Rabbi Ezekiel ben Judah Landau was a Polish rabbi; born in Opatow Oct. 8, 1713 (see preface to "Noda' bi-Yehudah," 2d collection of his son Jakobḳe); died at Prague April 29, 1793. He received his Talmudical education at Vladimir and Brody. From 1734 to 1745 he acted as first dayyan of Brody; in the latter year he became rabbi of Jampol.
Landau's tactful attitude in the affair of the Eybeschütz amulets won for him general approbation. In a letter addressed to the rabbis who consulted him on the subject he endeavored to persuade them to establish peace between the disputants, and insinuatedthat the amulets might have been falsified, thus opening to the accused rabbi an honorable way of exculpating himself. The letter attracted the attention of the leaders of the community of Prague; in 1755 Landau was called to the rabbinate there; and he continued to hold the position till his death.
Combining vast erudition with great amenity of character, his incumbency proved very beneficial to the community. Respected by the authorities, who recognized the ardent patriotism displayed by him on more than one occasion, he was often consulted on Jewish religious matters. A letter addressed to Landau by the government, asking for his opinion on the question whether an oath pronounced by one holding a discarded scroll of the Law is binding, is inserted in the "Noda' bi-Yehudah" (ii. 65).
While very strict in ritual matters, Landau, for the sake of peace, sometimes sanctioned things which he did not approve. Thus, notwithstanding his previous prohibition, he permitted Löb Honigsberg to continue the construction of a building on semi-holidays, the latter having pleaded urgency (ib. ii. 29). Although a lover of Haskalah, as may be seen from his approbation to the "Yen Lebanon" of Wessely, Landau saw great danger for Judaism in the invasion of German ideas resulting from the German translation of the Bible by Mendelssohn ("Ẓelaḥ" to Ber. 28b).
Though a student of the Cabala and well versed in mystic literature, Landau was a decided adversary of Ḥasidism. He thunders against the recitation of as done by the Ḥasidim, and applies to them the words of Hos. xiv. 10, substituting therein "Ḥasidim" for "Posh'im."
Landau witnessed the siege of Prague in 1757, and when urged to leave the city he decided to cast his lot with the rest of the people. Some years later, in a controversy between the rabbis of Frankfort-on-the-Main and others concerning a form of divorce to be granted to a man from Cleves, Landau took issue against the former; and this so enraged them that in 1769 it was decided that neither Landau nor any of his sons should ever be elected to the rabbinate of Frankfort. In the conflagration of 1773 Landau lost most of his manuscripts. He was thereupon induced to begin the publication of those of his works which the flames had spared, and to add to them his new productions.
Landau's published works are: "Noda' bi-Yehudah" (1776; 2d ed. 1811), responsa; "Derush Hesped," a funeral oration on the death of Maria Theresa (Prague, 1781, in German); "Shebaḥ we-Hoda'ah," a derashah (1790); "Mar'eh Yeḥezḳel," notes to the Talmud, published by his son Samuel Landau in the Talmud edition of 12 vols., 1830; "Ẓiyyun le Nefesh Ḥayyah," novellæ on different Talmudic treatises, viz., Pesaḥim (1784), Berakot (1791), Beẓah (1799), the three republished together in 1824; "Dagul me-Rebabah" (1794), notes on the four ritual codices; "Ahabaṭ Ẓiyyon" (1827), addresses and sermons; "Doresh le-Ẓiyyon" (1827), Talmudic discussion.
Though a Talmudic scholar and a believer in the Kabbalah, yet Landau was broad-minded and not opposed to secular knowledge. He, however, objected to that culture which came from Berlin. He therefore opposed Mendelssohn's translation of the Pentateuch, and the study of the sciences and of languages advocated by Wessely. Landau was highly esteemed not only by his coreligionists, but also by others; and he stood high in favor in government circles.
- E. Landau, Noda' bi-Yehudah, Prague, 1811;
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 515, Warsaw, 1886;
- Pascheles, Jüdischer Volkskalender, p. 85, Prague, 1884;
- Grätz, Gesch. xi.;
- Rabbinowitz, Dibre Yeme Yisrael, viii., Warsaw, 1899;
- Horovitz, Frankfurter Rabbiner, iii. 99, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1885;
- Zedner, Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus. p. 422.S. S. B. Fr.