The Maharal of Prague

It is always nice to have a proper year and place of birth for a notable person, but with Judah Loew things are not that simple. Judah, also spelled Yehudah, was born either in the German city of Worms or in the Polish Poznan, at some time between 1520 and 1525. He worked as a rabbi in Prague for a while and became the Chief Rabbi there in 1597 and remained so until he died in 1609. He was an outstanding scholar and produced many works on Jewish law, philosophy and morality, as well as mathematics. He also introduced the new and revolutionary concept of teaching little boys according to their maturity, of actually making sure they understood what they learned. He was a respected and beloved man, and people called him the Maharal, which is an acronym for Moraynu HaReav Yehudah Loew ben B'zalel - Our teacher Judah Loew, son of Bezalel.

The Maharal was a friend of the scientist Tycho Brahe and met Emperor Rudolph II at least once. His conversation with the Emperor remains a secret, but is thought to have revolved around mysticism. Some legends say he cleverly convinced the Emperor not to banish the Jews from the city. The more famous legend about the Maharal says that he created the Golem of Prague to defend his people from pogroms.

Rabbi Loew's grave at the famous Jewish graveyard of Prague is even today presented with coins and papernotes of wishes. There is also a statue of him in front of the City Hall, raised in 1917 and hidden from the occupying Germans during the war. It is probably the only statue of a rabbi in any capital in the world.