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OBJECT OF THE MONTH


Ezekiel Landau, Noda bi-Yehuda (Famous in Judea)
• Praha 1773
• Transferred to the Museum’s Collection Department from another of its departments in 2001
• Manuscripts and genizah papers Collection
• Facsimile on display in the exhibition at the Maisel Synagogue

This month marks the 300th anniversary of one of the greatest rabbinic authorities of the eighteenth century, Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (1713–1793). He was born on the 18th of Heshvan 5474 (7 November 1713) in Opatov, Galicia. In 1744, after studying with his father Judah and at the rabbinical academy in Brody, he was elected chief rabbi of Yampol, Volhynia. In 1754 – thanks to his extraordinary knowledge, as well as his leadership and diplomatic skills – he was appointed chief rabbi of Prague, a position he held until his death in 1793. Landau deserves credit for improving relations between the state and the Czech Jewish community. His policy of consistent loyalty to the Habsburgs during the Seven Years' War of 1756–1763 averted the danger of the Jews being expelled. Landau, however, did not manage to prevent the abolition of the administrative and judicial autonomy of the Jews as part of the reforms of Emperor Josef II. In his internal policy, he sought to bring about a settlement to the conflict between Jacob Emden and Jonathan Eybeschuetz, and to suppress the Sabbatean and Frankist heresies. Landau came out in opposition not only to Hasidism and the Kabbalah, but also to the radical form of Jewish enlightenment, but he did approve of the scientific activities of moderate enlightenment thinkers. For pragmatic reasons he supported some of the state's measures leading to the modernization of Jewish life. He promoted the setting up of what were known as 'normal' schools that taught secular subjects in addition to religion. He himself was the head of a famous yeshivah that educated several generations of rabbis. Landau published more than 850 responsa on current issues of religious law. His responsa were published under the title Noda bi-Yehuda (first volume in 1776, second in 1810). This collection is the focus of study at Orthodox yeshivot. Landau also wrote Talmudic commentaries, sermons and prayers for special occasions. Landau's portrait is depicted on a copper engraving by M. Klauber from 1756. Landau donated an ostentatious crown to the Old-New Synagogue in memory of his father.

1)
Markus Klaber, Portrait of the Chief Rabbi of Prague, Ezekiel Landau
Copper engraving on paper, Prague, 1756


2)
Torah Crown donated to the Old-New Synagogue by Ezekiel Landau
Hammered, chased and gilt silver, Galicia?, mid-18th cent., dedicatory plaque, Prague, 1783


3)
Tombstone of Ezekiel Landau
Jewish Cemetery in Fibichova Street, Prague 3


Inv. No. ŽMP 178.298, Ms 330
Manuscript on paper, ink, copy for typesetting with additions and corrections by the author
open book, 400 x 470 mm







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