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ORNSTEIN, JACOB MESHULLAM:

Galician rabbinical authority; died at Lemberg 1839. He was the son of the Lemberg rabbi Mordecai Zeeb Ornstein. Jacob Meshullam at the death of his father was too young to succeed him in the Lemberg rabbinate; and accordingly that position, which had remained in the Ornstein family for more than 150 years, was given to another. Ornstein passed his youth in Jaroslaw, in Galicia, in the house of his father-in-law. Thence he was called as rabbi to Zolkiev, a smaller Galician town, but one which had always had prominent rabbis. When in 1806 the rabbinate of Lemberg again became vacant Ornstein was called to it, and he held the position for thirty-three years, until his death.

Ornstein, who was rich and independent, performed the duties of his office with energy and severity. He employed this severity also against the pioneers and the propagators of enlightenment and civilization among the Jews of Galicia, such as Rapoport, Erter, and others, and used his powerful influence to persecute these innovators. Nevertheless a large share of the persecution carried on in his name against the champions of enlightenment must be laid to the charge of his proud and haughty son Mordecai Zeeb Ornstein. The latter was probably the author of the document found one day on the door of the synagogue at Lemberg, placing Rapoport, Erter, Natkees, and Pastor under the ban. The reformers denounced Ornstein before the government; and the latter compelled him to revoke the ban. Ornstein had to endure much scorn and insult at the hands of the Progressivists, especially from Isaac Erter, who ridiculed him in a witty satire in his "Ha-Ẓofeh."

The most important of Ornstein's works is: "Yeshu'ot Ya'aḳob," a commentary in many volumes on the Shulḥan 'Aruk; namely, on the Oraḥ Ḥayyim, four parts; on the Yoreh De'ah, three parts; and on the Eben ha-'Ezer, three parts. This commentary is divided into a short and a long commentary. In the former the author explains the Shulḥan 'Aruk, and in the latter he brings together from other works what has been said on the subject in hand, discusses it in pilpulistic fashion, and tries to remove difficulties and to solve contradictions. Under the same title, "Yeshu'ot Ya'aḳob," he wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch, which is printed with the text in many Pentateuch editions. Besides these works decisions of his are found in various collections of responsa, such as "Yad Yosef," "Mayim Ḥayyim," etc.

Bibliography:
  • Buber, Anshe Shem, p. 111;
  • Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 531;
  • Walden, Shem ha-Gedolim, s.v.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 2d ed., xi. 445 et seq.
S. J. Z. L.
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