This research project will focus on the turn of the 19th century, when integration of Jews within the wider society, and their engagement with it, began. This integration raised many questions for the Jews of that era, touching upon issues of nationhood, integration into wider society, the examination of halakha’s limits, and more. Many important rabbis and philosophers – some happy to spearhead change, others reluctantly forced by the constraints of their community – were compelled to address these developments and outline new, up-to-date boundaries in line with the Zeitgeist. Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, acted as a crucible for the encounter between older, traditional values and the newer values arising from the rapid changes transpiring among the urbanised Jewish societies of Eastern and Central Europe. Because of this, our research intends to examine the way of life and events that occurred in one of Galicia's central communities, the city of Brody.
The first section of this study will deal with a controversy regarding the writing of a Get (Jewish divorce document) on the second day of Shavuot. The controversy erupted during the 1820s between the rabbi of Brody, Rabbi Elazar Landau (1788-1831); and the Av Bet Din (presiding rabbi in the rabbinical court) of the city, Rabbi Shlomo Kluger (1785-1869). The manner of the debate indicates that beyond the halakhic dimension, this was also a struggle between a conservative approach, which saw any change as a subversion of conventional Judaism, and a more dynamic approach, which was perceived as progressive. An appendix to this section will discuss the polemic essay of Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, the pamphlet “Shiv'a Enayim”, published by his son. The appendix will seek to analyse his objectives, his style and his motives for writing the pamphlet.
In the second section of this study we will focus on the rabbi of Brody, Rabbi Elazar Landau. We will discuss his family and immediate environment, and the characteristics of his essay on Maimonides, “Yad HaMelekh”, as compared to other essays on Maimonides. We will attempt to portray his world view, and gain a better understanding of his personality based on its historical context and his achievements.