Jonathan Eybeschutz

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Yonatan Eybeschütz
Brockhaus and Efron Jewish Encyclopedia e16 176-0.jpg
Died1764 (aged 73–74)
SpouseElkele Spira
ChildrenWolf Jonas Eybeschutz
  • Nosson Nota [1] (father)

Rav Yonatan Eybeschütz (רבי יהונתן אייבשיץ) (also Eibeschutz or Eibeschitz; 1690  – 1764) was a Talmudist, Halachist, Kabbalist, holding positions as Dayan of Prague, and later as Rabbi of the "Three Communities": Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek. With Rav Jacob Emden, he is well known as a protagonist in the Emden–Eybeschütz Controversy.


Rav Eybeschütz's father Nosson Nota[1] was the rabbi in Ivančice (German: Eibenschütz, sometimes Eibeschutz), Habsburg Moravia. Born in Kraków, Rav Eybeschütz was a child prodigy in Talmud; on his father's death, he studied in the yeshiva of Meir Eisenstadt in Prostějov (Prossnitz), and then later in Holešov (Holleschau). He also lived in Vienna for a short time. He married Elkele Spira, daughter of Rabbi Isaac Spira, and they lived in Hamburg for two years with Mordecai ha-Kohen, Elkele's maternal grandfather.

At the age of eighteen, Rav Eybeschütz was appointed rabbi of Bolesławiec, where he stayed for three years, afterward settling in Prague in 1700 and becoming head of the yeshivah and a famous preacher. The people of Prague held Rav Eybeschütz in high esteem and he was considered second there only to Chief Rabbi David Oppenheim.

In Prague, Rav Eybeschütz received permission to print the Talmud—but with the omission of all passages contradicting the principles of Christianity in consultation with Chief Rabbi David Oppenheim. Legends and rumors seeking to discredit the event said that he did this without the consultation of the Rabbis of Prague, and they revoked the printing license.

In 1724, in Prague 1724 he was suspected of being a Sabbatean. Despite denouncing the Sabbatean movement on Yom Kippur the accusations continued.[2] Therefore, In 1736, Rav Eybeschütz was only appointed dayan of Prague and not chief rabbi. He became rabbi of Metz in 1741, and in 1750, was elected rabbi of the "Three Communities:" Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek.

In July 1725, the Ashkenazic beit din of Amsterdam issued a ban of excommunication on the entire Sabbatian sect (kat ha-ma’aminim). Writings of Sabbatian nature found by the beit Din at that time were attributed to Rav Eybeschütz [3] In early September, similar excommunication proclamations were issued by the batei din of Frankfurt and the triple community of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck. The three bans were printed and circulated in other Jewish communities throughout Europe.[4] Rabbi Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen, the chief rabbi of the Triple Community [5] was unwilling to attack Rav Eybeschütz publicly, mentioning that ‘greater than him have fallen and crumbled’ and that ‘there is nothing we can do to him’ [5] However, Rabbi Katzenelenbogen stated that one of the texts found by the Amsterdam beit din "Va-Avo ha-Yom el ha-Ayyin” was authored by Rav Jonathan Eybeschütz and declared that the all copies of the work that were in circulation should be immediately burned.[6] As a result of Rav Eybeschütz and other rabbis in Prague formulating a new (and different) ban against Sabbatianism shortly after the other bans were published, his reputation was restored and Rav Eybeschütz was regarded as having been totally vindicated.[7] The issue was to arise again, albeit tangentially, in the 1751 dispute between Rav Emden and Rav Eybeschütz.

He was "an acknowledged genius" in at least three separate areas of Jewish religious creativity: Talmud and Jewish law (halakhah); homiletics (derush) and popular preaching; and Kabbalah. "He was a man of erudition, but he owed his fame chiefly to his personality. Few men of the period so profoundly impressed their mark on Jewish life."[8] His granddaughter was the Breslau poet and intellectual Lucie Domeier [de], born Esther Gad.

Sabbatian controversy[edit]

Rav Eybeschütz was again accused of secret Sabbatean beliefs following a suspicion that he had issued amulets recognising the Messianic claims of Sabbatai Zevi.[8] The controversy started when Rav Yaakov Emden found connections between the Kabbalistic and homiletic writings of Rav Eybeschütz with those of the Sabbatean Judah Leib Prossnitz, whom Rav Eybeschütz knew from his days in Prossnitz.[2] Rabbi Jacob Emden accused him of heresy.[8] The majority of the rabbis in Poland, Moravia, and Bohemia, as well as the leaders of the Three Communities supported Rav Eybeschütz: the accusation was "utterly incredible"—in 1725, Rav Eybeschütz was among the Prague rabbis who excommunicated the Sabbateans. Others suggest that the Rabbis issued this ruling because they feared the repercussions if their leading figure, Rav Eybeschütz, was found to be a Sabbatean. Rabbi Jacob Emden suggests that the rabbis decided against attacking Eybeschütz out of a reluctance to offend his powerful family and a fear of rich supporters of his living in their communities [9] The recent discovery of notarial copies of the actual amulets found in Metz and copying the amulets written by Rav Eybeschütz support Rav Emden's view that these are Sabbatean writings.[10]

In 1752, the controversy between Rav Emden and Rav Eybeschütz raged. Clashes between opposing supporters occurred in the streets drawing the attention of the secular authorities.[11] Rav Emden fled. The controversy was heard by both the Senate of Hamburg and by the Royal Court of Denmark. The Hamburg Senate quickly found in favour of Rav Eybeschütz.[12] The King of Denmark asked Rav Eybeschütz to answer a number of questions about the amulets. Conflicting testimony was put forward and the matter remained officially unresolved[13] although the court imposed fines on both parties for civil unrest and ordered that Rav Emden be allowed to return to Altona.[14] At this point Rav Eybeschütz was defended by Carl Anton, a convert to Christianity, but a former disciple of Rav Eybeschütz.[15] Rav Emden refused to accept the outcome and sent out vicious pamphlets attacking Rav Eybeschütz.[16] Rav Eybeschütz was re-elected as Chief Rabbi. In December of that year, the Hamburg Senate rejected both the King's decision and the election result. The Senate of Hamburg started an intricate process to determine the powers of Rav Eybeschütz, and many members of that congregation demanded that he should submit his case to rabbinical authorities.

The controversy was a momentous incident in Jewish history of the period—involving both Rav Yechezkel Landau and the Vilna Gaon. Rav Eybeschütz approached the young Gaon to examine and appraise the amulets. The Gaon replied in a letter that while he had sympathy with Rav Eybeschütz he did not believe that the words of a young man would assist in the dispute. Some time after the dispute Rav Landau, who at that time was a relatively unknown rabbi from Yampol, attempted to resolve the dispute offering both parties a dignified exit. His proposal was accepted by Rav Eybeschütz but vehemently rejected by Rav Emden, who continued to publish attacks on Rav Eybeschütz.[16] Only after Rav Emden's death did the halachic decision of Rav Landau bring an end to the personal dispute. Some believe that he may be credited with having crushed the lingering belief in Sabbatai current even in some Orthodox circles.[8] However, it is only recently that the notarised copies of all of the amulets have been rediscovered, clearly Sabbatean in nature.[17] and the debate of 1725 has been located in the archives.[18]

In 1760, the quarrel broke out once more when some Shabbatean elements were discovered among the students of Rav Eybeschütz' yeshivah. At the same time his younger son, Wolf Jonas Eybeschutz, presented himself as a Shabbatean prophet, and was close to several Frankists, with the result that the yeshivah was closed.[19]

Rav Jonathan Eybeschütz's grandson was rumored to be Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld, an apostate Jew who inherited his grandfather's collection of Sabbatean kabbalistic works. He eventually left the Sabbatean movement and founded a Masonic lodge called the Asiatische Bruder, one of four Illuminati lodges in Vienna. After his uncle's death on August 10, 1791, he was offered the leadership of the Frankist movement which he refused. Katz disputes this claim however, saying that Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld was a member of the Dobruschka family of Brno and was in no way related, either by blood or marriage, to Rav Eybeschütz. According to Gershom Scholem, the ideology of the Asiatic Brethren mixed Kabbalistic and Sabbatean ideas jumbled together with Christian theosophic doctrines.[20]

Some of Rav Eybeschütz's descendants are the Yiddish novelist and Holocaust survivor Chava Rosenfarb (1923–2011),[21] Rav Chaim Kreiswirth of Antwerp, Belgium, and Rav Shmuel Wosner (1913–2015), a prominent Haredi rabbi and posek ('decisor of Jewish law') who lived in Bnei Brak, Israel.[citation needed]


Thirty of his works in the area of Halakha (Jewish law) have been published. In addition, several of his works on homiletics, teaching methodology, and Kabbalah are currently in print. Only one of his works was published in his lifetime. The posthumous printing of so many of his works is testimony to his influence on his contemporaries through his oral teachings and his personality.

Rabbi Eybeschütz also wrote Luchoth Edut (Tablets of Testimony), in which he describes the whole dispute and attempts to refute the charges against him. It includes also the letters of recommendation which he had received from leading rabbis who came to his defense. In January 2014, Maggid Books, a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem published "Derash Yehonatan: Around the Year with Rav Yehonatan Eybeshitz" by Rabbi Shalom Hammer. This work is one of the first English translations of Rabbi Eybeshütz's writings.


  1. ^ a b "Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschutz - (5450-5524); 1690-1764".
  2. ^ a b Moshe Arie Perlmutter, R.Yehonatan Aibeshits ve-yahaso el ha-Shabtaut : hakirot hadashot 'al yesod ketav ha-yad shel ha-yom el ha-'ayin
  3. ^ Emden, Beit Yehonatan ha-Sofer, fol. 4.
  4. ^ Excerpts from the testimonies were printed by Rav Emden in his Beit Yehonatan ha-Sofer, Altona 1762, fol. 4v; the full text of the testimonies, letters, and proclamations pertaining to the investigation can be found in [Josef Prager], Gahalei Esh, Oxford, Bodleian Library. Ms. 2186, Vol. I, fols. 70r -129
  5. ^ a b Gahalei Esh, Vol. I, fol. 54
  6. ^ Prager, Gahalei Esh, Vol. I, fol. 54v.
  7. ^ [Prager], Gahalei Esh, fol.112r
  8. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainAbrahams, Israel (1911). "Eybeschütz, Jonathan". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 90.
  9. ^ Emden, Sefer Hitabbkut, fos. 1v-2r
  10. ^ Sid Leiman/Simon Schwarzfuchs, New Evidence on the Emden-Eybeschütz Controversy. The Amulets from Metz, in: Revue des Etudes Juives 165 (2006). The Plate of the amulets appear at page 248,
  11. ^ Kuryer Polski 16 June 1751
  12. ^ Grunwald Hamburgs deutsche Juden 103-105
  13. ^ Grunwald Hamburgs deutsche Juden 107
  14. ^ Emden Edut be Ya'akov 10r 63r
  15. ^ "Kurze Nachricht von dem Falschen Messias Sabbathai Zebhi," etc. (Wolfenbüttel, 1752)
  16. ^ a b Emden Sefer Shimush Amsterdam 1759 4r-v
  17. ^ Sid Leiman/Simon Schwarzfuchs, New Evidence on the Emden-Eybeschütz Controversy. The Amulets from Metz, in: Revue des Etudes Juives 165 (2006)
  18. ^ Paweł Maciejko Coitus interruptus in And I Came this Day unto the Fountain
  19. ^ Carmilly-Weinberger, Moshe. Wolf Jonas Eybeschütz - An "Enlightened" Sabbatean in Transylvania. In: Studia Judaica, 6 (1997) 7-26
  20. ^ Katz, Jacob (1970). Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723–1939. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-47480-5.
  21. ^ "Sefer Luhot 'Edut". Jewish Public Library. Retrieved 2022-02-21.


  • Moshe Perlmutter, R.Yehonatan Aibeshits ve-yahaso el ha-Shabtaut : hakirot hadashot 'al yesod ketav ha-yad shel ha-yom el ha-'ayin (Tel Aviv:1947 )
  • Carl Anton, Period documents concerning the Emden/Eibeschuetz controversy. (Reprint 1992)
  • Elisheva Carlebach, The pursuit of heresy : Rabbi Moses Hagiz and the Sabbatian controversies (Columbia 1990)
  • Gershom Scholem, Meḥḳere Shabtaʼut (1991)
  • Sid Leiman/Simon Schwarzfuchs, New Evidence on the Emden-Eibeschiitz Controversy. The Amulets from Metz, Revue des Etudes Juives 165 (2006),
  • Sid Z. Leiman, "When a Rabbi Is Accused of Heresy: R. Ezekiel Landau's Attitude toward R. Jonathan Eibeschuetz in the Emden- Eibeschuetz Controversy in FROM ANCIENT ISRAEL TO MODERN JUDAISM Edited by Jacob Neusner
  • Leiman, Sid (Shnayer) Z. When a rabbi is accused of heresy : the stance of the Gaon of Vilna in the Emden-Eibeschuetz controversy in Me'ah She'arim (2001) 251-263
  • Leiman, Sid (Shnayer) Z. When a rabbi is accused of heresy : the stance of Rabbi Jacob Joshua Falk in the Emden-Eibeschuetz controversy. Rabbinic Culture and Its Critics (2008) 435-456
  • Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger, Wolf Jonas Eybeschütz - an "Enlightened" Sabbatean in Transylvania Studia Judaica, 6 (1997) 7-26
  • Yehuda Liebes "A Messianic Treatise by R. Wolf the son of R. Jonathan Eibeschutz." Qiryat Sefer 57 (1982/2)148-178.

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