Yom-Tov Lipmann ben Solomon Muhlhausen (Hebrew: יום טוב ליפמן מילהאוזן) (Yom-Tov was his religious given name, Lipmann was his secular given name, one of the traditional Ashkenazic vernacular equivalents for Yom-Tov, while his last name represents a nickname indicating the origin of either him or his ancestors from the town of Mühlhausen, in Thuringia) was a controversialist, Talmudist, kabalist and philosopher of the 14th and 15th centuries (birth date unknown, died later than 1420). His religious and scholarly career and influence spanned the Jewish communities of Bohemia, Poland, Austria and various parts of Germany, and his dispute with the principles of Christianity left a lasting imprint on the relations between Christianity and Judaism.
There is no comprehensive account of his life and career, which must be reconstructed from fragmentary references. According to Stephan Bodecker, Bishop of Brandenburg, who wrote a refutation of Lipmann's Niẓẓaḥon, Lipmann lived at Cracow. But Naphtali Hirsch Treves, in the introduction to his Siddur, calls him "Lipmann Mülhausen of Prague", adding that he lived in the part of the town called "Wyschigrod." Manuscript No. 223 in the Halberstam collection contains a document issued at Prague in 1413 and signed by Lipmann Mülhausen, as dayyan.
It is seen from his Niẓẓaḥon that, besides his rabbinical studies, Lipmann occupied himself with the study of the Bible, that he was acquainted with Karaite literature, that he read the New Testament, and that he knew Latin. His authority in rabbinical matters is shown by his circular to the rabbis warning them against the use of any shofar not made of a ram's horn (comp. S.D. Luzzatto in Kerem Ḥemed, vii.56). There are also responsa addressed to him by Jacob ben Moses Mölln (A. Neubauer, Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS. No. 907, 5), and Israel Isserlein mentions him (Terumat ha-Deshen, No. 24) as one of five scholars who met at Erfurt. On 16 August 1399, Lipmann and many other Jews were thrown into prison at the instigation of a converted Jew named Peter, who accused them of insulting Christianity in their works. Lipmann was ordered to justify himself, but while he brilliantly refuted Peter's accusations, as a result of the charges seventy-seven Jews were martyred on 22 August 1400, and three more, by fire, on 11 September 1400. Of the accused Lipmann alone escaped death.
Lipmann was the author of:
- Sefer ha-Niẓẓaḥon, a refutation of Christianity and Karaism and a demonstration of the superiority of rabbinical Judaism. The work was the first to recount a Christian response to the ritual of Elijah's chair.
- Zikron Sefer ha-Niẓẓaḥon a refutation of Christianity, an abstract in verse of the preceding work (pp. 107–117 in the Tela Ignea Satanæ of Wagenseil, who supplied a Latin translation and added a long refutation, Freiburg, 1681; A. Geiger, in Bresslauer's Deutscher Volkskalender, iii.48, declares Lipmann's authorship of this poem doubtful)
- a commentary to the Shir ha-Yiẓud (Freiburg, 1560)
- In Samson ben Eleazar's Baruk she-Amar (Shklov, 1804) there is a kabalistic treatise on the Hebrew alphabet, entitled Sefer Alfa Beta, the author of which is given as מהר"ל שלי"ו. S. Sachs and Steinschneider concluded that the author was Lipmann-Mülhausen. This work discusses:
- the form of the letters
- the reason for their form
- the mystery of their composition, order, and numerical value, and
- the kabalistic explanation of their form
In this work the author frequently mentions a cabalistic work entitled Sefer ha-Eshkol and a commentary to the Sefer Yeẓirah
- Menahem Ẓiyyoni's Ẓefune Ẓiyyoni is ascribed, in a pamphlet quoted by Reuben ben Hoshke (Yalḳuṭ Re'ubeni, section "Naso"), to a certain R. Ṭabyomi, whom Steinschneider (Cat. Bodl. col. 1411) identifies with Lipmann-Mülhausen.
- Lipmann promises, in his Niẓẓaḥon (§197), a commentary to Pirḳe Abot, but such a work is not extant.
- Finally, it may be added that Manuscript 820 in Oppenheimer's collection was supposed to be a Biblical commentary by the author of the Sefer ha-Niẓẓaḥon, but Dukes (Orient, Lit. xi.299) declares that it is nothing else than the Niẓẓaḥon itself.
Contents of the Niẓẓaḥon
The Nizzahon was long inaccessible to Christian Hebraists, and a copy was only obtained in 1644 by a deceitful ruse, involving outright theft, by the professor of Hebrew aat the University of Altdorf, Theodor Hackspan, who learning that a rabbi in Schnattach possessed a copy, obtained an interview with him for a debate, and when the rabbi took down his copy to consult, had it snatched from his hands, to be then copied and printed. It is this copy which forms the editio princeps.
Lipmann's reputation is dependent, mainly, upon his Niẓẓaḥon (ספר ניצחון). The book aimed to deal with the acute problems of conversion to Christianity among German Jews. That a rabbi in the 15th century should occupy himself with the Latin language and the New Testament was certainly a rare thing. Lipmann was compelled to justify himself (§3) by referring to the saying of Rabbi Eliezer, "Know what thou shalt answer to the heretic" (Abot ii.14). The whole work consists of 354 paragraphs, the number of days in the lunar year, each paragraph, with the exception of the last eight, beginning with a passage of the Bible, upon which the author founds his argument. Thus his arguments rest upon 346 passages taken from all the books of the Old Testament. The last eight paragraphs contain his dispute with the convert Peter. In the introduction, Lipmann says that he divided the work into seven parts to represent the seven days of the week. The part for the first day contains the arguments against Christians; that for the second day those against the Karaite interpretation of the Bible; those for the remaining five days contain several interpretations of obscure Biblical passages that are likely to mislead students; the reasons for the commandments; arguments against atheists; arguments against the Karaites and their rejection of the Talmud; and an account of the sixteen things which comprehend the whole of Judaism and which, after being indicated in the Pentateuch, are repeated in the Prophets and Hagiographa.
Translations and refutations
Very characteristic is Lipmann's refutation of the assumed miraculous birth of Jesus, as well as his demonstration of the falsity of the conclusions of the Christians who claim that the birth of Jesus was foretold by the Prophets. He constantly quotes Maimonides, Abraham ibn Ezra, Naḥmanides, Saadia, Rashi, Shemariah of Negropont, and other ancient scholars. Lipmann must have written his Sefer ha-Niẓẓaḥon before 1410, for he expressed a hope that the Messiah would arrive in that year (§335). It was first published by Hackspan (Altdorf, 1644), who seized the manuscript from the rabbi of Schneittach (Goldwurm 2001, p. 152). Wagenseil published, at the end of his Sota (Altdorf-Nuremberg, 1674), corrections of Hackspan's edition under the title of Correctiones Lipmannianæ.
Later, the Niẓẓaḥon was reprinted, with the addition of Ḳimḥi's Vikkuaḥ, in Amsterdam (1709 and 1711) and Königsberg (1847). Sebald Snelle published the Hebrew text with a Latin translation and refutation of the paragraph (§8) denying the miraculous birth of Jesus (Altdorf, 1643), and at various dates he published Latin translations of the paragraphs directed against Christianity. A Latin translation of the whole work, with the exception of the passages taken from the Pentateuch, was made by Johann Heinrich Blendinger (Altdorf, 1645). As will be readily understood, the work gave rise to many polemics and called forth replies from Christians. The first was Stephen Bodecker, Bishop of Brandenburg, a younger contemporary of Lipmann, who wrote a refutation of the Niẓẓaḥon (comp. Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. i.736). The following other refutations are published: Wilhelm Schickard, Triumphator Vapulans sive Refutatio, etc. (Tübingen, 1629); Stephen Gerlow, Disputatio Contra Lipmanni Nizzachon (Königsberg, 1647); Christian Schotan, Anti-Lipmanniana (Franeker, 1659), giving also the Hebrew text of the Niẓẓaḥon. Informally, Anti-Lipmanniana came to be used also as an overall term for the entire corpus of Christian writings debating with and seeking to refute Lipman's arguments.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 443;
- Fürst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 403;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., viii. 71-72;
- S. Sachs, in Kerem Ḥemed, viii. 206 et seq.;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 1410-1414;
- idem, Jewish Literature, pp. 113, 129, 145;
- Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. i., iii., No. 1364;
- Zunz, Z. G. pp. 124, 129, 194, 380.
- Revue des études juives: Volumes 143 à 144 Société des études juives (France), École pratique des hautes études (France). Section des sciences économiques et sociales, École des hautes études en sciences sociales - 1984 "The first author to recount a Christian response to the ritual of Elijah's Chair was Yom Tov Lipmann Muhlhausen (Prague, late fourteenth- mid-fifteenth century) in his Sefer Nizzahon (written between 1401-1405)"
- Ora Limor, Israel Jacob Yuval,'Scepticism and Conversion: Jews, Christians and Doubt in Sefer ha-Nizzahon,' in Allison Coudert, Jeffrey S. Shoulson (eds.) Hebraica Veritas?: Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 pp.159-179, pp.166.
- Ora Limor, Israel Jacob Yuval,'Scepticism and Conversion: Jews, Christians and Doubt in Sefer ha-Nizzahon,' in Allison Coudert, Jeffrey S. Shoulson (eds.) [Hebraica Veritas?: Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe,] University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004 pp.159-179, pp.160-161.
- Rabbi Hersh Goldwurm (2001) The Rishonim. Second edition. Mesorah Publications.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.