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[Page 58]

Torah and Rabbinate

 

[Page 64]

Rabbi Moshe son of Rabbi David

by Moshe Cinowitz - Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

Rabbi Moshe was the son of Rabbi David, head of the religious court in Novogrudek, who was considered one of the geniuses of Lithuania in his generation. When Rabbi David took ill, his son Rabbi Moshe served as his assistant until his father's death in the year 5597 (1837). In his book of responsa, “Ateret Yitzchak” by Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac, head of the religious court in Shavli, a special letter by Rabbi Moshe Denan is brought down regarding the mutual relations between him and Rabbi David close to his death (Ibid, section 75). Rabbi Moshe Denan's letter is dated Friday, 22 Tevet [year “nimtzativ”= 597, without the Hebrew letter “hey” whose numerical value is 5,000].

After his father's death, Rabbi Moshe, newly appointed head of the rabbinic court in Korelitz, took pains to prepare his father's book of responsa and sermons for publication in order to carry out his father's wishes to him before his death. However, the matter did not succeed, for the rabbi's son, Rabbi Moshe, also died a short time later in the prime of life, before reaching the age of 30. And the book, “Gelia Masechet, was printed in the year 5604 (1844), by Rabbi David's grandson - Rabbi Zemach, newly-wed yeshiva student.

Rabbi Moshe's new interpretations of the Torah are brought down in “Geza Tarshishim”, [Vilna, 5608 (1848)], containing words of eulogy for Rabbi David. The author of this book was Rabbi David's student, Rabbi Chaim bar Eliahu Krinksi. With regard to Rabbi Moshe's position in the rabbinate in Korelitz, we can note that his father, Rabbi David, head of the rabbinic court in Novogrudek, was in contact with the community of Korelitz and he knew at close hand the former rabbis in Korelitz who would visit Novogrudek, the district town, from time to time and would come to the town's religious court on matters relating to community needs and religion and on complex matters of handing down decisions regarding Jewish law in their small town. Thanks to Rabbi David's connections with Korelitz, his son Moshe was appointed head of the religious court in their small town, although he was still a young yeshiva student and hadn't served previously in any other community.

 


Rabbi Chaim Tur

by Moshe Cinowitz - Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

Rabbi Chaim Tur was head of the religious court in Korelitz from approximately 5600 (1840) to 5616 (1856) and was later called to honor as the head of the yeshiva “Gemilut Chassidim” in Vilna where he was active for 18 years and died there in the year 5634( 1874), as is brought down in “Levanon”, 1873-74, issue 48.

Rabbi Chaim Tur was great in Torah, an outstanding innovator and a master of instruction in deciding matters of Jewish law, as his book,“ Tiv HaChaim” testifies. This book was published in Vilna in 5633 ( 1873) and contains new interpretations on “Orach Chaim”, “Yoreh Deah” and “Even HaEzer” on the “Shulchan Aruch” (Code of Jewish Law) as well as clarifications and new interpretations of several tractates of the Talmud.

In regard to the question of allowing a “chained” woman (a woman whose husband deserted her without giving her a Jewish divorce) to remarry, as was brought down in matters of deciding questions of Jewish law with Rabbi Yitzchak Eliahu Landa, a preacher of the city of Vilna, and especially with Rabbi Bezalel HaCohen, head teacher of righteousness in Vilna, Rabbi Tur reacts to several ideas of this well known genius in an independent way, with all due credit to him.

In the preface to his book, Rabbi Chaim transmits facts to us concerning his distinguished lineage and his family's origin. His father, Rabbi Dov, was a great and erudite scholar, assiduous in his learning, logical and known for his charity. His grandfather was the genius and righteous man, Rabbi Aryeh Leib, head of the religious court in Volpi, replacing his pious father-in-law (his mother's father's father?), Rabbi Chaim, head of the religious court in Volpi, (a small town in the district of Grodno). And Rabbi Aryeh was the son of the righteous Rabbi Gavriel, head of the religious court in Liubishoi (district of Pinsk). The rabbi and author also notes that his grandfather's uncle was Rabbi Yehuda Leib, head of the religious court in Horodishtz near Baranovitch).

With regard to Rabbi Tur's special connection to the rabbinate in Korelitz, his decision making relating to practical application of Jewish law is brought down in his book, “Tiv HaChaim”, which reviews one branch in the field of business and Jewish law as it applies to the Jews of that small town in those days. He writes that “I was asked a question while I was in the holy community of Korelitz regarding the fact that there are grain merchants who send their merchandise to Vilna and who generally hire non-Jews on Thursday or Friday to transport the grain to Vilna, and these non-Jews come to Korelitz to take the grain and measure it on the Sabbath and then they take the grain and measure it for their bags and transport them from there. I was asked if there is some dispensation for Jews to sell their grain entirely to a non-Jew by means of a monetary acquisition or barter so that the grain is theirs and that the non-Jews understand that the intention of the Jews selling their grain to a non-Jew is only to circumvent the prohibition of performing work and conducting business on the Sabbath and that they are transporting grain to Vilna at the owner's expense“. The rabbi from Korelitz believed “that there can be no dispensation regarding this matter, since one must measure and take the grain from a Jew's house or storeroom on the Sabbath,” In the “Levanon” of the 18th of the month of Menachem Av, 5634 (1874) issue 48, we find words of estimation of Rabbi Chaim Tur, the former rabbi of Korelitz. According to the writer of this column (Rabbi Baruch Epstein, author of “Torah Temimah”, a commentary on the Pentateuch), the late rabbi was only 22 years old when he was appointed head of the religious court in Korelitz, where he was active-with blessed results- for sixteen years. The above mentioned writer is correct in noting that Rabbi Chaim Tur was a great orator who “imparted knowledge to the people in his lovely and pleasant sermons and instructive lessons and that the synagogue was filled with those coming to hear a lesson from his mouth and although he was afflicted with serious illnesses, he nevertheless endeavored with all his strength to lead his pupils (as head of the Yeshiva in Vilna) on the path of Torah and in making decisions pertaining to matters of Jewish law”. According to the writer of this column, Rabbi Chaim Tur died as a stranger in Koenigsberg (East Prussia) on 14 Tamuz 5634 (1874) on his way to seek medical advice from doctors there.

When the report of his death reached Vilna, the whole city was stunned. Everyone was in mourning. Lamenting was heard in every corner. It was as though people of kindness were gathering and asking: “Who will teach us knowledge in the sea of Talmud, answer difficult questions and clear up discrepancies arising from intricate methods of understanding the text and who will express words of reproof and knowledge to cure the ruined places of our heart? And from whom shall we obtain advice and understanding in the ways of instruction in deciding matters of Jewish law and knowledge of God?”

The author of the abovementioned column includes the town of Korelitz as well regarding Rabbi Tur's passing. Here is what he says on this subject: “Raise your voice, too, and put on a covering of grief, for he also led you in the way of the Lord, and he also turned upwards from then on and bore the burden of directing the yeshiva here in Vilna and he satiated your hunger for counsel and understanding, and his wisdom also supported you.”

The column ends with words of comfort for the rabbi's widow and children whom he left behind and he also speaks to the heart of his students to whom this rabbi and head of the yeshiva taught knowledge of Torah as well as instruction in deciding matters of Jewish law, and they saw his many righteous acts, his simple piety, his pure Torah, over which we lament in the passing of this great rabbi and yeshiva head.

We can also point out another connection that Rabbi Chaim Tur had with the town of Korelitz while he was head of the yeshiva in Vilna. He would draw close to many young men from Korelitz who came to study in Vilna and took an interest in their adjustment to the various yeshivot, whether his own yeshiva or study hall “Gemilut Chassidim” or other yeshivot such as Remiles Yeshiva, the yeshiva in the synagogue “Zovchai Zedek” (the butchers' yeshiva) and in their personal arrangements. He would likewise recommend a number of “prushim” (“abstainers” - married men who left their wife and children to study Torah) in Vilna to move to Korelitz for a specified period of time to study with a group of students from Korelitz in the local study hall.

[Page 66 (middle)]

Lineage of Rabbinic Families in Korelitz
(mentioned on pages 62-68)

The Sons of Rabbi Yaakov: Our Teacher, Rabbi Chaim Turetzer, and his brother-in-law, Rabbi Chaim from Korelitz, father of the Rabbi and Genius (Gaon) Yisrael Michel from Minsk, (from the opening of my book,“Zecher Yehosaf“, printed recently but written some time ago. Rabbi Yaakov, son of Rabbi Chaim of Korelitz, is written there by mistake according to hearsay, not intentionally and it only became known to me later that Rabbi Yaakov's father was Rabbi Chaim from Turetz, (and not Korelitz), who was called Rabbi Chaim Turetzer and his brother-in-law was called Rabbi Chaim from Korelitz, and both were sons-in-law of the Rabbi and Genius, Rabbi Mordechai, head of the religious court in Karlin), and the sons-in-law of the Rabbi, Genius and Mystic, Rabbi Mordechai, head of the religious court in Korelitz, who was used to reconciling contradictions of the commentators of the later generations on the “Levush” (compilation and analysis of Jewish laws, etc. by Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe of Prague (d.1612),which he would refer to and_________ (meaning unclear) and, according to a story from his grandchildren, he said about the “Sha'agat Aryeh” (“The Lion's Roar”, volume of responsa by Aryeh Leib ben Asher Ginsburg) regarding one of his responsa in opposition to some “halacha” (Jewish religious law): “The lion has roared, who will fear?, (Hebrew:(M)i, Who, (Y)ireh, will fear) Rabbi (M) Mordechai (Y) Yaffe will NOT fear [from the verse, (Amos 3:8.): ”The lion has roared, who will fear?]

The Sister of the aforementioned Rabbi Dov, wife of the great rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Yehoshua from Slonim, father-in-law of the Rabbi and Genius Rabbi Eli' Noach, head of the religious court in Ostrin and later in Simiatin, wife of the above mentioned Rabbi Dov, Her name was Ruchama and she died on 16 Kislev, daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Turetzer and sister of the Great Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Turetzer and his wife Zartel, granddaughter of Rabbi Yisrael, preacher in Vilna for thirty years and is mentioned in “Chayai Adam”, book of Jewish laws (end of 18th century or beginning of 19th century).

The Rabbi and Genius, Rabbi Mordechai of Korelitz, son of our teacher and rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel, and son-in-law of the Rabbi and Genius Rabbi Yosef, head of the religious court in Korelitz, lived there before the registration of their family and their family pedigree in full detail from several great rabbis, and I was unable to clarify and certify the family transplantations, since the facts are from different people and so I put them aside for the time being.


[Page 67]

The Jaffe Family in Korelitz

by Binyamin Benari Jaffe (Jerusalem)

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

Rabbi Mordechai Jaffe, author of “Levushim” died in Posen in 1612. He had two sons and two daughters. Several years later we find in Korelitz Rabbi Yosef, who was the head of the town's religious court. Rabbi Yosef had a son-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel, who was the father of Rabbi Mordechai from Korelitz. Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Mordechai were the “great-grandson and grandson” respectively of the author of “Levushim”. These details are known to us from “Megillat HaYachas” (genealogical record), which Rabbi Zacharia Stern of Shavli recorded and which was included in his book of responsa “Zecher Yehosaf”.

It is not clear how many generations elapsed from the author of “Levushim” to Rabbi Mordechai of Korelitz, nor is it clear which one of Rabbi Mordechai (Jaffe's) sons was the ancestor of Rabbi Mordechai of Korelitz. Apparently, it was Rabbi Aryeh Leib, one of the two sons of Rabbi Mordechai, most of whose offspring were in White Russia, Lithuania and Besserabia.

Rabbi Mordechai of Korelitz was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yaakov Ben Chaim Turetzer, who lived in the town of Turetz close to Korelitz. Details relating to Rabbi Yaakov or his father, Rabbi Chaim, are not known to us, except for one item of information (the source of which I cannot verify), namely that Rabbi Yaakov was the brother-in-law of the Chassidic rabbi of Chernibyl (Twerski?).

More numerous are the facts relating to Rabbi Yaakov's son, Rabbi Dov Ber Turetzki, who was apparently the first to be called by the family name, “Jaffe”. (In general, family names were not in use in Russia before then.) Rabbi Dov Ber was born in the second half of the 18th century. He was among the most outstanding students of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and one of the first students of the Volozhin Yeshiva. He served as rabbi in Korelitz, Lubtch and Otian. Rabbi Dov Ber was married to his cousin, Ruchama, daughter of Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Turetzer. According to the aforementioned Rabbi Yosef, the uncle of Rabbi Dov Ber and his wife Ruchama was Rabbi Dov Ber Trivsh (1724-1804), the son of a famous family of rabbis. He was the head of the religious court in Zagar and the “safra d'dina” (writer of law) in Vilna at the time of the Gaon of Vilna. Rabbi Dov Ber was the author of the “Revid haZahav”, a commentary on the Pentateuch, and “Shir Chadash”, a commentary on the “ Song of Songs”.

Rabbi Dov Ber died in the year 5589 (1829) and was buried in the old cemetery in Vilna, not far from the grave of the abovementioned Gaon, Eliahu. Inscribed on his tombstone: “This is the monument of the rabbi who was great in Torah and piety, practicing what he preached, our teacher and master, Rabbi Dov Ber, son of our teacher and master, Rabbi Yaakov, Teacher of Righteousness, of the holy communities of Korelitz, Lubtch and Otian. Died, 15 Shvat 5589 (1829), may his soul be bound in the bond of life” (“Kiryah Ne'emanah” by Rabbi Fein, Vilna, 5675 (1915).

Rabbi Dov Ber and his wife Ruchama had several sons: Rabbi Yaakov, Rabbi Chaim Zalman, Rabbi Yehosaf, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel and also several daughters, two of whom were married to the brothers, Yona and Natan-Neta Luria, rabbis who were the sons of Rabbi Moshe Mishel Luria, rabbi of Karkinova. One daughter, Freida-Batya, was married to Rabbi Nachum Kook, progenitor of the Kook family of rabbis.

Rabbi Dov Ber's son, Rabbi Zalman, Jaffe emigrated to the Land of Israel and died in Jerusalem in the year 5630 (1870) and is buried on the Mount of Olives. He son Baruch also went to live in the Land of Israel. He was the progenitor of the Dinovitz family in Petach Tikvah. Rabbi Chaim Zalman's brother, Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel, who was born in Otian in the year 5580 (1820), was the famous rabbi of Rozhinoi and one of the leaders of religious Zionism and one of the founders of moshav (collective settlement) Ekron. He emigrated to the Land of Israel in 5648 (1888) and settled on moshav Yehud near Petach Tikva, where he died of malaria in the month of Cheshvan, 5652 (November, 1892).

Among the progeny of Rabbi Dov Ber Turetzer, who also served in Korelitz, we find several rabbis who left Korelitz to become pioneers in Israel, including the first chief (Ashkenazic) rabbi of pre-state Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook and also the Zionist leaders, the brothers Bezalel and Leib Jaffe, as well as many others who were pioneers in the “yishuv”, the Jewish population of Mandate Palestine. They were its builders and fighters who lived in the cities, towns, kibbutzim and moshavim of the State of Israel.


[Page 68]

The “Luminary of the Exile” Naftali Hertz

by Moshe Cinowitz - Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

This rabbi, as the Rabbi of Korelitz, appears with his signature on the purchase of the book, “L'zecher Yisrael”, by Rabbi Yechiel Michel.

This book was printed by the jointly owned Vilna-Horadanai printing press in the year 5594 (1834). We are talking here about the period of this rabbi's term of office in Korelitz during the years 5589-5594 (1829-1834) following Rabbi Dov Ber Jaffe's tenure as the town's rabbi.

In the aforementioned book, “L'zecher Yisrael”, one can find many Korelitz names including Rabbi Avraham Hertz, son of Rabbi Binyamin Yaakov; Moshe, son of Our Teacher Rabbi Elikum Ketz; Mordechai, son of Our Teacher Yosef Segal (HaLevi); Yehuda Leib, son of Our Teacher Menachem Mendel; Issar, son of Our Teacher Tuvia; Natan Neta, son of Our Teacher David; Yaakov, son of Our Teacher Shraga, the father, and the son, Mordechai, son of Yosef Katz and Yitzchak, son of Our Teacher Mordechai Moshe, son of Our Teacher Aharon; Natan Neta, son of Our Teacher Avraham, the father, and the son Shlomo, son of Our Teacher Dov and his son Moshe; Elikum, son of Our Teacher Avraham; Bezalel, son of Our Teacher, Chaim.

The very fact of his being in Korelitz to obtain the aforementioned signatories for his book further strengthened the connection of the people of the small town to the Volozhin Yeshiva, something which was evident well before then with the activity of the previous rabbi, Rabbi Dov Ber Jaffe. Closer to Korelitz, the Mir Yeshiva also sparkled and this, too, had both a direct and indirect effect on strengthening the students' Torah learning

In Korelitz itself, a Torah group was founded made up of young people and needy “porshim” (“abstainees” i.e. young married men who left their wives to study Torah) who established a place for their learning in the local study hall. Included among the students were brilliant Torah scholars who found the quiet Torah atmosphere of the study hall suitable for their diligent learning during the intermediate period of their student years.


Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel Davidson

by Moshe Cinowitz - Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

He was the son of the Gaon (Genius), long in his generation, Rabbi Dov Ber Kapolier, head of the religious court in Starobin, son of the rabbi, Master of the Torah, Rabbi Yehuda, son of Rabbi Yitzchak in Skidel (small town in the District of Grodno), author of the book, “Beit Yitzchak”, who calls the author of the book, “Me'irat Eynaim” (commentary on the “Choshen Mishpat” section of the “Shulchan Aruch” ) by the name, “My Uncle, the Gaon” (according to “Nachalat Avot” by Rabbi Levi Avotzinski).

Rabbi Yitzchak was among the most famous rabbis of his generation in knowledge of Torah, wisdom, religious investigation, administration of the rabbinate together with fine qualities, and he brought fame to the small town of Korelitz, where he was the head of the religious court from 5617-5634 (1857- 1874), watching over the Torah group in the local Beit Midrash (study hall) and excelling as a fine Talmud pedagogue whose aim was to improve the studies of the young men and “porshim” (young married men who left their wives to study Torah) who came from near and far to attend the study hall in Korelitz. Among those who studied in the Beit Midrash in Korelitz at that time, one should note in particular Rabbi Malchiel Tenenboim - author of “Divrei Malchiel” and Rabbi Y.Y. Reines. With regard to Rabbi Reines, it is worth noting that Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel knew him previously when he himself was a “poresh” yeshiva student in Pinsk (Rabbi Reines' native town) and when this “poresh” move to Korelitz to serve as the head of the town's religious court, Rabbi Reines stayed a certain time with Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel in the town and was greatly influenced by this rabbi's logical way of teaching.

Rabbi Mordechai Slonimski, a resident of Turetz, prefaced his book, “Haker Elohi” (Vilna 5665, 1905) with words of approval from the leading rabbis of Lithuania, among whom were Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Jaffe and also Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel from Korelitz.

Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel died in Korelitz in the year 5634 (1874) without reaching old age.

He was honored to have three “Gaonim- geniuses” as sons-in-law: a) Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein, who replaced him in the rabbinate in Kletzk; b) Rabbi David Feinstein, head of the religious court in Starobin; c) Rabbi Yaakov Kantrobitz, rabbi of the towns of Shatzk and Ozdah.

See also page 81


Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein

by Moshe Cinowitz - Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

He was widely known in the rabbinic world by the name “Rebbi Elinka Prozhiner” after the name of the place where he last served in the rabbinate, the town of Prozhan (State of Grodno). Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein was born in the year 5603 (1843), son of Rabbi Aharon Halevi, head of the religious court in Starobin (District of Slutzk).

Rabbi Eliahu studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva and became acquainted with two eminent yeshiva heads of those days: Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (HaNetziv) and Rabbi Dov Ber Yosef Soloveitchik and there he rose in stature as a respectable, sharp-minded expert in Torah and Talmud. In the years 5623-5630 (1863-70), Rabbi Eliahu served as replacement for his late father in the rabbinate in Starobin. Shortly thereafter, he became the son-in-law of the Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi David (son), head of the religious court in Korelitz. In 5630 (1870), he served as head of the religious court in Kletzk.

In 5634 (1874), he was compelled to accept a position in the rabbinate in place of his father-in-law, who passed away at that time. Although Korelitz was small compared to Kletzk, he was forced to build the “rabbi's house” there and to make arrangements for the rabbi's widow, who remained there with her young sons and daughters, all of which required immediate attention, a task which Rebbi Elinka carried out devotedly, faithfully and satisfactorily. Rebbi Elinka occupied the important position of rabbi and head of the religious court in Korelitz for five years. His name was exalted and he gained prestige as a rabbi great in knowledge of Torah, as an exemplary community leader and as a person wise in sacred and worldly affairs. In the later years, his name became a blessing in the mouths of the elders of Korelitz who knew him at close hand in their youth and merited to gain wisdom in his light.

In 5639 (1879), Rebbi Elinka was accepted as head of the religious court in the community of Chislovitz in the State of Mohilov, and in 5644 (1884) he was called to honor as head of the rabbinic court in the community of the aforementioned town of Prozhan as substitute for the Rabbi and Gaon Yerucham Yehuda Leib Perlman, chief rabbi of Minsk, and was known as the “Great Scholar of Minsk”.

After Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein's death in 5689 (1929), his son-in-law, Rabbi Ben-Zion Menachem Krakovski, published a list of information regarding the life and activity of this genius in the ultra-orthodox weekly, “Dos Vort” in Vilna, and here are some excerpts:

At the age of seven, “Elinka” was already an expert in the entire Talmudic Order of Nezikim (Damages). He was amazingly diligent. When Elinka was ten, Rabbi Yosef, head of the religious court in Slotzk, took him under his wing and supervised the development of this prodigy. At the age of fifteen, when he was at the Volozhin Yeshiva, he learned Torah from the mouths of the great and famous heads of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik and the “Netziv” (Rabbi Naftali Berlin). He was diligent, modest and lived in penury. When Rabbi Yosef, head of the rabbinic court in Slotzk, visited Volozhin and inquired about the teenager from Slotzk and about his situation, the administration of the yeshiva began to take special interest in him.

In the year 5634 (1873), his father-in-law, the rabbi of Korelitz, died, leaving behind a large orphaned family. The deceased's son turns at once to Rebbi Elinka, asking him to accept the position in the rabbinate in Korelitz. He doesn't refuse and moves to the small town, where he lives for five years. He is active in community affairs, arranges matters regarding the recruitment of Jewish boys into the Russian army, registration of children, etc. And everyone relates to this great personality with reverence and respect.

As a safeguard against the spread of “enlightenment”, he establishes groups for the study of Talmud and Mishna (Oral Law) for Torah clubs and societies: “Eyn Yaakov, Psalms and Midrash and Chayei Adam” for wide circles of students and for the masses. Simultaneously, he supervises matters of education and Talmud-Torah on a local level and is concerned with religious education organized into levels in Talmud-Torah classes. Likewise, he sends the most gifted pupils to the higher yeshivot, especially to the Volozhin Yeshiva, where he studied in his youth. He tries as much as possible to reduce the gap between those providing work and their hired workers and laborers. In his special letter to Baron Horatio Ginzburg, he turns his attention to the question of hiring God-fearing people and those who observe religious commandments. The Baron hastened to respond that he would devote special attention to the matter and would fulfill his request to the greatest extent possible.

Rabbi Eliahu was known as the “Wise Jew”. He was held in high esteem due to his incredible knowledge of Torah. He was a public worker in many areas. He was a public figure in the economic sphere and one of the first Torah personalities on the rise among Russian Jewry. He would call restricted conferences and meetings of Torah geniuses in Russia and general assemblies of Jews, such as the well-known conference of rabbis that took place in St. Petersburg in 1910. His words and opinions were highly regarded at these meetings.

Rabbi Eliahu Feinstein's sons-in-law were four famous rabbis of the last generation: Rabbi Menachem Ben-Zion Krakovski; Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik; Rabbi David HaLevi Feigenboim; Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Meizel.

Rabbi Eliahu passed away in the year 5689 (1929) at the age of 86. Eulogies were given in all the cities and all of them emphasized the worth of this genius. He was the “Last of the Mohicans” of the survivors of the Lithuanian Gaonim of that Golden Age.

Rabbi Eliahu's book, “Halichot Eliahu”, was printed in 5693 (1933). It contains matters of “halacha” (Jewish law), clarifications and new interpretations on the Rambam (Maimonides) and on the four sections of the “Shulchan Aruch” (Code of Jewish Law) - and this is only a small part of his numerous writings in all branches of the Torah which have survived him. In this book, Rebbi Elinka is revealed to us as a genius who rules over the “Sea of Talmud” with his direct understanding logic and subtle feeling.

It is to be noted that his grandson, Rabbi Dr.Yosef Dov Ber, son of Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik, head of the Yitzchak Elchanan Rabbinic College of Yeshiva University in New York, often introduces words of Torah in his lessons, talks and Torah research in the name of his maternal grandfather, Rebbi Elinka, head of the religious court in Korelitz, Kletzk, Chislovitz and Prozhan.

It is likewise to be noted that Rabbi Eliahu's connection to Korelitz remained strong even after he had already become rabbi in Chislovitz and Prozhan and that he would sometimes stay in the former small town to attend to family matters, as his widowed mother-in-law continued living there for many years. She was the beloved wife of the Rabbi and Gaon (Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel Davidson) in his youth.


[Page 71]

Rabbi Eliahu Baruch Kamai

by Rabbi Zvi Menachem Tsizling

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

Our city, you can now be considered and numbered among the cities which planted faithful saplings within. From the time he was appointed rabbi of our community, the Rabbi and Genius, Rabbi Eliahu Baruch Kamai, may he live long and happily!, in whose light we will see light, brought new life to the youngsters of the Talmud Torah. This school had previously been conducted in an orderly way but in more recent years stumbled on the path. And Rabbi Kamai saw the need to correct this important matter with all his might. First of all, he appointed an effective teacher who would lead the pupils on a straight path and in the right way. And he encouraged the property owners to support and aid the school generously, each person whose heart impelled him to contribute to the cause.

The rabbi greatly aroused the conscience of the townspeople, asking them to build a shelter for the poor and needy who came from afar to seek aid, and the property owners responded to his appeal and built a refuge. He likewise was encouraged to set up a clinic for the town's poor residents who could not afford to pay a doctor's fee or buy medicines.

HaLevanon, 28 Nissan 5641 (1881), (17th year, No. 35).


[Page 72]

Sketch in Ink of Rabbi Mordechai

Made by Yehuda Leib Tzluch from the town of Ivyeh 16 Kislev 5727 (December 1967)

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

Semi-Circle of Words beneath the sketch:

“The rabbi, the “Gaon” (genius) of his generation, the great mystic, Rabbi Mordechai'ele Weitzel (Rosenblatt); the beginning of his career in the rabbinate was in Korelitz and later in the town of Oshmana and he finally served in the town of Slonim.

It is also worth mentioning that the “Chofetz Chaim” relates that Rabbi Mordechai'ele once apologized to him for being involved in giving remedies and blessings to women in the following words: “When I converse with women, some of their transgressions and sins are made known to me and I bring them back to repentance.”


Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

…Concerning the new rabbi, whom will they choose? Some say: Let's go and serve Rabbi D. (referring to Rabbi David Feinstein, son-in-law of Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchak Davidson, who was supported by his mother-in-law, the rabbi's wife and widow in Korelitz) because he had precedence as the older son, according to the tradition of our forefathers. Others say: Let's prostrate ourselves before Rabbi A. Meir A…because the position befits him, for he is holy and stronger in piety and abstinence. And thus the dispute broke out. The people's voice was set on evil. The house of prayer became a battlefield as they came to blows and vilified one another like women in a fish market. It's easy to understand that due to such disturbances and quarrels, disorder has increased in our community and no one can tell us if and when the disputants will compromise and the fighting will stop. Indeed, once or twice they came together and tried to put things in order, but just as they came, so they left, for dissension consumes the House of Jacob like a moth and has brought them to differences of opinion. Nothing has resulted from these meetings, and weeks will pass and months will go by and there will be meetings after meetings and there will be no salvation for the matters of the town.

It is therefore appropriate that the Rabbi, the Great Luminary, who has remained for a few more weeks in our town before parting from us to move to the town of Vekshno, should pay attention to this matter and restrain the people and that he alone should choose four wise men (as he advised in his sermon on the Sabbath) who have never deceived anyone nor have defiled their hands - and these four men will choose a respected rabbi because after he leaves, the quarreling will flare up even more vehemently, for each person will want to be among the four chosen. Therefore, let the rabbi undertake this good task and may he receive a complete reward from the Lord who recompenses man with kindness according to his deeds, and may there be peace in our town!

HaYom” 23 Tevet, 5647 (Jan. 19, 1887), No. 5

The residents of our town, who have been accustomed to seeing great men, men of renown on the seat of the rabbinate, will not choose just anyone and therefore I consider it my duty to announce at the outset that any person unsuited to wearing the crown of the rabbinate will not have the honor of sitting in his place and not trudge here needlessly nor waste his money, for in an adorned town such as ours, where geniuses have always sat on the chairs on judgment, the residents will only accept someone who has become world famous, and only such people have the hope of being welcomed with love and inheriting the seat of honor.

HaYom” 17 Shvat 5647 (1887) No. 25


[Page 73]

Rabbi Mordechai as Rabbi in Korelitz

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

In the year 5647 (1887), when Rabbi Eliahu David Kamai left Korelitz and moved to Vekshne, the leaders of the Korelitz community invited Rabbi Mordechai to assume the position of town rabbi. When the leaders of Bitten found out about this, they absolutely refused to let Rabbi Mordechai leave, and a dispute broke out between the two communities.

Finally, Rabbi Mordechai was spirited out of Bitten in the middle of the night. When the residents of Korelitz found out that Rabbi Mordechai was on the way, the whole town travelled several miles to greet him in the middle of the night and they brought him into the town, marching in a parade with bright candles and music.

Rabbi Mordechai conducted the rabbinate autocratically. Everyone was afraid of him and gave him great respect. As was his wont, he did not show favoritism to anyone and treated everyone cordially without exception. He was especially approachable to the poor and to scholars. They say he would seat poor scholars at the head of his table, and the wealth property owners at the back.

Rabbi Mordechai also established a large yeshiva in Korelitz for young men students and for young scholars, and he himself would impart the lessons.

Rabbi Mordechai became famous in Korelitz as a sage and miracle worker, and people would come from everywhere for his advice and blessings. Because of his heavy workload, he had to place notices in the newspapers requesting people not to come to Korelitz as his health would not allow him to tend to so many matters. This, however, was of little avail. Here we must add that Rabbi Mordechai did not consider himself as a miracle worker, and he would explain that the wondrous signs were not miracles at all and that his fine memory and exceptional knowledge of medicine often enabled him to come up with various kinds of advice. Still, many things have been told about him which cannot be explained by simple logic.

A Christian squire from Korelitz, well disposed to Jews, suddenly became paralyzed. He had been to many doctors, but none could help him. His innkeeper advised him to see Rabbi Mordechai. Rabbi Mordechai had a conversation with the squire and asked about his illness and gave him several remedies which actually helped him, and the squire got better in a short time. The squire returned to the rabbi and wanted to give him a lot of money, but the rabbi began putting the money in a charity box for the poor. From then on, the squire would throw in double that amount for poor people on the eve of Passover.

When it became known that Rabbi Mordichai'el was leaving Korelitz, after serving four years as town rabbi, the townspeople were very sad. Wagon drivers and simple people besieged his house in an attempt to prevent him from leaving. A group of community leaders from Oshmene headed by Rabbi Yosef came to Korelitz in the middle of the night and secretly took Rabbi Mordechai'el and his household away on special wagons. It is said that as they were leaving Korelitz, with Rabbi Yosef in one wagon, Rabbi Mordechai laid down a condition that he should be paid only 15 rubles a week, which was the amount he needed to live on, and not more.

Since the Korelitz townspeople had been guarding the highway so that Rabbi Mordechai could not travel to Oshmene, Rabbi Mordechai did not go directly to Oshmene but rather to Slonim, and from there he went on to Oshmene a short time later. In order to avoid parades, which Rabbi Mordechai, a modest person, found unacceptable, he didn't inform anyone about his coming, and he arrived in a peasant's cart, only asking the cart driver to inquire as to where the rabbi's house was located.

When the residents of Oshmene found out that the rabbi had arrived, there was great commotion in the town - storekeepers closed their stores and craftsmen closed their workshops, and everyone went to welcome the rabbi.

Rabbi Mordechai was the rabbi in Korelitz until 5651 (1891).

Dos Vort”, Friday, 13 Elul, week of Torah reading “Ki Teitzei”, 5694 (1934), No. 667.


[Page 77]

Rabbi Meir son of Rabbi Yosef Feimer

by Moshe Cinowitz

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

He was born in the year 5594 (1834) in Slutzk, son of Rabbi Yosef Feimer, head of the rabbinic court in that community. Rabbi Meir was known as a remarkable authority on matters of Jewish law. His house was open to anyone passing by. He made do with little. When he was accepted as rabbi and his wages set at 18 rubles a week, he took only 10 for himself and divided the rest among the town's judges. He subsequently gave up his position as rabbi in Minsk. In the summer of 5650 (1890), he returned to serve as rabbi in Lechivitch. Rabbi Meir became rabbi in Korelitz after Rabbi Mordechai'le moved to Oshmina. He was active in that small town from 5653- 5656 (1893-1896) and the community of Korelitz was proud of the fact that they merited to have the rabbi of the city of Slutzk serving as head of the rabbinic court in their small town. He died on Thursday, 20 Iyar 5671 (1911).

Rabbi Yosele (the second) Feimer, son of Rabbi Meir, was close to his father in Korelitz in his youth. He perfected his Talmudic knowledge in the town's Beit Midrash (study hall) and became a specialist in matters of prohibition and permission and in all matters pertaining to the rabbinate. He came to the United States in 5685 (1925), serving as rabbi at Congregation Beth-El in New York, where he died on the first day of the month of Kislev 5699 (1939)


[Page 78]

Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Bruck

by Moshe Cinowitz

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

He was born in Novogrudek. He received a traditional Torah-Talmudic education. He studied in his native town and likewise at the Mir Yeshiva, which was then under the direction of Rabbi Chaim Leib Tiktinski, who was also the main Talmud lecturer at the yeshiva. (His son, Rabbi Avraham Tiktinski, was also head of the college in the yeshiva and was the father-in-law of the writer and editor, Mr. Moshe Cohen, son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Cohen from Korelitz. M.C). Rabbi Avraham Yaakov was ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, head of the rabbinic court in Novogrudek, author of the “Aruch HaShulchan”. He was also ordained by Rabbi Mordechai Weitzel, whose daughter he married in the meanwhile. When Rabbi Mordechai moved from Bitten to serve as rabbi in Korelitz, his son-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Yaakov also moved with him and was supported by his father-in-law, who trained him in rabbinic decision making and in the practical application of “halacha” (Jewish law).

Rabbi Avraham Yaakov distanced himself from the yoke of the rabbinate and refused to exploit the rabbinate for his personal gain, just managing to earn a living by doing other kinds of work. He eventually moved back to Bitten (the town where his father-in-law, Rabbi Mordechai'le had served previously as rabbi) and earned a living as a glazier. It was only in his later years that he consented to accept a small payment of a few rubles from the residents of the community as their judge and “Teacher of Righteousness” (rabbi).

Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Bruk was great in knowledge of Torah, well versed in religious philosophy and was familiar with Hebrew research literature and streams of modern Hebrew literature. He was a public activist, coming to the aid of the suffering and needy and served as delegate to the JCA (Jewish Colonization Association).

He was an enthusiastic “Chovev Zion” (“Lover of Zion”) in Korelitz and in Bitten. His fund raising and donations on behalf of “Chovevei Zion” in Korelitz became a household word in the entire area. He especially influenced the young ritual slaughterer and examiner, Rabbi Mordechai Avraham, in Korelitz to be faithful to the “Chovevei Zion” movement (later political Zionism), and when he moved away from Korelitz, he left the strengthening of the movement in the hands of the aforementioned local ritual slaughterer. Despite the persecutions on the part of the extreme ultra-orthodox, especially the “Chassidei Slonim”, he would always show up at the meetings of the Zionist youth in these places and in adjacent small towns and even in Mir. He founded Zionist associations in the districts of Novogrudek and Slonim and travelled to Zionist conferences - at his own expense. Despite his poor means, he managed to support his family, albeit with difficulty. He also signed an appeal on the part of a group of young rabbis in support of the “Po'alei (Zion?) b' Eretz Yisrael” (“Workers of Zion in the Land of Israel”) for the purpose of their settling the land by establishing colonies.

Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Bruk passed away in the year 5674 (1914). His relative, Chaykel Lonski, a librarian at the Shtrashon Library in Vilna, wrote and article of appreciation about him in the Hebrew periodical, “HaZman”, which appeared in Vilna. The writer, Avraham Litvin, also dedicated a short article in his memory in his book, “Yiddishe Neshamot” (“Jewish Souls”)


[Page 79]

An appeal for help

Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer

God's anger struck our town yesterday, 16 Sivan, when fire went forth from On High and consumed some one hundred and fifty homes within hours. More than half of the town went up in flames. And not only did the best houses serve as fuel (and even though they were insured, it is still cause for sorrow), but among the houses that burned down were also dozens of homes belonging to poor and wretched families who could not afford to purchase insurance for their homes. And now, hundreds of families are wallowing in holes and stables under the open sky - and many of these poor people have no hope of building a tent -even a small one - to serve as a shelter from the rain and cold. And how are hearts shudder at this sight of poverty and paucity, wandering and bereavement, which has suddenly befallen so many impoverished families in our town! And the Lord's hand further chastised us severely in that the four houses of prayer which we had also went up in flames and we no longer have a place to pour out our complaints before the Lord. And the remaining public institutions such as the bathhouse, etc. also burned on the altar, and here we are, standing poor and empty on the smoldering coals, and in this hour of distress, we appeal to our brethren with groaning from the heart and we call out to them:

Dear brethren! May your compassion be stirred upon those of our people who survived the terrible fire! Take pity on us and be generous with your charity! Come to our aid and lend a hand in rebuilding our destroyed temples and also in building houses for dozens of families from among our poor and needy. Have pity on us and come from your city to help and support us as much as possible so that we can repair our ruins, and may your reward be complete from Him Who has chosen Israel, and may you be blessed by the poor and unfortunate in our town and the world.

Requesting your help with a broken and pained heart,
Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen, the holy community of Korelitz, District of Minsk.

HaTzfira” 22 Sivan 5673 (June 19, 1913)

 

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