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Broda, Avraham ben Sha’ul

(ca. 1650–1717), rabbi and Talmudist. Born in Prague, Avraham ben Sha’ul Broda studied in Poland with Yitsḥak ben Ze’ev Ḥarif, later chief rabbi of Kraków. Returning to Bohemia, Broda lived in Bunzlau (Mladá Boleslav). He served as a rabbi in Lichtenstadt (Hroznětín) before 1692, and in Raudnitz (Roudnice) from 1692 to 1693.

Beginning in 1689, Broda was involved in disputes over the posts of chief rabbi of Prague and Bohemia. Within the Prague Jewish community, he was opposed by the wealthier Catena group (known earlier in the century as the “Bassevi-ist” group, after the wealthy Ya‘akov Bassevi, leader of the group in the 1620s), but supported by the less wealthy Liga faction (known earlier as the “anti-Bassevi-ist” or “troubled” party). In 1692–1693, a compromise led to Broda’s appointment as one of two chief rabbis of both Prague and Bohemia, one representing each party. He also served as head of the Prague yeshiva. In 1702, the new chief rabbi of Prague, David Oppenheim (who was also head of the court, or av bet din), was made the sole chief rabbi of Bohemia, but Broda remained in charge of the Prague yeshiva until 1709. It was said that Broda’s and Oppenheim’s students would not speak to one another.

From 1709 until 1712, Broda was chief rabbi of Metz and from 1712 until his death in 1717 he was chief rabbi in Frankfurt am Main. Broda had a great many students, including Talmudic scholars Netanel Weil, Yonah Landsofer, Pinḥas Katzenellenbogen, Yosef Kosman, and YitsÕak Wetzlar, author of the Libesbrif (Love Letter; composed about 1748). He himself wrote a number of volumes of pilpul and Talmudic commentary, including Eshel Avraham (Abraham’s Inn; 1747) and Shema‘ata ḥadeta (New Lecture; 1737). He also wrote sermons (which remain unpublished) and a Hebrew poem celebrating a Habsburg victory.

Broda’s relationship to Sabbatianism is unclear. Although he opposed radical Sabbatian antinomianism, several of his students may have been members of the Sabbatian circle in Prague.

Broda was a controversial figure, due to the factional disputes surrounding his office in Prague and to his championship of pilpul as a method of Talmudic exegesis. Nevertheless, during his lifetime he had a reputation for saintliness. Students such as Katzenellenbogen and Wetzlar, and even other contemporaries such as Glikl of Hameln, noted his generosity, his abstention from meat (except on the Sabbath and festivals), his lack of snobbery, his extraordinary talent as a Talmud teacher, his devotion to his students, and his willingness to support pupils (such as Wetzlar) who could not afford tuition. Broda is said to have studied Torah until the moment of his death.

Suggested Reading

Pinchas Katzenellinbogen, Yesh manḥilin (Jerusalem, 1985/86), pp. 178ff; Yehuda Liebes, Sod ha-emunah ha-shabta’it (Jerusalem, 1995), pp. 135–136; Alexandr Putík, “The Prague Jewish Community in the Late 17th and Early 18th Centuries,” Judaica Bohemiae 35 (2000): 4–140.