By M. R. Slodki
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Rabbi Gliksberg was born in Mezritsh to pious parents. His father, a Lomz Hassid, did not entrust his son to just any melamed [religious teacher], but rather ensured that he would receive his early education from the best melamdim in the city. From his earliest youth, Rabbi Gliksberg was recognized as having unusual talents. When he finished his course of studies in the cheders , he entered the large Beis Midrash [study hall] in our city and continued to study Talmud and its commentaries. His grandfather, who was a wealthy Jew, loved him very much and wanted him to acquire general knowledge in addition to his Jewish learning. He retained good teachers to coach him in Hebrew and Russian. The young lad mastered both of these languages within a short period of time, and immersed himself in their literature. He tasted the beauty of Japheth, but was not content to stop there. He began studying Polish, German and French on his own. Within a brief period, he became known as one of the truly educated people of our community, combining profound knowledge of the Torah with substantial secular scholarship. He divided his day equally between religious and general studies: a half-day was devoted to each. His diligence was exceptional. He never stopped studying when he was in the Beis Midrash. When he studied secular subjects, he closed himself in his room for hours on end. Only with difficulty were his parents able to get him outside for a stroll, to take in some fresh air. He had an exceptional memory. I recall that when I would visit his home on frequent occasions, he would recite by heart poems from the middle ages and the Haskalah: M. Tz. Maneh, Y. L. Gordon, Pushkin, Lermontov, Goethe, Schiller, and French poets.
When he came to be of marriageable age, many families wanted him as a son-in-law and offered a large dowry. Apparently, Divine providence had resolved that this fine person would become a rabbi. The story unfolded in the following way. Not far from our town, there was a small village called Mordy where a Lithuanian Jew, and author of Yad Mordechai, had become the town's rabbi. Most of the residents of the town were Hassidim who had no tolerance for a Lithuanian rabbi. A major dispute broke out, forcing the rabbi to leave the town. He came to Mezritsh in search of temporary housing, and found accommodations in the Gliksberg home. This Lithuanian rabbi had daughters, and our young man took a fancy to one of them. She became the rebbetzin, may she live long. When our young Reb Gliksberg offered his proposal of marriage to the Lithuanian rabbi, he agreed, but only on the condition that Reb Gliksberg consent to becoming a rabbi.
The match took place, and the young man traveled to the Gaon Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Lejb in Minsk, who was known as the Great One of Minsk. He returned three years later with his rabbinical ordination. He was brilliantly successful, and immediately accepted a position in one of the neighborhoods of the city of Pinsk. He became known in the rabbinical word as a wonderful orator. Zionism was then at its inception, and the young rabbi dedicated himself with all his heart and soul to the idea of the revival of the nation [of Israel] and the Land [of Israel]. He became an activist in the Mizrachi movement. He was chosen by the Zionists of our city to be a delegate to one of the Zionist congresses. When he returned to the city to present his report, an audience of thousands assembled to hear him in the large Beis Midrash, where he had studied as a youth.
During this time, Rabbi David Sloshetz died in Odessa. That community invited Rabbi Gliksberg to take his place. In Odessa he found a platform for his breadth of knowledge, and endeared himself to all segments of the community. With the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution, he did not capitulate to the new order, but rather devoted himself fully to carrying out his rabbinical duties. The religious debate that he undertook with the members of the Yevsektsikya, along the style of the religious debates of the Middle Ages, is well known. The late rabbi spoke to me about his triumph in that debate. All the religious leaders of Odessa virtually kissed him for his public sanctification of the Divine Name.
Eventually, he was able to leave Russia and come to the Land of Israel, but by then he was already old and weak. Here in Israel he successfully published two books that had been in manuscript form: Hadrasha Be-Israel [Sermons in Israel], and Torat Hadrasha - Israel ve Oraita [Theory of Sermons - Israel and Torah] in one volume. As far as I know, there are other manuscripts, including his memoirs, which were never published.
About such a rabbi one can apply the Talmudic adage; Angels and mortals grabbed the Holy Ark. The angels defeated the mortals and the Holy Ark was captured.
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