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BIALEH, ẒEBI HIRSCH BEN NAPHTALI HERZ (called Ḥarif, "the keen"):

Rabbi and Talmudist; born about 1670 at Lemberg, Galicia; died Sept. 25, 1748, at Halberstadt, Prussia. He conducted a Talmudic high school in his native city until 1718, when he received a call as chief rabbi to the rich community at Halberstadt. His humanity, gentleness, and unselfishness won him the love and admiration of the people as well as of his colleagues; and he became known as a Talmudic authority throughout Germany. Bialeh was particularly fond of teaching, and when he left Lemberg to go to Halberstadt eighteen of his pupils went with him. His attitude toward them was that of a brother; and he possessed a certain tolerance for the secular sciences, the study of which was then beginning to make headway among the young Jews of Germany. Among his numerous pupils were Elhanan Ashkenazi, Isaiah Berlin, and Meïr Barbi.

Bialeh was restrained by modesty from publishing any works; but he left several manuscripts, which are in the possession of some private persons in Halberstadt; and some of his approbations appeared in the works of his pupils and colleagues. Both in his writings and orally he denounced the prevalent exaggeration of the pilpulistic method; as, for instance, in his approbation to Jehiel Michael's "Nezer ha-Ḳodesh." In general he seems to have followed the logical method, and to have preferred the simple interpretation of the Talmud (see his responsum in Samuel ben Elkanah's "Meḳom Shemuel," No. 5).

His sons were: Solomon Dob Berush, rabbi at Glogau; Naphtali Herz, rabbi at Dubno; Abraham, rabbi at Rawitsch; Samuel, assistant rabbi at Halberstadt; and Simḥah, rabbi at Dessau.

Bibliography:
  • Auerbach, Gesch. der Jüdischen Gemeinde Halberstadt, pp. 64-76, Halberstadt, 1866;
  • Walden, Shem ha-Gedolim he-Ḥadash, p. 37;
  • Eleazar ha-Kohen, Ḳinat Soferim, fol. 73, Lemberg, 1892.
L. G. I. Ber.
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