1 This section incorporates information from H.H. Ben-Sasson, "עושר ועוני במשנתו של המוכיח ר' אפרים איש לנצ'יץ", Zion 19 (1954), 142-166 (hereafter: Ben-Sasson, Wealth), and L. Levin, Seeing With Both Eyes: Ephraim Luntshitz and the Polish-Jewish Renaissance (Leiden, 2008) (hereafter: Levin, Seeing). See also the introduction of "ש.ה.מ." to the 1985 edition of the Keli Yekar. 2 R. Shelomo Ephraim writes at the end of his Introduction to the Keli Yekar that his name Shelomo was added in 1601 during a serious illness. For most of his life, he was known as R. Ephraim of Luntschitz, and nowadays he is often simply referred to by the name of his most famous work, the "Keli Yekar". 3 This approximation is derived from the combination of the Keli Yekar's two statements that he wrote the Ir Gibborim (published in 1580) in his youth (see his Introduction to that work) and that he had reached old age by the time the Ammudei Shesh was published in 1617 (see his note preceding the Introduction there). 4 R. Yechiel Halperin in Seder HaDorot (p.251), citing the "פנקס חבורה דק״ק פראג", records the date of the Keli Yekar's death as the night of 7 Iyyar 5379. The Keli Yekar's refurbished tombstone inscription, however, reads that he died on 7 Adar 5379. [A. Stern, מליצי אש על חדשי ניסן אייר (Galanta, 1930): 208-209, claims that the later restoration of the tombstone misinterpreted the original inscription. However, Stern's main argument assumes that the tombstone reads "ז׳ אדר שני שע״ט" instead of "ז׳ אדר שנת שע״ט".] 5 Luntschitz was the Jewish name for the Polish town of Leczyca. 6 Traveling through Lublin, Jaroslaw, Lemberg and other towns. 7 In his introductions to Siftei Daat and Ammudei Shesh, he describes how he was asked to deliver sermons at large public gatherings (even before he became Rabbi of Prague). 8 In the introduction to his Ammudei Shesh, R. Shelomo Ephraim dates his being summoned to Prague to Adar 5364. There he describes the difficult burden which he assumed, and how it minimized his continued literary output. He proceeds to explain that it was only the plague that forced him to temporarily flee Prague in 1606 which afforded him the respite to produce the Ammudei Shesh. [Anyone who could, fled Prague in the fall of 1606, including the famed Johannes Kepler.] Similar themes are found in his earlier introduction to Siftei Daat. There he writes that after three years of serving as the head of the rabbinical court in Prague, the community relieved him of these responsibilities and instead allowed him to devote more time to delivering sermons. 9 See Ben-Sasson, Wealth, who suggests that he was not a rabbi and that this made the Keli Yekar one of the few East European scholars of the day who had no close relation in a position of communal or rabbinical leadership (see below for Keli Yekar's critique of the societal elite). R. Shelomo Ephraim, however, refers to his father using rabbinic terms of reverence, and see sources cited by Levin, Seeing: 48-49. 10 The Keli Yekar refers to him as his teacher in Ir Gibborim, Parashat Metzora. 11 The Keli Yekar came into contact with Maharal very late in life, but nevertheless, Maharal's views seem to have influenced him. See, on this topic, J. Elbaum's review of A. Neher's פרק בתרבות יהודי אשכנז במאה השש-עשרה, in Tarbiz 55 (1986): 145-159. Neher claims that Keli Yekar is saturated with the Maharal's ideas, despite no explicit mention of him. While Elbaum agrees that his educational views (e.g. his opposition to pilpul – see S. Assaf, מקורות לתולדות החינוך בישראל, Vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1954): 45-52) were influenced by Maharal, he argues that Neher overstates Maharal's influence. 12 R. Mordechai (also known as the Levush) was older than the Keli Yekar, but they served together on the Council of the Four Lands. 13 R. David Gans was an important rabbinical scholar, historian, mathematician, geographer, and astronomer. See next note. 14 In 1612, the Keli Yekar, along with R. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, provided an approbation to a work of astronomy published in Prague by R. David Gans. See A. Neher, "חומר חדש על דוד גנז כתוכן", Tarbiz 45 (1976): 141. Toward the end of R. Shelomo Ephraim's Ammudei Shesh (Prague ed., 38b), he recommends studying Mishna with R. Heller's newly published commentary, the Tosefot Yom Tov. 15 R. Avraham was the father of the "Shelah", R. Yeshayah Horowitz. The Shelah was the Keli Yekar's assistant in Prague and ultimately succeeded him as the Rabbi of Prague. They are co-signed on an approbation affixed to the 1616-1618 Prague edition of the Yam Shel Shelomo. 16 He was the son of the Shelah and the author of ווי העמודים (see note below regarding its introduction). 17 They actually held their land through lease. 18 See Ben-Sasson, Wealth. 19 According to the introduction to the work, the name is based on the verses of Yirmeyahu 31:19 and Mishlei 20:15 and their combined allusion to the author's two names Ephraim and Shelomo (the endings of the paragraphs of the introduction also alternate between the two names). The Keli Yekar also writes there that he vowed to complete the work after a serious illness in 1601 (during which his name Shelomo was added). 21 The author's introduction to the Keli Yekar notes that its publication was enabled by financial support received from the "מנהיגי שלש ארצות" (later to become the "ועד ארבע ארצות" or Council of the Four Lands). The publisher's preface to the first edition notes that such support had never before been proffered for the publication of a contemporary work. 22 R. Shelomo Ephraim was already the head of the yeshivah in Prague by this time. 23 Ir Gibborim was his first work (the Introduction to the "Keli Yekar" notes that the Ir Gibborim was written "בילדותי") and was published in 1580 (Basel). According to the introduction to (the later published) Olelot Ephraim, the Ir Gibborim was written in Jaroslaw (without access to primary sources). However, from the title page of Ir Gibborim, it appears that by the time of publication, R. Shelomo Ephraim was living in Lvov (Lemberg).
The work is comprised of two parts, with the first discussing ethical qualities and organized topically, and the second being a collection of sermons according to the order of the Torah (the end of the first introduction explains that he was trying to satisfy the desires of people who preferred each type of order). [The 1769 Amsterdam edition reverses the order of the two sections of the book, and the two parts were was later printed individually in 1799 (Zolkiew), with the topical part published under the separate title of
פתיחות ושערים.] In the preface to the work, the author criticizes other contemporary darshanim for inaccuracies and a lack of moral content. Elsewhere (folio 5b), he describes his endeavor to satisfy the people's thirst for "כוונות ומדרשות דרושים לכל חפציהם קרוב לפשוטו". See following note. 24 Olelot Ephraim, a collation of sermons on festivals and life cycle events, was published in 1590 (Lublin, by Kelonimus, a cousin of R. Mordechai Yafeh). In this work, R. Shelomo Ephraim several times discusses the theoretical underpinnings of his preaching. See especially his preface (where he explains that there is no longer room to innovate in Halakhah, minhag, or standard biblical exegesis, and that he must thus innovate in the field of derush); and Part 2, p. 7, Maamar 64 ("כל דורש ימצא רמז לכל דבריו כמו שנפשו חפץ בהיות ע' פנים לתורה"). For other sources and a discussion of the Keli Yekar's method of derush, see J. Elbaum, "דרשה ודרוש – בין מזרח למערב", Pe'amim 26 (1986): 128-131. 25 Orach LeChayyim, a compilation of seasonal sermons for the periods of Rosh HaShanah through Yom HaKippurim and Pesach, was published in 1595 (Lublin, by the same cousin of R. Mordechai Yafeh). 26 Siftei Da'at, another work of derashot on the Torah, was published in 1610 (Prague). In its introduction, R. Shelomo Ephraim notes that it forms a companion volume to the "Keli Yekar", and hence its title stems from the continuation of the same verse in Mishlei 20:15. 27 Ammudei Sheish is a treatise discussing the six pillars upon which the world rests (based on the synthesis of the two Mishnayot in Avot 1:2,18) and concluding with various behavioral prescriptions related to each. See Levin, Seeing: 211, who notes that this work was modeled after the Netivot Olam of the Maharal (the Keli Yekar's teacher). [Interestingly, a student of the Keli Yekar, R. Shabtai Horowitz (the son of the Shelah) writes in the introduction to his ווי העמודים that his work is patterned after that of his teacher R. Shelomo Ephraim.] Although the work was written in 1606-7 (as per its introduction - see note above regarding the 1606 plague), it was published only in 1617 (in Prague). R. Shelomo Ephraim appended an additional note explaining that publication was delayed to his other responsibilities. 28 In R. Shelomo Ephraim's Introduction to the Keli Yekar, he writes that he dedicated the most labor to his Rivevot Ephraim, but that he did not have the financial resources to publish it due to its size.