May peace inundate you forever, holy community of Regensburg, may God protect it, and my disciples, the holy society. We return for your benefit, for it has been several days since my relative by marriage, the strong hammer R. Yisrael of Bruna (=Brno, Czech Republic) wrote to me, and we have accepted this, how R. Anshel, may the Rock protect him, resolved to disrespect him, saying that he (R. Anshel) alone will rule and serve in all rabbinic capacities: divorces, levirate divorce, issuing rulings, and the like. His spirit moved him to push away R. Yisrael of Bruna, may the Rock protect him, and treat him as one of the students, completely removing his prestige.
Whenever R. Yisrael of Bruna wrote to me, my answer to him was always that he should remain silent and be one of those who accepts insult, for I hoped that men of truth who pursue justice would find a solution. My hopes have been disappointed, for nothing has changed for the better, only for the worse.
Since we have seen that this is the case, we cannot countenance the shaming and degradation of the rabbi of Bruna, as I would fear punishment, as we see in the chapter “Ha-sokher et Ha-po’alim” (Bava Metzi’a 83b) in the case of Rabbi Eliezer.
For the sake of truth, justice, and peace, so that dispute does not proliferate, I will write my opinion.
Since the community chose neither R. Anshel nor R. Yisrael, and both must pay dues like all the laymen, neither of them has a stronger hold (hazaka) than the other. Although R. Anshel was in Regensburg before R. Yisrael’s arrival, this does not give him a better hold, since the community did not accept him upon themselves as a leader or an officer. He is like one of the laymen who lives in the city; if another layman comes to live nearby in the same city, the first layman cannot say that he already possessed it, since nowadays the Settlement Ban (“Herem Ha-yishuv”) is not practiced. This accords with the statement on the chapter “Lo Yahpor” (Bava Batra 21b): “If he is levied taxes in this place, [another] cannot prevent him [from setting up a competing business],” meaning, if he wants to pay local taxes, as stated in Mordechai.
Furthermore, Or Zaru’a states:
If he is a Torah scholar, and people require his Torah, then even if he came from a different kingdom, which does not pay tribute to the ruler of this city, he cannot be prevented. Certainly, in such a case, R. Gamliel would not agree to forbid settlement of any sort on a Torah scholar. Even if there is another Torah scholar in the city, for ‘the jealousy of scribes increases wisdom.’ If he does not know how to profit, but always studies, then the townspeople are commanded to work on his behalf. If he is wealthy, the Torah exempts him from paying tax.
Thus, he wrote plainly “even if there is another Torah scholar in town,” and he did not differentiate between where the townspeople accepted the first Torah scholar as a leader and officer and where they did not. In all cases, we cannot prevent [a second scholar from moving in], and if he is wealthy, the Torah exempts him. We thus see that the second Torah scholar has a hold just like the first one.
We have also seen, in our own generation, several places where there are two rabbis, and we have not heard that one would have more of a hold than the other.
In Vienna were R. Meir Halevi and R. Aavraham Klausner, of blessed memory.
In Krems were R. Yehoshua of Eger and R. Nahlifa, of blessed memory.
In Nuremberg were R. Yisrael and R. Koppelman, of blessed memory.
In Mainz was R. Zalman Runkel and R. Todros, of blessed memory.
I studied in the yeshiva of R. Zalman Runkel. R. Yaakov Moelin (Maharil), of blessed memory, permitted me to set up a yeshiva on my own in Nuremberg, even though R. Zalman Katz had been there several years before I arrived, but I did not want to accept this upon myself.
For the reasons I have written, I believe that R. Bruna has as much of a hold as R. Anshel on all matters, and R. Yisrael may preside over those of high standing, whether to establish his own yeshiva, to grant writs of divorce, perform levirate divorce, issue rulings, and recite the benedictions at weddings, and none may protest against him.
One who turns his heart from heeding me, whether in private or in public, I will seek retribution from him and extract the matter from his ear. You, my disciples, be careful not to transgress my word, and also be careful about my honor. Consider the ways of the world; for my part, I do not permit. Whatever a disciple must do and accept from his master—do it. I am astonished that you see this and are silent. You should have made efforts to bring peace between them, so that it does not, God forbid, cause destruction. There are already several communities that have been destroyed due to dispute. Seek justice. Seek peace. The words of the insignificant Yaakov Weil.