Rabbi Ya'akov Meshulam Ornstein: His Life and Works

Rabbi Ya'akov Meshulam Ornstein (1775-1839) was the rabbi and Av Bet Din (presiding rabbi in the rabbinical court) of Zhovkva and Lviv. Aside from his public activities, he authored many books touching on all areas of Torah knowledge. He is primarily famous for his magnum opus, Yeshu'os Ya'akov, an original commentary on the four parts of the Shulhan Arukh. Additionally, Rabbi Ornstein penned numerous halakhic responsa to questions from various countries, gave sermons, and wrote new interpretations on the Torah and the Talmud. Aside from these important Torah works, he served as Av Bet Din of one of the most important communities in Galicia at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Rabbi Ornstein maintained strong ties with the great Torah luminaries of his time, and conferred with them about many contemporary issues. Furthermore, in his capacity as rabbi of Zhovkva and Lviv, Rabbi Ornstein signed over one hundred approbations on books printed during his tenure.



Despite all this, there has not yet been a serious and comprehensive effort to document Rabbi Ornstein's life and works systematically and on the basis of his own works. Who were the great Torah luminaries with whom he maintained correspondence, and what issues were discussed? Which books were available to him, and what historical information can we glean from analysis of his responsa and books? What can we infer from the text of his approbations about their literary style and about the people requesting them? What is the relationship between the rabbi giving approbation, the printer, the publisher and the author?

This ground-breaking research project will attempt to profile Rabbi Ornstein and his activities with reference to the questions above.