Rabbi Natan Adler
Born: Frankfurt, 1742
Died: Frankfurt, 1800
Talmudic scholar, Kabbalist
According to tradition, the family name of Adler (eagle) derives from the heraldic design (embodying an eagle) on the flag of the old city of Frankfurt. This flag was carried by one of Adler's ancestors in the triumphant procession of Jews returning to Frankfurt after their re-admission in the 17th century. Nathan Adler descended from the 13th century Frankfurt sage, Rabbi Shimon Hadarshan-Ashkenasi, the author of Yalkut Shimoni. Adler was a pupil of Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua Falk ("Penei Yehoshua") and David Tebele Schiff, later Rabbi of the Great Synagogue in London.
Head of a Yeshivah. Among his pupils were Rabbi Moshe Schreiber ("Chatam Sofer"); Sekel Wormser ("Baal Shem"); Avraham Auerbach; Avraham Bing; and Mendel Kargau.
Adler lived a saintly life and adhered to the Chassidism of the Ari HaKadosh. He established the Sephardic Minhag in his private Synagogue, introduced the "Blessing of the Priests" in the weekly service, and used the Sephardic pronunciation in his prayers. The Frankfurt Community, remembering the damage done by the false Messiahs Shabbetai Tzvi and Yaakov Frank (in the neighboring town of Offenbach), strongly opposed his Kabbalistic leanings and finally excommunicated him. This cherem was lifted only a few weeks before Adler's death.
With the exception of his appointment at Boskowitz, Moravia, (1782- 1785), after which he returned to Frankfurt, Nathan Adler never officiated as Rabbi. Nor did he publish his marginal glosses on the Mishnah, Gemara and Shulchan Aruch. It was due to the loyalty of his pupils that some of his interpretations have survived.
Rabbi Pinchas Halevi Horowitz
Born: Chortkov, Galicia, 1730
Died: Frankfurt 1805
Rabbi Pinchas Horowitz, together with his younger brother, the future Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg, studied under their father, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Chortkov. Early in life they joined the chassidic movement , becoming dedicated followers of the Maggid of Mezritch.
As a young man R' Pinchas served as rabbi in Vitkova and Lechovitz, and in 1772 he received the appointment to serve as rabbi of the prestigious community of Frankfurt-on-the-Main and as dean of its yeshivah. He served as the rabbi of Frankfurt for 33 years, until his death. His gracious and kindhearted character gained him the instant affection of the entire community. The gentile population too admired the new rabbi for the compassion and benevolence he displayed toward the needy of all creeds.
Taking an active part in public affairs, he spoke out forcefully against the German translation of the Bible, by Moses Mendelssohn, with its commentary called Buir. Mendelssohn wrote this translation as a means of introducing Jews to the German language and culture. It proved to be the first step on the road to integration and assimilation, and the forerunner to intermarriage and conversion.
Rabbi Pinchas's greatest achievement was his work as a posek, or leading halachic authority. The most complex halachic queries from far and wide were addressed to him, and were published in the collection of responsa entitled Teshuvot Givat Pinchas. His prodigious greatness in Torah is evident in his work Haflaah, which consists of talmudic and halachic novellae. His commentary on the Torah, Panim Yafot, is written in the spirit of Chassidism and reflects the influence of his mentor, the Maggid of Mezritch. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Horowitz, succeeded him as Rabbi of Frankfurt.
R' Pinchas Horowitz and R' Shmuel Shmelke of Nikolsburg meeting the Maggid of Mezritch
R' Shmelke and R' Pinchas Horowitz first came to the Maggid on Erev Shabbat. Although they expected a lengthy discussion with him, the Maggid dismissed them after a few words. they had hoped to hear impressive Torah at his table, and were deeply disappointed when they felt nothing from his words, which - unbeknownst to them - contained deep secrets of Torah. Like the Maggid upon meeting the Baal Shem Tov, they decided to go home. Aware of their intention, R' Zusha (a student of the Maggid) cautioned, "We have learned, 'if a rabbi is like an angel of God, seek Torah from his mouth' [Chagigah 15b]. Has any of us ever seen an angel? Nevertheless, if one came your way, you wouldn't question him, test him, or seek a sign from him. So it is with a true Tzaddik: from him you should seek Torah! "With these words, the brothers returned to the Maggid and asked him to teach them the revealed part of Torah. The Maggid then posed a very difficult question about a Gemara and offered an answer so simple and straightforward that they were amazed they hadn't arrived at it themselves. This was followed by a strong refutation, and another solution. After nine such exercises, the Maggid closed the Gemara and asked, "Why have you traveled here? Do great ones like yourselves need the likes of me?" He then referred to their ascetic lifestyle, which he knew through ruach hakodesh: "One who prays and ascends into the upper spheres but remarks at the end of the day, 'You know, today I was not so bad!' - his Divine service is cast out of Heaven. "When they heard this, R' Pinchas and R' Shmelke said, "You ask why we traveled to see you. We would have walked even a thousand miles to hear such words!"
The Holly Sparks
[At the time of Creation, the sparks from the Divine Light fell to earth in a primordial cataclysm called shevirat HaKeilim, the breaking of the vessels. The sparks of holiness-nitzotzot hakedoshim scattered and were mixed with the dross of earthly existence. It is Israel's specific task to correct the primal flaw by freeing the entrapped sparks. This can be done through the proper observance of the Torah. When all the sparks are released, Mashiach will come.]
R' Pinchas Horowitz comments in these words:
The purpose of all the exiles of the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth is to release the sparks of holiness that are imprisoned in those places. When the children of Israel left Egypt it was a complete redemption, for not even one holy spark was left in that country, as it is written, "The Israelites drained Egypt"(Exodus 12:35)...The ultimate redemption of Israel from the exile will not arrive until the coming of Mashiach. Then all the nitzotzot hakedoshim that are scattered throughout the world will have been released, just as it happened in Egypt. (Panim Yafot, Yitro)
Rabbi Jakob Joshua Falk - Penei Yehoshua
Yarzheit 14th of Shvat
Jakob Josua Falk held the office of chief rabbi in Frankfurt from 1741 to 1756. During his term of office there occurred the KulpKann disputes, a bitter feud for political domination of the Jewish community between the Kann and Kulp families and their dependents.
Jakob Falk was born in 1681, the descendant of a family of scholars in Cracow, where his grandfather had been chief rabbi. On his marriage he moved to Lemberg, where he initially held the honorary position of inspector of schools. He was later made community spokesman in Lemberg, and after several years as a rabbi in smaller towns became chief rabbi in Lemberg in 1718.
By the time he was called to Frankfurt from Berlin and Metz as a sixtyyearold, he was a scholar of world reknown.
His principal work, a fundamental commentary on the Talmud with the title "Pnei Jehoshua The View of Josua", remains a standard text for Talmudic study even today. In Frankfurt he became embroiled in several disputes about religious law, and came into conflict with many scholars. He was drawn against his will into the KulpKann disputes, which had great significance for Jewish community politics, and was accused of partiality towards the Kanns because of his close friendship with the family rabbi, Moses Kann). As chief rabbi, he constantly tried to stand aloof from the administration of the community. He nevertheless fought with great determination against pseudomessianic heresies and against the Amulets of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz, which were claimed to have magical powers. This question had grown into a fundamental dispute between the Jewish communities of central Europe. Disillusioned by attacks from outsiders, and by the lack of support from his community, Josua Falk left Frankfurt in 1750. He lived temporarily in Mannheim, Frankfurt, and Worms, and for a longer period in Offenbach, where he died in 1756, just as the Frankfurt community had resolved after much argument to recall him. He was buried in Frankfurt in the cemetery in the Battonstraße.
© Jued. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 / Sources
A complete list of all Jidden who are buried at the old cemetary can be found here: Museum Judengasse.