Eleazar of Worms

For the Jewish Tanna of the 3rd generation of the Tannaic era, see Eleazar ben Judah of Bartota.
Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus
Personal details
Born c. 1176
probably Mainz, Electorate of Mainz
Died 1238
Worms, Holy Roman Empire

Eleazar of Worms (אלעזר מוורמייזא) (c. 1176–1238), or Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus, also sometimes known today as Eleazar Rokeach ("Eleazar the Perfumer" אלעזר רקח) from the title of his Book of the Perfumer (Sefer ha rokeah ספר הרקח)—where the numerical value of "Perfumer" (in Hebrew) is equal to Eleazar, was a leading Talmudist and mystic, and the last major member of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, a group of German Jewish pietists.


Eleazar was most likely born in Mainz. He was a descendant of the great Kalonymus family of Mainz, and a disciple of Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg (Judah he-Hasid), who initiated him into the study of the esoterica, at that time little known in Germany. According to Zunz, Eleazar was hazzan at Erfurt before he became rabbi at Worms. He was a signatory to the Takkanot Shum.

Massacre of the Jews of Metz during the First Crusade, by Auguste Migette.

Eleazar underwent great sufferings. On the night of 22 Kislev, 1196, he was engaged on his commentary on Genesis (he relates that he had reached the parshah Vayeshev), when two men (maybe Crusaders) entered his house and killed his wife Dulce, his two daughters Belette and Hannah, and wounded his son Jacob. The intruders were probably local men, since no crusade was ongoing at the time. His wife had conducted a business in parchment scrolls in order to support the family and enable him to devote all his time to study.[1] Many of the piyyutim he authored protest at Israel's suffering and hope for redemption and revenge against her tormentors. He also recorded the deaths of his family in a moving and poetic eulogy.

Eleazar developed a vigorous activity in many directions. On the one hand, he was a Talmudist of vast erudition, a liturgist gifted with a clear and easy style, and an astronomer, and was well versed in the sciences open to the Jews of Germany at that time. At the same time, he was an adventurous mystic who experienced visions, seeing legions of angels and demons. He exerted himself to spread mystical systems which went far beyond the conceptions of the classical authors of Jewish esoterica. In his mystical works he developed and gave a new impulse to the mysticism associated with the letters of the alphabet. By the gematria and notarikon systems of interpretation found in the Talmud, Eleazar invented new combinations by which miracles could be performed. The haggadic anthropomorphism which he had combated in his earlier works (Ha-Roḳeaḥ, Sha'are ha-Sod weha-Yiḥud) occupied later the foremost place in his mystical writings. Eleazar's great merit therefore lies not only in his new mystical system, but also in his ethical works. In these he shows greatness of soul and a piety bordering upon asceticism. Though so severely tried by fate, he inculcates cheerfulness, patience, and love for humanity. He died at Worms in 1238.[1]

Ethical works

Pietistic works

In addition to these works, Eleazar wrote tosafot to many Talmudical treatises, referred to by Bezalel Ashkenazi in his Shiṭṭah Meḳubbeẓet; a commentary on "Sheḳalim" in the Palestinian recension, cited by Asheri in his commentary to that treatise in the Babylonian Talmud; thirty-six chapters on the examination of slaughtered animals (MS. Michael No. 307). Zunz enumerates fifty-five liturgical poems and dirges composed by Eleazar and occurring in the Ashkenazic maḥzorim and ḳinot.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus of Worms". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
    Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography:
  2. ספר הרוקח (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. דרכּי תּשׁוּבֿה (PDF) (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  4. Providence University Inc, ULC-ITALIA ISBN 1-897352-02-6
  5. יין הרוקח (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ספר מצרף לחכמה (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. פי' הר"א מגרמיזא על ספר יצירה (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. הקדמה דבעל המגיהה (in Hebrew). Retrieved Apr/04/13. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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