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[Page 433]

Rabbis of Mir

by Moshe Tzinowitz

 

[Page 438]

HaRav Rabbi Yaakov Eskolsky

Translated by Moshe Escott

Born in Mir, 1st intermediate day of Sukkos in 5636 (1875). His father Dov-Ber descended from the gaon[1] Rabbi Yehuda Leib Mirkes, and from the author of the Shulchan Shlomo [2] who was Rabbi and Av Beis Din[3] in Mir. Rabbi Yaakov received his education at the yeshiva of Mir, his birthplace. After that he learned in Slonim and was one of the closer ones to its Av Beis Din, the gaon Rabbi Yosef Shluffer (father-in-law of Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines) who greatly befriended him.

In Kovno he learned in the Kollel Avreichim HaPrushim[4] and was ordained for the rabbinate by Rabbi Zvi-Hirsh Rabinowitz[5] (Kovno), Rabbi Moshe Danishevsky (Slabodka), Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen and Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky of Vilna.

In 5663 he was appointed Rabbi of the town of Rublie (near Pinsk) and in 5664 in Kazan-Horodok. In 5667 [November 1906], he left for the USA and was a rabbi in the community of Scranton (PA). After three years, he accepted an invitation to become Rabbi in the shul of the Slutzk landsmen in New York. In 5678 [c. 1918][6], he was appointed Rabbi of the shul of the Bialystok landsmen in New York. There he served as a rabbi and spiritual leader for over 13 years[7] until his passing.

R. Yaakov Eskolsky became famous as one of the great rabbis of America and leaders of Orthodox Judaism. He was one of the leaders of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (The Agudas HaRabbanim). He was also among the founders of Ezras Torah which supported yeshivos, Torah organizations and rabbis in Eastern Europe and in Israel during the years of World War I and afterwards. He became involved in aiding scholars and rabbis who came to settle in the USA in troubled times. He also advised and guided heads of yeshivos and clergy in Lithuania and Poland in the collection of funds from the wealthy in New York and elsewhere. In his work Taryag Mitzvos (New York 5686 [1926])[8], he publicized a plan to publish a comprehensive book on the entirety of the 613 commandments from a halachic and ethical viewpoint (the other volumes of his work never were published).

The Rabbi R. Y. Eskolsky was also the editor and publisher of the rabbinical Torah monthly HaMitzpe, which appeared in 5670-5671 [1910-1911][9]. In rabbinic style, it published articles on the strengthening of Torah and religion among American Jews, Torah novellae and halachic decisions that dealt with timely issues of concern to the recent immigrants.

The Rabbi R. Y. Eskolsky turned his attention toward Zionism and became involved with the Mizrachi movement and dedicated great efforts to the establishment of this movement. In one of his articles in the HaMitzpe monthly, he deals with the proposed activity of organizing synagogues within the framework of the Mizrachi movement with these words: “I pray that the efforts for this purpose will be crowned with success. The benefit that will emerge from this is immeasurable, since whatever synagogues will do for the life of the land of Israel, this holy work for the land of Israel will do even more for the life of synagogues in America.” He passed away on the 30th of Shevat, 5691 [February 17, 1931].[10]


General translation notes:

  1. I have attempted to paraphrase certain passages into idiomatic English to improve flow where a more literal translation would have been awkward
  2. Where Hebrew and Aramaic terms appear, I have chosen to transliterate them with a footnote pointing to a translation/explanation rather than clutter the flow of the text with a term that might present an awkward flow in English
  3. I have used the Ashkenazic mode of transliterating Hebrew and Aramaic terms
  4. My personal comments and insertions appear in brackets []. Lengthier comments appear in footnotes
  5. I have spotted three typos/mistakes in the original Hebrew text. I placed the correction directly in the translation to improve readability while noting the original text in a footnote

Footnotes:

  1. gaon = a great, exalted Torah scholar back
  2. Shulchan Shlomo was a halachic work authored by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Mirkes, a son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Mirkes. A biography of Rabbi S. Z. Mirkes appears earlier in this yizkor book on page 49. back
  3. Av Beis Din = chief rabbi / head dayan (judge) of the religious court of a town or city back
  4. Kollel Avreichim HaPrushim refers to the renowned Kovno kollel that was established by Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor and Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. During Rabbi Eskolsky's tenure there in the late 1890s, it was headed by Rabbi Zvi-Hirsh Rabinowitz. HaPrushim is a plural of the word parush which denotes one who might separate himself from family for certain amounts of time for the purpose of Torah study. back
  5. Rabbi Zvi-Hirsh Rabinowitz was a son of Rabbi Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor. Different theories exist as to why his surname was changed to Rabinowitz (literally - son of a rabbi). back
  6. There was a typo here – the original mistakenly had 5674 (c. 1914). back
  7. There was a typo here – the original mistakenly had “15 years”. back
  8. Taryag Mitzvos = 613 Commandments – the gematria (numerical value) of taryag in Hebrew is 613 back
  9. A total of six issues of HaMitzpe were published. back
  10. There was a typo here – the original mistakenly had “1st of Adar 5692”. back

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