Mordecai ben Avraham Yoffe (or Jaffe or Joffe) (c. 1530 – 7 March
1612; Hebrew: מרדכי בן אברהם יפה) was a Rabbi, Rosh
yeshiva and posek. He is best known as author of Levush Malkhut, a
ten-volume codification of Jewish law that particularly stressed the
customs of the Jews of Eastern Europe. He is known as "the Levush" or
"the Ba'al Halevushim", for this work.
Yoffe was born in Prague; he could count amongst his ancestors Rashi
and before him Hillel,
Elnathan (governor of Judea) and ultimately
back to King David. His father, Abraham b. Joseph, was a pupil of
Abraham ben Abigdor.
Levush studied under
Moses Isserles and Solomon Luria; Mattithiah b.
Solomon Delacrut was his teacher in Kabbalah. Yoffe also studied
philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics (apparently at the instance of
Rosh Yeshiva in
Prague until 1561, when, by order of the
emperor Ferdinand, the Jews were expelled from Bohemia. Yoffe then
went to Venice and studied astronomy (1561–71). In 1572 he was
elected rabbi of Grodno; in 1588, rabbi of Lublin, where he became one
of the leaders of the Council of Four Lands. Later Yoffe accepted the
rabbinate of Kremenetz. In 1592 he was called as rabbi to Prague; from
1599 until his death he occupied the position of chief rabbi of Posen.
In addition to his
Torah study, writing and teaching he was involved
with communal needs, and attended the fairs at Yaroslav and Lublin,
where community leaders and rabbis from large communities met to
discuss matters of general interest. These meetings were the
forerunners of the
Council of the Four Lands
Council of the Four Lands and the Council of
Levush Malchut ("Robes of Royalty") is a work of practical halacha,
accompanied by the reasons behind the various halachic decisions
according to logic and earlier sources, and includes sections on Torah
commentary, philosophy, and Mysticism. This work was divided into ten
sections known as "levushim" (garments, or "attires").
While still in his youth,
Rabbi Yoffe had the idea to compile a book
on Jewish law, which would be used for making halachic decisions. The
appearance of Caro's Shulchan Arukh, a digest of his Beit Yosef, led
Yoffe to consider whether he should continue writing his own work. On
reflection, he concluded that there was room for it since it would
contain "those laws observed by the
Ashkenazi Jews of Bohemia." When
Moshe Isserles' Gloss to the Shulḥan Arukh (called Mappah) appeared
in Cracow in 1578, Yoffe felt that Isserles had been too brief as had
Caro in the Shulḥan Arukh, and decided to resume his original work,
"that will be midway between the two extremes: the lengthy Beit Yosef
of Caro on the one hand, and on the other Caro's Shulḥan Arukh
together with the Mappah of Isserles, which is too brief." In all,
Yoffe worked on this book almost 50 years. However, after completing
his book he was confronted by another
Rabbi who had also written a
similar work, although not as extensive as Yoffe's. They reached an
agreement to publish Yoffe's book and to present the other Rabbi's
additional comments in glosses (hagahos) throughout the book [see
introduction to his Levush].
The work is organised as follows. The first five "attires" are devoted
to the laws expounded in Yosef Caro's Beit Yosef; the sixth, Ha-Orah
is an elucidation of Rashi's biblical commentary; the seventh,
Simḥah ve-Sason, contains sermons for holidays and weddings. Yoffe
collectively termed the last three, "rabbinic robes," considering that
these should be learned by "every student in that order –
philosophy, astronomy, and Kabbalah," these are: the eighth, Pinnat
Yikrat, is a commentary on Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed; the
ninth, Eder Yakar, is a commentary on the laws of the Jewish calendar
Maimonides and an additional commentary on Abraham bar
Hiyya's geographical-astronomical Tzurat ha-Aretz; the tenth, Even
Yikrat, is on Menahem Recanati's commentary on the Torah.
The Levush is an exception among the codifiers in treating
ritual-legal matters from a Kabbalistic standpoint; his approach, to a
certain extent, "tended to draw together the Talmudists and cabalists,
otherwise in danger of an open breach".
External links and references
^ a b c "Jaffe, Mordecai ben Abraham". Jewish Virtual Library.
^ Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Jaffe (Joffe)".
Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906).
"Jaffe (Joffe)". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls
Media related to
Mordecai Yoffe at Wikimedia Commons
Mordecai Jaffe, jewishencyclopedia.com
Rabbi Mordechai Yoffe (The Levush), chabad.org
Yoffe, Mordecai Ben Abraham, jewishvirtuallibrary.org
Jaffe, Mordecai Ben Abraham, The Levush in the Pedigree of