A copy of the Shulchan Aruch, printed in Lemberg (Lviv) in 1836, that I sold this week had great provenance, with the title page sporting a signature and stamp of the great Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michel Wisser (1809 – 1879). The volume included several handwritten annotations of his as well, this volume apparently being the one used during the Malbim’s learning of the Shulchan Aruch. The Malbim’s commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, titled Artzot Hachaim (1837), was his first major work, and published when he was just 27. Despite his young age, the sefer received a strong haskamah from the Chasam Sofer, who describes him in glowing terms and as a brilliant prodigy.
While the Malbim’s fame rests on his commentary on the Bible, he was first and foremost a posek and defender of halacha against the many attacks it was facing from the Reform in his era. His firm stance on issues of shechitah caused a major rift between him and the local butchers, and eventually his enemies managed to have him arrested on false charges by the authorities. Only with Moses Montefiore’s assistance was he finally freed on condition of his leaving Romania. After exiling to Constantinople, then Paris, he finally settled in Lunshitz, in Russia’s Poland. Even there, he was persecuted by those opposed to his staunch upholding of halacha and he was forced to leave town. After turning down an offer to be the first Chief Rabbi of New York, he died en route to Kremenchuk where he had been offered a rabbinical position.