German Talmudist and rabbi; born in 1741 at Breslau, Prussia; died April 22, 1809, at Rotterdam, Holland. He lived at Lissa, Posen, and later at Berlin, where he was an inmate of the bet ha-midrash of the philanthropist Daniel Jafe. From Berlin he went to Emden, Prussia, as city and district rabbi. In 1781 he was called as chief rabbi to Rotterdam. Breslau was highly reputed as Talmudist, as is shown by his many responsa, and by the fact that such celebrated men as Phineas Hurwitz, Isaiah Berlin, and David Tevele Schiff referred Talmudic questions to him. He was also distinguished by his knowledge of the secular sciences. He enjoyed great popularity in Holland, and his reputation was not confined to Jewish circles, but many Christian scholars and theologians were also among his friends. He was buried with great ceremony, many delegates from the various Jewish communities attending his funeral. His memory is still revered among the Dutch Jews.

Breslau is the author of a volume of responsa, "Pene Aryeh" (Lion's Face), Amsterdam, 1790, which is distinguished by its logical method and reveals a thorough knowledge of the Talmud. Recognizing the latter work as the highest authority, he always applied common sense to the elucidation of Biblical and Talmudic precepts. While respecting the post-Talmudic authors, he wrote entirely independently of them and without prejudice (Nos. 14, 63). Aside from Talmudic questions, the "Pene Aryeh" also contains answers to other matters, which bring out the author's thorough knowledge of Hebrew linguistics. The style of the responsa is simple and clear, the language being that of the Mishnah with an admixture of pure Hebrew phraseology, without rhetorical flourishes. The work on the whole reveals a serious scholarly mind.

When the French revolutionary army came into Holland, in 1793, Breslau wrote a series of prayers for the synagogue, which were translated into Dutch, and were published with a detailed preface by the Christian minister Jan Karp. Some fragments of Breslau's posthumous works are still preserved in the bet ha-midrash of Rotterdam. A poem that can hardly be characterized as successful, "Mizmor le Shabbat" (Psalm on the Sabbath), has recently been published by Dr. Ritter, chief rabbi in Rotterdam. Breslau's three sons, who took the family name Löwenstamm, were Abraham, rabbi in Meseritz, and later in Emden; Ḥayyim, rabbi at Leeuwarden; and Mordecai, assistant rabbi in Rotterdam, all known as Talmudists and Neo-Hebraic writers. His grandson, Menahem Mendele ben Ḥayyim, was chief rabbi at Rotterdam.

  • Ritter in Oẓar ha-Sifrut, v. 265 et seq.;
  • Roest's Israelitische Letterbode, iv. 109;
  • Ha-Meassef, 1809, p. 209;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1837, p. 448;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. No. 4432.
L. G. I. Ber.
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