Monday, January 11, 2016

Fulfilling a Holy Name

Rabbi Moshe Shik (1807-1897) is known among scholars as the “Maharam Shik.” The title, Maharam, is an acronym Moreinu Harav Moshe (Our Teacher, the Rabbi Moshe). While his family name may have been added on as a means of distinguishing him from an earlier scholar also called the Maharam, the name itself is not without significance. When the government ordered Jews to adopt family names, his grandfather took the name Shik because it is an acronym for Shem Yisrael Kadosh (“A Holy, Jewish Name”). 

Born in what is now Slovakia, the Maharam Shik excelled in his studies from an early age. At 14, he went to Pressberg to study in the yeshiva of the Chatam Sopher and quickly became one of his close disciples.

In 1838, Rabbi Shik became the rabbi of Yeregin, where he opened a yeshiva and remained for 30 years, until he accepted a position in the larger city of Chust (then in Hungary). During his time in Chust, he led a large yeshiva and became active in the national politics of the Jewish community. When the government sought to create a national Jewish congress, Rabbi Shik joined the special rabbinical assembly held in Pest that was meant to counter the growing power of the anti-religious (referred to as Neolog) faction of the Jewish community. The assembly became known as the Central Bureau of the Autonomous Jewish Orthodox Communities in Hungary, and it was recognized by the Minister of Religion eight months after the government recognized the Neolog’s National Jewish Bureau.

In addition to his community responsibilities and political activism, the Maharam Shik authored several important scholarly works. 

He passed away on the 1st of Shevat in 1879. Today is the anniversary (Yahrtzeit) of his death.

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