Auction 86 - Part I - Rare & Important Items

Portrait of Rabbi Mordechai (Marcus) Jaffe, Rabbi of Schwerin, Descendant of Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe, the Levush – Oil on Board – Familial Inscriptions

Opening: $4,000
Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000
Sold for: $11,875
Including buyer's premium

Portrait of R. Mordechai Jaffe (1740-1813), rabbi of Schwerin and chief rabbi of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, descendant of R. Mordechai Jaffe, the Levush. Oil on board. Familial inscriptions in German on verso.
Portrait of R. Mordechai Jaffe, holding a book of the Levush, with a quill beside him. The caption "Mordechai Jaffe" (Hebrew) appears on verso, followed by familial inscriptions in German, documenting several generations of his descendants and their families: Jette (Henrietta), wife of Selig Joseph Jaffe (1802-1884); Mathilde Jaffe (1863-1929), wife of R. David Mannheimer (1863-1919) – rabbi of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, and their children; and more.
This portrait was printed in the book Avot UMiddot by Eliezer Levi (descendant of the Levush), Tel Aviv: Abraham Zioni, 1962.
R. Mordechai (Marcus) Jaffe (1740-1813), rabbi of Schwerin and chief rabbi of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin duchy. Prominent German rabbi. Sixth generation patrilineal descendant of R. Mordechai Jaffe, the Levush (1530-1612).
Born in Berlin to R. Eliezer (Lazarus) son of R. Nechemiah Jaffe. At the age of 14, he travelled to study Torah in Lissa, where he was rabbinically ordained. He married the daughter of the Lissa community leader, R. Eizik Segal, and bore ten children. In ca. 1770, he was appointed dayan of Schwerin, later taking on the position of rabbi of Schwerin and chief rabbi of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin duchy (in place of R. Yehoshua Shapira, who served there from 1772-1775). R. Mordechai's uncle, R. Yeshaya Jaffe, served as rabbi of the Three Communities – Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek and as yeshiva dean in Altona for forty years. R. Mordechai Jaffe refused several invitations to come serve as rabbi of the Three Communities and of the Jewish community of Copenhagen. He was beloved by Jews and gentiles alike, and after his passing at the age of 73, he was eulogized in non-Jewish newspapers as well.
Approx. 31X25.5 cm. Minor defects and abrasions (minor damage to painting and damage to inscriptions on verso). Framed: 37.5X32 cm.

Schwerin Decree – Polemic of Delaying Burial
In 1772, Duke Frederick II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin published a decree requiring the Jews to delay the burial of their dead for three days, in order to avoid the risk of mistakenly burying a live person. The Duke, who had been convinced by a Jewish apostate that the prohibition of delaying burial is based merely on kabbalistic reasons and has no source in the Bible or the Talmud, gave the Jews of his Duchy three weeks to present a contrary opinion from two prominent Jewish scholars. The rabbi of Schwerin, R. Mordechai Jaffe, therefore turned for assistance to R. Yaakov Emden (the Yaavetz) and to the renowned maskil Moses Mendelssohn, who was well-connected and had a good command of the German language. Mendelssohn formulated a substantiated letter which succeeded in convincing the Duke to rescind his decree, though he concurrently sent letters to R. Mordechai Jaffe and the Yaavetz, in which he presented his proofs as to why there was actually no prohibition in delaying burial, and that in the event the Duke would not reconsider his decision, the Jews would have to conform with the new law. In response, the Yaavetz and R. Mordechai Jaffe sent Mendelssohn letters in which they refuted his claims and entirely rejected his conclusion regarding the prohibition to delay burial (for more on this polemic and the letter exchange between the Yaavetz, R. Mordechai Jaffe and Moses Mendelssohn, see: Moshe Samet, Halanat Metim, in: Asufot, III, pp. 417-423; HaMe'asef 1785, Av, pp. 169-174, Elul, pp. 178-184). The polemic is mentioned by the Chatam Sofer (Responsa, Yoreh De'ah, section 338), where he writes admiringly of R. Mordechai Jaffe: "That rabbi spoke well".