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LICHTENSTEIN, HILLEL:

Hungarian rabbi; born at Vecs 1815; died at Kolomea, Galicia, May 18, 1891. After studying at the yeshibah of Moses Sofer he married, in 1837, the daughter of a well-to-do resident of Galantha, where he remained until 1850, when he was elected rabbi of Margarethen (Szent Margit). In 1854 he was elected rabbi of Klausenburg, but the opposition of the district rabbi, Abraham Friedmann, made it impossible for him to enter upon the duties of the office; finally he was expelled from Klausenburg by the authorities. Having lived for some time at Grosswardein, he was recalled to Margarethen, where he remained until about 1865, when he was called to Szikszo. Thence he went, in 1867, to Kolomea, where he remained until his death. Lichtenstein was the outspoken leader of the Orthodox extremists in Hungary: he not only resisted the slightest deviation from the traditional ritual, as the removal of the Almemar from the center of the synagogue, but even vigorously denounced the adoption of modern social manners and the acquisition of secular education. He bitterly opposed the Hungarian Jewish congress of 1868-69 and the establishment of the rabbinical seminary in Budapest. In 1865 he called a rabbinical convention at Nagy-Mihaly, which protested against the founding of a seminary and sent a committee to the emperor to induce the government to prohibit its establishment. In his religious practise he surpassed the rigorism of the most Orthodox Hungarian rabbis, even going so far as to keep a she ass in order to be able to fulfil the law of the redemption of the first-born of the ass (see Ex. xiii. 13). He kept a sheep also in order to be able to give the first fleece to a kohen (Deut. xviii. 4), from whom subsequently he bought it back to make ẓiẓit from it. Lichtenstein was an ardent admirer of the Ḥasidim and made pilgrimages to the famous miracle-worker Ḥayyim Halberstam of Sandec. He offered his ownintercession through prayer to people in distress, but declined any gifts.

Lichtenstein was a powerful preacher and a popular writer, and the resistance to modern tendencies among the Jews of northern Hungary is largely due to his influence. He inveighed against the use of other than traditional Jewish names; he denounced not only secular education, but even the playing of musical instruments and innocent social games, like chess and checkers; and he condemned those who relied on reason, for the ideal Jew should live up to the principle of Psalm lxxiii. 22, "I was as a beast before thee" ("'Et la-'Asot," p. 118a, Lemberg, 1881). He was a decided opponent also of all agitation for the political emancipation of the Jews, saying that it is the duty of the Jews to suffer the tribulations of the Exile until God finds them ripe for Messianic redemption.

Of the numerous works which Lichtenstein wrote, some of them being in Hebrew and others in Judæo-German, the most important are "Maskil el Dal" (Lemberg, 1867), "'Et la-'Asot" (ib. 1881), and "Abḳat Rokel" (ib. 1883), all of which have been repeatedly reedited. They are all devoted to the denunciation of liberal Judaism. In Hebrew Hillel signs his name (Lash), which is an abbreviation for (Lichtenstein).

Bibliography:
  • Hirsch Heller, Bet Hillel, Munkacs, 1893.
S. D.
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