By A. Ben-Ezra
One of the first rabbis in Antopol was R. Shemuel of Pinsk. He was a descendent of Samuel Eliezer ben Judah ha-Levi Edels), a rabbinical dynasty going back to Maharsha. His father was Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the son of R. Klonimus, the rabbi of Pinsk.
R. Shemuel was one of the best pupils of R. Refael ha-Kohen (R. Refael, the elder), president of the rabbinical court of Pinsk. When he was nineteen, R. Shemuel received rabbinical ordination from R. Refael ha-Kohen. He became rabbi of Antopol at the age of twenty. We don't know how long he was a rabbi in the city. People say that he was involved in a difficult conflict and, as a result of this, had to leave Antopol.
R. Shemuel went to serve as rabbi in Karlin, near Pinsk. He was the first rabbi in Karlin and died there about 1821 (581). He was well versed in Jewish law. His name was mentioned as the rabbi, luminary, great, familiar and analytical, light of the Exile, famous in his generation.
Among the writings of R. Shemuel are novellas on Talmud, response, and legends about the weekly readings of the Pentateuch in synagogue. It seems that he had an inclination to mysticism and Hasidism. He gave his agreement to print the Zohar by the Hasidic brothers Shapira, in Slavuta.
One of the descendants of R. Shemuel was also famous. He was the writer in the Enlightenment generation, Mosheh Aharon Shtaskes.
By A. Ben-Ezra
Rabbi Mosheh Tsevi was the son of Rabbi Yisrael Rabinowitz, a descendent of a long line of famous rabbis. He was one of the great rabbis in our time, great in revealed law and Jewish mysticism. He was distinguished as a great mystic. R. Mosheh Tsevi was also a place to which the ordinary Jew turned. People would go to him to receive a blessing, amulet, or cure. He was also called, for example, together with R. Yaakov Lifshits of Minsk to confirm the signature in the complicated will of R. Shaul Karliner.
He himself did not write books. However, after his death, his son, R. Yehoshua Yaakov, published a pamphlet, Hidushe halakhot ve-agadot, in the name of his father. We are able to examine his knowledge through this small pamphlet. R. Mosheh Tsevi did not make use of hairsplitting arguments to show his knowledge of Talmud. He preferred to study Talmud, Maimonides, or Tosafot for their simple meaning.
He raised a new and scholarly idea to explain ke-felah ha-rimon rakatekh (Song of Songs 4.3: Thy temples are like a pomegranate split open). This is explained by our rabbis of blessed memory: The empty of learning among you are full of commandments like a pomegranate (Sanhedrin 37). This statement is really difficult and not easily understood. However, R. Mosheh Tsevi explained it differently. The numeric value of rimon, resh (200), mem (40), vav (F), and nun (50) is 296. Felah (half) of the numerical value of rimon is 148, the same as the numeral value of kemah, kof (100), mem (40), and xyz (8) This means that Jews who are not expert in Jewish law but despite their lack of knowledge give money for the living expenses (kemah meaning flour) to support Jewish religious scholars will receive half of the merit that the Jewish scholars earn in the world to come.
R. Mosheh Tsevi was rabbi both in Antopol and Horodets. When his son was twenty, he gave him the rabbinical post in Horodets and remained rabbi in Antopol until his death in 1862.
The quotation at the bottom of the page is from Deuteronomy 32:7: Ask thy father, and he will disclose unto thee, Thine elders, and they will tell thee.
R. Hirsh was born in 1850 to his father R. Akiva Rabinovits of Grodno. He was a great scholar. He devoted his whole life to the study of the Torah. His wife supported the family from a store she owned. R. Hirsh married at an early age, as was the custom in those days. He married the daughter of R. David Yosl, who taught Jewish elementary school in Antopol.
He was already appointed to be a rabbinical judge at the age of twenty by R. Pinchas Michael, who held him in great esteem. He was a person of wide horizons and also got for himself knowledge in secular subjects, including high mathematics.
People say that once R. Hirsh was pondering a difficult problem in geometry. He asked the known mathematician, R. Hayyim Zelig Slonimski in Warsaw to seek a solution to the problem. He got this answer from Warsaw: Slonimski of Warsaw does not know the answer to the problem of the person asking me, who I may address as the provincial Slonimski. From that time on, R. Hirsh became known for his mathematical knowledge. If a student had a difficult problem with math, he would ask R. Hirsh.
R. Hirsh was extremely knowledgeable in Hebrew and Russian. He read newspapers in both languages.
Despite his great knowledge of rabbinical literature and general sciences, R. Hirsh did not boast. It was just the opposite. The tall rabbi, straight in posture, with a black beard and burning eyes acted as a friend to everyone. He knew how to comfort a person in a time of trouble and give spiritual help to members of his community.
Once when he visited his son, R. Mordechai, a professor of Talmud in Kobrin, a fire broke out. R. Hirsh did not hesitate. He climbed together with his
son on a neighboring roof and helped to extinguish the fire.
R. Hirsh died in WWI. May his memory be blessed!
By P. Likht
Rabbi Mosheh Berman was born in 1864 in Razinai, Grodno province. His father, R. Feitel was a professor of Talmud there many years. R. Feitel and his wife died when their son Mosheh was a young child. He grew up in the house of a well-known woman, Hodeske, who was their relative. This pious woman greatly influenced the child in forming his character and personality. Moshe studied in the rabbinical seminary of Razinai and afterwards went to Volozhin and Minsk. Finally, he came to Antopol to study with R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory.
He married Breine-Henie, the granddaughter of R. Pinchas Mikhal of Shershev. He lived a little while in Kobrin. After the death of Pinchas Michael and following a famous dispute, he was rabbi together with R. Hersh as rabbis of the town. After the death of R. Hersh, he was the only rabbi.
R. Mosheh was a quiet person. He was deeply immersed in his studies and in taking care of the welfare of the community. He was a warm Zionist and a worldly person. He also tried his hand at business in partnership with R. Avraham-Mosheh, son of R. Pinchas Michael. However, his honest character did not allow him to make a profit. Frequently, he would return his profits to the customers. As a result, his business partnership was dissolved.
After WWI, his two sons, Dr. Feitel Berman and Mr. Pintshe Berman, who were already in the United States brought him there. In 1921, R. Mosheh was appointed rabbi of the synagogue Agudat Achim in Los Angeles. He was beloved within a short time by the orthodox Jews. He was appointed president of the orthodox rabbinical court in the city. He also proved himself here as a disciple of Hillel, the elder, in his understanding of the circumstances of the existence of Jews in the United States. He himself remained all day in his prayer shawl and phylacteries in the synagogue and studied until late at night. When he returned home, he would continue studying until late at night.
R. Mosheh exchanged letters with many rabbis in the United States and was respected by all who knew him. He served as rabbi ten years in Los Angeles until his death on 22 Heshvan, 691 (October 1930). A memorial was held for many years on the day of his death, even after the synagogue moved to a new location. A structure to serve as a meeting place was raised up over his grave, as was the custom in the former place of his birth. May his memory be blessed!
The sentence at the bottom is from Exodus 17:14, but it substitutes the word sons for Joshua: Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of your sons.
By A. Ben-Ezra
R. Mosheh was born in Volozhin in 1879 (639). He was still able to celebrate his bar mitsvah in the great rabbinical seminary of Volozhin before it was closed by the Czar in 1892. In 1902, he married Peshe, daughter of the famous rabbi of Pruzshene, the luminary R. Eliyahu Feinshtein.
He was invited in 1910 to be rabbi of Rasin. In WWI, he was rabbi in Kaslovits. In 1921, he arrived in Brisk. From there he went to Vilna. In Vilna, he was invited to be rabbi of Antopol after R. Mosheh Berman left for the United States. He went from Antopol to be professor of Talmud at the rabbinical seminary Tahkhemoni in Warsaw.
In 1929, he was invited to the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Rabbinical Seminary in New York. When he went there, pupils came to him from all over the world. He taught for twelve years there. Among his pupils, there were later famous rabbis and heads of rabbinical seminaries.
R. Mosheh was known for his simple explanations and true research. He would search deeply for explanations in the Talmud. He was a good teacher, who knew how to give easy explanations and also how to enliven the study of the texts.
R. Mosheh Soloveichik died in 701 (1941). His many pupils, who studied the Torah from him became orphans at his death. May his soul be bound in the bond of life!
This sentence comes from Numbers 24:5: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!
By A. Ben-Ezra
Rabbi Wulfson had an early tie to Antopol. He was the grandson of R. Hayyim Zalman, who was rabbi in town after the death of R. Pinchas Michael. R. Mosheh Wulfson's father was R. Mikhal Yanushker, the author of Sefat ha-yam in three volumes, and the son-in-law of R. Hayyim Zalman. Besides the family line, R. Mosheh was known as a great scholar. He served many years as rabbi and professor of Talmud in Shtutsin, near Lida.
When the rabbinical post became open in Antopol after R. Mosheh Soloveichik left and a search for his successor begun, R. Mosheh Wulfson immediately became a candidate and was invited for the Sabbath. That Sabbath, he gave a sermon that was both hairsplitting and folkloric and that took hold of the attention of both the scholarly and simple at the same time. When the Sabbath was over, there was a meeting in the house of Akiva Fishl Lifshits, who was one of the thirty-three Jews having the right to vote in town. They unanimously voted for R. Mosheh Wulfson.
R. Mosheh knew how to get along both with the civil authorities and gentiles in town, using his fluency in Russian and Polish. He was devoted to community and institutional matters. He also took it upon himself to supervise the Jewish elementary school that met in the old study hall. They taught there Bible, grammar, and Hebrew.
Sadly, however, R. Mosheh did not have a long tenure. R. Mosheh gave the eulogy for the martyrs in 1929, after the riots and the destruction of the rabbinical seminary and massacre of its students in Hebron. Immediately after the evening prayers when he returned home, he had a heart attack and died.
He left a wife, five daughters, and an only son. His eldest daughter, Shifrah, married Rabbi Walkin. He was the last rabbi in Antopol until the destruction of the town. The second eldest daughter, Mikhlah, married a ritual slaughterer in Kobrin and died there in the Holocaust. The third eldest daughter, Leah-tseh, married in Zabinkah and died there in the Holocaust. The daughter Hayyeleh married Rabbi Hayyim, son of R. Avigdor Sirota. The youngest daughter, Malkeleh, died in Antopol together with her mother and brother.
By Zalman Zeev Shahor
My father, the luminary, R. Yosef David, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, was rabbi and president of the rabbinical court in Antopol and afterwards in Semitits. He was born in Roznoi in Lithuania. His father was learned in the Torah and pious. His name was Rabbi Aleksander Ziskind Shahor, may the memory of the righteous be blessed. His mother was the righteous woman Reizl, daughter of the luminary, R. Zalman. He was rabbi
and president of the rabbinical court in Roznov. He held the rabbinical position in place of his father, the great luminary of that generation, Rabbi Elhanan of Borisov, may the memory of the righteous be blessed. The grandfather, R. Aleksander Ziskind, was the son of Rabbi Hayyim Leib Shahor of Mir. They used to call him R. Hayyim Leib, the wealthy man.
This is because he used-to carry out big business deals and would lend his money without interest to all needy. R. Hayyim Leib was the son-in-law of the known luminary R. David-L of Mir. He was one of the great rabbis of the city and one of the founders of the great rabbinical seminary of Mir.
My father, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, received his education in the rabbinical seminary of Volozhin and was devoted to Naphtali Zevi Judah Berlin, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, who loved him very much. When his father, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, held the rabbinical post in Antopol, Naphtali Zevi Judah Berlin used to visit him. The day of Berlin's visit was a holiday not only for Antopol but for all the surrounding towns. The luminaries of Torah from far and near would come to receive the visit of the rabbi of Israel.
After his marriage, my father, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, did not want to accept for himself the yoke of rabbinical office and chose to live from the work of his hands, from his warehouse. Many hours of the day, including the nights, he would study the Torah and his wife would lead the business. However, fate desired that my father would enlighten the skies of Lithuanian Jewry. So it happened that a fire broke out in town and my father's house and business burnt up. Thus, my father lost his property. At that time, the luminary and righteous man, Rabbi Pinchas Michael, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, died. He had been for years the president of the rabbinical court in Antopol. My father's friends brought him a letter of rabbinical appointment to the post in Antopol and urged him to take the post left vacant by Rabbi Pinchas Michael, may the memory of the righteous be blessed. He had no choice except to accept the offer and was accepted to be president of the rabbinical court in Antopol.
Rabbi Pinchas Michael had been famous not only as being great in Torah but also as a Tsadik and miracle worker. Many people used to rise early to his door to ask for his advice and to get a blessing from his mouth. When my father sat as rabbi in Antopol, people also came to him from all the surrounding area to ask his advice and to receive a blessing. My father tried to chase away those that came to him, saying that he was not a Tsadik or a miracle worker. However, it did not work. The bitter people did not stop coming to pour out their bitterness. Without choice, he was forced to answer their requests and give them advice until he got a reputation in all the area as a luminary, scholar, and doer of good deeds.
My father was both familiar and analytical in Jewish learning. About his familiarity, I heard from R. Yeshayah Grinberg, of blessed memory. (He was one of the veteran teachers of the elementary school Shaare Torah in Tel- Aviv-Yafo). He used to study Torah with my father, may the memory of the righteous be blessed. Once my father sat at home and studied. R Yeshayah Grinberg entered the library in which my father sat so that he could get a book to study. My father asked him: R. Yeshayah, which tractate do you need? He said to him: Such and such a tractate. And what tractate are you learning? Such and such a tractate. If so, said my father to him, you are on page so and so and you must look at page so and so in the second tractate. It was to such a degree that my father's familiarity with Jewish sources had reached, may the memory of the righteous be blessed.
My mother, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, told me that when he was still young, people would put a pin on the first page of any tractate and my father would recite by heart everything printed on that page. The luminary R. Meir Berlin used to say that my father was able to write by heart the
talmudic references called Mesoret ha-Shas without looking at any book. This is because my father was familiar with the Talmud and Codes, just like a Jew, with the Psalm beginning with Ashre (Happy are they).
My father, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, was gifted with an ability to explain that was exceptional. When he used to give the lesson to his students, they would be happy with his statements and feel as enlightened as if they were standing at Mt. Sinai. He loved every person of Israel as his own soul. Everyone in the city saw Father as their father and patron, a person who felt their pain and was prepared to help them in their time of need. His hand was open to all who sought it, and he would give to charity more than a fifth of his income. When a collection was arranged for an important matter, my father would be among the first to give. And, he would give the biggest contribution so that the rich people in town would not be able to get by with a small donation.
Thinking in a straightforward way was a firm foundation in my father's teaching. In his straightforward way, he would solve difficult problems when Torah judgments were brought to him. He would always try to study the problems in all their depth. The people who came for judgment were always amazed at their rabbi, who was comfortable in judging matters of commerce and economy just like one of the distinguished merchants. Those who came to him for judgment always left pleased, even if they lost their case because they saw the wisdom of the person judging. From the very judgment and the way it was formulated, they understood that they had made a mistake in their request and that the second person, who was judged innocent, was really right.
His nature as an exceptional judge went out in all the community. People came from near and far to his door for religious and civil judgments in complicated matters. Among the litigants appearing before him was R. Ozer Weizmann, the father of the first President of Israel, of blessed memory. He was a merchant in timber and from time to time had litigation with his partners and customers. Once there appeared before father, of blessed memory, three partners in a big deal. All of them were pious and honest. In addition to their business expertise, they were also familiar with bookkeeping. They asked my father to mediate their conflict. Father, after he had heard their arguments, requested that they bring to him their accounting books. The accountant brought the books and asked to give my father, of blessed memory, the explanations for the accounts. However, father said that that was not necessary. I will find what I want myself. After examining the books, he found the mistake in accounting. After fixing the accounting mistake, there was no more dispute. Everything was settled amicably. This decision was heard in the merchant circles. And all of them saw in this a Solomonic judgment.
My mother, of blessed memory, could not restrain herself this time and asked father how he could arrive at the conclusion that the reason for the dispute was just an accounting problem? My father said t o her: The matter is very simple. I saw before me all honest men. Not one of them wanted to benefit from any amount not belonging to him. If that is so, how could honest people like these arrive at such a sharp dispute? I came to the conclusion that an accounting mistake happened. After I carefully looked at the books, I found the mistake. Thus, I took the sting out of all the dispute.
The gentile population also heard of his reputation as a judge full of God's wisdom. A gentile who had a dispute with a Jew or with a fellow gentile would bring his case before my father, of blessed memory. This was done to such an extent that the civil judge, Sudvani Pristav, felt that the burden of judgment was greatly lightened on him. He began investigating why there was a drop in contending sides. As a result, he found out that the rabbi's reputation extended to the gentiles and that they brought before him their
conflicts. He wrote a letter to my father and asked for an interview. Father agreed and the judge visited him, of blessed memory, and left enthusiastically. Father, of blessed memory, used his friendship with the judge for the sake of the oppressed. This judge became in the course of time a friend of the Jews. There were many stories circulating among the inhabitants of the region of father's, of blessed memory, advice. These stories bordered on the miraculous.
Father served eleven years as rabbi of Antopol. Then, he was asked to become president of the rabbinical court in the town of Semitits, which was a big city and known in the rabbinical world. With the death of the elderly rabbi of Semitits, who was a Jewish luminary, the city was without a rabbi for many years. This was because of a disagreement among the sides in the city. When the communal heads of Semitits heard of the reputation of the rabbi of Antopol, they all agreed to make him, the luminary Yosef David, their rabbi and spiritual leader. A delegation of the leading people of the city traveled to Antopol to give father his rabbinical appointment. It was not easy for my father to leave Antopol and all the many friends that he had acquired there. However, the great people of the generation of that time insisted that he receive the position of rabbi in Semitits. When the communal leaders of Antopol heard that the community of Semitits gave their rabbi rabbinical appointment, the city became stirred. The communal leaders brought their arguments to the great rabbi, the luminary Hayyim Soloveichik of Brisk. The community of Semitits won the case. My father, of blessed memory, prepared to go to his new post. The people of Semitits were happy to welcome their rabbi, but the people of Antopol were in pain and worry.
When my father, of blessed memory, was going to leave Antopol, all the citizens-men, women, and children-gathered to take leave of their beloved rabbi. The gentiles also came to take leave of the great rabbi. A convoy of vehicles accompanied Father, and many people went on foot. All of them cried bitterly. It was difficult for them to leave him. When the news reached Semitits that the rabbi was close to town, all the people went out to welcome him with drums and musical instruments. The city of Semitits was happy.
My father, of blessed memory, came to Semitits the day before the Jewish New Year 660 (1900). The city was cloaked in double festivities for the High Holidays, the following holidays, and the honor of the new rabbi, who came to serve after many requests. The holiday of Tabernacles was very joyous in Semitits that year. Those still alive from that time tell a lot about the happiness of the festival. The happiness of the second night of the festival was greater than in previous years because of the entrance into office of the new rabbi. My father, of blessed memory, was a wonderful preacher, who always kept getting better. He would spill out pearls of the Torah and wisdom at all times. On the Sabbaths and the holidays the community would accompany the rabbi to his house. There would follow a well-prepared sanctification of the festival over wine. My father, of blessed memory, would talk about matters of the day. Since there were hasidim in Semitits, my father would also intertwine hasidic statements into his sermons. For the third meal ending the Sabbath, Jewish scholars would come. Then my father, of blessed memory, would mention statements about Jewish law and hairsplitting Torah studies. At the end of the Sabbath, the town's prominent and communal activists would come to take advice about how to handle communal matters. My father took care to fix all the communal buildings that had run down during the strong disagreements that preceded his appointment.
Semitits had my father for only six years. My father died in August 1906 (eighth of Elul in 666). Deep mourning came to all the near and far communities. People came from all over to his funeral. The great rabbis of the generation participated in the funeral and eulogized him. Among them were the luminary, Rabbi Naftali Tsevi Yehudah Berlin of Volozhin,
who was his uncle, and Rabbi Yehiel Mikhal Epshtein of Novohorodek, who was the author of a commentary on the Shulhan arukh, and also his uncle. Two of his former pupils were there. One was Rabbi Meir Berlin, the son of his brother, who in his final years lived in Tel Aviv. The other was Rabbi Yitshak Kosovski, who was the son of the uncle of the rabbi, Rabbi Shaul Kosovski-Shahor, and brother of his wife, our mother, Lifshah, may the memory of a righteous woman be blessed.
By A. Ben-Ezra
R. Yitshak Elhanan Walkin was born in 1900 to his father, the luminary R. Aharon Walkin, and his mother, the daughter of R. Ben-Tsiyon Sorotskin.
His unusual abilities were recognized already in his youth. When he was thirteen, he was accepted to the famous rabbinical seminary in Mir (under the leadership of the luminary R. Eliyahu Barukh Kamai and R. Yeruham Libowits). He studied there from 1913 until 1915 and afterwards studied in the rabbinical seminary of Radin. However, he continued to long for the rabbinical seminary of Mir. He endangered his life by crossing the border and reaching Poltavah, the place where it was newly established.
In addition to his devotion to his studies, he was devoted to his friends and helped them in difficult situations, especially at the time of the typhus epidemic. He finally got that also. When he was well, he returned to Lithuania. There he taught for a certain time in the elementary school of Kelm. When the rabbinical seminary of Mir returned to its usual place, he also returned to it.
When R. Mosheh Wulfson died, R. Yitshak Elhanan married his daughter Shifrah and also inherited the rabbinical post in Antopol. He was busy in communal service and was beloved by young and old. When the Second World War broke out and the Bolsheviks entered town, he did part of his work secretly. However, when the Nazis entered, R. Yitshak Elhanan died together with his community.
May God avenge their blood!
By Mosheh Falk
R. Binyamin, Professor of Talmud. He was a Jew good of appearance and excellent in character. He always walked with straight posture. When I knew him, he had a long white beard and a moustache, which was white from age and brown from smelling snuff. He was very humble and didn't interfere in any matters at home or outside of home. His only desire was to teach Torah to his students. Every three years he would complete the study of the whole series of talmudic tractates, studied daily. At the same time many of his day pupils continued to hear his nightly lessons on talmudic tractates.
R. Binyamin raised many generations of people studying Talmud and talmudic scholars in all the period of his happy life. Even his brother Aharon, who was older than him by 18 years, studied with him. Afterwards, he went to the rabbinical seminary in Volozhin. The known scholar R. Yenkel, husband of Beilah Hanah-kes, studied with him, as well as R. Aharon Asher Volinets, R. Yenkel Papah, R. Itshe, husband of Sarah Menyes, R. Leizer Yenkel, and others. They inherited from him their familiarity in the Torah and their devotion to its study. R. Binyamin was a Jew, who could hairsplit and who was familiar with all the treasures of Torah and its secrets.
I knew R. Binyamin and his family very well. They were our good neighbors. Our house was next to their house. When I first walked, my first visit was to their house. His wife, aunt Hayah, as she was called, acted to me like an aunt. And not only did she treat me as family but also all the family did. I knew the eldest son, R. Motel, only from his visits at home and
in our house. He lived after marriage in Kobrin.
However, the daughters, Malkah, Sarah Vitah and Mikhlah, were like sisters to me all the days of my childhood. Generally, all the family was friendly with our family, and especially with my brothers and sisters as the best of friends. They were like members of our household.
When I finished Jewish elementary school's first grade with R. Alter, in which I learned the Hebrew vowels, such as Komets Ah, and left it already knowing all the blessings by heart, I went to study in the revised Jewish elementary school of R. Leibush, who taught us in the house of R. Binyamin and Hayah, our neighbors. I felt myself at home with them as if I were their child. Hayah and the daughters treated me with love. They would honor me with all types of sweets and with all that I just wanted. I would visit their house during my free hours all of my childhood years. Until I studied with him in the rabbinical seminary, I knew R. Binyamin only from the Sabbaths and holidays when I visited their house frequently with my father. He would come to R. Binyamin to solve a talmudic section or question that he encountered in his many studies in many books, old and new, that were in our house.
It did not happen just one time in the late evening hours or during the intermediate days of the festival when R. Binyamin was a little free from his studies that he would stand near the numerous bookshelves in our house and browse and search and collect a bundle of books. Each time he would exchange them for others.
For R. Binyamin, the professor of Talmud, my rabbi, teacher, and best neighbor and all his family, I devote with appreciation and respect these lines to their memory.
By Rabbi Aharon Asher Volinets
I came to mention a special man among the inhabitants of Antopol. This man was excellent and distinguished in his qualities, generous and faithful with public matters and with the needs of everyone to fulfill their requests more than he was physically or financially capable of doing. He met everyone with a friendly greeting.
R. Yaakov Hayyim was a ritual slaughterer and circumciser. He was the son of Yisrael Zelig Kotlir, of blessed memory. He was the prayer leader and Torah reader, who had the best voice in the new study hall and afterwards in the walled study hall. On Sabbaths and holidays, and especially during the High Holidays during the additional prayers, he would always bring great joy in his prayers to all the assembled. About such an exalted man like this, it was said in the prayers of the prayer leader that he prayed with the prayers of an old man used to praying, and he had good looks and a big beard, and his voice was pleasant, and he found favor with people.
He was one of the thirty-three people who were elected with the signatures of all the people in town to decide in all communal decisions without complaint or any claim against them by the other people. He always went to the sessions to elect the rabbi in town and was the treasurer of the Jewish elementary school, in which he was active daily, and was the treasurer of the Society on Behalf of Visiting the Sick, which would pay for sick and poor people to visit doctors and get prescriptions. He worked hard to collect money for the poor to celebrate Passover. It could be said of him like it says in Ethics of the Fathers: All who find favor with people, God finds favor with them.
He died in May 1933 (17 of Sivan 693), may his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.
By Tsivyah Shneider
The house of my father, R. Mosheh Leizer, the ritual slaughterer, was in the winter evenings a meeting place for himself and his friends, who would meet two or three times a week to study the Torah.
The most senior among them was Mosheh Avraham-kes, a scholarly Jew, who in the past was a bookkeeper for a lumber merchant. He lived off of support from his children in the United States and had stopped working a long time ago. Therefore, he would come in first. He was like a member of our household, and while he was waiting for the other guests, he would look at the public library in the study hall of Meir Podot, where my father was treasurer. He would also help set up the talmudic volumes and prepare tea.
The second was R. Shelomoh Mikhal Wulfson. He was a small Jew, who was prematurely gray. However, his soft eyes were like those of a child. My father used to say about him that he was the greatest scholar among them. R. Shelomoh Mikhal was a flour merchant by profession, which is his wife ran the business and he helped her. Actually, he was only interested in his studies of the Torah. Therefore, he came early to our house in order be released from his daily routine.
Then, my father would come. His friends were used to his being late since they knew that he was very busy. I remember his appearance. He was tall and thin and had a hard look. However, he had a golden heart. We all knew that the reason for his hard appearance was that he was in weak health and worked hard both as a ritual slaughterer and as a merchant each day, and in the evenings he would study until late by himself and together with his friends.
Two additional friends would arrive. They were Mosheh Eliyahu, a teacher of the Talmud, and Meir Yosef, a teacher in the Jewish elementary school.
Both of them were scholars. However, they had a hard time earning a living. When they sat at the same table with my father, they would forget all the problems of earning a living and their eyes would shine and their hearts would be full of love deep in the study of the Torah. Sometimes one of them would break out in a tune while discussing a talmudic section. All of them would listen as if they were one person to the one speaking with respect and mutual admiration.
I remember one winter evening in the dining room. My father and his friends sat at the table near the oven warming the room. My friends and I sat near another table and prepared lessons in Russian and Hebrew. My mother, of blessed memory, was sewing ritually fit fringes for prayer shawls for poor children. My mother always had a good nature. However, when she looked at my father and heard his teaching, she certainly dreamed about the world to come awaiting her through her own merit and the merit of my father.
By Aryeh Shkolnik
R. Avraham Yehudah certainly was not born in Antopol. However, it is hard to describe Antopol without R. Avraham Yehudah. He was born in Grodno in the year 1857 and grew up in Brest- Litovsk. He came to our city of Antopol to study with R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory. The young fellow was known at once for his sharp brain in studying and also playing chess.
Many wanted him for a son-in-law. Finally, one of the good people in town, R. Hetskl, the brother-inlaw of Efrayim Lifshits, got him. R. Avraham Yehudah did not want to be maintained by the support of his father-in-law, as was the custom in those days. Therefore, he became an elementary school teacher. He taught ten years. However, the occupation dial not suit him. He had creative force. He liked to do a lot. Among the rest, he built a factory for lubricant for wagon wheels. He earned a living from this. At the same time, he continued his
religious studies and played chess.
One day the income tax people came and arrested him. He escaped and spent the night in one house until he was able to hide with Efrayim Stavski for some weeks. He was dressed up like a woman and fled to Brest-Litovsk and from there traveled to the United States. He dealt in lubricants in the United States and was also known as a Jewish religious person and a prize-winning chess player.
After WWI, he went to live in Tel Aviv, near his son, and died in December 1939 (Israel on 4 Kislev 699). May, his memory be blessed!
By Rabbi Aharon Asher Volinets
I have brought in my book Shemirat Shabat (Observing the Sabbath) that the Rabbi of Brisk, of blessed memory, once saw in the study hall that two people were carrying paper and writing people's names on it. To the question by the rabbi as to what this was for, they answered to him that they were making a list of people to study Mishnah. The rabbi rebuked them and said: What else shall you do? In a little while you will make a list for the Society of Sabbath Observers! Everyone is liable to study Mishnah or to hear the study of Mishnah, just as everyone is liable to observe the Sabbath. So why make a special society for this purpose? This is what the above-mentioned luminary said about the people of the town of Antopol.
Antopol did not have a Society of Sabbath Observers. This is because all the people from youth until aged kept the Sabbath. It did not have a Society of Students of Mishnah because everyone present in the study all heard lessons in Mishnah. It did not have a Society to Study En Yaakov. This is because everyone paid attention to the study of En Yaakov. It did not have a Society to Study Psalms. This is because everyone said Psalms daily and on Sabbath nights in the fourth hour in the winter and in the summer on the Sabbath in the third hour all gathered in the study halls to say Psalms publicly. After saying Psalms, they sat at the tables to study Mishnah, En Yaakov, and Talmud.
There was also not a Society of People Praying in our town. Everyone came daily to pray in the study halls, as it is written (Psalms 55): In the House of God, we go with feeling (Regesh in Hebrew, taken as an acronym B. (barad, hail), R. (Ruah, wind), G. (Geshem, rain), and Sh. (sheleg, snow). There was no difference between the Sabbath and festivals and the High Holidays. So, it went with other commandments, like the Festival of Sukkot in which the booths built were equal to the number of houses. And about them, the Biblical sentence says (Exodus 19) Israel encamped them facing the mountain. Encamped is written in the third person past singular, meaning that all of them encamped as one person facing the mountain on which the Torah was given.
By A. Ben-Ezra
He was born in Slonim to his father R. Yitshak in 1889. R. Mordekhai-Li of Slonim and also R. Hayyim of Brisk gave him rabbinical ordination.
R. Mosheh Binnburg of Smorgon was one of his rabbis. When he married Henyeh, daughter of R. Yaakov Hayyim the ritual slaughterer, he gave him as a marriage present a part of the ritual slaughtering in Antopol, and he was a ritual slaughterer in Antopol until he came to the United States in 1920. He functioned here as an examiner for kashrut in the Kraft Company. He died in 1945.
He became friendly with all the great rabbis in the United States. He exchanged letters, which included novella with R. Mosheh Soloveichik, R. Mosheh Razin (the author of some books) and other great people of the Jewish people. Among the rabbis, those people from Antopol who immigrated to the
United States recognized him as a lover of Torah and people.
May his memory be blessed.
By Shemual Varshah
Antopol was a town in the heart of Polesia on the railway line of Brisk in Lithuania to Pinsk. Some years after WWI when life returned to normal and new ideas were in town, the prominent residents and people learned in Torah, who were numerous in town, decided to fix up Jewish religious education. They wanted to give it the fitting image and form. They wanted to give it a basis and continue its existence. They also wanted to make it better. There was a question. Teachers were needed for Talmud, Rashi's commentary, and the Bible. The communal leaders appreciated what they had to do. They worked diligently with understanding and care.
They brought then to our town as chief rabbi, R. Shelomoh, of blessed memory. He was a former student of the rabbinical seminary of Volozhin. Some time afterwards they brought the luminary R. Yuzpa Davidovski (the author of Imre Yoself and president of the rabbinical court of Tchernowitz later). The educational institution established was a type of lower level rabbinical seminary. This was a lively institution, which promised a lot.
I knew in those days Yitshak from a distance. I frequently saw the pretty and tall boy among the youths who gave him great respect. However, I still did not have close contact with him. After some years in our young world, he already got a reputation for being the lion in the group in his class. When I was accepted to the classroom of R. Shelomoh, mentioned above, my father and acquaintances asked me with great interest: To which class have you been accepted? Perhaps to the class of Yitshak Lifshits? The class in which he learned was called by his name. He was its representative. When I was able to answer yes to this question, I felt happy. It was as if I had gone up in status that I was able to study together with him.
It was here that I met the acquaintance of the youth whose fame went from one end of town to the other. It is possible that the wonderful character of our rabbi was responsible for this. He was a gifted natural educator. If he found that someone had special talent, he always praised him. He would always bring this pupil's comments on the Talmud to the town rabbi. It was in Yitshak that the rabbi found someone to love. He became the crown of our class. The rabbi told us to learn from Yitshak: Look and respect someone like this. He became a symbol to us. Our eyes always had to observe him.
Afterwards, we already found in the class of R. Yuzpa the sense of being in a rabbinical seminary. There were some elderly people studying there. However, the class in which Yitshak Lifshits studied was well enough recognizable. The chief role fell to Yitshak. He was at the head in learning and leadership. The rabbi esteemed his value and related to him seriously and with respect above that given to the rest of us. When I summarize my impressions from that time, I don't wonder at all. On the contrary, why should an educator not single out for praise an exceptional student if he deserves it. He was really outstanding in his learning and action. It is clear. The incisive look of the educator saw in him one meant for greatness.
I am only astonished at one thing. Why did all of us at that time give him such admiration? It is natural among youths to compete and be jealous and the like. However, see this wonder. In relation to him, none of us had such feelings. We saw that he was distinguished from us in a real sense that had nothing to do with intellect. He was physically taller than us. Even if we ran after him, we could not catch up. We accepted his status as a law, which could not be changed. Yitshak was always the leader and first person. He was the best. Yitshak was always the only
one that each of us wanted to befriend and were able to do so. He was really the most exalted among us! It seemed to me that this characteristic view of him lasted all his brief life. On one hand, he was raised above all others. On the other hand, all others among his friends and acquaintances admired him.
In general, the way he grew up was exemplary. His development was defined and studied, in an orderly and measured pace. Every phase of his physical development was accompanied by his spiritual development. One completed the other. The developments matched one another. He steadily went up. Goodness and nobility were recognizable on his face. These reflected his inner life, his inner strength, decency, contributive qualities, and straight way of thinking. It did not happen just once that we were blinded by the manner of his excellent development. We really could not look after him.
This young plant was transplanted from Antopol to a good spot, the big rabbinical seminary in Kobrin. He was fourteen then. I remember that we still had not left for a rabbinical seminary. Then, suddenly we were surprised by the visit of a real rabbinical student from Kobrin. He had managed to ascend in a short time up the scale of Torah study and piety. Even our new teachers were amazed at him.
He daily grew by continuous study at the rabbinical seminary of Kobrin. The professors of Talmud immediately recognized his value and his excellent abilities for Torah and knowledge and related to him accordingly. He used to create novella with clear thought. He was already recognized as a type of clear thinker. In short, he stood out in every way. He belonged among rabbinical students. He won esteem, honor, and favor. Despite it all, he remained modest. He was somewhat quiet as before. He continued to be this way and we were bound to him by bonds of pure love.
The days passed into years. Yitshak already went to another rabbinical seminary, that of Kletsk. When we all met at intersession in our town, he again stood out. One could see a thread of grace and kindness about him. I would say that a natural grace was spread over him and came forth from him. In connection with this, I remember one fact from our distant childhood days. The game we played most often was war. We played this game as a response to the World War that had happened close to our growing up. We would choose an army and generals. We would anoint Yitshak to be king!
The years 693-695 were his last period in Kletsk. His childish softness had already left him. His character had fully formed. He was already grown up in character. His spiritual powers grew up and came forth. He was aware of what was happening inside and around him. We talked frequently about different problems.We were always happy to hear his clear thoughts about this and that.
He was very zealous for God. However, he felt his zeal more than he verbalized it. It was internal zealousness; it was spiritual, lit up by a truthful light at its base. It was true zealousness. He would not cover up for anyone, no matter who that person was, even if it were his friend. He would give a sharp rebuke when necessary. His noble soul could not stand any deviations.
He was somewhat quiet by nature. He didn't like to make noise. When the day came for him to go to Israel, he deliberately avoided party celebrations. However, against his will, a big crowd accompanied him to the train station. Among them were the members of our Society to Study Talmud. This is because in the brief time that he spent in his hometown before going to Israel, he studied and taught in this Society. The members of the Society accompanied their young rabbi to the train station out of gratitude. After greetings and saying goodbye, he went on the train. He looked at the gathered crowd with eyes that were aware, compassionate, and full of longing. Did we think that this was the last time we would see this noble soul? Did we think that we were leaving him forever? Oh! Who would think, who would guess?! May his soul be bound in the
bond of life.
By M. Falk
R. Aharon-Asher was born in 1879 (640) in the town of Antopol, the province of Grodno in White Russia to his father R. Avraham Volinets, of blessed memory, and to his mother Ms. Esther Libe, of blessed memory. He was an important branch on an important and splendid genealogical tree of people great in Torah and Hasidism from many generations. According to the breadth of his heart in Torah and piety, he was worthy of the rabbinate. However, he acted like his ancestors and chose to be a working person and an innocent man, who earned his livelihood from his own work even if it did not pay well and to have a rich table set with Torah and wisdom.
R. Aharon was devoted from his early childhood to studies in Jewish elementary school and rabbinical seminaries. At the age of 14, he finished all his studies in Talmud with R. Binyamin, the known professor of Talmud in town. From here on, he made the study of Torah his trade, and dealt especially in Codes and Response until he was worthy of ordination. However, as was said, he refused to make his knowledge of Torah a tool by which to earn a living. He also completed at that time his general studies and became a person of learning and one familiar with worldly matters.
R. Aharon was the elder son of nine children in the family. He had the burden of helping to support the family. Thus, he began to teach children in the village of Rusheve, near town. He also gave lessons to the rich people in town from the Lifshits family. When R. Aharon was of marriageable age, important families with people learned in Torah sought him for a groom. In 1899 (660), he married Tamar, daughter of the rabbinical luminary R. Eliezer of Turkan, the author of the books Divre Hakhamim Ve-Hidatam, Leket Kotsrim, and others. The young couple opened a store in town for household goods and writing instruments with their dowry. God let them have success and their business grew with factories and agents from Warsaw, Brisk, Pinsk, etc. This is because they all trusted R. Aharon-Asher and his wife, thanks to their personal honesty and their fair dealing. R. Aharon-Asher did also not stop from keeping the commandment of honoring his father and mother and participated in earning a living for his parents' children even though he already had seven children at that time.
It should be mentioned in praise of R. Aharon that when he was at the height of his success, he actually carried out the principle of half his time belonging to himself and half his time serving God and the community. Each evening when he was free from his commerce, he taught Mishnah to the public of people praying in the walled study hall. Especially on the Sabbaths, he devoted his time and day of rest to giving classes in En Yaakov in front of a community eager for his words of the Torah. He was equally devoted to matters of the community and its needs. He was the living spirit in the Jewish elementary school and in the Free Loan Society. He also acted as chairman of the cooperative bank. He did not spare any effort to make it easier for borrowers who could not pay back their loans.
In the years of 1928-1929, when the Polish government put pressure on the Jews to pay taxes and many storekeepers and craftsmen lost all they had, R. Aharon Asher began to think about the future and especially the future of his children. After much examination and thought, he decided to agree to the suggestion of his eldest son, Yaakov, who lived from 1922 in the United States, and R. Aharon traveled to the United States in 1930. He did not find his proper place in the new land in the beginning. However, after a short period of time, he arranged himself somehow and brought over his daughter, son-in-law, and remaining grandchildren.
After all his children arranged themselves at work and in businesses, the aging father did not have to worry about earning a living and he was able to sit peacefully in the study of Torah and worship. He poured out his broad knowledge and familiarity with the Torah into a series of books full of Torah content. He was able to put out these twelve books in the years in which he was free from earning a living in his old age: Porat Yosef (On Keeping the Sabbath); Osher avot (On Ethics of the Fathers); Tomer Aharon on the Tannaim (Scholars of the Mishnah); Imre Aharon on Prayers; Eshel Avraham on Akdamot (of the Liturgy of Shavuot); Imre Asher on the Synagogue; Likute Aharon on the Scroll of Ruth; Minhat Asher on the Giving of the Torah; Maamar Ester in Honor of the Sabbath; Osher Aharon on the Pentateuch; Likute Asher on the Book of Psalms; and Know What To Say Giving Answers To Questions Of Heretics and other articles.
I, the writer of these lines, received the manuscript of his last book and the money to publish it. The author, who was my friend and relative, asked me to arrange its publication in Israel. He devoted the income to the Free Loan Association for people originating from Antopol in Israel. However, when the book was being printed, the news came that R. Aharon Asher had died on the Sabbath, the 15th of Marheshvan 728 (October, 1967) in New York.
A noble figure of Torah and piety and an analytical and deeply knowledgeable, charitable and merciful man, he left in his death at a good old age his family, relatives, friends, and people from our town Antopol.
By Rabbi Aharon Asher Volinets
The walled study hall was built in 1886 (646). It was finished in the month of Elul 1888 (648). This was the date written above on the wall of the women's section. The chief treasurers, who faithfully built it day and night, were R. Yaakov Shemuel Stavski, of blessed memory, and R. Avraham, ritual slaughterer, of blessed memory. It was fit to write about them what it says in Psalms 132: I will not give sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord. The righteous R. Pinchas Michael, of blessed memory, sent a letter requesting funds to messengers, who brought it to all the surrounding towns so that money be collected to build the study hall and this cost a lot.
The form of the study hall, its character and height of its windows were like the synagogue in Kobrin. The walled study hall was built by the best craftsmen R. Barukh and R. Yosef, of blessed memory. They went to Kobrin with the treasurers to see the form of the synagogue and to fix and perfect the walled study hall according to this. Upon the successful completion, they celebrated the dedication of the study hall with the first penitential prayers of the year 1888 (648).
For the Sabbath prayers at the time of penitential prayers, they brought the cantor from the city of Horodets. At the end of the holy Sabbath, all the people of the city gathered to celebrate the dedication of the building. From donations collected then, they prepared the floor before the holiday. However, the study hall existed for a period of two years without the walls being whitewashed. Once there came to the city a famous rabbi and great speaker. All the people of the city gathered to hear him. When the speaker mounted the platform, he stood a few moments without saying anything. However, he looked at the bare walls from every side and every way possible. Then, he looked at the bare ceiling. Afterwards, he opened his mouth and said: Our scholars, of blessed memory, said in Baba Batra, leaf 60: When a person whitewashes his house, he should leave a little bare space [in remembrance of when the temple was destroyed]. And how much?'
R. Yosef said: The space of a square cubit.
R. Hisda said: And facing the entrance (as a memory to the destruction).
And what did the people of Antopol do? the speaker asked with a loud voice. They got together, decided, and said:Why should we make for ourselves a memory of the destruction in each walled house. Let us build a walled study hall and leave the whole structure without whitewash. This shall serve as a memory for the destruction for all the houses in the city.
His words made a big impression on all the listening assembly. They were all embarrassed, especially the wealthy, who lowered their heads. As is said: I have been ashamed and cannot raise my head for shame. Immediately after the sermon, a good sum was collected. The next day the craftsmen began to fix the walls and ceilings.
This study hall was always a place of Torah, prayer, and a Society to Study Talmud continually, at whose head was the luminary R. Yosef David Rushkin, of blessed memory. Afterwards, the head was R. Mosheh Zelig Olishentski, of blessed memory. The town had a Society for En Yaakov and a Society for Mishnah. The ones who gave the lessons were R. Shimon, son of Sarah, of blessed memory; R. Yosef Shemuel Rasils; and R. Bertshe Meir Feivils, of blessed memory. I, who write these lines, taught the Society for some years. There was also a Society for Night Study. At the beginning of the night, two men taught one chapter of Mishnah. At the end of the night, two other men taught the second chapter.
So it was that youths and old people studied there until WWI when the walled study hall was burnt together with the synagogue and all the study halls by the Russian Cossacks fleeing the city from the German army pursuing them. The only thing remaining of the walled study hall for two years was the walls. Then it was that some people went to the officer in charge of town and got from him a permit to fix the study hall. They took a permit to get timber from the forest to rebuild the walls.
Written in my book Shemirat Shabat
Once when I was a youth studying in the study hall, a guest came and took a book and sat at a table near me. He was good looking and elderly. I said hello to him and asked him from where he had come. He muttered a few words. I asked him if he wanted something to eat. He was silent. I thought that this was a poor and hungry person. I saw to it that he got something to eat and he ate. Afterwards, I got from prominent people a place for him to eat daily. Once, when I asked him about his former position in life, he told me his story as if it had happened to anot her person. I understood that he was talking about himself.
This man had been a rich merchant in a big city. Once when he fell asleep on a Friday night, he woke up. He thought about his life in general and especially that he desecrated the Sabbath. He took account of himself and decided from that day on that he would keep the Sabbath holy in all his personal doings and with all his wealth. When it was morning, he hurried to go to the study hall. Behold, Satan approached him in the form of a man who was one of his friends from the merchants in town. That man said to him, Let us travel quickly to a place where merchants are gathering and we will do business there. He went with him without telling him about his pure and holy thoughts, lest he be mocked by him. He went with him. They desecrated the Sabbath.
The man tried to keep the Sabbath several times. Each time, he stumbled with one of the people who were his acquaintances. What did the man do? He left his city and went to another, distant from his home. There he was able to keep the Sabbath day holy and to keep the Torah and its commandments all the days of his life without any disturbance.
We can explain by this a statement of our scholars, of blessed memory, in Kiddushin, leaf 40: Rabbi
Elai, the elder, said if a person sees that his evil inclination has overpowered him, let him go to a place where no one knows him and let him dress in black clothes and cover himself with black clothes, and he will do what he wants to do in his heart. And Tosofot explains: Walking distances and dressing in black break down the evil inclination and keep him from sinning. And, in the story above, we see a person whose evil inclination overcomes him. He wants to be a kosher and good Jew. However, he stumbles because of his acquaintances in his good path. Let him go to another city, where he is not known, and he will do what he wants to do in his heart to worship God by keeping the Sabbath and other commandments.
After some time, it was known to his rich sons in Moscow that the man was studying in the walled study house. They sent him good clothes and much money and rented a good apartment for him. There, they baked and cooked for him, and he lived some years in peace and honor. When he died, his sons came from Moscow, and they brought a pretty monument of marble with a good iron fence. They gave two hundred rubles to R. Perets Sofer to say kaddish all year round. And I thought of Psalms 37:
Mark the man of integrity, and behold the upright; for there is a future for the man of peace...
By Sh. Turninski
If we want to define culture according to what this term means then we certainly cannot compare the level of our contemporary culture to that of former time. This is especially true of the town of Antopol. There were broad cultural activities in these detailed fields:
Later the library was transferred to the house of Hayyim Zelig Postol. He had a building in his courtyard in which the family Vladovski lived. His daughter volunteered to maintain the library. One of the first members of the group, Seekers of Progress, was Abramtsik Feldshtein, who devoted himself for many years to this matter. The third station for the library was a corridor in the Tarbut school.
Then, speakers from different parties began to visit Antopol to draw in youth. A group of the Y.S.A.Y. (Jewish Socialist Workers' Youth) was formed. It was a type of rightwing Poale Tsiyon youth group. Its central committee was in Pinsk. Members were busy with reading books and analyzing them. Likewise, they put on plays. For example in 1925, they successfully put on the Dorfs-yung by Leon Kobrin. They also played sports. Soccer instruction was given by Yashah Lifshits, son of Binyamin Lifshits, who came from Odessa. The first playing field was in a poppy field. Afterwards, we rented a field in the garden of Goren. They prepared it for competition between groups from different cities, like Kobrin, Drohitsin, and others.
When the Germans left and the Poles entered, the school was transferred to the house of Mordechai Goldberg. Secular and religious studies went on at the same time. It is worthwhile to mention some of the teachers in this school: the son of Rabbi Hirsh Rabinovits, rabbi of the town, the teacher Leibush for the Bible, and the teacher known as the son-inlaw of the tile maker.
By M. Polak
R. Alter. My first teacher, who kept a Jewish elementary school in a small house bordering the old graveyard, was R. Alter. Every day R. Binyaminkah would come and take me on his shoulders and take me to the school of R. Alter, a distance of five houses from us. In the first lesson when R. Alter
taught us orally the vowel o, this kind man threw us each a copeck. In doing this, he made us like studying.When R. Binyaminkah took me back home, I would run by myself to the store of Sheinah Rivkah or to the kiosk of Sarah Vitah or to the house of R. Mosheh Eiziks to buy sweets or soda or ice cream.
R. Alter treated us as if we were infants and did not raise his strap except to frighten us. However, he taught us lovingly. When I finished two semesters with R. Alter, I already knew the entire alphabet and I even knew all the blessings by heart.
R. Leibush. After I finished studying in the elementary school of R. Alter, I transferred to the elementary school of R. Leibush, who had his school together with R. Binyamin, the Professor of Talmud, in the second house from us. I used to run to the school of R. Leibush and came always first so that I could receive my daily candy from his wife Hayah or her daughters. R. Leibush was a good teacher and taught us Hebrew and prayer. He also did not like to strike us with physical blows. He would only mutter some times in anger from beneath his moustache. We were really more afraid of his wife, who sometimes came to help him. Her hoarse voice would frighten us. The class was quiet when she was present.
R. Leibush would go out with us to walk during the summer in the garden owned by Goren near the ponds. There, we children would feel like fish in the water. He would take us on the thirty-third day of counting the Omer (between Passover and Pentecost) to the forest and tell us stories and get our attention by his loving attitude to us.
R. Avraham Hersh. We studied four semesters with R. Leibush and afterwards went to study with R. Avraham Hersh. His house was near Esther the baker. This was also near our house. I was also one of the first there every morning. We started to study Pentateuch with R. Avraham Hersh. He was also one of the best teachers. To be sure, striking us physical blows was sometimes part of his conduct towards us. However, he really had no strength. We children would take advantage of his weakness. There were some children who were more disorderly than usual. When one of them would go wild, then also the rest would join him. The rabbi would take revenge on us only one day in the week. It was on Friday when we began studying the weekly section of the Pentateuch. The rabbi's tremolo voice would hurt our hearing. We would feel the pain for many days. Right up to this day, if you see someone with long red ears, you will know that he studied with Avraham Hersh in Antopol.
We also began to study the other parts of the Bible with him. I was very interested in the Books of the Prophets and was considered among the best of his pupils. I also received help and encouragement from my brother Aharon. My father, who also took care in matters concerning my studies, was partially satisfied with my knowledge. My mother was in seventh heaven when she saw the minimal satisfaction of my father.
R. Yaakov Hayyim and Sarah Menyes. His house was between that of R. Menahem the baker and that of Yaakov Meir the cart driver. However, for me what was important was that it was very near to my poor beloved aunt.
R. Yaakov Hayyim was thought to be an excellent and good teacher. His wife Sarah Menyes was a beloved and good wife and used to receive us in a friendly manner and treat us to sweets and fruit out of her good heart. There was an entirely different spirit in this school. We heard and listened to what the teacher said willingly and respectfully. He began to teach us Talmud, Tractate Bava Kamma. Certainly, I was not interested in the beginning. However, after the teacher's lively explanation, and also in order to please my mother, I began to listen attentively and especially to grasp the unique explanations.
However, I was especially drawn to the Bible studies. I even knew the first chapters of Isaiah by heart. Generally, we did not act out wildly and make the teacher angry. We would get rid of our wild
nature outside on breaks. I would run with some of my best friends to my poor aunt, and every one of us would get a piece of candy. Sometimes we would run to Mosheh Mikhael's to see the calves and cows in their shed or to the stable of R. Yaakov Meir to see the horses and or to still some other interesting places for children our age.
With R. Yaakov Hayyim we were free from fear in class and had freedom of action outside. We studied four semesters with R. Yaakov Hayyim and finished two Tractates, Bava Kamma and Bava Metsia.
R. Avraham Zelig. His house was almost at the end of Zaniviyah Street close to the Christian graveyard. R. Avraham Zelig was considered to be among the best teachers. However, the children thought otherwise. He was always in an angry mood. Woe to him who got his angry look. Even though I was among the best students, I had a personally bitter experience that happened to me one morning when for some reason I was struck by the teacher. I took out my anger and reactions on the two baskets with eggs that the rabbi's wife had brought for Passover. Likewise, I took revenge on the glass utensils and windows. Afterwards, I ran home and went to the attic to be alone with my pain. Meanwhile, people came to tell my mother how I was slapped in the face. When she went to the class and saw the damage I caused, her eyes went dark. The teacher himself spoke to my mother and asked for her forgiveness for having struck me for no reason.
The whole family was stirred up. However, the most practical person was my poor aunt, who also told my sister Blumah in Kobrin. Blumah came the next day to take the teacher to justice with the authorities. However, people had already begun to intervene on behalf of my teacher. R. Yaakov Hayyim the ritual slaughterer, to whom the teacher was related, especially intervened on his behalf. There likewise intervened Rabbi Hersh and Rabbi Mosheh. Finally, it was decided that the teacher would not be taken to justice before the authorities. However, he would sign an agreement that he would no longer strike a child.
It is clear that I did not learn much more in the whole half a year I still went to the class of R. Avraham Zelig. However, from our point of view, we children had a good time. When I ended my studies with R. Avraham Zelig, I began to prepare for the examinations to enter the rabbinical seminary. After I succeeded In these examinations, I came to study in R. Binyamin's rabbinical seminary.
R. Binyamin, the Professor of Talmud. The rabbinical seminary was in a corner room of the big synagogue. The total number of students studying was 13. We became more serious in the rabbinical seminary. The teacher would recite to us the Talmud lesson, and afterwards we would study it by ourselves. In the course of our study, he would ask us questions and give explanations. We studied all day in the rabbinical seminary. The day included the evening hours. The most difficult day was Thursday in the afternoon when people came to examine us. The course of studies in the rabbinical seminary lasted three years. I finished completely the Tractates, Kidushin, Gitin, Shabat, Berakhot, and others.
In addition to the studies in the rabbinical seminary, I also had private lessons in Hebrew and the Bible with the teacher Yisrael Yitshak, the son-inlaw of R. Mosheh the doctor, mathematics with the teacher Mosheh Hersh, and even Russian with Mikhlah, the young daughter of our neighbor R. Binyamin.
Write this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the ears of your children (Exodus 17:14, substituting children for Joshua).
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