top of page

Jacob Emden - Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter

Rabbinic ordination, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas

Ph.D., Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University


Senior Scholar & Professor, Yeshiva University, Center for the Jewish Future

Dean, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute, 2000-2005

Rabbi, Jewish Center, Manhattan; Young Israel Sharon, Massachusetts


Selected works, Author & Editor:

Doctoral Thesis, Harvard University - The Life and Works of Rabbi Jacob Emden

A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism

Reverence, Righteousness and Rahamanut: Essays in Memory of Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung

Jewish Tradition and The Nontraditional Jew

Judaism’s Encounter with other Cultures: Rejection or Integration

Anchor 2

Episode #1

Q: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jacob Emden - 

Rabbi Dr.  Jacob J. Schacter - Intro:


  • Doctorate at Harvard

  • Initially focused on Cultural Transference

  • Hired to translate Megilat Sefer of Rabbi Emden

  • Mesmerized by Rabbi Jacob Emden

  • Completed thesis and have written extensively

  • Hebrew translation of Megilat Sefer to be published

Episode #2

Q: Rabbi Jacob Emden – Early Influences?


  • Father was most influential, bar none

  • Even though not always there for him

  • Father’s fight against Sabbatean heresy decisive

Episode #3

Q: Why did Rabbi Jacob Emden write an autobiography?


  • Autobiography is a critical source

  • Determining what’s accurate & what’s not

  • Unusual for Torah luminaries to compose autobiographies

  • Emden’s was an autobiography of defense

  • A polemic to argue his case against Sabbatean movements

  • For Emden it was a fight for the future of the Jewish People

  • The writing justifies his actions

Episode #4

Q: What books did Jacob Emden write?


  • Rabbi Emden had no formal Yeshiva training

  • Was an autodidact

  • Scope of published scholarly work is outstanding

  • Jaw dropping number of works

  • Bible, Mishna, Talmud, Siddur, Responsa and more

Episode #5

Q: What was the impact of Shabtai Tzvi on World Jewry?


  • Nathan of Gaza announces Shabtai Tzvi as messiah

  • Spread to almost all of world Jewry

  • Antecedents: Chelmicki Massacres, Lurianic Kabbalah

  • Jews worldwide sold assets to go to Land of Israel

  • Sultan arrests Shabtai Tzvi

  • Shabtai Tzvi converts to Islam

  • Depression & disbelief across world Jewry

  • Small remnant justifies conversion – Sabbatean Movement

Episode #6

Q: Origins of the Emden/Eybeshutz Controversy?


  • Rabbi Yonatan Eyebeschutz: Prague to Metz

  • Chosen as Chief Rabbi of "Three Communities": Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek

  • Wrote amulets for the sick & needy

  • Pneumonic interpretation spells out Shabtai Tzvi

  • Book appeared to contain Sabbatean ideas

  • Already in 1725 faced trouble

  • Rabbi Emden announces “this writer” is a Sabbatean

Episode #7

Q: How significant was Emden’s printing press?


  • Very significant

  • Permission given by Danish King

  • It fanned the flames

  • Exacerbated the whole situation

  • Controversy spread, everyone involved

Episode #8

Q: Emden/Eybeshutz Controversy – Why did Reconciliation Fail?


  • Ezekiel Landau was a young Rabbi at the time

  • Not yet Chief Rabbi of Prague

  • Rabbi Emden would only accept absolute capitulation

  • Swearing on Torah would not be enough

  • Jacob Emden went after Ezekiel Landau

Episode #9

Q: Jacob Emden – Why does Psychological Historical Analysis Fail?


  • How do you really know psychological issues?

  • Approach is suspect, hard to determine

  • Mortimer J Cohen  Emden biography

  • Cohen book attacked by Gershom Scholem & Salo Baron

Episode #10

Q: Emden/Eybeshutz Controversy –Viewed in Hindsight?


  • Rabbi Yonatan Eybshutz dies in 1766

  • Buried in Rabbinical Section – Altona

  • Rabbi Jacob Emden passed on in 1776

  • The two Rabbis buried in same row per Rabbi Ezekiel Landau 

  • Both considered as Torah giants by traditional Jews

Full Interview - Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter

bottom of page