I was listening to a class by Rav Asher Weiss on asmachta and he brought three explanations for its purpose:

  1. Ritvah - A derabannan that has a source in the torah
  2. Tosafos and Rambam - Memorization
  3. Likkutei Maharil - If there was a takana or gezeira that wasn't being properly followed, Chazal attached it to a verse so people would mistakenly think it's doraisa and take it seriously.

Rav Asher said this third approach is problematic1, and even said the entire sefer Likkutei Maharil is problematic. He then said and I quote: "there's a big question mark hovering over the entire sefer". He didn't elaborate.

What's the history behind this sefer? Is there something I'm missing? What's he referring to by saying the entire sefer is problematic.

1 I subsequently found that Rav Yosef Engel in Beis HaOtzar 1:190 also found this statement recorded in Likkutei Maharil problematic, and refused to accept the Maharil said it.

  • 1
    Not relevant to your question directly, but there's also the Malbim, who essentially says that the Rabbis couldn't forbid something that the Torah explicitly and unambiguously permits, so they found room in a pasuk that allowed them to make their derabbanan. I can probably find the exact source if you're interested.
    – Heshy
    Jul 25, 2017 at 11:23
  • @Heshy I am. The Taz says that Chazal would never forbid something that is explicitly permitted.
    – robev
    Jun 26, 2019 at 22:17
  • What's interesting is the Rosh on Moed Katan 1:1 says "אסמכתא בעלמא לחזק דברי חכמים", which sounds a little like the intent of the Likkutei Maharil without the deception.
    – robev
    Jan 15, 2022 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


Prof. Yedidya Alter Dinri records in his Hakhmei Ashkenaz B'Shilhi Y'mei HaBeynayim (pp. 278-9) as cited by R. Yisrael Peles in Yeshurun (20 p. 890) that many Aharonim held that Likkutei Maharil (aka Sefer Maharil) is not a fully reliable work. For example, the Yad Malakhi (klalei HaPoskim: Klalei Shaar HaMehabrim V'HaMefarshim: 33) cites R. Sh'muel Bachrach (Hut Hashani 31) as writing that it is pointless to make inferences from the work, given that it presents indirect information anyway.

Additionally, Maharshal writes (Responsum #7) critically about one of the hagahot (marginalia) printed in the work, first published in his lifetime, indicating that that they were unreliable. For another textual issue with the work, particularly its hagahot, see Shu"t Bah HaHadashot (9-10).

Furthermore, the Taz (OH 629:2) writes about a point in the Sefer Maharil itself:

והכותב ספר מהרי"ל טעה בזה

The one who wrote Sefer Maharil erred with this.

His roundabout reference to the one who authored the book of Maharil, seems to indicates a scepticism that it actually accurately reflects Maharil's teachings.

The Aderet writes even more sharply: that the compiler was a simpleton who made many mistakes due to his ignorance (Yeshurun Vol. IX p. 638, cited here):

שהמלקט היה איש פשוט ולא ידע כלום...לא ידע להבחין הדברים מאומה וכמו שהראתי בכמה מקומות בס"ד שס' לקוטי מהרי"ל הוא מלא שגיאות בכל דבריו

The compiler was a simpleton who knew nothing...he did not know how to understand [the activities he observed] at all, as I demonstrated in several places with the help of God that the book Likkutei Maharil is full of mistakes in all its statements.

Hattam Sofer (Pesahim 51 cited here) similarly writes that the compiler erred frequently and misunderstood Maharil.

Indeed, Maharil's own son, R. Shimon, takes issue with various practices attributed to his father! See a discussion of this in the aforementioned article in Yeshurun. This was likely R. Weiss's intent. Perhaps he was especially critical of the work as a whole, given that he perceived this particular idea as being radical.

  • Just to add: Rav Chaim Volozhin writes at the beginning of Ma'aseh Rav that it was written by a שמש קטן. Rav Reuven Margaliyos in his Ollelos § 12 uses this to explain how a "ridiculous story" could be written in Likkutei Maharil that Ben Sira's mother was impregnated in a bath by Yirhmiyahu the prophet.
    – robev
    Sep 10, 2020 at 16:58

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