Zvi Hirsch Kalischer

Zvi (Zwi) Hirsch Kalischer (24 March 1795 – 16 October 1874) was an Orthodox German rabbi who expressed views, from a religious perspective, in favour of the Jewish re-settlement of the Land of Israel, which predate Theodor Herzl and the Zionist movement. He was the grandfather of Salomon Kalischer.

Zvi (Zwi) Hirsch Kalischer
הרב צבי הירש קלישר.jpg
Zvi Hirsch Kalischer
Born(1795-03-24)March 24, 1795
DiedOctober 16, 1874(1874-10-16) (aged 79)
Thorn, Prussia, German Empire
(today Toruń, Poland)


Kalischer was born in Lissa in the Prussian Province of Posen (now Leszno in Poland). Destined for the rabbinate, he received his Talmudic education from Jacob of Lissa and Rabbi Akiva Eiger of Posen.

After his marriage he left Jacob of Lissa and settled in Thorn, a city on the Vistula River, then in Prussia and now Toruń, in northern Poland, where he spent the rest of his life.

In Toruń, he took an active interest in the affairs of the Jewish community, and for more than forty years held the office of Rabbinatsverweser ("acting rabbi"). Disinterestedness was a prominent feature of his character; he refused to accept any remuneration for his services. His wife, by means of a small business, provided their meager subsistence.

Plaque to Kalisher on building in Toruń Old Town

The name Zvi Hirsh is a bilingual tautological name in Yiddish.[1]: 138  It means literally "deer-deer" and is traceable back to the Hebrew word צבי tsvi "deer" and the German word Hirsch "deer".[1]: 138 


In his youth he wrote Eben Bochan, a commentary on several juridical themes of the Shulkhan Arukh, Choshen Mishpat (Krotoschin, 1842), and Sefer Moznayim la-Mishpat, a commentary, in three parts on the whole Choshen Mishpat (parts i. and ii., Krotoschin and Königsberg, 1855; part iii. still in manuscript). He also wrote: Tzvi L'Tzadik (צבי לצדיק) glosses on the Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah, published in the new Vilna edition of that work; the Sefer ha-Berit[2] commentary on the Pentateuch; the Sefer Yetzi'at Mitzrayim commentary on the Passover Pesach Haggadah; Chiddushim on several Talmudical treatises; etc. He also contributed largely to Hebrew magazines, as Ha-Maggid, Tziyyon, Ha-'Ibri, and Ha-Lebanon.

Views on the re-settlement of the Land of IsraelEdit

Inclined to philosophical speculation, Kalischer studied the systems of medieval and modern Jewish and Christian philosophers, one result being his Sefer Emunah Yesharah, an inquiry into Jewish philosophy and theology (2 vols., Krotoschin, 1843, 1871); an appendix to volume 1 contains a commentary (incomplete) on Job and Ecclesiastes.

In the midst of his many activities, however, his thoughts centered on one idea: the settlement of the Land of Israel by Jews, in order to provide a home for the homeless Eastern European Jews and transform the many Jewish beggars in the Holy Land into a population which would be able to support itself by practicing agriculture.

He wrote in the Ha-Levanon, a Hebrew (at that period, a renovated language) monthly magazine.[3] In 1862 he published his book Derishat Tzion (Lyck, 1862)[4] on this subject, including many quotes from his commentaries in the Ha-Levanon magazine. He proposed:

  1. To collect money for this purpose from Jews in all countries
  2. To buy and cultivate land in Israel
  3. To found an agricultural school, either in Israel itself or in France, and
  4. To form a Jewish military guard for the security of the colonies.

He thought the time was especially favorable for the carrying out of this idea, as the sympathy of men like Isaac Moïse Crémieux, Moses Montefiore, Edmond James de Rothschild, and Albert Cohn rendered the Jews politically influential. To these and similar Zionist ideals he gave expression in his Derishat Zion,[5] containing three theses:

  1. The salvation of the Jews, which was promised by the Prophets, can only come about in a natural way — by self-help
  2. Immigration to Israel
  3. Admissibility of the observance of sacrifices in Jerusalem at the present day.

The appendix contains an invitation to the reader to become a member of the colonization societies of Israel.

The second part of the book is devoted to speaking to "the nations" which believe in the Bible and the prophets, and persuading them, that this new course in history is a logical one, and they too can hope for the salvation of the Jewish nation as part of the salvation of the entire world.[6]

This book made a very great impression, especially in Eastern Europe. It was translated into German by Poper (Toruń, 1865), and a second Hebrew edition was issued by N. Friedland (Toruń, 1866). Kalischer himself traveled with indefatigable zeal to various German cities for the purpose of establishing colonization societies. It was his influence that caused Chayyim Lurie (Chaim Lorje 1821-1878) to form the first society of this kind (Association for the Colonisation of Palestine) in Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1860, and this was followed by the formation of other societies.

Owing to Kalischer's agitation, the Alliance Israélite Universelle founded the Mikveh Israel agricultural school in Palestine in 1870. He was offered the rabbinate, but he was too old to accept it. Although not all of these endeavors were attended with immediate success, Kalischer never lost hope. By exerting a strong influence upon his contemporaries, including such prominent men as Heinrich Grätz, Moses Hess (see Rome and Jerusalem, pp. 117 et seq.), and others, he is considered to have been one of the most important of those who prepared the way for the foundation of modern Zionism.

Notable OppositionEdit

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was vocally opposed to Kalischer's proto-zionistic views, writing “We are obligated to follow the ‘well-trodden paths of our ancestors and early leaders,’ who never mentioned any obligation for us to encourage the geulah (redemption) by developing Eretz Yisroel. They mention as the path toward the Redemption only that we become better Jews, repent, and look forward to the geulah.” [7]


  1. ^ a b Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2003), Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781403917232 / ISBN 9781403938695 [1]
  2. ^ קאלישער, צבי מטהארן. "PDF of Genesis with Sefer ha-Brit commentary". Hebrewbooks.org. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  3. ^ Original full version of HaLevanon publishings Archived February 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine in digital format, at the Hebrew University
  4. ^ Online version of Drishat Zion Archived February 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine at HebrewBooks.org Archived October 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Derishat Zion[permanent dead link]. All his published books[permanent dead link] can be found at the Israel National Library
  6. ^ קאלישער, צבי הירש. "Doresh Zion part II". Hebrewbooks.org. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  7. ^ Artscroll Mesorah. Shemesh Marpe. pp. 354–357.


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