Jonathan Eybeschutz

Jonathan Eybeschütz
Personal details
Born 1690
Kraków, Poland
Died 1764 (aged 7374)
Altona, Holstein, Denmark–Norway
Spouse Elkele Spira
Children Wolf Jonas Eybeschutz

Jonathan Eybeschütz (also Eibeschutz or Eibeschitz; Kraków, 1690 – Altona, 1764), was a Talmudist, Halachist, Kabbalist, holding positions as Dayan of Prague, and later as Rabbi of the "Three Communities": Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek. With Jacob Emden, he is well known as a protagonist in the Emden–Eybeschütz Controversy.


Eybeschütz's father was the rabbi in Ivančice (German: Eibenschütz, sometimes Eibeschutz), Habsburg Moravia. Eybeschütz was a child prodigy in Talmud; on his father's death, he studied in the yeshiva of Meir Eisenstadt in Prostějov (Prossnitz), and then later in Holešov (Holleschau). He also lived in Vienna for a short time. He married Elkele Spira, daughter of Rabbi Isaac Spira, and they lived in Hamburg for two years with Mordecai ha-Kohen, Elkele's maternal grandfather. Among their descendents are the illustrious management thinker Peter Drucker and Margarethe Kelsen, the wife of Hans Kelsen.[1]

Eybeschütz settled in Prague in 1700 and became head of the yeshivah and a famous preacher. The people of Prague held Eybeschütz in high esteem and he was considered second there only to Dayan David Oppenheim.

In Prague, Eybeschütz received permission to print the Talmud—but with the omission of all passages contradicting the principles of Christianity in consultation with Dayan David Oppenheim. Legends and rumors seeking to discredit the event said that he did this without the consultation of the Rabbis of Prague, and they revoked the printing license.

Already in Prague 1724, he was suspected of being a Sabbatean. He even got up on Yom Kippur to denounce the Sabbatean movement, but he remained suspected.[2] Therefore, In 1736, Eybeschutz was only appointed dayan of Prague and not chief rabbi. He became rabbi of Metz in 1741. In 1750, he was elected rabbi of the "Three Communities:" Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek.

He was "an acknowledged genius" in at least three separate areas of Jewish religious creativity: Talmud and Jewish law (halakhah); homiletics (derush) and popular preaching; and Kabbalah. "He was a man of erudition, but he owed his fame chiefly to his personality. Few men of the period so profoundly impressed their mark on Jewish life."[3] His granddaughter was the Breslau poet and intellectual Lucie Domeier, born Esther Gad.

Sabbatian controversy

Eybeschütz again became suspected of harboring secret Sabbatean beliefs because of a dispute that arose concerning the amulets which he was suspected of issuing. It was alleged that these amulets recognized the Messianic claims of Sabbatai Zevi.Once the controversy started when Emden found serious connections between the Kabbalistic and homiletic writings of Eybeschutz with those of the known Sabbatean Judah Leib Prossnitz, whom Eybeschütz knew from his days in Prossnitz.[4] Rabbi Jacob Emden accused him of heresy. The majority of the rabbis in Poland, Moravia, and Bohemia, as well as the leaders of the Three Communities supported Eybeschütz: the accusation was "utterly incredible"—in 1725, Eybeschütz was among the Prague rabbis who excommunicated the Sabbateans. Others suggest that the Rabbis issued this ruling because they feared the repercussions if their leading figure, Eybeschütz, was found to be a Sabbatean. Recent evidence has produced the actual amulets and their alleged connection to Sabbatean amulets.[5]

In 1752, the controversy between Emden and Eybeschütz raged. In December of that year, the Hamburg government banned any more discussion of the amulets, the Senate of Hamburg suspended Eybeschütz, and many members of that congregation demanded that he should submit his case to rabbinical authorities. At this point he was defended by Carl Anton, a convert to Christianity, but a former disciple of Eybeschütz. "Kurze Nachricht von dem Falschen Messias Sabbathai Zebhi," etc. (Wolfenbüttel, 1752).

The controversy was a momentous incident in Jewish history of the period—involving both Yechezkel Landau and the Vilna Gaon—and may be credited with having crushed the lingering belief in Sabbatai current even in some Orthodox circles. Rabbi Dr. Sid Z. Leiman claims that the mentioned great Rabbis exonerated Eybeschutz from Sabbatianism only in order that the controversy should die down.[6]

In 1760, the quarrel broke out once more when some Shabbatean elements were discovered among the students of Eybeschütz' yeshivah. At the same time his younger son, Wolf Jonas Eybeschutz, presented himself as a Shabbatean prophet, and was close to several Frankists, with the result that the yeshivah was closed.[7]

According to Jacob Katz, Jonathan Eybeschütz's grandson was rumored to be Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld, an apostate Jew who inherited his grandfather's collection of Sabbatean kabbalistic works. He eventually left the Sabbatean movement and founded a Masonic lodge called the Asiatische Bruder, one of four Illuminati lodges in Vienna. After his uncle's death on August 10, 1791, he was offered the leadership of the Frankist movement which he refused. Katz disputes this claim however, saying that Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld was a member of the Dobruschka family of Brьnn and was in no way related, either by blood or marriage, to Eybeschutz. According to Gershom Scholem, the ideology of the Asiatic Brethren mixed Kabbalistic and Sabbatean ideas jumbled together with Christian theosophic doctrines.[8]

One of Eybeschutz's descendents is the Yiddish novelist and Holocaust survivor Chava Rosenfarb (1923–2011).


Thirty of his works in the area of Halakha (Jewish law) have been published. In addition, several of his works on homiletics, teaching methodology, and Kabbalah are currently in print. It is interesting to note that only one of his works was published in his lifetime. The posthumous printing of so many of his works is testimony to his influence on his contemporaries through his oral teachings and his personality. It is claimed that he also published numerous Sabbatean works anonymously.

Rabbi Eybeschutz also wrote Luchoth Edut (Tablets of Testimony), in which he describes the whole dispute and attempts to refute the charges against him. It includes also the letters of recommendation which he had received from leading rabbis who came to his defense. In January 2014, Maggid Books, a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem published "Derash Yehonatan: Around the Year with Rav Yehonatan Eybeshitz" by Rabbi Shalom Hammer. This work is one of the first English translations of Rabbi Eybeshutz's writings.


  2. Moshe Arie Perlmutter, R.Yehonatan Aibeshits ve-yahaso el ha-Shabtaut : hakirot hadashot 'al yesod ketav ha-yad shel ha-yom el ha-'ayin
  3. Moshe Arie Perlmutter, R.Yehonatan Aibeshits ve-yahaso el ha-Shabtaut : hakirot hadashot 'al yesod ketav ha-yad shel ha-yom el ha-'ayin
  4. Sid Leiman/Simon Schwarzfuchs, New Evidence on the Emden-Eybeschütz Controversy. The Amulets from Metz, in: Revue des Etudes Juives 165 (2006),
  5. Sid Leiman, "When a Rabbi Is Accused of Heresy: R. Ezekiel Landau's Attitude toward R. Jonathan Eybeschütz in the Emden-Eybeschütz Controversy in FROM ANCIENT ISRAEL TO MODERN JUDAISM Edited by Jacob Neusner
  6. Carmilly-Weinberger, Moshe. Wolf Jonas Eybeschütz - An "Enlightened" Sabbatean in Transylvania. In: Studia Judaica, 6 (1997) 7-26
  7. Katz, Jacob (1970). Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723–1939. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-47480-5.
  8. perlmutter, R.Yehonatan Aibeshits ve-yahaso el ha-Shabtaut : hakirot hadashot 'al yesod ketav ha-yad shel ha-yom el ha-'ayin


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