The Great Non-Miracle Rabbi of Prague
The Kabbalistic Culture of Eighteenth-Century Prague: Ezekiel Landau (The'Noda Biyehudah') and his Contemporaries
by Sharon Flatto
Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 268 pages. $54.50
From the Maharal's mythical Golem to Kafka's metamorphosed Gregor Samsa, Prague's Jewish lore is suffused with mystery. While "the Maharal" (the acronym by which Rabbi Judah Loew is commonly known), is the most celebrated of Prague's rabbis, and the Golem he never created remains the city's most stubbornly resilient Jewish symbol, its greatest rabbinical scholar was Ezekiel Landau, who served as Chief Rabbi of Prague and Bohemia from 1754 to 1793. Landau, commonly referred to as "the Noda Biyehudah" after his book of responsa, brilliantly negotiated the challenges posed to Prague's Jews by governmental modernization and the Enlightenment. The institutions he created ensured the survival of traditional Judaism in a modernized context. However, he is remembered most for his battles with Prague's Jewish mystics and messianists.