Isaac Judah Schmelkes

Rabbi Yitsḥak Yehudah Schmelkes (1828–1906), a talmudic scholar of Galicia, was born in Lemberg (Lviv, Ukraine), the son of Ḥayyim Samuel Schmelkes, claiming descent from Eleazar b. Samuel Schmelke Rokeaḥ.[1] He was the head of the rabbinical court in Lviv from 1869-1893.[2] His Beit Yiẓḥak (6 vols., 1875–1908), on the four parts of the Shulḥan Arukh, was widely acclaimed.[2] His opinion on halakhic questions was sought by many prominent contemporary scholars.[3]

Portrait of Rabbi Yitsḥak Yehudah Schmelkes (1828–1906)


A pupil of Joseph Saul ha-Levi Nathanson, head of the local bet din, Schmelkes was hailed in his youth as a brilliant talmudic student. He served as head of the bet din in a number of towns before being appointed in Lemberg, where he remained until his death.

Intellectual PropertyEdit

Dating back to 1518 with the invention of the printing press, rabbinic authorities have issued exclusive printing privileges. These privileges typically grant the printer an exclusive right to print the book for a period of ten to twenty years or until the first edition has been sold—a time suitable for the author or heirs to have recovered their investment in preparing the manuscript for publication. In the 19th century, after the introduction of copyright in contemporary secular law, rabbinic authorities argued over the application of copyright in Jewish law. According to Schmelkes' teacher Rabbi Nathanson, a copyright was a property right arising out of the right of ownership. Schmelkes argued that an author’s exclusive right to publish their manuscript derived from the author's copyright in secular law, not from the author's property right in controlling access to the physical manuscript. Rabbi Schmelkes position is held by the majority in contemporary arguments over intellectual property in rabbinic law.[4]

Electricity on ShabbatEdit

For appliances that do not produce light on Shabbat, turning on an electric current may violate other prohibitions in rabbinic Jewish law. For example, the Talmud prohibits the creation of a fragrant scent in one's clothing on Shabbat because, according to Rashi "creating anything new" is prohibited under a Rabbinic category called molid. Rabbi Schmelkes suggested applying molid to the generating of electric current. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many others disagree with this application. Among other reasons, they state that molid is a limited category that cannot be expanded past the definitions the Talmudic Sages imposed.[5]


  1. ^ Introduction to Beit Yiẓḥak, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, Przemysl, 1875
  2. ^ a b Spector, S.; Wigoder, G. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: K-Sered. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust. Yad Vashem. p. 1034. ISBN 978-0-8147-9377-0. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  3. ^ Modlinger, H. D. (2007). Encyclopedia Judaica.
  4. ^ Netanel, Neil; Nimmer, David (January 2011). "Is Copyright Property? -- The Debate in Jewish Law". Theoretical Inquiries in Law. 12 (1): 217–251. doi:10.2202/1565-3404.1268. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  5. ^ Rabbi Michael Broyde & Rabbi Howard Jachter, The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov, part II, section A. Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society No. XXI - Spring 1991 - Pesach 5751.