“A ‘Prince of the Land of Israel’ in Prague: Jewish Philanthropy, Patronage, and Power in Early Modern Europe and Beyond,” Jewish History vol. 29, nos 3-4 (2015): 245-271.

“A ‘Prince of the Land of Israel’ in Prague: Jewish Philanthropy, Patronage, and Power in Early Modern Europe and Beyond,” Jewish History vol. 29, nos 3-4 (2015): 245-271.

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  Jewish History (2015) 29: 245–271 © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015DOI: 10.1007/s10835-015-9243-4 A “Prince of the Land of Israel” in Prague: Jewish Philanthropy,Patronage, and Power in Early Modern Europe and Beyond JOSHUA TEPLITSKY Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA E-mail: joshua.teplitsky@stonybrook.edu Abstract  This article explores the relationship between giving and politics, and between dis-tantcausesandlocalconcerns,byanalyzingtheawardofthetitle“PrinceoftheLandofIsrael”to rabbis and leaders in Europe. Often awarded to men of standing and means, the title camewith an expectation to deliver aid to the Holy Land in times of need. Although the title washeld by different bearers throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—often bymore than one at a time—the most famous such “prince” was David Oppenheim (1664–1736),chief rabbiofPragueand insatiable bibliophile. Oppenheimwassingled outfor this title owingto his place in a network of exchange that spanned Europe and the Mediterranean, and an ex-amination of the expectations and actions associated with that position follows the circulationnot only of people but also of money and goods, such as books. It allows us to investigate howboth donors and recipients of charity engaged in such transactions to pursue particular ends,revealing the currency of symbolism underlying this economy of exchange. Finally, it seeksto understand the Land of Israel as a field for the interactions of discrete Jewish networks asthey converged in a single space and to gauge the impact of that convergence. Keywords  Philanthropy  ·  David Oppenheim  ·  Jerusalem  ·  Sabbatianism  ·  Gifts andexchange  ·  Jewish books In 1704, Prague’s chief rabbi, David Oppenheim, issued a letter to the lead-ers of the Jewish community of Jerusalem, his “stomach upset” at news hehad received of recent arrivals in the city and the changes to prayer they hadinstituted there. 1 Not only had these new immigrants neglected to preservethe local customs of their countries of srcin: they had also abolished thetraditional fast days, introduced a new liturgy into the prayer book, and splitthe community in Jerusalem into factions. Insisting that there must be “oneTorah and one law,” Oppenheim ordered these new denizens to be reined in 1 David Oppenheim to leaders of the Jewish community of Jerusalem, 1704, in “Shalal David”[ThespoilsofDavid],NationalLibraryofIsrael,Jerusalem(henceforthNLI),Ms.Heb. 4 o 966,229. (It is not clear who gave this title to this collection of Oppenheim’s papers.) The letterhas twice been published by a dedicated student of Oppenheim’s career, Yitzchok (Isaac) DovFeld. See David Oppenheim,  Shut Nish’al Dav.id  , ed. Yitzchok Dov Feld (Jerusalem, 1971),3:12–18; Yitzchok Dov Feld, “Iggeret Me-Ha-Rav David Oppenheim Le-Hakhmei Yerusha-layim,”  ha-Maayan  16, no. 4 (1976): 39–53.  246  J. TEPLITSKY and threatened to halt the transit of money to the Holy Land entirely if his or-der was disregarded. 2 The Prague rabbi was well placed to make this demandof Jerusalem’s elders, as he was, officially, their chief rabbi and “Prince of the Land of Israel” (  Nasi Eretz Yisrael )—the financial patron of this fledglingcommunity. But even as rabbi and “prince,” his word was far from absolute.Oppenheim’s network of kin bestowed charitable support, but that supportwas activated in turn by the exchange of gifts in the form of both objects andhonors. How Oppenheim came to acquire the title of “Prince of the Land of Israel” and the significance it carried both for his pursuit of book collecting athome in Europe and for his influence on policy abroad in Palestine were inti-mately bound up with networks of Jewish activity that reached from centralEurope to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.The history of Jewish philanthropy comprises a rich array of themes, of-fering a window into the life of the poor, the ideas of the rich, and the contactsbetween the two social groups. Jewish giving is rooted in religious preceptsto bestow charity,  tzedakah . Philanthropy is also inherently political: in giv-ing more than a perfunctory sum, a donor must choose between causes andoften expects to have a voice in how the donation is used. Beyond its ground-ing in religious obligation, giving in the early modern period operated—as itdid before and after—as a political tool in two significant ways: as a form of social control and as a symbol of political power. The prestige of being iden-tified as a giver, however, was as rooted in the recognition by beneficiaries asit was in the practices of the powerful.This article examines one aspect of early modern Jewish philanthropyby considering the actions of givers and recipients within the context of ex-change. Many studies have examined images of the poor, motivations of therich, and the dynamic of social control between the two groups. The caseof David Oppenheim and his honorific offers an opportunity to examine theagency of both givers and recipients by placing them within a shared sys-tem of exchange of financial support, prestige, tokens of appreciation, andtitles. Moreover, focusing on exchange will allow us to see the multifariousties between various Jewries—subethnic groups whose interests convergedon Palestine as a site of both support and contest. Economies of Exchange Oppenheim’s involvement in obligation and philanthropy emerged directlyout of his quest to build an ever greater library of Jewish books. From his rab- 2 Oppenheim to leaders of Jewish community of Jerusalem, 230.  A “PRINCE OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL” IN PRAGUE  247binic positions in Moravia and Prague, and through his influential relations toEurope’s wealthy and influential court Jews, he participated in a far-reachingnetwork that he activated to assemble one of the most formidable collectionsof Jewish books in the early modern period, ultimately numbering forty-fivehundred printed books and one thousand manuscripts.The European book markets were insufficient for an insatiable collectorlike Oppenheim. He also cast his gaze toward Jerusalem, a rich source forrare Hebrew books, especially those of a Sephardic (medieval Iberian) prove-nance that had limited circulation in the Ashkenazic communities north of the Alps. In 1650, an Ashkenazic emigrant from Prague to the Holy Landnoted the wealth of books there while warning those who would follow of the selective character of the books that were available:Books can be found in Jerusalem, and their price is not costly,therefore do not load yourselves up with many books, because of the exertion. That said, each one should bring with him a thick prayer-book, a Pentateuch with three commentaries,  selihah  ac-cording to the Polish rites, Mishna with the  Tosafot Yom Tov ,  Levushim  by the great rabbi our master and teacher MordecaiJaffe,  Shomrim la-Boker  , a  Mahzor   according to the Prague rites,  Rabot  ,  Ein Yaakov ,  Shulhan Arukh, Yalkut  ; the women should take  Daytsch-Humash ,  Daytsch-Mahzor, Daytsche-Tkhines , and otherbooks in the Ashkenazic language. 3 This list, complied by Moses Präger, suggests that the only books one wouldneed to bring to Jerusalem were those that accommodated the Ashkenazicrites; all others could be found there with ease. Far more significantly,Jerusalem could act as a distribution point for this material into new read-ing markets.Notonlyprintedbooksbutalsomanuscriptsaboundedinlateseventeenth-century Palestine, which was a central nexus in the transit of literature acrossJewish subcultures and served as a hub for the dissemination of Jewish gen-res into new markets, facilitating a reintroduction of medieval Sephardic Tal-mudic commentary to the Ashkenazic bookshelf. 4 Oppenheim took advan-tage of this Palestinian bibliographic center and cultivated ties with agents inthe Holy Land who were able to ferret out for him rare texts from Hebron, 3 Moses (Präger) b. Israel Naphtali Hirsch Porges,  Darkhei Ziyyon  (650). Of the books in thislist,  Ein Yaakov  alone is of Sephardic provenance. On its history, see Marjorie Lehman,  The En Yaaqov: Jacob ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus  (Detroit, 2011). 4 This dissemination of Sephardic commentaries took place despite an explicit prohibitionagainstthe Sephardic JewsofJerusalem removingbooks fromPalestine. Meir Benayahu, “Ha-takanah she-lo le-hotsi sefarim mi-yerushalayim ve-hishtalshelutah,” in  Minha le-Yehuda: Se- fer ha-Yovel le-ha-rav Zlotnik   (Jerusalem, 1950), 226–34.  248  J. TEPLITSKY Jerusalem, and Safed, including the works of Nisim b. Reuben of Gerona(1320–76) on Talmud Bava Metzia, Nahmanides’s commentary on Trac-tate Ketubot, the commentary of Menahem Meiri (1249–1310) on TractateShabbat, and that of Asher b. Yehiel (1259–1327) on Tractates Zeraim andToharot. 5 The last of these manuscripts attested to its journey between theSephardic and Ashkenazic diasporas: written in a Sephardic hand, it bore acolophon tracing its initial ownership to the descendants of “an exile fromthe Jerusalem that is Sepharad,” that is, of Iberian provenance. 6 Oppenheim’s appetites extended beyond the rabbinic legal corpus, andthe Holy Land served as a reservoir for Jewish literature of a mystical varietyas well. The trade with Jerusalem facilitated the diffusion of kabbalah intocentral Europe via the Italian peninsula (occasionally in the hands of crypto-Sabbatians). 7 These included the writings of Moses Zacuto on the Zohar,the Lurianic kabbalah of Hayyim Vital, and other kabbalistic manuscriptssrcinating in medieval Spain. 8 Oppenheim’s scribes faithfully copied theseitems in Ashkenazic handwriting, a format that Oppenheim found far morelegible than the srcinal Sephardic script. 9 5 Nisim b. Reuben, discussion of Talmud Bava Metzia, Bodleian Library, Oxford (henceforthBodleian), Ms. Opp. 369; Nahmanides, commentary on Tractate Kethubbot, Bodleian, Ms.Opp. 361; Menahem Meiri, commentary on Tractate Shabbat, Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 96; Asherb. Yehiel, commentary on Tractates Zeraim and Toharot, Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 383–84. MeirBenayahu, “Halifat iggerot bein ha-kehilah he-ashkenazit be-yerushalayim ve-r david Oppen-heim” [The exchange of letters between the Ashkenazic community of Jerusalem and RabbiDavid Oppenheim],  Yerushalayim  3 (1950): 112–13. 6 Asher b. Yehiel, commentary, Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 383–84; colophon, Bodleian, Ms. Opp.384, fol. 386r. 7 Moshe Idel, “Italy in Safed, Safed in Italy: Toward an Interactive History of Sixteenth-Century Kabbalah,” in  Cultural Intermediaries: Jewish Intellectuals in Early Modern Italy ,ed. David B. Ruderman and Giuseppe Veltri (Philadelphia, 2004), 239–69; Yosef Avivi,  Ka-balat ha-Ari  (Jerusalem, 2007), vol. 2; Roni Weinstein,  Shivru Et Ha-Kelim: Ha-KabbalahVe-Ha-Moderniyut Ha-Yehudit   (Tel Aviv, 2011). 8 Moses Zacuto on the Zohar, Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 511–17 and Ms. Opp. 618; Hayyim Vital,  Derekh Etz Hayyim , Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 11. See also, e.g., Isaac Luria on the Haggadah,Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 508;  Sefer ha-Kaneh  /   Sefer ha-Peliah , Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 548;  Sefer ha-Merkavah , Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 741. 9 Yosef Avivi,  Kabalat ha-Ari , 2:767. Oppenheim was not the only Ashkenazic Jew who hadtrouble with the Sephardic hand. In his travels to the German lands, Hayyim David Azulainoted the difficulty posed by presenting letters of introduction in the Sephardic hand to Ashke-nazic Jews who “are not expert in the handwriting of the men of Sepharad.” See Matthias B.Lehmann, “Rabbinic Emissaries from Palestine and the Making of a Modern Jewish Dias-pora: A Philanthropic Network in the Eighteenth Century,” in  Envisioning Judaism: Studies in Honor of Peter Schäfer on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday , ed. Ra’anan S. Boustan etal. (Tübingen, 2013), 1238.  A “PRINCE OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL” IN PRAGUE  249The movement of books across borders and bodies of water involvedmore than the circulation and transcription of extant copies. It also fueleda wider economy of book production—publication of manuscripts, facilita-tion of new works—that was driven by considerable support from wealthyEuropean Jews. This support took two forms: it was necessarily material, butit also consisted of approbation, prestige, and regard. Oppenheim’s libraryserved as a reservoir for publishers of new editions of the Talmud or individ-ual volumes of commentary from manuscripts of Palestinian provenance. 10 Just as frequently, his support manifested itself in the associative prestige hisname conferred upon a prospective publication. The homage given to him byYekutiel b. Nahum, son of an emissary from Palestine and grandson of Ger-shon Ulif Ashkenazi, chief rabbi of Metz in the seventeenth century, is oneexample. When Yekutiel published his grandfather’s notes on Talmud andhalakhah, he thanked Oppenheim, the “gabbai Eretz Yisrael,” for his “aidand support with an apportioned sum in the spirit of giving in order to bringthis composition to publication in the print shop, and not this alone, but hereceived me in his house with great hospitality for the duration of the time inwhich the book was under publication.” 11 The world of books linked bibliophiles, printers, philanthropists, and as-piring authors within a wider network. As European collectors depended onPalestinian troves for rare treasures, Palestinian scholars relied on Europeansfor financial support. For many such scholars, books offered a medium of contact, but a different purpose guided them: the pursuit of charity. A Royal Invitation On July 2, 1699, Arye Yehuda Leib Katz dispatched a few books to Oppen-heim from Jerusalem accompanied by a letter, a follow-up to previous mis-sives that he had conveyed in the hands of a traveling priest along with pre-cious books and manuscripts. 12 Katz had been living in Palestine for nearlyfifteen years, having emigrated from Ofen (modern Budapest) in 1685, but 10 Examples of Talmudic commentaries published from manuscripts that Oppenheim had ob-tained from the Holy Land are  Sefer Pi Shnayim  (Altona, 1735) and  Sefer Hidushei Hullinle-ha-Ritva  (Prague, 1735). See also Israel M. Ta-Shma, “Seder hadpasatam shel hidushei ha-rishonim le-Talmud,” in  Kneset Mehkarim: Iyunim be-sifrut ha-rabanit bi-yeme ha-benayim (2004), 325–36. 11 Yekutiel b. Nahum, introduction to  Sefer Hidushei ha-Gershuni , by Gershon Ulif Ashkenazi(Frankfurt am Main, 1710). 12 The letters are pasted into a volume from Oppenheim’s collection, a manuscript copy of Na-hamanides’s commentary on Tractate Ketubot,  Hiddushei ha-Ramban le-Masekhet Ketubot  ,Bodleian, Ms. Opp. 361. Transcriptions are published in Benayahu, “Halifat iggerot,” 108–29.
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