Three Letters of Anglo-Jewish Interest

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In i813, R. Moses Sofer, known to Rabbinical scholars as the " Hatam Sofer " after his work of that name, took as his second wife Sara, daughter of the famous R. Akiba Eger, of Posen. Through this marriage the two families became connected, and established a dynasty of rabbis who flourished in Galicia and Hungary up to the present day and to whom, more than to anyone else is due the spirit of rigid and unflinching orthodoxy which flourished there. Their descendant, Rabbi Solomon Sofer, or Schreiber, Rabbi of Bergeszasz, published in 1929 under the title of Iggereth Sofrim (a punning allusion to the two family names) the correspondence of his predecessors.1 Among this voluminous and interesting correspondence are to be found three letters of special Anglo-Jewish interest, two of them letters of Rabbi Solomon Herschell, Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazim of London (1799-1842), to Moses Sofer and one of Solomon Eger, son of Akiba Eger, to his brother Abraham.

The first two letters are dated 1835. In the middle of Ellul of that year there descended upon London a young man in his twenty-sixth year, of outstanding talents and attainments. He was a university graduate, an orientalist, and an accomplished rabbinical scholar, with some ten languages, including English, at his command. His name was Louis Loewe, and he shortly afterwards became lifelong secretary and confident to Moses Montefiore, accompanying him on all his travels, and a little later the first Principal of Jews' College, London. His arrival

1 Vienna, 1929. Schlesinger.

filled Solomon Herschell with some concern, and Loewe on his part seems to have treated the Chief Rabbi with disdain, until under the pressure of his admirers he paid him a visit. But the seeds of mutual distrust had already been sown. The interview was far from a success, and caused Herschell to write the follow? ing letter to Moses Sofer. The letter is translated in full with the omission of the flowery adscription.

London, Tuesday, Kislev 17
5596 (1836

" After the customary greeting due to those who fear the Lord and think of His Name 2?in truth I am become old,3 and many troubles encompass me from within and from without, from afar and from near, and everything is upon my shoulders, so that my correspondence is done for me by others. And especially would my weakness at the present moment prevent me from writing (in person) which is very difficult, but necessity is no disgrace, that I have to indite these words in person. "

" For the word of the Lord is from me to thee, O Prince " 4 and upon thee I place the responsibility of replying, and I trust to thee not to dissemble anything from me, that I may rely upon thy perfect truth. Thy reply will be jealously guarded by me and will not be revealed except to those that fear the Lord and who turn to his words 5.

The matter is as follows :?There is

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