Rabbi Akiba Eger: His Life and Times
Among the responsa of Eger much valuable material is found on the social, economic, and religious situation of the Jews during the long years of his ministry. The study of rabbinical responsa is important to the historian because it enables him to study the actual living conditions of a period. Eger's responsa consist of two parts: some deal exclusively with explanations of difficult passages in the Talmudic literature; others are requests for halachic decisions in reference to a particular situation. The former, while of great value to the serious student of the Talmud - Eger's penetrating analysis of a problem and his incomparable mastery of the vast rabbinic literature make him one of the most important authorities on rabbinic scholarship of the nineteenth century - are of little interest to the historian. The latter, on the other hand, dealing with concrete situations, represent a mine of information to the student of history. In a separate section of this thesis14 such material is analyzed and important data on Jewish life in the first half of the nineteenth century are brought to light. While Eger's method of instruction and his attitude to early and late rabbinical authorities have been examined in this study, it was clearly outside its scope to evaluate Eger's accomplishments in the field of Jewish scholarship. The writer can only hope that by concentrating on the historical aspect of Eger's writings, he will have contributed to a better understanding of the life and time of Akiba Eger.