By: Gotthard Deutsch
German cabalist, rabbi, and author; born at Prague about 1555; died at Safed about 1630. At an early age he accompanied his father, Abraham Horowitz, to Poland and studied under Solomon Rabbi Lebush's in Cracow. He married the daughter of Abraham Maul, a wealthy resident of Vienna, and seems to have enjoyed comfortable circumstances during his whole lifetime, devoting a large part of his income to charity and to the acquisition of a library. He soon became one of the leaders in the communal affairs of the Jews of Poland. Thus he appears as early as 1590 as one of the signatories of the resolution, passed at the fair of Lublin, which condemned the giving of bribes for rabbinical positions. He held various rabbinical offices; his son mentions those in Posen and Cracow; contemporary sources show him to have held rabbinates at Dubno (1600; Meïr Lublin, Responsa, No. 39), Ostrog, Volhynia (1603; see his approbation to Solomon of Miezdzyrzecz's "Mizbaḥ ha-Zahab," Basel, 1602), Frankfort-on-the-Main (about 1606), and Prague (1614). He left Frankfort-on-the-Main, probably on account of the Fettmilch riots, in 1614; at Prague he was at first corabbi with Solomon Ephraim of Lenczyza; upon the death of the latter, however, he became sole rabbi.
In 1621, after the death of his wife, Horowitz went to Palestine, where he lived during the remainder of his life. According to cabalistic views (see Emden's autobiography in "Ha-Meassef," 1810, i. 79), no one should live in Palestine unmarried; Horowitz proposed to marry Eva Bacharach, who, however, declined (Jair Ḥayyim Bacharach, in the preface to "Ḥawwot Ya'ir"). Horowitz nevertheless married again, and left a widow and a little daughter, the latter of whom died soon after him ("'Aṭeret ha Lewiyim," p. 42). Though various Palestinian congregations offered him rabbinates, he preferred to go to Jerusalem, where he arrived Nov. 19, 1621. His fame tempted the pasha to adopt one of the usual methods of extortion practised in the East: the pasha imprisoned the famous rabbi and held him for ransom (1625). After being liberated, Horowitz settled in Safed, where he died.His Works and Theology.
Horowitz wrote the following works: (1) notes to his father's "Emeḳ Berakah," on benedictions, Cracow, 1597; (2) notes on his father's ethical will, "Yesh Noḥalin," ib. 1597, often reprinted; (3) "Shene Luḥot ha-Berit," usually known by the abbreviation "Shelah" (), edited by his son Shabbethai Sheftel, Amsterdam, 1649: (4) "Sha'ar ha-Shamayim," prayer book, edited by his great-grandson Abraham ben Isaiah Horowitz, ib. 1717, (5) notes on Mordecai ben Hillel's compendium, of which one part only, with an edition of "'Emeḳ Berakah," was printed by the author's descendant Shabbethai Sheftel Fränkel of Breslau, ib. 1787. A compendium of the laws of tefillin and his notes on the Ṭur and on the Zohar remained in manuscript. Various religious hymns are scattered through his works, but they are without poetic valueThe "Shelah."
Of Horowitz's works the "Shene Luḥot ha-Berit" has become the most popular; it, as well as its author, came to be known as "Shelah ha Ḳadosh" (Holy Shelah). Glückel of Hameln records that, not long after its publication, her husband, Ḥayyim, read it on his death-bed ("Memoiren," ed. Kaufmann, p. 199, Frankfort-on-the Main, 1896). Aaron Bernstein, in his novel "Vögele der Maggid," depicts one of the characters, Ḥayyim Mikwenitzer, as finding everything in his "Holy Shelah." Pious Jews drew consolation and instruction from this book (see Mielziner in "Ben Chananja," iv. 96), which has frequently been printed in abridged form (see Benjacob, "Oẓar ha-Sefarim," p. 535). As the title indicates, it was intended as a compendium of the Jewish religion. Its divisions are, however, very unsystematic, and its confusion of titles and subtitles renders it difficult to analyze. The principal divisions fall under the heading "The Gate of the Letters," and comprise: a compendium of religious ethics, alphabetically arranged; a division dealing with the laws of the holy days and beginning with a section entitled "Masseket Ḥullin," treating largely of the laws of ẓiẓit, tefillin, mezuzah, etc., enjoining rigorous observance of the Law, and emphasizing the moral lessons derived from its practise; another division treating of the weekly Pentateuchal portions from the halakic view-point, and of their mystic meanings and moral lessons (the moral lessons, entitled "Tokaḥot Musar," are printed in some editions of the Pentateuch, as those of Amsterdam, 1760 and 1764, and Vienna, 1794); an essay on the principles of rabbinical law entitled "Torah she-Be'al Peh," of some scientific value. Horowitz finds mystical lessons in the number of the fingers and of their bones, which numbers indicate symbolically the Ten Sefirot and the name of God. He believes strictly every word found in rabbinical literature; thus he derives from the Talmudic legend of David's death an argument against a decision found in the Shulḥan 'Aruk (137a; comp. 408a). He is very strict in matters of ritual law. His book contains likewise many ethical teachings of an exalted character (see 242a, where he advises the advocates [see
While Horowitz's prayer-book is full of sincere religious ideas, it is also a presentation of cabalistic doctrines. Thus he says that the morning prayer is an appeal to divine mercy because the growing light represents God's kindness, while the declining light of the afternoon represents God's stern justice. Abraham ordained the morning prayer because he was the incarnation of divine mercy, and Isaac ordained the afternoon prayer because he was the incarnation of divine power (p. 144a).
Horowitz quoted extensively from his immediate predecessors in cabalistic literature, especially from De Vidas, Cordovero, and Isaac Luria. The fame of the last-named had attracted Horowitz to Palestine, where he expected to find the master's disciples and to acquire through them some of his esoteric teachings; his own work, however, became far more popular than those of any other of the disciples. At least ten editions are known of the "Shene Luḥot ha-Berit," while his prayer-book, though not so often reprinted, has largely influenced all subsequent editions of the ritual.
- Conforte, Ḳore ha-Dorot, p. 47b;
- Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl.;
- Landshuth, 'Ammude ha-'Abodah, pp. 133-134, Berlin, 1862;
- Frumkin, Eben Shemuel, pp. 111-122, Jerusalem and Wilna, 1874;
- Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbinen, i. 41-44, 58-60 (in which Horowitz's contract with the Frankfort congregation is reproduced);
- Pesis, 'Aṭeret ha-Lewiyim, Warsaw, 1902.