To the Jewish community and general population at large, the Maharal of
Prague is the revered, mystical medieval rabbi who created the Golem
to protect the Jews in the Prague ghetto. But the Maharal’s true
contribution to Jewish life has little to do with the legend of the

The acronym, MaHaRaL, stands for Moreinu HaRav Loew,*
whose full name was Rabbi Yehuda ben Betzalel Loew (1520 – 1609). The
Maharal is also known by the title of his most distinguished
publication, Gur Aryeh (Ahl HaTorah) – “The Little Lion on the Torah.” His use of the title Gur Aryeh
is a reference to Jacob’s Biblical blessing of his son Yehuda (Judah)
and is significant either by reason of the fact that Loew is a
derivitive of the German word for lion or an allusion to the Maharal’s
ability to trace his lineage back to King David.

While the
Maharal is credited with being well-versed in kabbalah (hence his
assumed ability to create a Golem), his studies and commentaries in
Torah and Talmud are highly regarded. The Maharal stressed the
importance of understanding the p‘shat, mainly the simple, literal meaning of the words. He was also well-versed in Aggadah, the non-halachic, homiletic passages of the Talmud.

genius of the Maharal is acknowledged by Jews from many walks of life.
His work had a significant influence on the Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben
Shlomo Zalman, 1720 – 1797), and he was the great-grandfather of the
founder of Chabad Chassidim, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (“Baal HaTanya,”
1745 – 1812). The Maharal was also well-known and respected outside of
the Jewish community. He communicated with the astronomer Tycho Brahe
and had a memorable audience with the Emperor Rudolf II of Austria.

*alternatively spelled Lowe

This Treat was last posted on August 27, 2010.

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