Glossary

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M

magid

Person responsible for preaching and instruction throughout the year, as opposed to the darshan, who preached only on the Sabbath and holidays. A prominent example of a magid is Ya‘akov ben Volf Kranz (1740–1804) known as the Dubno Magid. Larger communities had a salaried preacher (magid mesharim) and sometimes hired itinerant preachers for limited engagements. [See Preachers and Preaching; and glossary entry darshan.]

Maimonides

(1135–1204; Mosheh ben Maimon, known as the Rambam from the acronym of Rabi Mosheh ben Maimon), important philosopher, doctor, and rabbi. Though born in Spain, Maimonides spent most of his life in Egypt. He was the author of a commentary on the Mishnah; the philosophical work Guide of the Perplexed (Heb., Moreh Nevukhim; originally written in Arabic); and extensive responsa, letters, and medieval writings. His magnum opus is the legal code Mishneh Torah.

maskil

(pl., maskilim) Partisans of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment). [See Haskalah.]

melamed

Elementary teacher, usually in a heder. The term was sometimes used in a dismissive way as in the convert Daniel Chwolson’s remark that it was preferable to be a professor in St. Petersburg than a melamed in Eyshishok. [See Heder.]

Mendelssohn, Moses

(1729–1796; Mosheh ben Menaḥem; Rambeman) German Enlightenment philosopher. After moving to Berlin as a young man, Mendelssohn achieved considerable renown as a philosopher. Young East European Jewish intellectuals often sought him out, and he frequently encouraged them in their own philosophical work. Mendelssohn is considered the first model figure of the Haskalah.

mikveh

(pl., mikva’ot; Yid., mikve, pl., mikvoes) Pool used for ritual immersion, conversion, or immersing of utensils. A person or vessel immersed in a mikveh becomes ritually pure. [See Personal Hygiene and Grooming.]

Mishnah

The first expression of the “oral law” to be transmitted in written form. Its compilation is ascribed traditionally to Yehudah ha-Nasi, known as Rabi, around 200 ce.

Misnagdim

(also mitnagdim; sg., misnaged; Heb., “opponents”) Common name for the rabbinical opposition, dominated by Lithuanian Jews, to the Hasidic movement. While the terms misnaged and misnagdim were first employed in defensive Hasidic writings from the 1770s to describe the rabbinical enemies of the movement, those opponents of Hasidism eventually came to embrace the appellation with pride. Over time the term became almost synonymous with Lithuanian Jewry. (In contemporary Israel, the term Lita’im [Hebrew for Lithuanians] is commonly used instead of Misnagdim.) [See Misnagdim.]

Musar

(Heb., “morality”) Adult educational movement and ethical program designed to promote and develop the teachings and practices introduced by Yisra’el Lipkin (Salanter; 1810–1883). Musar became associated with programs of educational reform within the Lithuanian yeshivas; by the end of the nineteenth century, three schools of Musar, each associated with a particular yeshiva, had emerged: the patient, pious self-cultivation of Kelm, the near-humanist consciousness of Slobodka, and the ascetic radicalism of Novaredok. [See Musar Movement.]