Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg

Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg

Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg (c. 1695–June 23, 1785), also known as the Shaagas Aryeh (Hebrew: אריה ליב גינסבורג), was an Ashkenazi rabbi and author.

Born in Lithuania, c. 1695, he was a Rabbinical casuist. At one time Gunzberg was rabbi in Pinsk, and then later founded a yeshivah in Minsk. Here however he engaged in hostile dispute with the Gaon Yechiel Halpern, whose supporters eventually drove Gunzberg from the city.

His most famous book Shaagas Aryeh (Hebrew, שאגת אריה, for 'Roar of the Lion') was first published in Frankfurt am Main in 1755 and is still frequently quoted in rabbinical debate, as are many of his responsa. After its publication he became known as "the Shaagas Aryeh" after his book.

He became rabbi in Metz in France in 1765, but an early argument with his congregation led to him refusing to enter the synagogue except to give four sermons a year. Despite this he retained his post until his demise, and died at in Metz on June 23, 1785.

A legend exists of his death. During his studies a book-case fell on him, covering him with books. His students were able to rescue him after an hour or so and he related to them that he had been covered by the books of the authors with whom he had quarreled. He had asked forgiveness from all of them and they all complied save for one, Mordecai Yoffe (known as the Levush) who refused. He knew therefore that he was not long for this world, and pronounced the verse in Hebrew "Aryeh shoag mi loi yiroh"; i.e. that Aryeh (the lion, meaning himself) shoag (roars), but mi (an acronym of Mordecai Yoffeh, but can also mean 'who') loi yiroh (is not afraid).

It is very likely that this legend is the source of the urban myth surrounding the death of the French-Jewish composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, whose family originated from Metz.

Another legend is told of him. When he accepted the position of rabbi in Metz in 1765 he was already 70 years old. The leaders of the community expressed doubts because he was already an old man. He asked them, how long they expected a rabbi to last? They answered, for about twenty years - and indeed he died twenty years later in 1785, when he was ninety years old.

Works

  • Shaagas Aryeh
  • Gevuras Ari
  • Turei Even

References


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