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BANETH, EZEKIEL:

Hungarian rabbi; born 1773 at Alt-Ofen; died Dec. 28, 1854. He was the son of the learned rabbi Jacob Banêt, an eminent member of the rabbinate of Alt-Ofen, and early distinguished himself by his penetrating knowledge of Talmudic literature, to the study of which he devoted all his leisure time, even after he had established himself in the wool business and married. Forced by the loss of his property to seek an office, he officiated as rabbi first at Széchény, then at Páks, and finally at Neutra, where he died at the age of 82.

Baneth was highly successful in his rabbinical activity, gathering around him large numbers of devoted students, many of whom came from great distances, for his reputation had spread beyond the limits of his own country. In method he was opposed to the "pilpul," which was then flourishing in Hungary, his models being the great authors of the Middle Ages. He paid little attention to the works of later periods; applying his acumen to the investigation of abstruse questions, and never indulging in his lectures in hair-splitting casuistry or in witticisms. Questions were addressed to him from far and wide regarding difficult problems of the religious law, which he willingly answered. His responsa, had he preserved copies of them, would have filled several large volumes; but he left no notes of any description. The authors of important books considered it an honor to obtain from Baneth an approbation of their works; but it seems to have been his principle not to write any books himself. A commentary on Tosefta, which, according to the unconfirmed statement of an intimate friend, he wrote and kept secret, is said by the same authority to have been burned by him shortly before his death. Many anecdotes, shrewd sayings, and witticisms of his have been preserved.

His scrupulous conscientiousness, self-effacement, and piety earned for Baneth wide-spread esteem. Jews and Christians alike revered him as a saint. The legend that peasants had seen repeatedly a fiery column over his grave was believed by many, and is even credited to-day. In conformity with his will, Baneth was not buried in the place of honor assigned to rabbis, but in a location set apart for infants. His grave is surrounded by a railing, the gate of which is opened only for his descendants, and for visitors of signal piety.

S. E. Ban.
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