Ezekiel Baneth

Ezekiel Baneth (1773– 1854)

Rabbi Ezekiel Baneth (Banet, Benet) z'tl  was born at Óbuda (Old Buda, Alt-Ofen, today part of Budapest)  in 1773, died at  Nyitra (Neutra, today Nitra, Slovakia), on 28. December, 1854.  Younger  brother of Mordechai Baneth z'tl, rabbi of Stomfa (today Stupava, Slovakia). 

He was the son of rabbi Jacob Baneth, a member of the rabbinate of Óbuda, who himself was an excellent Talmudic scholar.  Forced by the loss of his property in wool business to seek an office, he officiated as rabbi first at Szécsény, then from 1825 at Paks, subsequently at Balassagyarmat, and finally from 1836 at Nyitra (Nitra), where he died at the age of 82. He established a yeshivah, which was attended by students from all over the country.

In method he was opposed to the "pilpul" (loosely meaning "sharp analysis",  refers to a method of studying the Talmud through intense textual analysis in attempts to either explain conceptual differences between various halakhic rulings or to reconcile any apparent contradictions presented from various readings of different texts), which was then flourishing in Hungary, his models being the great authors of the Middle Ages.

He paid little attention to the works of later periods. Questions were addressed to him from far and wide regarding difficult problems of the religious law, which he willingly answered. His responsa, had he preserved copies of them, would have filled several large volumes; but he left no notes of any description. The authors of important books considered it an honor to obtain from Baneth an approbation of their works; but it seems to have been his principle not to write any books himself. A commentary on Tosefta, which, according to the unconfirmed statement of an intimate friend, he wrote and kept secret, is said by the same authority to have been burned by him shortly before his death. Many anecdotes, shrewd sayings of his have been preserved. Because of his piety Jews and Christians alike revered him as a saint in Nyitra. The legend that a fiery column over his grave had seen repeatedly was believed by many, and pilgrims  often visited his grave for a long time.

His son, Rabbi Jerachmeel Dov Bernhard Baneth z'tl was born in Szécsény, 1815,  died at Liptószentmiklós, (now Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia) on 21. October, 1871.

He was the youngest son and one of the most gifted pupil of his father. After attending for some time the lectures of R. Moses Schreiber (the "Chatam Sofer") of Presburg (Pozsony, today Bratislava, Slovakia), he married to Golde, daughter of the merchant David Stössl of Liptószentmiklós in 1840.  Settling in the latter place, he assiduously devoted himself to the study of the Talmud.  His reputation for scholarship brought him a number of devoted pupils. In 1868 he accepted, without compensation, the office of rabbi of the Orthodox congregation of Liptószentmiklós, compelling through his uprightness, peaceable disposition, and piety the esteem of the opposing party.

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 (Yechiel)

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