Great Leaders of our People
Rabbi Judah Loew, The Maharal of Prague
The Maharal was one of the most seminal thinkers in the post-medieval period. he developed an entirely new approach to the aggada of the Talmud
is likely that no previous author devoted so much space to the interpretation of the
non-halachic thought of the rabbis of the Talmud.
He was held in great esteem by his contemporaries and has had a profound impact on all
streams of Judaism. Rabbi Kook stated that the "Maharal was the father of the
approach of the Gaon of Vilna on the one hand, and of the father of Chasidut, on the other
hand." He has been described as a Kabbalist who wrote in philosophic garb.
The Maharal castigated the educational methods of his day where boys were taught at a very
young age and insisted that children must be taught in accordance with their intellectual
maturity. Thus, Talmud and certainly not tosafot should be introduced only when the child
is developmentally capable of fully comprehending what is being taught. He recommended
that the system proposed in Pirkei Avot be followed.
One of his leading disciples was R. Yom Tov Heller, author of the classic mishnaic
commentary, Tosafot Yom Tov, who, in his introduction informs us that the Maharal greatly
encouraged group study of the Mishna. Maharal may have been the founder of Chevra
The Maharal was one of the staunch defenders of the tradition and of the undisputed wisdom
of Chazal and wrote a critique of Azriah de'Rossi's Me'or Einayim. At the same time, he
was fully conversant with the scientific knowledge of his time as well as friendly with
some of the contemporary eminent scientists. His disciple, David Ganz, worked in the
observatory of Tycho Brahe, the distinguished astronomer.
His works include a major commentary on Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch, volumes on
Passover in all its facets, on exile and redemption, on Torah, on Pirkei Avot, on Drashot
Chazal and on development of character.
The Maharal was esteemed by Jew and non-Jew alike and was summoned for an interview with
Emperor Rudolph II, though the subject of the interview is still the subject of
At one time it seemed that the Maharal was best known for a fictitious creation, that of a
Golem. However, with the passage of time it seems that his true enduring creations have
become an integral part of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of the Jewish people.
The above graphic includes photographs that were provided by VERAfilm archives.