Living Legacy: The Maharal M’Prague
18 Elul marks
the 413th yohrtzeit of the Maharal of Prague—one of the most
legendary figures in Klal Yisroel in modern history.
Yehuda Livai was born in the Polish city of Poznan, in middle of the seder on Pesach 5272 (1512), to his father Rav Bezalel. Through his birth, the Jews of the town were saved from a blood libel—thus, his great work on behalf of Klal Yisroel began with his first breath on this earth.
He learned under his holy father, and soon grew far beyond his peers. It became clear that he was a holy neshamah. He married Perel, the daughter of Rabi Shmelka, who was a very wealthy man, with many government connections.
After his marriage, many talmidim came to learn under him. At first, he served as the rov of his hometown of Poznan, later in Niklosburg, and finally, in 5329 (1598) he became the Av Beis Din of Prague. His home was like that of a government minister—and indeed, in addition to his kedushah and taharah, his depth and breadth of knowledge in the entire Torah, he was like a minister to the Jewish people.
In time, he became known with the title “Rabban Shel Kol Bnei Hagolah,” the master of all of diaspora Jewry. The Remah once remarked that the Maharal had the neshamah of Dovid Hamelech.
During his tenure in Prague, the Maharal was known to defend Yiddishkeit with great force and temerity, never fearing anyone. Many tzaros afflicted the Jewish People during those years, and the Maharal was always at the forefront in their defense.
Although he did not have any sons, the Maharal did have daughters—and each of them married gedolim in their own right.
His monumental works deep works of machshavah, Jewish thought—over twenty of them— are learned and studied by every segment of Klal Yisroel with equal reverence. Scholars throughout the centuries have tirelessly studied the approach and the philosophy of the Maharal. The Koznitzer maggid said that all of the seforim are written with ruach hakodesh. Among chassidim, the mere keeping of the Sifrei Maharal in the home are considered a shemirah. He was also a great mekubal who would conduct tzirufei Sheimos… and he earned the awe of the kings and princes who witnessed him do battle with those who wished to harm Yidden—always winning through the koach hakedusha
Today, the kever of the Maharal continues to attract masses of Yidden who are awed by the history and the holiness of the Kever as well as the Altneuschul and the surrounding area. The central place occupied by the Maharal in the culture and the Torah of Am Yisroel only continues to grow more prominent with the passage of time.
*We thank Mr. Adam Leventhal of Denver for graciously providing the beautiful images that we feature from his trip to Prague.