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The Rulings Applying to Wysokie Litewskie
The Pinkas HaMedina, the Register of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, subtitled: Laws/Rulings and Regulations from 1623 to 1761, Edited, Preface and commentaries by Shimon Dubnov in Berlin 5685 (1924 or 1925), describes the rulings of the Council of Four Lands. Some of the contents were lost; Dubnov and his team assembled those rulings that survived into this book.

From 1580 to 1764, the Council of Four Lands was the highest Jewish authority in the region of Lita (old Lithuania). The Council met in a different place in the region for each session, cutomarily during market fairs.

This book contains two mentions of Wysokie Litewskie, one in the context of an anti-fraud measure in a program to manage refugees, and the second placing a Council meeting in Wysokie.

A Refugee Program
The stage is set (on original page 110) by a refuge crisis such as the one in 5408 (1648 - 1649):
Since we have witnessed the great amount of poor who were driven away from their land and their houses, because of hardships… and several hundreds and thousands are crying bitterly…. We have agreed to accept in our land, Lita, 2000 people, from today until the month of Iyar and we demand of each community to accept a specific number…

In the years 1648-1651 the Council of Lithuania produced several regulations (or, rulings) with respect to refugees fleeing Cossack terrors. These regulations allotted specific numbers of refugees to each community, limiting the numbers so that the social and economic situation in each would not be adversely affected.

In this case, 2000 refugees were allocated for a period of 4 months. At the end of that period the refugees were expected to return to their previous locations.

Ruling 88 on page 17, courtesy of HebrewBooks.org describes the troubling fact that many beggars have come to the land of Lita and many of them are people of bad repute with loose manners – drinking, visiting whorehouses. Among them: imposters presenting themselves as Rabbis while they are not. Altogether, these have become a economical burden. They give unacceptable sermons. The people of the communities should not let them stay but a short while.

A solution to this particular problem: The people of a district should ask for a written document [certifying the qualifications of a particular refugee claiming to be a rabbi] from the judicial religious court in the chief town of the district – the communities around Brisk should ask to see a recommendation or written document from Brisk, the communities around Minsk – from Minsk, etc.

Accordingly, Ruling 89 (original page 18) sets the borders of every district.

Relevant example: The borders and neighborhood of Brisk are: Mezritch, Varin [Vayin], Rashs [Rashi], Lamz [Lamaz], Bila, Beshtshts, Vladvi, Slavits, Kadna, Visoki, Amstibavi, Kobryn, Horodets,Prushna, Maltsha, Selts, Tshernavtzitz, Kamenitz, Shershavi, Razanai, Slonim, Dvartz, Novorodak, Neshvitz, Slutzk, Mintsk, Mahlovni, Orsha and the people of Ross. Subsequent text defines other districts in the region.

The section concludes with a statement of authority --six members of the Council-- and an effective date of 9th of Elul 5383, 4 September 1623.

Entry 90 lists the calculated sums of money levied from the communities, debts paid to and by Brisk, etc.

The Council of Lithuania Meets in Wysokie

Ruling 480 through 483 list paid debts. (Original page 106 through page 109, courtesy of HebrewBooks.org). The community of Brisk paid all its debts. Other communities that have not paid all their debts are threatened by the Council meeting here in the holy community of Visoki in March 1651. Signatures of committee members

• Young Yaakov Shor, son of our teacher, Gaon Efrayim Zalman Shor, Z”L
• Yona Teomim, from Prague
• Binyamin Binesh of the Katzenelbogin family
• Yoseph Yosl, son of R’ Zalman Ashkenazi Kayem, known as Kadesh son of Alexander
• Yaakov, son of our teacher, Yisrael Shmuel Trapa

are below.

Notes: Two editions of this book are available. One, courtesy of YIVO, is in Hebrew and Russian. The second is available on-line, courtesy of HebrewBooks.org. The Hebrew content is identical. Lithuania: the Grand Duchy (~1200-1569) and the Commonwealth (1569-1795) rather than the modern country. See this article: History of Lithuania. More about the Council, here.

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