Illuminated Mem Bookmark by Jean-Jacques LEVI

Ancestors of the MaHaRaL of Prague

Rabbi Bezalel (Hazaken) ben Yehuda LOEB was reportedly a descendant of King David (91 generations earlier). (See Aryeh Lifschuetz, Avoth Atarah le-Banim, Warsaw (1927) p. 163 and The ESKELES Genealogy by Zeev ESHKOLOT. for claims of descent from R. Hai.)

Bezalel Hazaken had a son Yehuda LOEW (Liwa) ben Bezalel (Hazaken or Hamephursam). Yehuda LOEW died 1440 in Worms (or 18 Heshvan in 1439 CE in Prague?) (A.k.a Liva The Elder of Prague.) [Alternatively according to some manuscripts, Yehuda Lev Hazaken is the son of Isaac son of Bezalel Hazaken.] Yehuda was the head of a Yeshiva in Worms. The name Liwa, which frequently appeared in the Worms area, is generally pronounced "Liwa" although originally it either stood for the German "Loewe" (lion), the heraldic sign of the tribe of Yehudah, or for the German-Jewish "Loew". Yehuda had a son Bezalel ben Yehuda LOEW.

Bezalel LOEW had a son Haïm (or Chajim or Chaim) LOEW-BEER ben Bezalel LOEB.

Haim LOEW-BEER (born about 1450 or 1480 Isenheim, Alsace, France, d. 1522 Prague according to Zeev ESHKOLOT or 24 Nov. 1565 Worms, Germany). Haim married Vogelin Feigele and they had four sons:

Joshua BUCH at the grave of the Maharal of Prague

The Maharal

The Maharal (b. around 1525, d. 1609 Prague, buried next to his wife Perl) was chief Rabbi of Prague (from 1597), talmudist, moralist, theologian, mathematician, and mystic. (See p. 374, vol. X of Encyclopedia Judaica.) Maharal is an acronym for Moraynu HaReav Judah LOEW ben B'zalel (Our teacher Judah LOEW son of B'zalel). Der Hohe Rabbi LOEW von Prag.

We suppose he came from Worms. As a poor student, Judah became engaged to a wealthy woman Perla SHMELKES daughter of Samuel SHMELKES and intended to continue his studies with her family's support. When they became impoverished, however, the marriage was delayed, and his fiancée had to run a food shop. One day a knight passed by and snatched a loaf of bread from the shop on his spear. He explained that he had not eaten for three days and left his cloak with its lining containing gold coins as payment. The marriage could thus go ahead, and Judah spent the rest of his life in relative affluence.

He came to Prague when he was past 50 years old. He was Landesrabbiner of Moravia in Mikulov (Vikolsburg) from 1553 to 1573. He then founded the Die Klaus yeshiva in Prague. He left in 1584 to serve as Rabbi in Moravia (or alternatively Posen) returning in 1588.

On 23 February 1592, Emperor Rudolf II invited him to an audience to the Hradshin. According to legend, the Emperor wanted to be introduced to mysticism by the Maharal who could perform cabbalistic wonders.

On 16 February 1594, his colleague astronomer Tycho BRAHE arranged for him to speak with the Emperor Rudolph II, possibly on the subject of alchemy. The Maharal then was named Chief Rabbi of Posen.

On According to legend he created the Golem at the Altneuschul Synagogue in Prague to serve the Jewish community. From out of dust and brought to life by the insertion of God's name under its tongue, it obeyed Judah's commands, helping Jews survive anti-Jewish measures and blood libel accusations and serving as a shabbos goi. Eventually it had be destroyed and returned to dust because it ran amok on a Friday afternoon during kabbalat shabbat when Judah forgot to remove the divine name. The remains of the golem where sealed up in the attic of the Altneu Synagogue in Prague. (This legend had been associated with Rabbi Elijah of Prague until the late 18th century. See Encyclopedia Judaica 22 Volume Set , vol. VII, p. 755.)

His statue graces the entrance of the City Hall of Prague (since 1917). The Maharal's first work Tikun Ho'alom was published this year (1995) in English translation.

According to Rabbi Yaakov BACHRACH (Encyclopedia Judaica 22 Volume Set IV p. 54) (merchant, scholar, expert on Karaite halaka etc, a grandson of the Gaon Y. Yehuda BACHRACH) a Yichus Brief (now destroyed) shows how his genealogy went back to the Chavas Yoir (and presumably the Maharal) and on to Rashi and then to King David.

References about the Maharal of Prague:


Some information on this page due to Louis OPPENHEIMER.

Daniel E. LOEB, eMail: publisher@pjvoice.com
I read the Philadelphia Jewish Voice