Rabbi Jacob Ha-Levi Moelin (Maharil Segal)

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Jacob ben Moshe HaLevi Moelin

Hebrew: Jacob ben Moshe HaLevi Moelin, יעקב בן משה מולין
Also Known As: "Jacob ben Moses Mulin", "Jacob ben Moses Molln", "Jacob ben Moses Moellin", "Maharil", "Mahari Segal", "Mahari Molin", "Jacob ben Moses Moelin", "Jacob ben Moses haLevi Molin"
Birthdate: (62)
Birthplace: Mainz, Germany
Death: 1427 (58-66)
Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Immediate Family:

Son of R' Moshe ben Yekuthiel haLevi Molin
Husband of Mrs Moelin (Neumark)
Brother of Bonlin Bonchin Moelin; Simcha Moelin; Gumprecht Moelin; Simon Moelin and Jekuthiel Moelin

Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:

About Rabbi Jacob Ha-Levi Moelin (Maharil Segal)

MOELLIN, JACOB BEN MOSES (c1360 – 1427), usually referred to as Maharil (Morenu ha-Rav Jacob ha-Levi) and also as Mahari Segal and Mahari Molin), the foremost talmudist of his generation and head of the Jewish communities of Germany, Austria, and Bohemia.

Born in Mainz, Jacob was taught by his father, one of its leading rabbis, and then proceeded to Austria, where he studied under Meir ha-Levi and Shalom b. Isaac, who ordained him rabbi with the title morenu. Summoned to Mainz while still young to succeed his father who had died in 1387, Jacob founded a yeshivah there to which many students streamed. The students lived in his house and were supported by "the means provided for him by the leaders of the country" (Sefer Maharil). From this yeshivah came the greatest rabbis of Germany and Austria of the next generation, among them Jacob Weil.

Moellin became famous throughout Europe. While he was still young, halakhic problems were addressed to him "since from your mouth Torah goes forth to all Israel" (Maharil, resp. no. 148).

He was also regarded as the leader of the people in that troubled period. During the Hussite wars and the strengthening of Catholic reaction various communities turned to him for help. On this occasion he decreed a three-day fast upon the whole community, "even upon sucklings," and also took the matter up with the government, with successful results.

His rulings, together with those of Israel Isserlein, serve as the foundation of all the traditions which were kept in German Jewry. In his decisions Moellin took prevailing conditions into consideration, and when a matter which affected the economic position of the community came before him, he assembled the scholars and "investigated the matter until he found a favorable solution." When he felt he had been too strict, he excused himself saying, "I have been very strict with you because you are without a rabbi" (resp. no. 26).

He attacked rabbis who "bought" rabbinical positions which they were unqualified to fill (Jacob Weil, Dinim ve-Halakhot, no. 68, Kapust ed. (1834), 59b), and protested against the neglect of Torah study and against the widespread practice of giving decisions based on abridged halakhic works. In his sermons he placed particular emphasis upon the mitzvah of charity, and he was keenly solicitous of the honor of the poor.

Moellin also occupied himself with astronomy and applied himself to the solution of astronomical problems with the aid of instruments, and the study of the astronomical work Shesh Kenafayim of Immanuel b. Jacob Bonfils.

Jacob was well-versed in the different German dialects and composed Hebrew rhymed verse (in Ms.) and piyyutim (Joseph b. Moses, Leket Yosher, ed. by J. Freimann, 1 (1903), 50).

Though, like all the rabbis of Germany, he shunned philosophy, he acted with a degree of tolerance toward those who, attracted by it, had strayed in matters of belief. He declared valid the sheḥitah of one who "accepted resurrection only as a traditional belief, but denied that there was a biblical basis for it," even declaring that "though his sin is too great to be tolerated, he is not under suspicion of deliberately transgressing the Torah" (resp. no. 194, p. 64a–b).

Moellin was renowned as a ḥazzan and his activities left a lasting influence on the Ashkenazi tradition. His opinion that traditional tunes should not be changed was a constantly stabilizing factor. The so-called "Niggunei Maharil," attributed to him (or at least thought to have been sanctioned by him) were in use in the Mainz community until modern times (see Idelsohn, Music, 170, 177, 206, 456, and see *Mi-Sinai melodies).

His known works are (1) Minhagei Maharil (Sefer Maharil, first published in Sabionetta, 1556), compiled by his pupil Zalman of St. Goar who for many years noted down his halakhic statements, customs and, in particular, the explanations he heard from him. Through the efforts of various copyists, the work enjoyed wide circulation.

Most of the customs noted in it were included by Moses Isserles in his glosses to the Shulḥan Arukh; (2) Responsa, some copied and arranged by Eleazar b. Jacob and published for the first time in Venice in 1549. A far more complete collection has been preserved in manuscript (Margoliouth, Cat. No. 575). The printed editions of the Maharil are full of errors, apparently having been published froma corrupt copy. Moellin died in Worms.


  • G. Steiman, Custom and Survival – A Study of the Life and Work of R. Jacob Molin (1963);
  • G. Polak, Halikhot Kedem (1846), 79–86;
  • Guedemann, Gesch Erz, 3 (1888), 17–20; D. Kaufmann, in: MGWJ, 42 (1898), 223–9; Weiss, Dor, 5 (19044), 81f., 239–42;
  • Joseph b. Moses, Leket Yosher, ed. by J. Freimann, 2 (1904), XXXV, 132; *Finkelstein, Middle Ages, index, S.V. Maharil; L. Rosenthal, in: MGWJ, 71 (1927), 364–7; J.J. (L.) Greenwald (Grunwald), Maharil u-Zemanno (1944);
  • M.S. Geshuri, in: Sinai, 13 (1943/44), 317–49; Hacohen, ibid., 57 (1965), 133–7.



Jacob b. Moses Moelin יעקב בן משה מולין‎ (c. 1365 – 1427) was a Talmudist and posek (authority on Jewish law) best known for his codification of the customs (minhagim) of the German Jews. He is also known as Maharil - the Hebrew acronym for "Our Teacher, the Rabbi, Yaakov Levi" - as well as Mahari Segal or Mahari Moelin. Maharil's Minhagim was a source of law for Moses Isserles’ component of the Shulkhan Arukh.

Maharil was the son and pupil of Moshe Levi Moelin, Rabbi of Mainz, and a pupil of R. Shalom b. Isaac of Wiener Neustadt. At a young age, Moelin was recognized as a budding scholar. In 1387, he succeeded his father as Rabbi of Mainz. He established a yeshiva in Mainz which attracted many students. One of his most noteworthy students was Jacob Weil. Moelin lived through the mass slaughter of Jews in Austria in 1420 and the Hussite wars in 1421, which brought suffering to the Jews of Bavaria and the Rhine; see History of the Jews in Germany. Maharil played an important role in rebuilding these communities. He died and was buried in Worms.

Notable Hazzan

Moelin composed piyyutim for the synagogue. He was also a notable Hazzan who famously ruled that traditional melodies should not be changed. Some traditional melodies attributed to him were still in use in pre-World War II Mainz. He appears also to have been familiar with the study of astronomy.


Maharil's best known work is Minhagei Maharil, also known as Sefer ha-Maharil or simply the Minhagim. It contains a detailed description of religious observances and rites, at home and in the synagogue, and thus provides an authoritative outline of the minhagim of the German Jews. It also contains sermons and textual comments. It was compiled by Moelin's student, Zalman of St. Goar, and was first published - with various additions - at Sabbioneta, in 1556 and frequently thereafter. It had a great influence on the Jews of Central Europe and was largely responsible for the importance attached to minhag in these communities. This book is frequently quoted in the codes and commentaries - including Moshe Isserles who cites Maharil frequently in the Shulkhan Arukh - and has become a valuable source for later scholars.

Another pupil of Moelin, Eleazer b. Jacob, collected some of Moelin's responsa; these were published in Venice in 1549. Many more of Moelin's responsa remained in manuscript. These were collected and edited by Rabbi Yitzhak Satz, and, published in 1977 under the title SHuT Maharil heChadashot ("New Responsa of Yaakov Molin").

Recently, the German esoteric scholar Georg Dehn has argued that the MaHaRIL was also the author of The Book of Abramelin which he wrote under the pseudonym of Abraham von Worms. However, this is disputed.

  1. ^ Georg Dehn, The Book of Abramelin: A New Translation, transl. by Steven Guth, Ibis Publishing, 2006.
  2. ^ http://www.themagickalreview.org/reviews/book-of-abramelin.php
  • Jacob ben Moses Mölln (MaHaRIL), jewishencyclopedia.com
  • Reb Yaakov HaLevi ben Moshe Moellin (the Maharil), yarzheit.com


Celebrated Codifier of Jewish Law, Rabbi Jacob ben Moshe Halevi Molin (Moelin) known as the Maharil

Rabbi Jacob ben Moshe HaLevi Moelin was born in the city of Mainz (Germany), in the year 5120 (1360). Rabbi Moshe, his father, whose family name was Molin, was Rabbi of the city. Rabbi Moshe also had other sons and daughters, who excelled in Torah knowledge, piety and nobility of character, but Rabbi Jacob outshone them all.

He learned at first under the instruction of his father, and also received instruction from his older brother, Rabbi Jekusiel. But at an early age, he wanted to observe the advice of the Sages: "Go into exile in order to learn Torah." He longed to visit different cities to get to know the various Gaonim of his time, and to study at their feet.

He went to Vienna, where he studied under Rabbi Sholom ben Rabbi Isaac, who befriended the young scholar. He also studied under the guidance of other Rabbis in Vienna, one of whom, Rabbi Moshe Neumark, took him to be his son-in-law. Soon after his wedding, Rabbi Jacob left Vienna to study Torah away from home. He apparently learned for many years in various Yeshivoth, and became famous as a great Gaon (Torah giant).

Finally, he returned to his native Mainz, where he was chosen to fill the position left vacant by his late father. Rabbi Jacob was well loved by the community. When he was once ill in bed, and lay for three days almost lifeless, the entire community proclaimed a fasting period for every Monday and Thursday until Rosh Hashanah, to pray for his speedy recovery. When Rabbi Jacob was already well again, and came to the Synagogue, the community still kept up the fasting as originally decided, although a couple of months still remained to Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi Jacob was the spiritual leader in a full measure. He devoted himself to the spreading of Torah learning and piety throughout the community. He headed a great Yeshivah, and he took care of the physical needs of his pupils who came to him from near and far. One of his famous disciples was Rabbi Jacob Weil, who later became known as a great Gaon and Codifier.

The Maharil took a fatherly interest in all the communal affairs, and especially in the conditions of the Yeshivah students. He was well liked as a Baal-Tefillah (Chazzan), and he instituted many nigunim (tunes), especially for the Holy Days' Prayers. He had a beautiful voice, and when he led the Prayers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, he elevated the congregation to a high spiritual plane, and inspired them to repentance.

The Maharil was Rabbi in Mainz, on the River Rhine, for about 40 years. Thanks to him, the community blossomed, and was known for its high level of Torah and good character, which it attained under the influence of their great spiritual leader. In his later years, the community of Worms turned to him to become their Rabbi, to help rebuild their old and famous community, where such great personalities as Rashi, Rabbi Elozor bar Rabbi Judah Rokeach, the Maharam of Ruthenberg, and other great Gaonim had lived and left their mark.

The Maharil acceded to their request, and was Rabbi there for over a year until his death, Motzoei Shabbos (Saturday night), the 22nd of Elul, 5187 (1427).

Many legal questions were directed to the Maharil during his lifetime, as he was considered a great authority, especially in the area of the Prayers and Customs throughout the entire year. The Responsa of the Maharil, comprising 233 sections, were published in Venice in 1549. Many of his legal decisions and customs were publicised by his disciples. His legal decisions were considered binding by the later Rabbinical authorities among the Ashkenazic Jews, especially in Germany and Poland. His work, "Minhagei Maharil" (Customs of the Maharil), printed in Sabunita in 1556, enjoyed tremendous popularity, and it has been reprinted many times. From his Responsa and his Book of Customs, a lot can be learned about the life of the Jews in those times, about the daily life in the ghetto, and the high level of the Shabbos life; how the Jews celebrated the Yomim Tovim (Holidays), and how they celebrated hapy family occasions (Simchos), etc.

Whenever the Maharil used to walk among Jews, he used to carry a small Chumash with him, so that if Jews stood up in his honor, he could feel that the honor was accorded to the holy Chumash that he was carrying, and not to his own person.

He was a very humble man, but was very particular about honor being shown to his students, and used to demand that the members of the community show them their due respect.

The material position of the Jews in Germany, Bohemia, Poland, Austria and other countries at the time of the Maharil, was a very difficult one. It was only a few years after the persecutions suffered on account of the "Black Death," when the Jews were falsely accused of poisoning the wells. That brought about the slaughter of many Jews (in the year 5109/1349). Many of the legal questions in the Responsa of the Maharil and other Gaonim of his time dealt with Orphans and Widows, Agunos (wives who do not know the whereabouts of their husbands and thus cannot remarry), inheritance problems, mourning, forced conversions, etc.

At that time, there broke out in Bohemia the bitter "Holy" War between the followers of the Bishop Ian (John) Huss (the Hussites) and the clergy who remained true to the old way of the Christian Church. Huss, who was born about the year 1369 in Hussinetz in Bohemia, was, at about the age of 30, a professor of philosophy in the Prague University. A few years later, he became Rector (President) of the university, and at the same time, a clergyman. He started to attack the Church for mixing into political and worldly matters, and thereby degrading the church and the faith. The Pope and Cardinals declared Huss to be a heretic, and forbade him to preach his "heretical" ideas. He disregarded these orders and threats, and continued to preach his ideas. The Cardinals then fooled him into accepting an invitation to a debate in Constance. King Sigismund guaranteed him protection. But, when it came to the debate, the Cardinals pronounced the death sentence on him, and he was burned alive (in 1415). That was when his followers started a bitter war against the Pope and King Sigismund. At the beginning they won a series of battles against the armies of the Pope and the King, and they took revenge on the clergy with great cruelty. In many countries, including Holland and Belgium, bands of Christians were organized to fight against the Hussites, and at the same time, they persecuted the Jews. The Jewish communities on the Rhine, such as Cologne, Nurenberg, Erfurt, Neustadt, etc., lived in great terror. In certain places, the Jews were attacked despite the promises of the local rulers to protect them. The Maharil came forth with a letter that he sent from Mainz to all Jews in the various communities. He proclaimed a public fast, ordering all Jews over 20 years of age, except for sick people, to fast for three consecutive days, day and night, starting with the day after Shabbos Bereishis. The fast was to have the same degree of severity as Yom Kippur. Boys over 13 and girls over 12 were also ordered to fast these three days, only they were allowed to break their fast every night. He also announced what special Prayers were to be said, and how the people should act during the fasting period. Filled with compassion for his persecuted brethren, the Maharil strengthened and encouraged the Jews in their hour of need. He exhorted them not to lose their faith in the Almighty, but at the same time, to be prepared to sacrifice their lives, if need be, for Kiddush Hashem. Special messengers delivered the Maharil's letter to the various communities in danger, and everywhere his order was carried out to the greatest detail, and brought courage and inspiration to the Jews.

Many Jews sanctified G-d's name in those troubled times, which lasted for about 20 years. Many communities saw real miracles take place before their eyes, as the Almighty saved them from destruction.

In such a manner, the Maharil took part in both the troubles and rejoicings of his brethren. His influence during his lifetime was immense, and up to the present day he holds an unforgettable position amongst the Jewish Great, who lastingly enriched the Jewish way of life.

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Rabbi Jacob Ha-Levi Moelin (Maharil Segal)'s Timeline

Age 62
Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany