of his hesitation to undertake ocean travel
at his advanced age. But he did accept a call from Kremen-