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C. The city in the Era of the Kingdom of Poland

The first document about Podhajce from the year 1519. – Jakob Buczacki, the owner of the city, receives a permit to establish a fair in the city in the year 1536. – Stanislaw Potocki, the hero of Poland, is buried in the Catholic church in the city in the year 1667. – Jan Sowieski with his army laid siege to Podhajce in the year 1667. – Ibrahim Pasha lays siege to the city in the year 1675. – The siege of the city by the Tatars in 1698, and their repulsion by the commander Felix Potocki.

The Jewish history of Podhajce and its environs in interconnected with the history of the gentile population. Therefore, it is necessary to survey everything that the Poles did for the benefit of the city from a national and state perspective, and the lot of the Jews in these attainments.

The first document in which the name Podhajce appears is from 1519. This document specifies that Jakob Buczacki, the Bishop from Chelm, was the owner of the city. However, it is silent about the date of the founding of the city, and does not tell how it fell into the hands of the bishop. Podhajce is also mentioned in a document from 1516, in which Bilski relates that the Polish commanders Kaminecki, Lanckoronski and Tyborowski were defeated in Poland by 500 Tatars. The fought bravely and were finally defeated.

It would seem that Jakob Buczacki was the one who began to work for the development of the settlement of Podhajce, in that he influenced the king to establish a fair day in this city in the name of its holy population. A short time thereafter, the ownership of this city passed to the hands of the Walaski family. Nikolai Walaski, the prince of the Sandomierz palace (kasztalan), founded a fair in 1536 under the name of Holy Marcyn, with the authority of a permit from Zygmunt I. He was the king who established the German law (Magdeberg) in 1539 rather than the Polish Russian law out of feelings of gratitude to Walaski. Fairs served as a means of development for the cities at the time. In the year 1590, Zygmunt III issued a permit to Marcyn Walaski to transfer the fair to a more appropriate day, to the day of “withdrawal”, at a time when the market day was convened on Saturday. In 1630, the city passed on as an inheritance to the Potocki family, and at that time, the members of this family began to be called and to sign their names with the name Podhajce.[2]

The first concern of the Potocki family was the establishment of a Roman Catholic church as a counterweight to the Greek Catholic church that had been founded by the Ukrainian population. Stanislaw Rewer Potocki, the bearer of many high titles from the kingdom, was buried in this church in 1667. He was born in 1579, and throughout his long life served as royal Hetman, ruler of the Krakow region, and one of the well-known army captains of the state. At first, he fought near Gozow in 1607, and from that time, he participated in all of the wars conducted by Poland throughout sixty years, without concern for his health, property, or many estates. He stood at the head of the army in 46 battles against the Vandals, Russians, Wallachians, Turks, Tatars, and Cossacks, during the rule of three kings.

Jan Sowieki had his beginnings as a commander in the year 1667 on the plains of the city of Podhajce, when he stood at the head of 12,000 fighters of the best of his army against the Tatar and Cossack troops who inundated Podolia and laid siege to Podhajce. For two weeks, the army of Poland held out bravely against the enemy army, which consisted of approximately 80,000 Tatars and 24,000 Cossacks. They even organized a surprise attack that caused great losses in the enemy camp. In the meantime, the Sultan found out that the Cossacks who had a treaty with the Poles started a rebellion. He established a peace treaty with Poland and promised to be their ally. This show of strength made the name of Jan Sowieki famous throughout Europe as a proud commander “whose head rises a hundred-fold over the shoulders”. The writers of Poland wrote a great deal about the siege of Podhajce. In the letters of Captain Sowieki to his wife from the besieged city, he boasts about the fortifications of this city. In 1687, when he was already king of Poland, Sowieki came to Podhajce for a second time in order to view the battlefield upon which he forged his first glory.

Already then, Podhajce was one of the largest and most splendid cities in the “Russian district”. According to the description of Dalirak, a Frenchman from the court of Jan Sowieki, the city had paved roads, five churches, and an old palace with mighty towers, high porches and surrounded by moats. In his words about the population of the city, the Jews are numbered in the first rank, followed by the Wallachians, Armenians, Poles and Ukrainians.

The incessant attacks of the Tatars, which did not by-pass Podhajce, strongly hurt the city and its inhabitants. The walls were broken, part of the palace was turned into a ruin, and many houses were destroyed. In 1675, Ibrahim Pasha laid siege to Podhajce. After the city surrendered, he destroyed its houses and brought its inhabitants to captivity under the guard of his general, Mowiecki. A decision of the Polish Sejm in 1677 declared that: “Out of a desire to reconstruct our kingdom from the ruin and damage that was inflicted upon it by our enemies, and taking note of the rights of Count Potocki who is full of mercy, we grant to Podhajce – the estate of Potocki – freedom from all taxes for 12 years.”

In 1698, when Felix Potocki, the ruler of the Krakow region and Hetman of the Polish crown, was persecuted by 40,000 Tatars, he selected the walls of the palace of Podhajce as a support. In the battle, conducted with great fury and lasting for four hours, the Tatars lost many men and were forced to retreat from the palace that was located in the outskirts of the city. They set it on fire along with the loot that they could not take with them.

The very active Polish statesman Ignace

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Potocki was born in Podhajce. In the middle of the 18th century, all of the estates of Podhajce transferred to the ownership of the Bilski family, and from them transferred to the hands of Caspar Roglinski, the ruler of the Infeland region, around 1782. Podhajce, along with all of the developing area – Rudnik, Lisa, Urinos, Kosozov, Yasheniovchik, along with the farms of Zagaytsy, Holandra and Syulka{2} – became part of the estate of the Principality of Czartoriska, who set up his summer palace in the city in the latter period.[3]

The city was located on the banks of the Koropiec River, a river of 75 kilometers in length, with two banks in Podhajce. It passed through Podhajce to Monastiryska and Zaleshchiki, and empties into the Dneister on its left. The area of the region of Podhajce is crossed from north to south by three rivers – Strypa, Zlota Lipa, and Koropiec – which are tributaries to the Dneister. Early on, these rivers created many ponds and pools, so that each one of them became a sort of chain of ponds. The fish in these ponds served as a source of livelihood for the poor population, in particular during those periods when the harvest of the fields was destroyed by enemy soldiers and garrisons. The ponds and pools also served as a natural protection for the fortresses and palaces that were built from the outset in such protected areas.

D. The Beginnings of the Jewish Settlement of Podhajce

Near the city – the Jewish cemetery with ancient monuments. – When did the Jews of Podhajce organize into a community? – Rabbi Aharon Solnik, the author of the “Masat Binyamin” responsa book (1602). – Podhajce under Turkish rule from 1672-1699. – Persecution and tribulations against the Jews by the Turks. – The special “Slicha”{3} for the events in Podhajce by the author Reb Zeev Wolf the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Mrazni.

The government lists of Russia and Poland from the year 1550 make mention of the origin of the Jews in Podolia. The gravestones that were found there prove that there were Jews there several hundred years before that period. The elders of the city of Podhajce tell of an old cemetery with ancient gravestones that existed next to the city. The question is for how many years did the Jews live in the city without an organized community, whether because of their small number or because the local Jews were not interested in organizing themselves for various reasons. It is known that Podhajce served as a point of passage for merchants who moved from east to west and west to east, and the Jews played a central role in the world in business, for they maintained contact with the Jews of the west (Germany, Austria and other lands), and the east (the lands of Wallachia and Moldavia, Turkey and others). It would make sense that Podhajce, which served for a period of time as a transit point for Jewish merchants, became the location of a small or large Jewish community with the passage of time, and only after they had succeeded in establishing themselves there did they establish an organized community with rabbis and other clergymen[4].

In 1602, the name of a rabbi in Podhajce is already mentioned, a fact that points to the existence of a Jewish community in the city. This rabbi was the well-known author of the “Masat Binyamin” responsa book, which was written by Rabbi Binyamin Aharon the son of Avraham Solnik. Matters related to the roots of folklore are also mentioned in that book. Facts about the appearance of clothing in his days are mentioned in the book (section 80): the article of clothing that was called “mantle”, whose top covers a person's neck, and which continued to wrap around and descend to below the knees, having no sleeves or any such things. It was the custom of the elders of Krakow to wear it in the synagogue during the types of prayers, etc. That “mantle” is not worn at home nor in the marketplace -- The “Rok” is only found in the Kingdom of Poland. It was customary to wear it even when sitting at home, and sometimes a “pleitza” would be sown on it, made out of the skin of foxes or other animal or cattle skins. This is called a “shoib”, and it warms the body and protects it from cold.[5]

The “Masat Binyamin” responsa book (section 67) deals with the custom of the bride and groom seeing each other prior to the wedding. The question: A young man became engaged to a girl from the city of Ostia. The young man came to see the bride, as is the custom of all the land, and the gift was passed by his face{4}. (The groom was from the city of Podhajce, and the time was at the beginning of the 17th century.) Excerpts of this book are brought down in various books.[6]

The changes of government that overtook Podhajce also left their mark on the life of the Jews. The city was under Turkish rule for a period of 27 years (1672-1699). According to reliable sources, the border of the Turkish dominion reached the bog of the Dneister, and the city of Kamenets Podolsk was the capital city where the Turkish Pasha resided. In general, the relationship between the Jews and the Turks was particularly peaceful, and during the time of the expulsion from Spain (1492), the gates of the empire were opened wide to the many refugees who fled from Spain and other lands of Europe where they were persecuted. With the passage of time, the Jews gained great influence in the business and economic life of Turkey, and several of them obtained high positions, and even became statesmen. With the conquest of Podolia, the business relations between Turkey and the Jewish merchants of Podolia reached to Koshta and Smyrna (Izmir). However, the fierce battles between the Poles and the Jews instilled great fear upon the Jews in Podolia, and impoverished them economically. Despite this, it is hard to understand why the Turks afflicted the Jews of Podhajce in the year 1676. No information or sources remain about this event, except for the “Slicha” that was composed by Reb Zeev (Wolf) the son of Yehuda Leib and was published in his book “Geffen Yechidit” (Berlin 1699). This is a Slicha that had not caught the interest of researchers until now. We have to thank the Jewish researcher Ch. Y. Garland who included some memories of this event in his book “The History of the Decrees

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against Israel”, that testify to its historical importance. I will bring it down in its original language.

In the year 5537, there was a decree in Podolia. The author of the book “Geffen Yechidit” (A short book of great quality, that deals with matters of moral chastisement and fear of Heaven in clear language, dealing with Heavenly issues and issues of reproof, may its author be thought of meritoriously. He was one of the intellectuals, and in this small composition, he displays his expertise and sharpness. He is our rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Zeev Wolf the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Mrazni, etc. Amsterdam) wrote an elegy about the martyrs in the prayer that he wrote. These are his words there (folio 24, side 2). The acronym at the beginning of the stanzas is “I am the small one Zeev Wolf”[7]:

I wrote a “Kel Maleh Rachamim{5} for the martyrs and prisoners in the region of Podolia, 5437 (it should have said, 5436). I signed the beginnings of the stanzas, “I am the small one Zeev Wolf”.

G-d full of compassion, who avenges blood, how great were the tribulations that came upon me, they happen (it should have said it is only evil{6}) all the days.

{7}The souls of the poor and innocent, they are like the animals that fall among the captives, and school children who fall like sheep and goats, many have become hidden among the gentiles.

The portion of meat and fatlings should be divided among two brothers, the father goes childless, and cries, “where is my child”.

The smoke sent its hand to his father in Deitz, and the abnormal enemy came and shot, this killing took place in the summer in the community of Podhajce.

Trembling overtakes me when I hear about it, Torah scholars, men of wisdom, the young of the flock were dragged out, and murder came to the land; there is much killing by Kedar{8} of those bloated with hunger.

How did a voice from heaven come down and issue a decree regarding those as lowly as a hyssop and high as a cedar, to be cut down like cumin and rice.

With lamentation and tears the places of Israel respond, who are left desolate without inhabitants, and you oh G-d exist for ever, why is their no voice and no sound.

Woe to those who have been lost and will not be forgotten, scholars who take hold of swords, shields and spears{9}, many are laid down in the places of the sacrifices.

Regarding these I weep, about the great agony and oppression, of the sublime people, who went up from the second exile.

You oh G-d why are you silent, as the wicked swallow up the righteous and plot evil against him, everything in the city has been destroyed, and they have been completely expelled.

To whom shall I utter my woe, and who will stir up strife, regarding those who you call your children, of whom very many have been taken captive, and have been murdered with abnormal deaths.

Open the gates of heaven, to hear the cry of the poor, to take vengeance on the blood that was spilled like water, and to bind their souls in the bonds of life.

Take revenge on behalf of the Jewish people, from Kedar and Ishmael, and repay their deeds, and may the redeemer come to Zion, Amen.

As well, the scholar Yomtov Lipman Zunz (1794-1886){10}, one of those who laid the foundations of scientific research into Judaism, and one of the greatest researchers of the Jewish people of that time, makes mention of this elegy in his book “Literaturgeshichte”. However, even he does not tell us anything about this decree, which is not mentioned in any books.

The content of this Slicha reveals a small amount and hides a great deal. In this Slicha, we read about a tragedy that occurred to the Jews of Podhajce, on account of a libel or pretext that took place against the Jews of the city, without exposing the factors that caused it. As a result, the Jews of Deitz (Podhajce) paid by being murdered and taken captive. Nevertheless, it is good that this important document on the events that took place in Podhajce was saved from oblivion, and that we are able to include it in its original in the history of this community.[8]

E. The Jewish Community of Podhajce

The Jewish community – “A kingdom within a kingdom”. – The rabbis and activists of Podhajce in the ledgers of the Council of the Four Lands. – The collection of taxes by the community. – The book “Birkat Yaakov” by Rabbi Yaakov the son of Baruch of Podhajce.

The Jews, whose relative population in Poland and Russia was larger than in any other country in the world at that time, were a world unto themselves, not only in religion and lifestyle, but also in society and economics. It is no exaggeration to state that they were like “a kingdom within a kingdom”.

The Jews had one great advantage – their general umbrella group, the Council of the Four Lands, which represented them before the government, negotiated in their name, and issued decrees for the benefit of the community. The restrictions, denigrations, and special heavy taxes that the Christian law imposed upon the Jews from the time that the Roman Caesars accepted Christianity as their religion, were liable to wipe them out, were they imposed with their full force and strength. Yisrael Halperin did something good for us when he labored to collect an anthology of decrees that were written and recorded in the Legers of the Council of the Four Lands (Jerusalem, 5705), to give them to us. This book serves as a mirror into all of the cities and towns in the Kingdom of Poland. One can learn a great deal from it. Podhajce is not passed over in this book, and the names of its activists and rabbis who were in contact with this council are mentioned.

The Jews of Poland were subject to three authorities: to the town council and landowner (poretz) in each city (if the city was privately owned), to the central government of the state, and to their own government, which they held in the highest of esteem since it was a bone of their own body. Rabbi Dovber of Bolechow, when he mentions the name of one of the Jews who filled the role in the independent leadership of the community, never neglects to call them by their rightful title: “The mediator of the Council of the Four Lands”, “The head of the country”, “The chiefs who are the heads of the countries”, “The chief captains and leaders” – when he describes those people. These are repeated often in his book.

The community under local Jewish government conducted all matters of the Jewish community, both physical and spiritual. It presented itself as the representative of the entire local community before external forces – the king, the priests, the poretzes (landowners), etc. In order to fund its activities, the community had to impose internal taxes. Some taxes were collected directly from every resident, some were included in the prices of daily necessities such as the yeast tax, and some were paid for the services of the community on behalf of its residents, such as shechita (ritual slaughter), or the communal weights and measures. The prime

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task of the community was to administer the collection of the Head Tax. This tax was imposed in the middle of the 17th century as a tax on every Jewish community in the entire country, and was evaluated to the value of tens of thousands of gold coins: with time, the tax increased, and at the beginning of the 18th century, its value reached 220,000 gold coins. The Council of the Four Lands would apportion this tax and set the value of the tax upon each and every community. There were serious negotiations between the communities and the council with regard to the apportioning of this tax, for frequently, a certain community was unable to pay the amount imposed on it. The community then turned to the heads of the council with a detailed memorandum, “with letters written by the communal council with clear language, and in Hebrew.”, as it requested relief from the Head Tax.

After a time, the Polish authorities realized that this means of imposing a general levy upon the Jewish community as an organized body was not beneficial for them, so they turned over its collection to a central representative of the Jews. With the general recession that afflicted the Jewish community during the 18th century, its foundations of security were shaken, and there was a need to invest large sums to conduct life and maintain ones property, the Council became bogged down with many debts, and was not able to pay its obligation to the state coffers. The Poles asked themselves if it would not be better to impose a personal tax upon every Jew without the intermediation of the Council. If that were the case, the Council would no longer be needed. There were various other internal factors that weakened the strength and authority of the Council: disputes and controversy, the interjection of private interests onto the public benefit, the rule of a small number of wealthy people over the masses, the decay of the impoverished people, etc. All of this led to the abolition by the Poles of the central Jewish government in 1764, and the imposition of a direct tax of 2 guilders a year upon every Jew above the age of 1. This tax would also be collected through the communities. The administration of this new tax required a census of the Jewish population. To this end, the government set up a special committee in each city consisting of communal leaders and headed by the Polish landowner. These committees were given the responsibility of enumerating the Jews. From the material that remains in the archives about this activity, we can learn many details about the number of Jews, their family composition, and to a reasonable extent about their occupations. In the introduction to the summary of the enumerator in one of the cities of Poland, it is stated in Hebrew: “Today is the day that the sound of the census taker will be heard in the city, and each person will stand for enumeration”. Indeed, the Jews of Podhajce also “stood up for enumeration”. In 1765, 1290 Jews were enumerated in Podhajce itself, and 1548 in the entire community. The harsh decree regarding collecting a tax in equal amounts from each person caused the poor to absent themselves from the census.

In one of the sections (section 149) of the ledger of the Council of the Four Lands (that also relates to Podhajce), the “matter of the absentees” is discussed: that is to say, those who refrain from paying taxes. There, note is made of a special privilege of King Wladyslaw IV of Poland from March 25, 1635 (6 Nisan 5395) that establishes the enactments of the council regarding the absentees, as well as enactments regarding other matters. Six copies of this remain; one of them included in “Birchat Yaakov” by Rabbi Yaakov the son of Baruch of Podhajce (Lvov 5506, ad the end of the book, sections 111-133). The aforementioned section is from the year 5384 (1624), a date that confirms the ancientness of the Jewish settlement in Podhajce[9].

F. During the Decrees of 5408 and 5409{11}

The anti-Polish Chmielnitzki movement in Reisin{12}. – The Decrees of 548 and 5409 regarding the fairs of the country. – “The evil Chiel the enemy of Israel. – the “Third destruction” of Polish Jewry. – The destruction of the community of Podhajce. – The war of defense of the Jews along with the Poles. – Descriptions of the destruction in the book “Yaven Metzula” by Reb Natan Hanover. – The freeing of the Jews of Podhajce from taxes by the “Russian Sejmik”.

The Decrees of 5408 and 5409 did not come suddenly. During the 17th century, the region of Halitz, including Podhajce, endured great suffering from the invasions and attacks of the Tatars, Turks, and later the Cossacks and Russians. The Cossack attacks began in the 17th century. In 1615, a difficulty battle against Cossack troops took place in Rohatyn near Podhajce. Hetman Zolkiwski succeeded in killing them and cutting off their commander, who was taken to be executed in Lvov.[10]

The Ruthenians from Podhajce and its environs joined the anti-Polish movement that was nown by the name “Chmielniszczyzna” that spread from Ukraine to Reisin. They joined forces with the Ruthenians from neighboring towns in conducting military actions and attacks against the estates of the Polish noblemen around the city, and threatened that not one “Liach” (Pole) would remain alive. The Ruthenians of Reisin were filled with hatred against the Catholic faith, its convents, and its churches.

In 1648, the large revolt of Bogdan Chmielnitzki broke out in the eastern borders of the state. The year 5408 (1648) was a year of tribulation for the Jews of Poland. The Jews of Podhajce were also severely afflicted. In April 1648, Chmielnitzki led his army from the Zaporoza region in the west, and defeated the Polish army, under the command of Potocki and Kalinowski from May 6-15. This brilliant victory was the portent for the outbreak of the general revolt of the residents of Ukraine. They attacked the Poles and Jews in the villages, cities and towns. In every place, they destroyed, pillaged, and murdered without mercy. The fate of the Jews was terrible. The full measure of hate of the farmers and the Cossacks was unleashed against them. They fell by the hundreds and thousands along the roads. Jewish property went up in smoke. Women and children were murdered or taken captive.

As with all the communities of Podolia and Reisin, Podhajce also suffered from this tribulation. Its effects were felt until the middle of the 18th century.

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The number of victims from Podhajce is unknown, but it was certainly no less than the number in other towns. At the time, the Jews fought hand in hand with the townsmen. The Jewish population defended the city along with the Christians. They were armed with guns and gunpowder, and even served in the artillery corps.

The disaster{13} that befell the Jews in this era is described in many documents, whose authors witnessed the bloody sword with their own flesh. The best of the descriptions is by Reb Natan Hanover of Zaslow. He was in that city until July 25, 1648. Hanover's composition, “Yaven Metzula” (“Deep Mud”) is a first class source about the destruction of those days. It is used by many historians. From his words, we can see the path of Chmielnitzki's army from its beginning until the Zhivachov agreement (August 1649). Jewish chronicles speak of 100,000 victims in 500 destroyed communities. The issue of refugees was particularly severe: “Many of them are our co-relgionists. They went out from their lands, and were expelled from their places and habitations, and have now found rest and repose, since the land is not sufficiently quiet and peaceful to enable those distant to return to their homesteads”.[11]

The situation of the Jews worsened after the tribulations of 5408. The destruction was so great that the “Ruski Sejmik” that entered Halitz on December 23, 1675 formulated a legal recommendation asking the Sejm to reduce the head tax upon the Jews of Reisin, since entire communities were destroyed and were not able to pay taxes (in translation from Polish: “For they all fell in Buczacz, Tarnopol, Podhajce, and all of the wojewodas (regions), and therefore they are not able to pay taxes”[12]. Indeed King Jan Sowieki III was correct when he established in a memorandum of July 27, 1694 that the Jews of Reisin “suffered more than other Jews from the passage of the armies and enemy attacks”.

G. Well-known Rabbis and Yeshiva Heads in Podhajce

The many tasks and responsibilities of the rabbis. Rabbi Moshe and Rabbi Yehuda Leib his son, among the first rabbis of the community of Podhajce. – Rabbi Binyamin Aharon Solnik, the author of the book “Masaat Binyamin”. – His son Rabbi Yaakov fills his place as the rabbi of the city. – Rabbi Moshe the son of the Shach during the time of the Turkish conquest. – Rabbi Moshe Katzenelenbogen (a descendent of the prince Shaul Wohl). – Rabbi Zecharia Mendel, the author of books. – Rabbi Meshulam Zalman the son of Rabbi Yaakov Emden. – Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the author of “Lev Aryeh”.

As we come to survey the history of the rabbis and their situation hundreds of years ago in the Jewish communities of Poland, the fact stands out before us that well-known rabbis who were great in Torah served specifically in the small and medium sized towns, rather than in the large cities and metropolitan areas. There was a simple reason for this: the great rabbis searched for quiet places where they would be able to study Torah and Divine service without interruption. Thanks to this, Podhajce as well had famous rabbis, whose names flutter out from books filled with Torah and wisdom. From among those that earned a name in rabbinical literature, we will mention here only the names of famous rabbis that served in Podhajce, or were born there and moved to serve in other communities, from the period of Polish independence prior to the partition. The community of Podhajce and its rabbis became known in the Jewish world, and the rabbis of Podhajce maintained a correspondence with well-known rabbis of the capitals of Europe, who would also visit the city from time to time and attempt to assist in the organization of local matters to the best of their abilities.

Who was the first rabbi of the community of Podhajce, and who issued the recommendation to appoint him? Certainly one should have been able to find details about this in the first ledgers of the community; however since the community of Podhajce was destroyed by the Nazis along with all of its documents – we must salvage from the literary sources at least the names of some of the rabbis of the city, whose compositions in various topics, primarily in responsa and Jewish law, preserved their memory for future generations. Similarly, it is possible to be assisted by the inscriptions on the monuments of the rabbis of the city, and of rabbis from Podhajce who died outside of their communities and merited to have fancy monuments with suitable inscriptions.

From among the first rabbis of the community of Podhajce, we must mention two, a father and son, who are mentioned in the books “Anshe Shem” and “Matzevet Kodesh”. These are the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Moshe and his son the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Leib. The following is the text of the monument on the grave of Rabbi Yehuda Leib in Lvov.

“Yehuda was faithful to G-d and the holy nation, he was a leader and Gaon, the holy candelabrum, expert in the recesses of Torah in its revealed and hidden{14} forms, he toiled in Torah day and night, and was the head of Yeshiva here, and the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Podhajce, our rabbi Rabbi Yehuda Leib the son of the great rabbi Rabbi Moshe who was also the head of the rabbinical court of Podhajce, who spread Torah in Israel, toiled in Torah, and made his nights like days, and enlightened the eyes of Israel, taught the nation of G-d how to walk in the ways of Torah, and taught many students who were great in Torah and who drank of his waters. In the merit of this may his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life. He died on the 11th of Cheshvan 5473”[13].

Rabbi Binyamin Aharon (the son of Rabbi Avraham) Solnik, was of the greats of the wise men of Poland in the 5300s, an outstanding student of the Rema and Maharshal, and the friend of Rabbi Yehoshua Falk (the Sema), Rabbi Mordechai Yaffa (the Levush) and the Maharam of Lublin. He served in the rabbinate in Podhajce and other places. He was thought to be one of the outstanding scholars of the generation, and all of his decisions and teachings were accepted by the people of his generation with great respect. He was the author of the book “Masaat Binyamin” (Krakow, 5393) that includes 112 questions and answers that he responded to those who asked him about Halachic matters. He also authored a book on the Chalitza ceremony{15}, and a book on the setting of the yearly calendar, neither of which still exists. He occupied the rabbinical seat of Podhajce for approximately forty years, from the year 5340 to 5380 (1580-1620), and was a member of the Council of the Four Lands. He died after he had reached 90 years of age, in the year 5380 (1620).

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One can read about the author of the “Masaat Binyamin” and the place of his service in the words of the Gaon, the author of “Pnei Yehoshua”, in one of his responsa regarding the law of priestly impurity (that was printed in the responsa Maamar Mordechai by the Rabbi Maharam of Duesseldorf, section 56). In his words, he mentioned three great Gaonim who were Cohanim and who lived in the area of Lvov and its region, including the Gaon the author of Masaat Binyamin. The following are his words there: “It is clear that in the community of Lvov there are very great people, writers such as in our community… including the author of Masaat Binyamin.” The author of Klilat Yofi (Krakow 5648) continues by touching on only main points about the aforementioned Gaon, as follows: “Indeed, it is already known that the Gaon Rabbi Aharon the son of Rabbi Avraham Solnik, the author of the Masaat Binyamin responsa book, was one of the great rabbinical decisors of that time, from whose waters we drink. Later Gaonim rely on his precious and honorable book with regard to practical Halacha. The Gaon was a student of three pillars of the world: The Rama, the Maharshal, and the Maharash the son of Rabbi Yehuda who was called by the name Maharash the Second. He had two grown sons and one daughter. His first son was the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov, the author of the book Nachalat Yaakov on Rashi's commentary of the Torah. He is also mentioned many times in the responsa of his father the Gaon, and he also had a correspondence of questions and answers with the Gaon, the author of Meginei Shlomo (the Responsa book Pnei Yehoshua part 2, section 67). His second son was the Gaon Rabbi Avraham who was an omen for his generation, and whose splendor and Torah light shone first on Tarnopol. Later, he was the head of the rabbinical court and a Yeshiva head in Brisk of Lithuania{16}. His daughter Leah was married to the Gaon rabbi Menachem Mann, the student of the Gaon Moshe Ish Chai, the head of the rabbinical court of Presmisla, the author of the book Mateh Moshe. As well, the children and grandchildren of the author of Masaat Binyamin were all great and mighty men of Torah, including the Gaon Rabbi Leib, the Yeshiva head and author of the Shaagat Aryeh responsa book, and the Gaon Rabbi Liber Charif, a Yeshiva head in the community of Krakow. Even during his younger days, the author of Masaat Binyamin was one of the great rabbis of Krakow, still during the life of the Rema and also after his death. Later, he set up his Yeshiva and study hall in the state of Silesia, and from there he expressed his questions and doubts to the Gaon the author of Sheerit Yosef of Krakow. He then returned to the State of Poland and set up his residence in the community of Podhajce, where he served as the head of the rabbinical court and the head of the Yeshiva, as is described in his book in several places. There he reposes in honor.[14]

After the death of the author of Masaat Binyamin, his eldest son, the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov, the author of Nachalat Yaakov (a commentary on Rashi's commentary on the Torah), ascended to the rabbinical seat of Podhajce. According to his words in the introduction to his book, he did not leave a son after him to take his place in the rabbinate of Podhajce, so we do not know the period of his rabbinical service in Podhajce.[15]

According to a eulogy that is found in one of the books that is attributed to the Rabbi Y. of Belzec, it is stated that a rabbi by the name of Rabbi David served in the 5300s in Podhajce. He died in the year 5393. No other details remain of his rabbinical or private life.

One source in our book mentions the name of a great rabbi who served in Podhajce. His words are as follows: “At the Jazelowicz fair the following agreed upon this warning: the great luminaries, the great Rabbi Mordechai, the head of the rabbinical court and Yeshiva, head of the community of Podhajce and the community of Rzeszow, and one other rabbi, and this matter took place in the year 5440.” In another place, it is stated that to replace the well-known Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Kaidanower, the rabbi of Krakow who died in Chmielnik during his travels on the 12th of Tammuz 5436, they appointed in Rzeszow, Rabbi Mordechai from his place of residence in the community of Podhajce, and he became one of the great rabbis of his generation.[16]

The eldest son of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shabtai Katz (the Shach){17}, Rabbi Moshe, served as a rabbi in Podhajce. The city was conquered by the Turkish army during the time of his tenure, and Rabbi Moshe succeeded in evading the Turkish captivity, as he related in the introduction to the two books of his father that were passed to him as an inheritance, that is Nekudat Hakesef and Takfu Kohen that he published in Frankfurt am Main in the year 5437 (1677). In his introduction, he also tells a little bit about the city of his tenure, Podhajce, as follows: “Time has passed, and I have not been able to fulfil my obligation as I had thought, for the yoke of my Yeshiva has been weighing upon me, and my place of residence is the community of Podhajce, a joyous city, a city with everything in it, the Torah of G-d is in its midst, a faithful and praiseworthy community, from which go forth people of knowledge and wisdom; during the war with the Turks, they went into captivity without mercy or grace, and they have become a proverb and a byword, and the G-d of most high saved me, and I went to Mount Morim the inheritance of my fathers, and when I wished to dwell in peace I found no peace and quiet, and the tribulation of he who gains more knowledge gains more anguish caught up with me, for fire was sent from above and the entire community was burnt with the blink of an eye.”

The rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Moshe Katzenelenbogen, who occupied the rabbinical seat in Podhajce for some time, was also of great lineage. He was the son of Rabbi Shaul Katzav (a shortened form of the longer name Katzenelenbogen), a descendent of the prince Shaul Wohl and the Gaon the author of Masaat Binyamin. After various libels and tribulations, he went to serve in the rabbinate in Anshbach, Bavaria, where he reposes in honor. Rabbi Moshe's brother-in—law, Rabbi Zecharia Mendel, was a native of Podhajce. I will write about him specially.

Rabbi Zecharia Mendel (the son of Aryeh Leib) was a native of Podhajce. He was a scion of the Maharshal and Rema. He studied Torah from Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua, the author of Pnei Yehoshua. The Jews of Podhajce followed after him, for they took honor in his honor. He served as the rabbi of Frankfurt auf Oder for the final decades of his life, where he published his books “Menorat Zecharia” (5536) – novellae on tractate Shabbat and sermons on the Sabbath and festivals, “Zecharia Meshalem” (5539) – novellae on tractates of Talmud, 'Zecharia Hamevin” (5551) – on foundations of philosophy and Kabbalah. He died in Frankfurt auf Oder on the 24th of Kislev 5552 (1791). The following is engraved upon his monument: “The enlightened rabbi, great Gaon, G-dly Kabbalist, etc., who never left the tent of Torah, and taught many students in his youth and old age.”[17]

Two rabbis by the name of Reb Moshe served one after the other in Podhajce.

[Page 29]

After the aforementioned Rabbi Moshe Katzenelenbogen, Rabbi Moshe the son of Menachem Nachum was chosen as rabbi of the city. He signed an approbation of the book “Birchat Yaakov” on the Choshen Mishpat section of the Code of Jewish Law{18} on Elul 2, 5478 as follows: “Signed by Moshe, the son of our rabbi and teacher Rabbi Menachem Nachum of Premisla, who graces the holy community of Podhajce”. This is almost the only detail that remains about him for us.

Rabbi Yisachar Dovrish, the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Podhajce, was one of the geniuses of the generation already during the life of his father Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua of Krakow and Lvov, the author of the Pnei Yehoshua book of novellae. In 5501, he issued an approbation on an edition of the Choshen Mishpat section of the Code of Jewish Law with three commentators, the Sema, the Shach and the Taz. One of his responsa became known for its sharpness and expertise in the responsa book of Rabbi Chaim Cohen Rappaport. At the end of the answer, he signs as follows, “On Sunday, 24th Tishrei 5504, signed by the holy Yisachar Dov the son of the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Yoshia, May G-d preserve him.” However, he did not live long. As he was passing through the city of Berlin, he became ill and died on the 22nd of Cheshvan 5505[18]. He left behind a son who was a great scholar, the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Rozanish, the author of the book Tesha Shitot (Lvov, 5560).

No less than the aforementioned rabbis of Podhajce was the lineage of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Meshulam Zalman the son of Rabbi Yaakov Emden, one of the important scholars of the Ashkenazic world in the 18th century, the son of Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi the Chacham Tzvi, who was known especially for the controversy that he stirred up against Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz. This controversy spread like burning fire throughout the Jewish people in all of their places of habitation, and involved not only scholars, but also the masses of Jews. It divided the nation into two camps, and there was no end to the desecration of the name of Heaven and the name of Israel caused by this controversy. It was the causes of the decline of the honor of Torah in the Ashkenazic world.

Apparently, Rabbi Meshulam Zalman served as the head of the rabbinical court of Podhajce thanks to the connections of his zealous father with the city administrators. From there, he wrote a letter (in the year 5517 –1756) to his father that was published in the book “Edut Leyaakov”, that starts with the heading: “A letter of his son the peaceful{19} rabbi and Gaon Meshulam Zalman the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Podhajce.” From there he was accepted to be the head of the rabbinical court of the Hamburger Synagogue in the large city of London, from where he gave an approbation to various books, including the book “Kiseh Melech” in the year 5529 (1769). Likewise, we find a letter of friendship from him to his father the Gaon Yaabetz{20} about the miracle of Mikliva[19].

Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the author of “Lev Aryeh” was a rabbi and preacher in Brody. Earlier, he was a rabbi in Podhajce. He excelled in his “Pleasant sermons and sharp words that are sweeter than honey and honeycombs”. These were published by his grandson Rabbi Yaakov Levi in the name of “Sefer Nachalei Dvash”. He died on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar 5578 (1818)[20].

One can also ascribe importance to the rabbis of later generations in Podhajce for various reasons, regarding their genealogy, for they were related to families of rabbis and Gaonim known throughout Poland and its neighboring countries, and also on their own account, due to their great knowledge and valuing of Torah. The equivalent factor among them is that all of them knew how to hold Podhajce, the city of their tenure, in esteem as an honorable city for Polish Jewry, and they caused the city to be known to the many.


Note in this section, Translator's Footnotes are designated by { } brackets. The footnotes designated by [ ] brackets are the text footnotes.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From among these places, the only ones that I found in JewishGen Shtetlseeker near Podhajce are Zagaytsy and Syulka. Return
  2. A “Slicha” (literally “apology” is a poetical liturgical prayer recited on fast days and days of penitence. Return
  3. I am not sure of the intent of this expression, but I believe that it meant that he was chastised. Return
  4. “G-d full of compassion” – the introductory phrase of the most common of memorial prayers. Return
  5. The difference in Hebrew is only whether or not the one word is split into two. In this and the previous emendment, I believe that it is either Garland or Geshuri who is emending the text. Return
  6. From this point, some of the poetry is paraphrased by the translator, due to its obscurity. Return
  7. A Biblical tribe equated with the Arabs. Return
  8. A euphemism for the tools of prayer. See Rashi on Genesis 48:22. Return
  9. Generally known by his secular name of Leopold Zunz. Return
  10. Gezerot Tach VeTat (the Decrees or Visitations of 5408-5409 / 1648-1649) refers to the tribulations endured by the Jewish people during the Cossack uprising of Bogdan Chmielnitzki. Return
  11. Reisin is a term that means “White Russia”, but it is not necessarily geographically equivalent with the modern sense of the term (i.e. the modern republic of Belarus). Return
  12. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word used for this 'tribulation' or 'destruction' is 'shoah', here and in several other places in the text – the term used in Hebrew to denote the Holocaust. This should give some indication of the cataclysmic severity of the Chmielnitzki devastation upon Eastern European Jewry. Return
  13. I.e. Mystical or Kabbalistic. Return
  14. Chalitza is the ceremony of releasing a woman from the need for Levirate marriage. Return
  15. Brest-Litovsk. Return
  16. The Shach is the acronym for one of the most prominent commentators of the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch). Return
  17. The section of the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) dealing with jurisprudence. Return
  18. A play on the word 'Meshulam'. Return
  19. The acronym of Yaakov the son of Tzvi. Return

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