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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rav Yehuda Lowy: The Maharal of Prague, The Man And The Legend
Even until today, exactly 400 years after his petira, few gedolim capture the imagination like the Maharal MiPrague.  Walking through the streets of the old city of Prague you can hear the hoof beats of long ago.  Step into the Alt-Neu Shul and you can vividly see the Maharal sitting next to the Aron Kodesh before your very eyes.  Stand before his grave with your feet buried in six inches of snow and you still feel the heat emanating from his very alive kever. 

Surely the Emperor Rudolf with whom the Maharal had a private audience with on 3 Adar, 5352/1592, according to his famous talmid the Tosfos Yom Tov, was deeply impressed by him.  The great astronomers of his day, including Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe saw him as a friend.  The Maharal's stature among men was so great that he is the subject of many legends including that of the Golem of Prague.  True or not, the Maharal is a legend for the Torah he taught and left for the ages.

Rav Yehuda Lowy was born anywhere from 1510-1525, to a distinguished family said to trace its roots back through the Reish Galusa in Bavel and to Dovid HaMelech.  His older brother Rav Chaim ben Betzalel was a talmid of the Maharshal as well as Rav Sholom Shachna together with the Rema, and was one of the great Gedolim of his day.

The Maharal was engaged to be married at the age of 15.  However when his future father-in-law lost his fortune and could not keep his financial commitment, he wrote to the Maharal that he is free to marry anyone else he chooses.  The Maharal chose to keep his commitment and waited 10 years for his Kallah until she miraculously became wealthy, as told by the Maharal's son-in-law who heard the story from the Maharal himself.  After a soldier stole a loaf of bread from her bakery, he threw her a saddle when she begged for compensation.  In the saddle was hidden gold coins.

The Maharal became Rav of Nicholsburg in Moravia and remained there for over twenty years until he came to Prague.  In Prague he started a very successful Yeshiva and produced two famous talmidim, Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller the Tosfos Yom Tov and Rav Dovid Ganz.  The Maharal earned the great respect of the leading Gedolim of his day including the Rema, the Maharshal, and the Maharam Lublin.

The Maharal believed that a child must learn the fundamental before jumping into gemara including a strong knowledge of Chumash and Mishnayos.  He set up many Chevra Mishnayos to restore the crown that had lost its luster.  He was the driving force behind the Tosfos Yom Tov's groundbreaking work on Mishnayos.  The Maharal is also one of the great influences on modern Jewish thought becoming the basis for both Chasidic and non-Chasidic philosophy and even to an extent Kabala.  The Maharal was said to be a great Kabalist, although he hid his ideas behind mundane language and avoiding Kabalistic terms.  It is interesting to note that the Arizal's Kabala had not spread to Europe yet in the days of the Maharal.

The Maharal was niftar 18 Elul 5369/1609.  The Maharal wrote a number of landmark seforim including his peirush on Rashi in Chumash Gur Aryeh, his peirush on Agadda in Shas, Derech HaChaim, on Pirkei Avos and many more.  The seforim he wrote are the pulse of Yiddishe Hashkafa and give us  an added dimension of life as Hashem's nation.  Maybe that's what they meant when they said that he made a Golem come to life.  May the light of the Maharal live on within us until the coming of the wonders of Moshiach, Bimheira BiYameinu Amein!
RELATED ARTICLES:biography  Emperor Rudolf II  Maharal MiPrague

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Visitor Comments: 1

YH, 2009-09-08 18:17:23
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok, 6th Lubavitcher, went up to the attic of the Alte-neu Shul and saw the golem and his father, Rabbi Sholom Dovber, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe, censured him for this and said he had spiritual work to do so his son would not be harmed as a result.

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