The Council of Lithuanian Jews 1623–1764 - Anna Michałowska-Mycielska - ebook

The Council of Lithuanian Jews 1623–1764 ebook

Anna Michałowska-Mycielska



The Council of Lithuanian Jews (Lithuanian Vaad) was the central representative organ of the Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It operated for nearly one and a half centuries (1623-1764), touching all spheres of the Jewish community's life. It undertook important initiatives for the benefit of its constituency at diets and dietines (legislative assemblies of the nobility), at the courts of the King and important magnates, and in non-Jewish courts of law. This book discusses the Council's activities in the context of processes and phenomena present in Jewish society of the time, illustrating the life of Lithuanian Jewry as a separate estate guided by a common sense of identity transcending local affiliation.

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The title of the original: SEJM ŻYDÓW LITEWSKICH (1623−1764)
Language consultation: SEAN MARTIN
Cover design: ANNA PIWOWAR
Cover Photo: The synagogue in Zabłudów (from the collection of Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences)
DTP: „ROCH” Wojciech Ochocki
The translation of the book was co-financed by:
University of Warsaw
University of Warsaw Foundation
Institute of History, University of Warsaw
Copyright © by Anna Michałowska-Mycielska & Wydawnictwo Akademickie „DIALOG” Anna Parzymies Sp. z o.o., 2016
Wydanie elektroniczne, Warszawa 2016
ISBN e-pub 978-83-8002-536-3
ISBN mobi 978-83-8002-540-0
Wydawnictwo Akademickie „DIALOG” Anna Parzymies Sp. z o.o. 00-112 Warszawa, ul. Bagno 3/218 tel./faks (+48 22) 620 87 03 e-mail: [email protected] WWW:
Konwersja: eLitera s.c.
Table of Contents
Book Info
Foreword to English edition
1. Sources and state of research on the Lithuanian Vaad
2. Origins of the Jewish council and its break-up in 1623
3. Organization
1. Administrative Structure
2. Time and venue of sessions, their convocation and course
3. The Vaad’s composition, delegates
4. The Vaad’s officials
5. Issue of regulations and their announcement, pinkasim
4. Regulations
1. Internal functioning of communities
2. Relations between the principal communities and the districts, communities and settlements under their jurisdiction
3. Jewish settlement and the right of citizenship
4. Judiciary
5. Business matters
6. Money lending, bankruptcy
7. Religious and social life
8. Everyday contacts with non-Jews
5. Finances
1. Taxes and their collection
2. The Vaad’s expenses
3. The Vaad’s debts
6. Tribunal
7. Contacts with non-Jewish institutions and officials
8. Contacts with the Crown Vaad
9. Contacts with Karaites
Conclusion: Disbanding of the Vaads in 1764
Annex: Chronology of the Lithuanian Vaad’s sessions
Map: Administrative structure of the Lithuanian Vaad
List of Abbreviations
Index of Names

In Memory of Professor Jakub Goldberg(1924–2011)

Foreword to English Edition

This book is about the council of Lithuanian Jews which operated in the political and fiscal system of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and maintained relations with non-Jewish institutions and environment. The description of historical realities of the Commonwealth presents difficulty, mainly because of the lack of corresponding English terminology or its different meaning. That is why original counterparts have been offered next to the translated names of many bodies and offices or terms referring to the political, legal and fiscal system. When there are no generally adopted and understood terms in English, the original terminology is offered in italics (the same applies to Hebrew and Yiddish terms).

Some notions regarding the history and political system of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which may be hard for an English language reader to comprehend, are explained in short footnotes (whenever they are offered for the first time in the text).

The bibliographic items in the footnotes are provided only in the original language and the titles of the books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish are offered in English in the bibliography at the end of the book. The original names of archives and archival units are also offered as originally spelled (with their English translation provided in the bibliography) to allow the reader to find the appropriate source materials.

In this book the simplified transcription of Hebrew and Yiddish words has been adopted. In the Yiddish texts – the rules of YIVO are followed, and in the Hebrew texts – the modified transcription of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. The Hebrew letters alef and ayin have not been marked at all except where they may stand for a long vowel – then two transcribed vowels are separated by an apostrophe. No distinction is made between teth and taf, kaf and kof, samekh and sin. The letter he is represented as h, and ḥet as ḥ, khaf as kh. The letter tsade is represented as ts. When it discharges the function of mater lectionis at the end of the word, the letter he is represented as h. Sheva is featured as short e only if it is preceded by a conjunction of pronouns which are written jointly. The capital letter is used only in the first word of the title of a published work. In order to make them adequately legible, the article, preposition, conjunction and the relative pronoun are written jointly with the word they are followed by and separated by a hyphen. The only derogations from the adopted rules have been allowed in the terms which operate in the English language and are transcribed otherwise.

The Russian and Belarusian words have been transcribed in keeping with the rules adopted by the Encyclopaedia Judaica.

The transcription of Jewish names has not been standardized – the names of people referred to in Jewish texts are offered in accordance with the rules of Hebrew or Yiddish transcription, and the names referred to in old Polish texts have been left as originally spelled (e.g., Abram Mojżeszowicz).

In the text of the book non-Jewish proper names (e.g., of the rulers) or geographical names are spelled as in Polish. They were used in that form in the epoch under study and the use of the same names in their Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Jewish spelling could be confusing. The only exception has been made for the names of locations (e.g., Vilnius, Warsaw, Cracow), regions (e.g., Samogitia, Belarus, Podolia) or rivers (e.g., the Dnieper) commonly used in English.

The map of the Jewish self-governments in Lithuania features their borders after the publication by Dov Levin.[1]


This book is devoted to the Council of Lithuanian Jews (Lithuanian Vaad), the main self-government body and central representation of the Jewish population living in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. That fundamental institution has not as yet been the subject of a monograph and many aspects of its activity have not as yet been studied.

Its importance cannot be overestimated. The Lithuanian Vaad functioned on a regular basis for nearly a century and a half (1623–1764), and its activity covered nearly all spheres of life of the Jewish population in Lithuania. But first and foremost, it took comprehensive steps for the benefit of all Jewry. Its representatives were active at the nobility’s diets and dietines, royal court, in non-Jewish tribunals and courts, and at magnates’ residences. It is noteworthy that the Vaad seniors were able to identify both the needs of the entire community of Lithuanian Jews and potential threats, instead of focusing on local and ad hoc matters.

This study of the Lithuanian Vaad was possible owing to the preserved text of its pinkas, i.e., a book of its minutes. The pinkas is an extensive and unique source that highlights the regulations adopted by the Vaad and the steps it was taking. The Vaad’s activities are also reflected in many non-Jewish sources: the books of the Lithuanian Metrica[1], registers of starosta’s offices and courts[2], municipal and dominion archives.

Because of these sources, it is possible to reconstruct in detail the operation of the Jewish self-governmental bodies (of the Vaad as well as the Jewish communities) in Lithuania, the mechanisms underlying their activity, administrative and court procedures, but also occasional instances of malpractice. It should also be emphasized that the same reconstruction is more difficult in the case of the Crown Vaad because its pinkas has not survived.

There are two more general aspects of the study of the Lithuanian Vaad. Firstly, it sheds light on the more general trends under way in the Jewish society of the 17th and 18th centuries. These processes include increasingly more oligarchical authorities, growing fiscalism, a changing occupational structure, the need to reconcile the requirements of Jewish law with life in a non-Jewish milieu, the religious ferment that began in mid 17th century, and existence of quite a sizable group of people “outside the control” of the Jewish institutions. It is likely that the same trends affected the Jews living in the Crown.

Secondly, the study shows how the Jews functioned in the structures of the state of estates. They were a separate estate with its own central institutions which took effective steps to ensure the safety and decent living conditions of the Jewish population. When representing that community in the world outside, the Vaad operated between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. The Jewish elites must have been familiar with the mechanisms underlying the functioning of the state. They worked efficiently in the non-Jewish world while engaging in their self-government activities. The seniors of the Lithuanian Vaad maintained intensive cooperation with the magnates holding the most important state positions. The Vaad was not only an institution of Jewish self-government, but also an element of the state’s fiscal apparatus. It usually managed to defend itself from any non-Jewish interference in its internal affairs, but it also allowed the Jews to appeal to non-Jewish authorities on such matters as tax collection, debt enforcement, or judiciary. It seems that the traditional perception of the Vaad functioning independently and on the margins, contacting the non-Jewish world only sporadically and solely on fiscal matters, promoted by earlier historiography, is hard to defend.

I have tried to present the operation of the Lithuanian Vaad in a broader context that will explain why regulations were adopted or specific measures were taken. I encountered problems due to the extent and many facets of the subject matter pertaining to practically all aspects and spheres of Lithuanian Jewish life. There were various leads to economic, social and religious issues beyond the scope of this book and this is why I decided to reference them only in the footnotes. Moreover, many issues highlighted by the book require separate studies, mainly the demographic and fiscal subjects. When it was not absolutely necessary, I tried to avoid comparisons with the Crown Vaad.

The Lithuanian Jews were much less the focus of historians than the Crown Jews.[3] The works devoted to the Jewish population in the Commonwealth include only brief mentions of the Lithuanian Jews, in the course of discussion about the Crown Jews. Very few studies focus solely on Jewish Lithuania and if they do, they cover only a few centuries, treating early modern times in a very general way. The latter include the works by Augustinas Janulaitis,[4] Masha Greenbaum,[5] Solomonas Atamukas[6] and Dovid Katz.[7] Another category of publications comprises collections of articles about the Lithuanian Jews of which the first one usually covers the Middle Ages and early modern times (for example, the texts by Mark Vishnitser,[8] Israel Klausner[9] and Dov Levin).[10]

The history of the Lithuanian Jews in the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the early modern times is the subject of the work by Sergey Aleksandrovich Bershadski, which covers a much longer period than its title suggests, until the end of the 18th century.[11] The works by Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė focus on early modern times.[12] However, the author does not reference the sources and the literature in Hebrew and Yiddish, basing her studies to a great extent on Polish and Russian sources and studies, which sometimes results in the repetition of mistakes and inaccuracies. Many aspects of Jewish life in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of the 17th and 18th centuries are discussed in the unpublished Doctor thesis written by Maria Cieśla.[13]

The Jewish settlement in Lithuania developed later than in the Crown. In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the Jewish communities existed at least since the 14th century. They were granted privileges by Grand Duke Witold: the Jews in Brześć in 1388 and in Grodno in 1389,[14] which were later on endorsed by the successive rulers. In Lithuania there were Jewish communities in Brześć, Grodno, and Troki (inhabited by Karaites) at the end of the 14th century.[15]

In 1495 the Jews were banished from the Duchy.[16] Grand Duke of Lithuania Aleksander Jagiellończyk ordered to divest the Jews of their estates and leases, and to hand them over to Christians, unless the Jews decided to convert to Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity.[17] King Jan Olbracht allowed the exiles to settle down in the Crown’s towns, at first at Ratno in the Chełm lands, and in 1498 also in other towns where they were to enjoy the same rights as the local Jews.[18] After eight years of exile, in 1503, Aleksander agreed to the return of the Jews to Lithuania and guaranteed that their assets would be returned, provided they would cover the costs of investments made by their current owners who had acquired them in 1495. It is likely that the negotiations about the return of the Jews to Lithuania were conducted by their representatives who agreed to finance a division of 1000 cavalrymen that would serve the duke. But it was already in 1503 that the communities asked Aleksander to exempt them from that burden and the permission was granted.[19] One may only guess that the obligation was substituted by a tax, because from then on the Lithuanian Jews had to pay the “return” tax (Pol. powrotne). It is hard to say how vivid the memory of banishment was in the minds of the Lithuanian Jews. Although no direct references to that event may be found in the decisions of the Lithuanian Vaad, it is likely that the statements about the need to avoid any threats to all Jewry in the Lithuanian state were underscored by fears of another banishment.

In the first half of the 16th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a destination of Jewish émigrés from the German states and Bohemia.[20] They settled in new localities; the royal decree of 1529 mentions Jewish communities in the following royal towns: Troki, Grodno, Pińsk, Brześć, Kobryń, Kleck, Łuck, Włodzimierz and Nowogródek, and in 1551 the Jews were also mentioned at Tykocin, Słonim, Mścibów, Krzemieniec, Połock, Witebsk and Merecz.[21] The Jews from the “older” communities were moving to smaller localities, mainly in the northeast, thus establishing new centres of Jewish life. According to Mordechai Nadav, since their return from banishment until the mid 16th century the Lithuanian Jews had the right to buy, own, and profit from land and they enjoyed a very advantageous legal status, with some Jews exercising the same rights as the nobility. After 1569, when the Jews were not allowed to own land any longer, they began to act as brokers and lessees.[22]

The life of the Lithuanian Jews was shattered by the developments in the mid 17th century when many communities had been ravaged or had become desolate. Nathan Hanover, a Jewish chronicler of the mid 17th century events, wrote that the residents of Lithuania sought refuge in the Vilnius and Grodno communities, which the enemies had not reached, and that many other communities had been destroyed and their residents had been murdered. “Of the people in the cities of Sluck, Pinsk and Brest-Litovsk”, writes Hanover, “some escaped to greater Poland, and others by waterway, to Danzig, on the river Vistula. The hapless ones who remained in Brest-Litovsk, and in Pinsk were martyred in the hundreds, for the glorification of His Name. The enemies pursued many hundreds of wagons of fleeing Jews on the open field near Pinsk overtaking them in the narrow paths, and killing large numbers of them.”[23] The Lithuanian Jews suffered most during the war with Muscovy in 1654–1667. The war ravages were exacerbated by the plague of 1655–1660, as well as poverty and famine. Levelled against the Jews were accusations of collaborating with the enemy, frequently accompanied by attempts to deprive them of their privileges or to curb them, to divest them of real estate or to expel the from towns. But the overall position of the Jews in the 17th century was significantly stronger than at the turn of the 15th century and that is why the attempts to undermine their financial status were unsuccessful.

The Lithuanian Jews were a very important element of the Ashkenazi diaspora. However, it is very difficult to estimate their number in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania due to the lack of statistical data (because of the lump sum taxes they paid), and also the nature of fiscal sources. Annual allocations (Pol. dyspartymenty) of the poll tax, due to the complexity of calculations, cannot be treated as a reliable source to study their population in individual communities.[24]

The estimates by Sergey A. Bershadski regarding the second half of the 16th century seem to be most reliable: he estimated the number of the Jews living in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at 10 000–12 000.[25] Those figures are close to the results of the most recent studies conducted by Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė that in 1563 Lithuania was inhabited by 14 000 Jews and in 1566 – by 15 000.[26] It is worth noting that the above figures refer to the area of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before 1569 and cover quite numerous Jewish centres in Volhynia. Maria Cieśla has calculated, based on the analysis of the 1650 rate of a new hearth tax, that until the mid 17th century the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was inhabited by 20 000 Jews (accounting for 0.51% of the total population, and 3.5% of town residents).[27] Their slow demographic growth was halted in the middle of the 17th century because of the Chmielnicki uprising, the Swedish deluge, and, especially, the occupation by Muscovy. In general, war activities affected private estates less than the royal towns where the largest Jewish communities were established. In those days Lithuania also experienced intensive immigration of the Jews from Ukraine resulting in a significant rise of the Jewish population in individual locations. Having analyzed the general poll tax rates, adopted in Lithuania for the first time in 1676, Maria Cieśla derived the figure of 12 000 Jews in the second half of the 17th century.[28] It follows from the data regarding individual localities in the first half of the 18th century that the number of the Jews was rising everywhere. The fact that the Jews were less affected by the consequences of the Northern War (1700–1721) and the plague is attributed to their greater mobility in dangerous times; investing in chattels which are easier to salvage (such as noble metals, jewelry, cash); and in effect to their higher capital than the Christian town residents had after the warfare came to an end.[29] The census of 1764–1765, conducted in the aftermath of the reforms adopted by the convocation diet, was the first overall census. This census may serve as the basis of demographic studies. It recorded 430 009 Jews in the Crown and 157 649 in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (accounting for 27% of the Commonwealth’s population),[30] although the number of infants and undisclosed people still remains an open question.[31] It follows from the 1764–1765 census that the Jewish population in Lithuania rose tenfold over one century. But the mechanism of that demographic spike has not been sufficiently explained yet.

The character of Jewish settlement in Lithuania was a little different than in the Crown. In the 16th century the Jews settled and established their communities in the royal towns, but at the end of the same century there was a trend to settle down in private cities and towns, which was connected with the emergence of new centres and favourable conditions offered by their owners to settlers, including the Jews. Initially, the Jewish population concentrated in southwestern regions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (close to the largest and central Brześć community). In time they began to move northwards (the first privilege was granted to the Jews in Vilnius in 1629) and to a lesser degree eastwards. The migration to the east was part of a trend to settle in poorly urbanized areas that were less developed in economic terms. In the 18th century, Samogitia, where the number of Jews had earlier been insignificant, became an important area of Jewish settlement. The above directions of the Jewish settlement were accompanied by a clear tendency to move from the royal to private estates owned by the nobility and magnates where the owners’ protection created favourable conditions of living and business activity.

In early modern times the majority of Lithuanian Jews lived in urban centres, only a few of which were large cities. It follows from the studies by Shaul Stampfer, based on the 1764 census, that the Jewish settlement in Lithuania was marked by higher concentrations in medium sized communities with 500–1000 residents.[32] Unlike in the Crown, the Jewish settlement in Lithuania was more pronounced in rural areas of Lithuania, with an even percentage of the rural population across the entire Grand Duchy of Lithuania (whereas in the Crown it varied from very low to 50%). Maria Cieśla estimates that approximately 60% of the Lithuanian Jews living in towns engaged in trade and crafts, while 40% of them were lease holders living in small towns and villages.[33]

The culture of the Lithuanian Jews was marked by many specific features: they had different traditions, liturgy, spirituality, mentality, and they spoke a different Yiddish dialect. These specific features had a direct impact on the character of yeshivas, leading to the development of rational Hasidism (Chabad) and the involvement of the Lithuanian Jews in the Haskalah movement (Enlightenment).[34] All of the foregoing contributed to a characterization of the Jewish community in Lithuania as “Litvaks”, a term frequently used a little pejoratively.

The Yiddish spoken every day by the Lithuanian Jews significantly departed from the variety spoken by the Polish Jews. Lithuanian or Litvak Yiddish (also referred to as a northeastern or northern dialect) differed phonetically (vowels were pronounced differently), in the grammatical genders of nouns (no neuter gender, different genders of some nouns), and was also characterized by numerous lexical regionalisms.[35]

In early modern times, Lithuania, and especially Vilnius, was an important area of rabbinical studies in the Ashkenazi world. Many outstanding West-European rabbis graduated from the local yeshivas. The Lithuanian yeshivas applied slightly different methods of studying. Although exegesis, called pilpul, was an acknowledged method in Lithuania, it did not serve as the basis of Talmudic studies but was mainly used as a means to solve important legal problems. It was also used to master oratorical skills, particularly by wandering preachers. It was typical of Lithuanian tuition to look for the actual meaning of the text and to eliminate its contradictions to the extent permitted by logic. That approach resulted in the emergence in Jewish folklore of two types of scholars: the “Polish”, exciting and favouring “smooth” explanations, and the “Lithuanian”, sceptical, focused on facts, and demanding logical arguments.

The different political and economic situation and spirituality of Lithuanian Jews resulted in Lithuanian in a different understanding and perception of Hasidism, coming from Podolia and Volhynia. Departure from Talmudic studies and focus on prayers, criticism of the existing religious customs and traditions, as well as changes of liturgy (the introduction of the Sephardic versions of prayers) were viewed by the Lithuanian Jews as a violation of the prevailing religious order. They were also scared off by the activity of Israel Baal Shem Tov and his pupils as miracle-workers, visionaries, and healers, which was in conflict with the rational way of thinking of the Lithuanian Jews.[36]

The highly specific nature of Jewish Lithuania and the identity of the Lithuanian Jews could have been due to different self-governmental structures and a separate central body, the Lithuanian Vaad.

The Jewish sources, and especially the pinkas of the Lithuanian Vaad, reflect a strong sense of togetherness of the Jews living in Lithuania and of their different identity that was mainly shaped through their contacts with the Crown Jews. They referred to Lithuania as the Lithuanian land or lands (Heb. medinat Lita, pl. medinot Lita), clearly standing apart from the Polish land or lands (Heb. medinat Polin, pl. medinot Polin). Common interests and needs, referred to in the Vaad’s regulations as “common well-being”, encouraged smaller autonomous units, such as districts or communities, to cooperate with one another more or less harmoniously. Only when faced with major calamities and threats which occurred, e.g., in the middle of the 17th century, did “Lithuanian” affairs become of secondary importance to “general Jewish” affairs.

The research I conducted while working on this book covered the archival sources kept in Grodno, Jerusalem, Kiev, Cracow, Lvov, Mińsk, Moscow, New York, Warsaw, and Vilnius. I am most grateful to the employees of those archives and libraries. My search of the archives and work on this book were possible due to a grant by the National Centre of Science.

My research was welcomed with much interest and friendliness on the part of my colleagues at the Institute of History at Warsaw University. They consistently offered helpful suggestions and inspiring comments. I am especially grateful to Maria Cieśla, Adam Kaźmierczyk and Andrzej Zakrzewski, who shared their archive findings with me and indicated the direction of further research.

But it is with profound gratitude that I think about Professor Jakub Goldberg, departed in 2011, who lent me his generous support for many years, ever since I began to study the history of the Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. And this is why this book is dedicated to Him.

Chapter 1

Sources and state of research on the Lithuanian Vaad

In spite of the high importance of the Vaads they have not as yet become the subject of detailed study.

In the case of the Council of Four Lands, or the Crown Vaad, that may be due to a poor source base. A pinkas, a hand-written book of minutes, of the Crown Vaad was most probably destroyed as early as the 18th century.[1] Between the world wars an enormous effort to collect the dispersed sources was made by a young scholar, Israel Halperin, who compiled various copies and fragments which could be found in both Jewish and non-Jewish sources. Halperin’s book was published in 1945.[2] Those materials were later supplemented by Israel Bartal, in a new, extended publication published in 1990.[3]

In this context the non-Jewish materials become more significant. Halperin included the documents in Polish in his book, and their summaries were also published by Ignacy Schiper.[4] In recent times a collection of non-Jewish sources regarding the Crown Vaad was also published by Jakub Goldberg and Adam Kaźmierczyk.[5] The collection comprises both the documents that had already been published (in full or in the form of summaries) and new materials. That publication demonstrates the sources available today to study the Vaads. The publishers divided the collected materials into three parts. The first part consists of the documents produced by the Commonwealth’s authorities, mainly kings and Crown treasurers[6], such as acts of law, privileges or decrees of the Fiscal Tribunal in Radom[7]. The second part comprises documents produced by the Council of Four Lands and its representatives, which frequently survived as rough copies of their Polish translations. In the third part are documents which regard the Council of Four Lands indirectly, e.g., the minute books of the Fiscal Tribunal in Radom or correspondence of magnates and dominion functionaries[8].

As the publishers observed, a wide scope of the Jewish Vaad’s activities and the interference of non-Jewish authorities in its operation, which became more pronounced after the beginning of the 18th century, resulted in the production of many sources. In order to accommodate the treasurer and his officials, various letters and documents were translated into Polish. Some documents were certified by entering them in court registers, mainly of starosta’s courts. As a result, a portion of the output of the Four Lands Council survived in Polish, sometimes significantly departing from the original text in Hebrew. The contents of the translated texts vary, and contrary to our expectations they do not concern solely fiscal matters but also customs and religious issues.[9]

The materials regarding the Crown Vaad, both Jewish and non-Jewish, include those pertaining to the Lithuanian Vaad, but first and foremost, to its relations or conflicts with the Crown Vaad.

All in all, the literature about the Crown Vaad is much more abundant[10] than that about the Lithuanian Vaad, although no serious monograph has as yet been written about it.[11]

Quite different is the situation in the case of the sources regarding the Lithuanian Vaad. Every principal community maintained a handwritten book with the Vaad’s decisions due to, i.a., an obligation placed on land seniors to execute the decisions. Izaak Lewin refers to three duplicates of the Vaad’s pinkas which had been stored in Grodno, Brześć, and Vilnius since the First World War. He also wrote that there was the fourth manuscript, coming from Słuck, which was in private hands “some place in Belarus” which he was not able to use in his research.[12] Majer Bałaban and Mark Vishnitser also offer the same information about the three duplicates of the pinkas.[13]

The text of the pinkas was copied several times by publishers and researchers in the second half of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century. The copies are frequently accompanied by various lists and indices. The archive of Simon Dubnow, held at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, includes several copies he had made.[14] Another copy of 1877 is held in the collection of the New York Jewish Theological Seminary.[15] Stored in Kiev are two copies of the Grodno duplicate of the pinkas made in 1874 in Mińsk by Eleazar Halevi Horovits.[16] The National Library in Jerusalem holds two copies – the first one was reproduced based on the Vilnius duplicate of the pinkas,[17] and the second one was made in 1874 in Mińsk by Eliezer Lipman Rabinovits, based on the Grodno duplicate.[18] Shaul Stampfer pointed to a copy of the pinkas held in Moscow,[19] but I did not come across any information about it in the guide to the Jewish collections in the Moscow archive.[20] Some copies include only short fragments of the pinkas.[21]

First to appear in print were only short fragments of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas.

In his monograph on Brześć Litewski Arie Leib Feinstein included 56 excerpts and summaries of the Vaad’s decisions concerning the Brześć community.[22] The same author published a sort of index in 1893, a list of the Vaad’s decisions on taxes, charity, study and sumptuary regulations.[23]

Avraham Eliyahu (Albert) Harkavi[24] published two articles including excerpts from the pinkas. The first one comprises five verdicts issued in a dispute between the Lithuanian and Crown Vaads.[25] The second one includes two verdicts passed in the trials between the Lithuanian principal communities and a ruling recognizing the independent status of the Słuck community.[26]

It is interesting that according to Izak Lewin in 1886 Harkawi intended to publish the text of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas in the Vilnius newspaper “Ha-Melits”, but this project did not materialize for “quite original” reasons. Lewin writes, “The Jewish notables from Petersburg opposed that idea out of fear that the publication of authentic records of Lithuanian conventions would be perceived by non-Jewish public opinion, and especially the so-called Pahlen Commission[27], as a corroboration of the accusations levelled at that time by renegade Brafman in his Księga kahału[28] where he had claimed that the kahal was a revolutionary institution instigating people against the authorities and the rule of Christians. Highly integrated Jewish self-government, as evidenced by the ‘Lithuanian Pinkas’, could make, as they had feared, those claims more plausible.”[29]

In 1900 fragments of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas were published in an article by Shaul Pinḥas Rabinovits who, significantly, made use of the Słuck duplicate of the pinkas which he had been provided by Harkavi.[30]

Over 1909–1912, Simon Dubnow[31] published the entire text of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas based on the Grodno manuscript, marking the differences from the Brześć and Vilnius duplicates. It was published as a supplement to the Yevreyskaya Starina quarterly edited by Dubnow and comprised the Hebrew text with its translation into Russian by I. Tuwim.[32] However, the translation is far from perfect: it is inaccurate at times, and many terms that are hard to understand are offered in their original spelling without any explanations. Considerable parts of the text were omitted.

In 1924, Dubnow published a Russian translation of the supplements to the pinkas text.[33] They comprise four verdicts issued during the trials between the Lithuanian and the Crown Vaads and five verdicts issued in cases between the Lithuanian principal communities.

In 1925, Dubnow published the Hebrew text of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas in Berlin.[34] It consists of 1030 entries made over 1623–1761, divided according to consecutive 34 Vaads. The entries are marked with the original continuous numbers, making it easier for the Vaad’s officials to refer to earlier adopted decisions. The publication is supplemented by two appendices. The first one includes six verdicts passed in disputes between the Crown and Lithuanian Vaads from 1633 to 1681.[35] The second one comprises thirteen verdicts passed between 1652 and 1761 in litigation involving the principal Lithuanian communities.[36]

Ten years after Dubnow’s publication Israel Halperin published extensive additions and supplements to the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas.[37] The materials on the Karaites and their relations with the Lithuanian Vaad were published by Itsḥak Luria[38], Jacob Mann[39], and Israel Klausner.[40]

Dubnow’s publication, fundamental to the research on the Lithuanian Vaad, was very well received. Izaak Lewin wrote: “The publication is, in general, more than correct, with exquisite print, neat external layout, one can hardly wish more, apart from chaotic use of the brackets, owing to which it is not always clear if, when and why they include the publisher’s comments, or versions of frequently corrected text.”[41] Today, given contemporary publishing standards, the deficiencies of that publication are even more apparent. In the published text the publisher did not identify later additions, supplements, or fragments written in a different handwriting, which one can only guess from the entry’s contents. This is why it is so difficult to reproduce the chronology of the Vaad’s meetings. Sometimes there are errors in the text, but it is hard to establish if they were made by the scribe or the publisher.[42]

It is important to highlight the linguistic specificity of the Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas. The original books of the pinkas were its fair copies to which the Hebrew translations of decisions had been added. It is therefore likely that the Vaad deliberated in Yiddish, a language used by the Lithuanian Jews in everyday life and that notes were taken by the scribes in that language. They were the basis of the translations into Hebrew. Hebrew was viewed as an appropriate language in which books and documents should be written at all levels of Jewish autonomy, from communities to central authorities. This must have been due to the perception of the institutions of self-government that Hebrew was an appropriate language for institutions to use to carry out religious laws in daily life.

The Hebrew used in the sources produced by the Jewish self-government of the Commonwealth is referred to as the chancellery Ashkenazi variety. It includes Aramaic expressions borrowed from the Talmud, especially in reference to legal concepts. But Yiddish was used to name many objects of everyday life. Dovid Katz pointed to Yiddish-Hebrew neologisms, e.g., noldes (noyldoys), literally “new-born ones”, used to refer to unexpected expenses.[43]

The scribes faced many practical problems when using Hebrew to describe the reality of the ancient Commonwealth. They found it difficult to translate some Polish terms, particularly names of institutions, offices, courts, taxes, and monetary units. They either inserted them as originally pronounced, transliterating into Hebrew such words as podymni (hearth tax), arenda, czopowi (tax levied on alcohol sale and production), grod (the starosta’s office or court), tribunal (the supreme court), sejmik (dietine), asygnacja (payment order), konstytucja (resolution passed by the diet), obligacja (commitment to pay), kwit (receipt), prikomorik (przykomorek, lower tier customs house). Or they translated them into Hebrew, e.g,. gilgolet (poll tax), zahuv (złoty, monetary unit), ḥeder (customs house), adon (master), degel tribunal (tribunal banner, a military unit serving as the tribunal’s guards), sar tsava gadol (grand hetman). Some Yiddish terms which were hard to translate were also inserted as originally pronounced. They usually referred to everyday life, i.a., names of meals, clothing, or fabrics. Sometimes the terms used every day were translated into Yiddish, e.g., zeksir, dziesiątak (a ten grosz coin). Proper nouns or names of persons or places were transliterated into Hebrew or Yiddish, which makes identification difficult.[44]

Problems with the understanding of the pinkas text are also due to other reasons. The scribes used various spelling rules or introduced their own abbreviations, recording some issues in a very concise, even enigmatic way, stating at times, that an issue, e.g., a crime, is not fit for recording.

The Lithuanian Vaad’s pinkas is a fundamental source to study the history of the Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is a motherlode of diverse information, about the functioning of the institution, tax collection, judiciary, contacts with non-Jewish environment, or everyday life and customs. As Lewin wrote in praise of Dubnow and his publication, “It is no overstatement to say that the material compiled in the minutes of the Jewish Vaads in Lithuania is so valuable that no historian would be able to disregard it in the future.”[45] Other researchers had a similar opinion about the pinkas, i.a., MarkVishnitzer.[46]

The sources of the Jewish communities are of lesser significance to the study of the Lithuanian Vaad. Among the pinkasim of the kahals (community authorities) worth noting are those from Tykocin[47] and Zabłudów,[48] with the latter being significant mainly due to the fact that the Vaad convened in that community.

Although the Jewish sources are the basis of studies of the Lithuanian Vaad, its activity, due to a variety of contacts with the outside world, was also reflected in many non-Jewish sources, such as the royal decrees (recorded, i.a., in the Lithuanian Metrica[49]), regulations issued by state officials, above all treasurers, voievodes[50] and hetmans[51], and the regulations of land owners and dominion functionaries. Provisions important to the functioning of the Lithuanian Vaad may also be found in the diet’s constitutions and dietine’s resolutions.

The Lithuanian Vaad is also referred to in the records of the Main Lithuanian Tribunal[52], the Lithuanian Fiscal Tribunal and military-fiscal commissions[53]. The Vaad was sued for unpaid taxes and charges, mainly the poll tax, unpaid debts, and also the hiring of Christian servants. Sometimes internal Jewish issues transpire from those records, such as the delineation of areas under the jurisdiction of individual communities or conflicts between them. It is interesting that recorded in those books were also internal Jewish documents, e.g., allocated tax rates, to have them at hand during tax enforcement. Many documents, including those regarding the internal Jewish life, were recorded in the books of starosta’s court.

A sizable number of non-Jewish materials regarding the Lithuanian Jews and the Lithuanian Vaad were published by the Archeographic Commission in Vilnius[54] or as part of other document collections.

Certain aspects of the Vaad’s functioning are much more visible in non-Jewish sources. They highlight in greater detail the relations between the Jews as well as their institutions and the royal court, magnates and the Commonwealth’s diet, as well as the reality of the Vaad’s fiscal activity. The same applies to many issues dissembled in the Vaad’s pinkas or recorded very briefly. Examples include various conflicts and accusations the details of which had been omitted so that the pinkas entries would not serve as a reference during any later accusations against the Jews. The same regards steps taken to find patrons, “gifts”, or efforts either to get around or change the regulations of the state or dominion authorities. Only by comparing the Jewish and non-Jewish sources is it possible to obtain a full picture shedding light on the motives behind the regulations and measures adopted by the Vaad.

The main problem faced by a scholar is that the scope of research may go beyond the framework of one work and also the capabilities of one research worker. Therefore some materials had to be studied, of necessity, at random or merely surveyed, in order to examine why they referred to the Lithuanian Vaad. This especially holds true for the books of the fiscal courts. No doubt a wide-ranging search of non-Jewish archives may significantly enrich our perception of the Lithuanian Vaad.

Few works have been written about the Lithuanian Vaad. Short mentions about it may be found in synthetic studies or textbooks authored, i.a., by Majer Bałaban, Salo W. Baron and Bernard D. Weinryb, as well as in general books about the Jews in Lithuania, referred to in the Introduction.

The Lithuanian Vaad is the subject matter of a very general article by Ḥaim Hilel Ben-Sasson,[55] as well as the articles by Mark Vishnitzer,[56] Abba Gomer,[57] and Shmuel Spektor.[58]

A few articles discuss selected aspects of the activities of the Lithuanian Vaad or both Vaads. In his article Israel Sosis[59] focused on the legislation of the Lithuanian Vaad. Its charity regulations (support of learning, dowries of poor girls, assistance to exiles, ransom of captives, collection of donations for the poor in the Land of Israel) were discussed by Abraham Cronbach.[60] The regulations of both Vaads regarding bankruptcies are discussed by Feitl Diksztein.[61] Israel Halperin wrote a few articles about both Vaads: the origins of the Lithuanian Vaad and its relations with the Crown Vaad,[62] the structures of the Lithuanian, Polish and Moravian Vaads,[63] connections between both Vaads and the Land of Israel,[64] and the censorship of book publications.[65]

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[1] D. Levin, The Litvaks. A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania, Jerusalem 2000, p. 17.


[1] Metrica (Pol. Metryka) – books maintained from the 15th until 1795 registering the documents issued by he monarch’s chancellery. There were separate books in the Crown (Metryka Koronna) and Lithuanian (Metryka Litewska) chancelleries.

[2] Starosta’a office and court (Pol. urząd/sąd grodzki) – a starosta was the nobility’s official discharging administrative and judicial functions. The office exercised its own jurisdiction (Pol. sąd grodzki) adjudicating more serious crimes against the public order and cases brought by the noblemen without own land whose books were maintained by the chancellery; it also recorded indisputable entries, thus acting as a notary.

[3] The most important works on the history of the Lithuanian Jews are discussed by Egidijus Aleksandravičius (Žydai lietuvių istoriografijoje, [in:] Vilniaus Gaonas ir žydų kultūros keliai. Tarptautinės mokslinės konferencijos medžiaga Vilnius, 1997 m. rusėjo 10–12 d., Vilnius 1999, pp. 9–16).

[4] A. Janulaitis, Žydai Lietuvoje. Bruožai iš Lietuvos visuomenes istorijos XIV–XIX amž, Kaunas 1923. One of the book’s chapters (pp. 49–60) is devoted to the Lithuanian Vaad and its legislation.

[5] M. Greenbaum, The Jews of Lithuania. A Story of a Remarkable Community 1316–1945, Jerusalem 1995.

[6] S. Atamukas, Yevrei v Litve XIV–XX veka, Vilnyus 1990; Lietuvos žydų kelias. Nuo XIV amžiaus iki XX a. pabaigos, Vilnius 1998; Juden in Litauen. Ein geschichtlicher Überblick vom 14. bis 20. Jahrhundert, Konstanz 2000.

[7] D. Katz, Lithuanian Jewish Culture, Vilnius 2004. One of the book’s chapters (pp. 73–84) is devoted to the Lithuanian Vaad.

[8] M. Vishnitser, “Di geshikhte fun yidn in lite fun mitlalter biz der ershter velt-milkhome (algemayner iberblik)”, [in:] Lite, eds. M. Sudarski, U. Katsenelenbogn, I. Kisin, vol. 1, Niu York 1951, col. 43–88.

[9] I. Klausner, “Toldot ha-yehudim be-lita”, [in:] Yahadut lita, vol. 1, Tel Aviv 1959, pp. 23–73 (Me-ha-mea ha-arba esre ad shnat 1795).

[10] D. Levin, “Prakim be-toldot ha-yehudim be-lita”, [in:] Pinkas ha-kehilot. Lita, ed. D. Levin, Yerushalayim 1996, pp. 1–106.

[11] S.A. Bershadski, Litovskiye yevrei. Istoriya ikh yuridicheskago i obshchestvennago polozheniya v Litve ot Vitovta do lublinskoy unii, 1388–1569 g., S. Peterburg 1883.

[12] The main propositions of the Doctor thesis by Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė are put forward in the brochure: Žydai Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės visuomenėje: Sugyvenimo aspektai, Vilnius 2004. The thesis was the basis of the book titled Žydai Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės visuomenėje. Sambūvio aspektai, Vilnius 2009. Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė also authored several articles about the Lithuanian Jews in early modern times: “Žydai XVI a. pirmosios pusės LDK visuomenėje: skaičiai, statusas, požiūriai”, [in:] Kultūros istorijos tyrinėjimai. Straipsnių rinkinys, vol. 5, Vilnius 1999, pp. 378–441; “Žydai”, [in:] Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštijos kultūra. Tyrinėjimai ir vaizdai, eds. V. Ališauskas, L. Jovaiša, M. Paknys, R. Petrauskas, E. Raila, Vilnius 2001, pp. 796–809 (Polish translation: “Żydzi”, [in:] Kultura Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego. Analizy i obrazy, eds. V. Ališauskas, L. Jovaiša, M. Paknys, R. Petrauskas, E. Raila, Kraków 2006, pp. 886–902).

[13] M. Cieśla, Żydzi w Wielkim Księstwie Litewskim 1632–1764. Sytuacja prawna, demografia, działalność gospodarcza, Warszawa 2010 (unpublished Doctor thesis).

[14] S.A. Bershadski, “Privilegii velikago kniazia Vitovta litovskim yevreyam (Otryvok iz izsledovaniya o yuridicheskom i obshchestvennom polozhenii yevreyev v Litve ot vremien Vitovta do lublinskoy unii)”, Voskhod 1882, part I: no. 7–8, pp. 89–120; part II: no. 9–10, pp. 194–221; part III: no. 11–12, pp. 41–55.

[15] S.A. Bierszadskij, Litovskiye yevrei... p. 345.

[16] Hanna Zaremska observed that such short-term banishments were motivated by the willingness to profit from the Jewish assets and were a practice widely resorted to in Western Europe, Austria, Bohemia, or Hungary (H. Zaremska, Żydzi w średniowiecznej Polsce. Gmina krakowska, Warszawa 2011, pp. 494–495).

[17] The literature offers diverse interpretations of the reasons behind that banishment. Krzysztof Pietkiewicz emphasizes ideological factors, an attempt to ensure religious homogeneity in the state (K. Pietkiewicz, Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie pod rządami Aleksandra Jagiellończyka. Studia nad dziejami państwa i społeczeństwa na przełomie XV i XVI wieku, Poznań 1995, pp. 162–163). Grzegorz Błaszczyk does not agree with him and underscores economic motives, the need to remedy the shortages in the duke’s treasury (G. Błaszczyk, Litwa na przełomie średniowiecza i nowożytności 1492–1569, Poznań 2002, p. 221). Stefan Gąsiorowski offers another economic motive; in his view, it was an attempt to write off the debts contracted by King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk from the Jewish bankers. He also proposes another interpretation of Aleksander’s hatred of the Jews, attributing it to sorcery and the infertility of his wife Helena who had been treated by a Jewish woman (S. Gąsiorowski, Karaimi w Koronie i na Litwie w XV–XVIII wieku, Kraków-Budapeszt 2008, pp. 178–179).

[18]Dyplomataryusz dotyczący Żydów w dawnej Polsce na źródłach archiwalnych osnuty (1388–1782), ed. M. Bersohn, Warszawa 1910, no. 397, p. 222.

[19] K. Pietkiewicz, Wielkie Księstwo Litewskie..., p. 164.

[20] S. Atamukas, Yevrei v Litve..., p. 13.

[21] S.A. Bershadski, Litovskiye yevrei..., p. 346.

[22] M. Nadav, “Jewish Ownership of Land and Agricultural Activity in 16th Century Lithuania”, Scripta Hierosolymitana, vol. 38: Studies in the History of the Jews in Old Poland in Honor of Jacob Goldberg, ed. A. Teller, Jerusalem 1998, pp. 161–165.

[23] Nathan Hanover, Abyss of Despair (Yeven Metzulah). The Famous 17th Century Chronicle Depicting Jewish Life in Russia and Poland During the Chmielnicki Massacres of 1648–1649, trans. A.J. Mensch, New Brunswick-London 1983, pp. 78–79.

[24] The attempt made by Judith Kalik to treat the poll tax allocations as a taxpayer census and on that basis to reconstruct a map of Jewish centres in the Crown resulted in many wrong observations. (J. Kalik, Scepter of Judah. The Jewish Autonomy in the Eighteenth-Century Crown Poland, Leiden-Boston 2009). See its review by Adam Kaźmierczyk (KH 118, 2011, no. 3, pp. 577–583).

[25] S.A. Bershadski, Litovskiye yevrei..., pp. 334–335. Ḥayim Hilel Ben-Sasson estimates – which seems to be an overestimation – the number of the Jews in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1578 at 27 000 (H.H. Ben-Sasson, Lithuania. A Province of Jewish Society and Culture Crystalized in Modern Times, [in:] idem, Trial and Achievement. Currents in Jewish History (from 313), Jerusalem 1974, p. 168; see also the text’s full version: H.H. Ben-Sasson, “Lithuania: The Structure and Trends of its Culture”, Encyclopaedia Judaica Year Book 1973, Jerusalem 1973, p. 120).

[26] J. Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė, Žydai Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės visuomenėje. Sambūvio aspektai..., p. 341.

[27] M. Cieśla, Żydzi w Wielkim Księstwie Litewskim..., pp. 200–208. The author emphasizes that in some localities the Jewish population was significantly higher, e.g., at Pińsk they accounted for ca 20% in 1648 (p. 208).

[28] Ibidem, pp. 215–218. One may come across higher estimates in the literature, e.g., Ben-Sasson estimated the number of Jews in Lithuania at 32 000 in 1676 (H.H. Ben-Sasson, Lithuania. A Province of Jewish Society..., p. 168).

[29] M. Nadav, The Jews of Pinsk, 1506 to 1880, eds. M.J. Mirsky, M. Rosman, Stanford 2007, p. 171.

[30] The data of that census were published by Shaul Stampfer (“The 1764 Census of Lithuanian Jewry and What It Can Teach Us”, [in:] Papers in Jewish Demography 1993 in Memory of U.O. Schmelz, eds. S. DellaPergola, J. Even, Jerusalem 1997, pp. 105–121) and Jurgita Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė, Žydai Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės visuomenėje. Sambūvio aspektai..., pp. 344–364). However, the latter publication includes many errors in the names of localities. In another article based on the census data Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė offers the percentage of the Jews and the number of Jewish communities in each voievodship forgetting that the borders of the Jewish autonomy did not overlap with the administrative borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (J. Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė, “The Jewish Living Space in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: Tendencies and Ways of its Formation”, [in:] Jewish Space in Central and Eastern Europe Day-to-Day History, eds. J. Šiaučiūnaitė-Verbickienė, L. Lempertienė, Newcastle 2007, pp. 15–17).

[31] When analyzing in depth the 1764–1765 census in the Crown, Rafał Mahler proposed to increase the census data by the number of infants (6.35%) and undisclosed people (20%). But he had doubts about the application of the same ratios to Lithuania, arguing that especially in its eastern areas the percentage of undisclosed people was much higher, attributing that fact to an inert and ineffectual fiscal apparatus (R. Mahler, “Żydzi w dawnej Polsce w świetle liczb. Struktura demograficzna i społeczno-ekonomiczna Żydów w Koronie w XVIII wieku”, Przeszłość Demograficzna Polski 1967, p. 158). Shaul Stampfer proposes a high percentage of people undisclosed during the census, especially in the northeastern areas of Lithuania (near Witebsk) (“Some Implications of Jewish Population Patterns in Pre-partition Lithuania”, Scripta Hierosolymitana, vol. 38: Studies in the History of the Jews in Old Poland in Honor of Jacob Goldberg, ed. A. Teller, Jerusalem 1998, p. 199).

[32] S. Stampfer, “The 1764 Census...”, pp. 93–96.

[33] M. Cieśla, Żydzi w Wielkim Księstwie Litewskim..., p. 252.

[34] About the Lithuanian Haskalah, see Y. Shatski, “Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole bay yidn in lite”, [in:] Lite, eds. M. Sudarski, U. Katsenelenbogn, I. Kisin, vol. 1, Niu York 1951, col. 691–758.

[35] E. Geller, Jidysz – język Żydów polskich, Warszawa 1994, pp. 68–69. About the Jewish dialect of Litvaks, see L. Bednarczuk, Stosunki językowe na ziemiach Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego, Kraków 1999, p. 121.

[36] W.Z. Rabinowitsch, Der Karliner Chassidismus. Seine Geschichte und Lehre, Tel Aviv 1935, pp. 19–20; Idem, Lithuanian Hasidism, New York 1971, pp. 3–4.

Chapter 1

[1] J. Goldberg, “Żydowski Sejm Czterech Ziem w społecznym i politycznym ustroju dawnej Rzeczypospolitej”, [in:] Żydzi w dawnej Rzeczypospolitej. Materiały z konferencji „Autonomia Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej szlacheckiej”, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1991, p. 46.

[2]Pinkas vaad arba aratsot, ed. I. Halperin, Yerushalayim 1945.

[3]Pinkas vaad arba aratsot, ed. I. Halperin, vol. 1: 15801792, 2nd supplemented edition: I. Bartal, Yerushalayim 1989.

[4] I. Schiper, “Poylishe regesten tsu der geshikhte funem »vaad arba arotses«” [Polish Registers to the History of the Council of Four Lands], Historishe shriftn 1, 1929, pp. 85–113.

[5]Sejm Czterech Ziem. Źródła, eds. J. Goldberg, A. Kaźmierczyk, Warszawa 2011.

[6] Treasurer (Pol. podskarbi wielki) – an official in charge of the state treasury, its revenues and expenses and the state mint. The royal treasury was in the hands of the court treasurer. There were separate treasuries in the Crown and Lithuania.

[7] Fiscal Tribunal (Pol. Trybunał Skarbowy) – a court dealing with matters related to the collection of state taxes whose jurisdiction extended over the functionaries of the fiscal apparatus and taxpayers. It evolved from a treasury commission established by the diet in 1591. The Tribunal was composed of senators appointed by the Commonwealth’s diet and deputies elected by dietines. There were independent tribunals in the Crown and Lithuania. In the Crown the Fiscal Tribunal was referred to as the Radom Tribunal because the town of Radom was frequently a venue where it used to gather, to become its permanent seat in the 18th century.

[8] Dominion functionary (Pol. urzędnik dominialny) – an official exercising administrative and judiciary power in landed estates of magnates or noblemen, acting on behalf of the owner.

[9] Ibidem, p. 7.

[10] A review of the literature about the Crown Vaad is included in the introduction to Sejm Czterech Ziem. Źródła..., p. 5.

[11] Unfortunately the monograph by Anatol Leszczyński, Sejm Żydów Korony 1623–1764, Warszawa 1994, cannot be referred to as a thorough one. The title only partly corresponds with its contents because the author focuses on the Jewish autonomous institutions of all three tiers, and the description of the functioning of the Crown Vaad accounts for only one third of this relatively short publication. Moreover, there are many errors and inaccuracies in the book.

[12] I. Lewin, “Protokoły sejmów litewsko-żydowskich”, [in:] idem, Z historii i tradycji. Szkice z dziejów kultury żydowskiej, Warszawa 1983, p. 77.

[13] M. Vishnitser, “Litovski vaad”, [in:] Istorya yevreyskago naroda, vol. 11, Moskva 1914, p. 181.

[14] YIVO, RG 87 Dubnow Collection, fol. 924–928.

[15] JTS 8824.

[16] TsNBV, fond 321, opis 1, no. 55–56.

[17] NLI 8°1073.

[18] NLI 8°3175.

[19] S. Stampfer, “Some Implications...”, p. 192.

[20]Dokumenty po istorii i kulture yevreyev v arkhivakh Moskvy. Putevoditel, eds. M.S. Kupovetski, E.V. Starostin, M. Web, Moskva 1997.

[21] GARF, fond 9533, opis 1, no. 327.

[22] A.L. Feinstein, Ir tehilah, Warsha 1884/1885 (reprint: Israel 1967/1968), pp. 98–115.

[23] A.L. Feinstein, “Nitei naamanim”, Ha-Asif 6, 1893, pp. 164–178.

[24] Avraham Eliyahu (Albert) Harkavi (1835–1919), an orientalist and historian. He studied at the universities of St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Paris. Since 1870 he lectured at Petersburg University (and received a doctor degree in 1872), but afterwards he was ousted from the university because of his Jewish origin, and since 1877 he headed the department of Jewish literature and oriental manuscripts in the Imperial Library.

[25] “Ḥamishah ktavim mi-pinkas ha-medinah de-lita be-inyan yaḥas ha-medinah ha-zot le-arba aratsot de-polin”, ed. A.E. Harkavi, Ha-Asif 6, 1894, pp. 155–163.

[26] “Le-korot yisrael be-medinat lita”, ed. A.E. Harkavi, Ha-Melits 1894, no. 1, pp. 5–6; no. 3, pp. 7–8; no. 6, pp. 6–7.

[27] Pahlen Commission – the commission established to examine the condition of the Jews in the Russian Empire after the anti-Jewish pogroms at the beginning of the 1880s.

[28] Jakub Brafman (ca 1825–1879) was a lecturer of Hebrew at the seminary in Mińsk and censor of Hebrew texts in Vilnius and Petersburg. He published a few texts hostile to the Jews, most popular of which was his Kniga kagala published in 1869 (Polish translation: Księga kahału, Lwów 1874).

[29] I. Lewin, “Protokoły sejmów...”, p. 77.

[30] S.P. Rabinovits, “Le-toldot ha-knesiyot ha-yisraeliyot be-lita be-yemei ha-mea he-ḥamishit le-elef ha-shishi”, [in:] Tehilah le-David (...) le-zikhron david koyfmann, eds. M. Brann, F. Rosenthal, Breslau 1900, vol. 1 (Hebrew part), pp. 55–68.

[31] Simon Dubnow (1860–1941), historian and philosopher. Since 1908 he lectured at the Petersburg Institute of Jewish Affairs and published the “Jewriejskaja Starina” quarterly (1909–1918). After 1922, he moved to Berlin. He ran from the Nazis to Riga where he was murdered during the so-called liquidation action in 1941.

[32]Pinkas ha-medinah o pinkas vaad ha-kehilot ha-rashiyot be-medinat lita, in Russian: Oblastnoy pinkos vaada glavnykh yevreyskikh obshchin Litvy, ed. S. Dubnow, translated by I. Tuvim, vol. 1, S. Peterburg 1909; vol. 2 (1664–1761), S. Peterburg 1912.

[33] “Dopolneniya k »Litovskomu pinkosu«, translated by Simon Dubnow, Yevreyskaya Starina 11, 1924, p. I–XXXV.

[34]Pinkas ha-medinah o pinkas vaad ha-kehilot ha-rashiyot be-medinat lita [hereinafter: PM], ed. S. Dubnow, Berlin 1925.

[35] Five of them (no. 1–4 and 7) had been published earlier by Harkavi (“Ḥamishah ktavim...”, pp. 155–163), and four (no. 1–3 and 7) by Dubnow himself in the Russian translation (“Dopolnieniya k »Litovskomu pinkosu«...”, pp. II–XVI)

[36] Harkavi also published two of them (no. 1–2) earlier as well as a verdict regarding the Słuck community (PM no. 829) (“Le-korot yisrael...”, no. 1, pp. 5–6; no. 3, pp. 7–8; no. 6, pp. 6–7), and five of them (no. 1–5) were earlier published by Dubnow in the Russian translation (“Dopolnieniya k »Litovskomu pinkosu«...”, pp. XVII–XXXV).

[37] “Tosafot u-miluim le-pinkas medinat lita”, ed. I. Halperin, Ḥorev 2, 1934–1935, pp. 67–86, 123–200.

[38] “Kehilot lita ve-ha-karaim. Ha-araḥat misim al ha-karaim ve-gviyahem be-mea 16 ve-17”, ed. I. Luria, He-Avar 1, 1918, pp. 159–171.

[39]Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, vol. II: Karaitica, ed. J. Mann, Philadelphia 1935.

[40] I. Klausner, “Ktav-ḥerem shel vaad medinat lita neged ha-masigim gvul ha-karaim”, Zion 22, 1957, pp. 74–75.

[41] I. Lewin, “Protokoły sejmów...”, p. 78.

[42] Sometimes there are erroneous dates, e.g., when reference is made to the Vaad’s regulations of 5398 (1638) on punishment of people insulting the rabbis or leaders (PM no. 370). It is clearly an error made by the publisher because a regulation with exactly the same contents was published in 5388 (1628) – PM no. 129.

[43] D. Katz, Lithuanian Jewish Culture..., p. 83.

[44] On the language used for Jewish self-government see M. Altbauer, „O języku dokumentów związanych z samorządem żydowskim w Polsce”, [in:] Żydzi w dawnej Rzeczypospolitej. Materiały z konferencji „Autonomia Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej szlacheckiej”, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1991, pp. 13–22.

[45] I. Lewin, „Protokoły sejmów...”, p. 78.

[46] As Mark Vishnitzer wrote, “the minute-books of the Vaad form one of the most significant Jewish historical documents of post-Talmudic times” (M. Vishnitzer, “The Lithuanian Vaad”, The Menorah Journal 19, 1930–1931), p. 261).

[47]Pinkas kahal tiktin [5]381-[5]566. Haskamot, haḥlatot ve-takanot kefi she-hetikan min ha-pinkas ha-mekori she-avad be-shoah yisrael heilprin, ed. M. Nadav, vol. 1, Yerushalayim 1996, vol. 2, Yerushalayim 1999.

[48] NLI 4°103. Fragments of that pinkas were published by Israel Halperin in his supplements (“Tosafot u-miluim...”).

[49] On the Lithuanian Metrica see P. Kennedy Grimsted, The “Lithuanian Metrica” in Moscow and Warsaw: Reconstructing the Archives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Including An Annotated Edition of the 1887 Inventory Compiled by Stanisław Ptaszycki, with the collaboration of Irena Sułkowska-Kurasiowa, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1984.

[50] Voievode (Pol. wojewoda) – an official at the head of the voievodship, sitting on the senate.

[51] Hetman – a chief army commander, which function was divided into two: a grand hetman and a field hetman subordinated to him. Both functions existed independently in the Crown and Lithuania.

[52] Main Tribunal (Pol. Trybunał Główny) – the nobility’s supreme appeals court. Separate Tribunals functioned in the Crown (since 1578) and Lithuania (since 1581). Lay members of the Tribunal (deputies) were elected at dietines, and those representing the clergy – designated by church chapters.

[53] Military-fiscal commissions (Pol. komisje wojskowo-skarbowe) – commissions dealing with enforcement of amounts due to the army and their settlement.

[54]Akty izdavayemy Vilenskoyu Arkheograficheskoyu Kommissiyeyu dlya razbora drevnikh aktov. The publication consists of 39 volumes published in Vilnius over 1865–1915.

[55] Ḥ.H. Ben-Sasson, “Vaadei ha-aratsot she-be-mizraḥ-eiropah”, [in:] idem, Retsef u-temurah. Iyunim be-toldot yisrael be-yemei-ha-beynayim u-ve-et he-ḥadashah, Tel Aviv 1984, pp. 239–257 and [in:] Kiyum ve-shever. Yehudei polin ve-doroteyhem, eds. I. Bartal, I. Gutman, Yerushalayim 1997, pp. 145–159.

[56] M. Vishnitzer, “The Lithuanian Vaad”, The Menorah Journal 19, 1930–1931), pp. 261–270; “Litovski vaad”, [in:] Istorya yevreyskago naroda, vol. 11, Moskva 1914, pp. 181–205; “Der vaad lite, zayn struktur un di role zayne in dem gezelshaftlekhn lebn fun di litvishe yidn”, [in:] Lite, eds. M. Sudarski, U. Katsenelenbogn, I. Kisin, vol. 1, Niu York 1951, col. 163–191.

[57] A. Gomer, Beiträge zur Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte des litauischen Judentums im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Bochum 1930.

[58] S. Spektor, “Vaad yehudei lita”, [in:] Yahadut lita, vol. 1, Tel Aviv 1959, pp. 124–137.

[59] I. Sosis, “Der yidisher seym in lite un vaysrusland in zayn gezetsgeverisher tetikayt (1623–1761), loyt zayne protokoln”, Tsaytshrift 2–3, 1928, col. 1–72.

[60] A. Cronbach, “Social Action in Jewish Lithuania”, Hebrew Union College Annual 23, part 2 (1950–1951), pp. 593–616.

[61] F. Dikshtein, “Takanot vaadei polin ve-lita al ha-boreḥim”, Ha-mishpat ha-ivri 1, 1918, pp. 29–76.

[62] I. Halperin, “Reshito shel vaad medinat lita ve-yaḥaso el vaad arba aratsot”, Zion 3, 1937, pp. 51–57.

[63] I. Halperin, “Mivne ha-vaadim be-eiropah ha-mizraḥit ve-ha-merkazit ba-mea ha-17 ve-ha-18”, [in:] idem, Yehudim ve-yahadut be-mizraḥ eiropah. Meḥkarim be-toldoteyhem, Yerushalayim 1969, pp. 55–60.

[64] I. Halperin, “Al yaḥasam shel ha-vaadim ve-ha-kehilot be-polin le-erets yisrael”, Zion 1, 1936, pp. 82–88.

[65] I. Halperin, “Vaad arba aratsot be-polin ve-ha-sefer ha-ivri”, [in:] idem, Yehudim ve-yahadut be-mizraḥ eiropah. Meḥkarim be-toldoteyhem, Yerushalayim 1969, pp. 78–107.