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History of the Kobrin Rabbinate {Cont.}


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The preacher Rabbi Betzalel blamed the atrocities on violations of the Sabbath, which was common among the caretakers of the taverns. (Jews managing the establishments for their Gentile absentee owners.) Especially in the Ukraine. He stated, “I am not complaining against everybody, since all the community is sacred, but a few, who mostly reside in the villages, who are righteous and help the poor concerning the Sabbath, do not observe it. They sell and buy on Shabbat and mingle with non-Jews and they learn all types of foreign habits from them. Even though they have non-Jewish workers who worked on Sabbath and they do not handle money, they are not careful enough in observing the Sabbath since they are supposed to forego all work on Shabbat whether it is theirs or their workers' or their beast's. My eyes witnessed this but I was unable to say anything and even the righteous among them who observed and honored the Shabbat sinned since their thoughts were preoccupied with work.”

These three articles by Rabbi Betzalel became very well known, not only at that time but were published over and over for many later generations. These books were reprinted, especially the book, “The Sacrifice of The Sabbath” in which he dealt with the sanctity of Shabbat and the consequences in cases where one did not observe Shabbat.

By the way, it is important to observe that about the destructions of the year 1638. Shmuel Feibush tells us in his book, “The Ninth of June.” In his words, “The enemy went from Pinsk to Kobrin and he killed almost all of the 200 inhabitants of the Jewish homes.”

At that time that Rabbi Betzalel the Kobriner became famous across the land and around the countryside. He was known as the magnificent, learned and just Rabbi. Meanwhile in Kobrin itself was a head Rabbi by the name of Arye Leib, the learned and outstanding Rabbi from Kobrin. He was also known as the Rabbi in the state of Lithuania. He was descended from the family of Binkvitzer and from the family of Gzatzek, may they rest in peace. This detail was known to us from the writings of his son, Rabbi Eliyahu, who wrote the book “The Letter of Elivahu,” which was published in the year 1705 in Hamburg, Germany. He mentions that his father passed away, may he rest in peace.

Close to that time in that era we find another author from Kobrin who excelled in religious poetry writing. He wrote a book titled “The New Arrangement,” which contains lamentations and penetential prayers for the supplement to the prayers for Yom Kippur. The book includes the deportations that took place in Tzizmir (Sandomir) in 1688 and the book.was published in Frankfurt on the Oder the following year, in 1689.


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We are especially privileged to mention the two lamentation prayers:

  1. “Aluf Batuach”, The Lord of Confidence, and
  2. “El Emunah”, God of Confidence, whose verses are written alphabetically.
A special booklet is annexed to them. The other slichot prayer starts with the “Vasepera Matzok Rauni”: “Set me free and I will tell you of the distress I saw.”

One of the native Kobriners was Eliyahu, the son of the Kobriner Maggid Rabbi Arye Leib mentioned above, who worked in Flogian in Zamot, Lithuania. That Rabbi Eliyahu wrote a book titled, “Eliyahu's Letter” (Hamburg, 1715). It's a wonderful work about the ethics of the fathers. This paper contains articles and commentaries about the “ethics of our fathers in order to open one's eyes and hearts to observe the greatness of the creator.”

At that time when Rabbi Eliyahu “the learned and the magnificent” wrote his paper, “He was a scholar young in years but mature in wisdom.” He was already obligated to wander in the countryside because of the outrageous war which took place in our country. (The reference is probably to the “North War” in the year 1700, which continued for some years, causing much suffering to the Jews of white Russia and the region of Kobrin. See the introduction of Rabbi Yosef Yakov to his book “Refeh Yosef” about the great suffering that he went through when he lived in a town not far from Kobrin.) “God meant well by giving us plague and hunger, but as I wandered the countryside in those horrible times, suffering, I looked up to God and wondered where help was going to come from.”

It seems that because of all this Rabbi Eliyahu left Kobrin and went to the north of Lithuania and settled in Plongian. “In this region of Kidan in the state of Zamot with his brother he settled in the midst of the Torah tent.” However, he did not find peace for his tired soul there either and he wrote, “Things happened and I wandered to the small state of Poland. I preached in some sacred communities and the Rabbis and their students liked me and they favored me with goods. May God repay them for that.”

We witnessed that the Rabbi loved his writing which was a first commentary on “The Ethics of the Fathers.” They found it interesting and concurred with what he wrote. They were reiterated at the sacred convention in Biaritshov at the meeting of the mighty leaders of the sacred people, officers of the L'vov leadership. Everyone praised the author who stayed and preached in their communities.


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From Poland he went as far as the harbor city of Hamburg, Germany. There he met a native of Zamot, the very famous Rabbi Yecheskel Katzenelenbogen, the author of “Knesset Yecheskel,” who previously had been the head of the Rabbinical court in Kidan in Zamot and knew him from those days, from the year 1712 where the author visited him in Kidan and gave his blessings to his book.

Flongian, the city where he resided, belonged to a region of Kidan, (a major city in Zamot). In Hamburg he was given a place to live as well as some money in order to be able to publish his work in the Hebrew publishing house in the year 1705. In the introduction to his book he thanks “those kind and wonderful rabbis of the sacred city of Hamburg.” In this article he also brings out some new ideas about the Torah, things he learned from his learned and sacred father, the Rabbi Arie Leib from Kobrin.

Over 235 years ago, Rabbi Akiva Bar Moshe Hacohen from Brisk was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin. In the year 1716, in the Hebrew month of Kislev, the Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yitzchak Yitzik passed through Kobrin. He used to reside in Pinsk. He was accompanied by his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Yitzik, our great Rabbi and teacher, may he rest in peace, with his essay titled, “Keren Chemed,” a Beautiful Vineyard, which contains wonderful sermons about all the weekly portions from the Torah (it was printed in Diharenport in the year 1720) and he was given the blessing for that book by his father in law, the great luminary, the rabbi and the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin, the sacred Akiva Bar Moshe HaCohen from Brisk. Brisk was located near Kobrin.

Over 210 years ago Rabbi Nachum was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin. This fact is known from the history written by the famous Rabbi Yakov Krantz. He was also known as “the Maggid from Dubna.”

Rabbi Yakov Krantz was born in Zitel (region of Slonim) in the year 1740. His father was Rabbi Zev and his mother was the daughter of Rabbi Nachum, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin. We do not know any additional details about this Kobriner Rabbi.

From the book, “Fathers are Glory to Their Sons” (Warsaw, 1927) by A.L. Lipschitz, that contains the story of the distinguished Jewish families who were descendants of the pure stock of the Rabbi Shaul Wahal from Brisk in Lithuania, we learn about a certain rabbi by the name of Rabbi Eliyahu who resided in Kobrin and was the head of the Rabbinical court there. This Rabbi Eliyahu was the son-in-law of Rabbi Nachman, the head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk in Lithuania (previously Zamoshetz), who was related to the Sirkin family who were descendants of the pure stock of the genius Rabbi Yoel Sorkish, the new head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk in Lithuania, Krakow and other communities. The son-in-law of that Rabbi Eliyahu, the head of the Rabbinical court from Kobrin, was Rabbi Yakli, one of the important and close-knit members of the the family of the genius Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna, who was the son of Rabbi Leibale, the son-in-law of Kalman Pinsk, who was the son-in-law of the learned Rabbi Eliyahu.


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In 1809, the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin was Shlomo Baharav Abraham Mintz. This Rabbi gave his approval, on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Adar in the year 1809, to the book, “The Renovations of our Teacher and Rabbi Schiff,” which was edited, interpreted and published by Rabbi Mordechai Mardish from Paritzek, 1810. The approval of the book by the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin is found among the other approvals by the great ones of Poland, Galicia, Volin and Lithuania.

It seems that this is same Rabbi Shlomo, who became the head of the Rabbinical court of Slonim and gave his sanction to the book “The Wars of the Levites” on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Sivan in the year 1818, when he was already in Slonim. The book, “The Wars of the Levites” contains revisions of some trachtates of the Babylonian Talmud. The renowned and learned Rabbi Shimshon Yoel Halevi from the house of Shapira, the author of some books, interpreted and updated “The Wars of the Levites.” That book was printed by the Karitz Publishing House in 1823.

About the approval of the book by this Rabbi Shlomo it states: The head of the Rabbinical court of the sacred town Slonim, we find his sanction of Rabbi Shlomo's book “The Eternal Covenant” when he was already the head of the Rabbinical court of Slonim (Vilna) 1820. His sanction was referred to by Rabbi Yitzchak Ashkenazi (the brother of the righteous and the renowned Rabbi Moshe Levi from Avia). We find names of other famous luminaries of those days in Lithuania as for example, Rabbi Abraham Abeli, the head of the Rabbinical court of Vilna, the two brothers, Rabbi Shaul Katzenellenbogen from Vilna, Rabbi Arye Leib, the head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk from Lithuania, and Rabbi Moshe Zev, the author of “The View of the Testament” (whose father was the head of the Rabbinical court of Bialistock), head of the Rabbinical court of Tiktin. All of these approvals emphasize the importance of Rabbi Shlomo Mintz in the Rabbinical world, according to the words of the Rabbis and the author of “Eternal Estate” by Sh. Yaonin (which contains the markings of the cemetery of Warsaw).

The sons of Rabbi Shlomo Mintz, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin and Slonim, were: the Rabbi Neta, the head of the Rabbinical court of Tiktin, the Rabbi Abraham Lev, the head of the Rabbinical court of Pasvel of Lithuania, and Rabbi Yitzchak Tzvi, who was known as Rabbi Isaac Hirsch, a great Rabbi and Hassid, who died in the city of Warsaw on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, 1872.


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About a certain Rabbi head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin who lived approximately 150 years ago the great genius Rabbi Moshe Epshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin in the state of Lithuania, his great grandson Moshe Epshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Zamoshetz tells us in his introduction to his book “The House of Moshe” (about the book “Shulchan Aruch” by Aven Azer Zolkiv, 1848): the father of the author, Rabbi Moshe Epshtein, 'the genius Rabbi Shlomo, the head of the Rabbinical court of Lantashna', who died in 1837, was the son of the luminary Rabbi Yakov, may he rest in peace, who was the head of the Rabbinical court of the sacred city of Lamza, and that Rabbi Yakov is the son of the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, Rabbi Moshe, who was the son-in-law of the genius and sacred author of “Ner Tamid,” a book about the Kritote Trachtate, and was a grandson of the genius Rabbi Zalman Mirlish, the head of the Rabbinical court of the sacred city of Hamburg.

According to the book, “The Family Tree of our Fathers” (Krakow, 1803) by Shmuel Zinvil Kahana, who was the father of Rabbi Moshe Epshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, Rabbi Yakov HaLevi Epshtein, the Rabbi of Slotzek, who was the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Epshtein in Slotzek and the grandson of Rabbi Abraham Epshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Rovno in Volin. Regarding the origins of the Epshtein family, see the book, “Blessed Source” by Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein from Pinsk.

From the book, “Ohalei Shem,” The Tents of God, by Sh. N. Gottlieb from Pinsk from 1912, we know that the righteous Rabbi Shmarya was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin and Lubashev and his family name was Vingraten. This Rabbi Isaac was proclaimed as Rabbi of many communities in the region of Kobrin and Pinsk. He was from the origins of the great Rabbi Yechiel Michael from Zlatshevo and from the Rabbi Mordechai the great Rabbi from Naschitz. His son was the righteous Rabbi Abraham Aba Yosef the Rabbi of Dianevo and Lovashevo. The son of Abraham Yosef was Rabbi Yitzchak from Liobashev. And Rabbi Yitzchak Liobashev is the father of the righteous Rabbi Yakov Lev Liobashev.

His son held the place of the righteous Rabbi Arye Leib. Rabbi Yitzchak Aharon Vingraten lived in Kobrin after the First World War. (The Liobashev community was destroyed during the war.) He took care of the Kobrin community and he supervised the religious school there. Rabbi Yitzchak Aharon was the son-in-law of the righteous Rabbi Nachumke (Epshtein), the great Rabbi of Kobrin and Bialystock.


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Rabbi Shmarya, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin and Liobashev. He was the son of the righteous Abraham Aba Josef from Saraka (Besarabia). One of the great students of the preacher from Mazaritsh, the son of the Rabbi Shmarya, the preacher of Karetz, was also Rabbi Shmarya, the Kobriner son-in-law of Rabbi David Halevi, the preacher from Stefan, the son-in-law of the righteous Rabbi Michael from Zlatshov. His sons were Rabbi Yechiel Michael, the great Rabbi from Liobashev, may he rest in peace, in Yanov, (the son-in-law of the genius Chaim Bar Peretz HaCohen, the head of the Rabbinical court of Pinsk, who passed away in Safat in the year 1821) and Rabbi Abraham Aba Josef, the head of the Rabbinical court of Yanov. Abraham Aba was son of the sacred Rabbi Chaim Yitzchak, the head of the Rabbinical court of Yanova. Rabbi Yitzchak had a son who was the righteous Rabbi Yakov Leib from Liobashev and another son, Rabbi Aba, who took his place in Yanov.



The Kobriner Rabbi Nachumke

The righteous Rabbi Menachem Nachum from the family of Rabbi Yuda Leib Epshtein, was born on Pesach in 1846, in the town of Visaki, Lithuania (region of Brisk). He died on the first day of the Hebrew month of Av, 1918 in Bialystock. At first he was a Kotzkian Hassid and later became one of the righteous students of the righteous and great Rabbi of Slonim, Rabbi Abraham, the author of “The Fundamentals of Work.” He began to attend his classes when both resided in Kobrin where Rabbi Menachem Nachum lived after his marriage and became an adversary to the “righteous.”

After the death of Abraham in 1884, many of the Slonim righteous appointed Rabbi Nachum as their great Rabbi and they established a special religious school that continued to exist throughout all of Kobrin's Jewish history. In the year 1895 after the big fire in Kobrin, Rabbi Menachem Nachum went to Bialystock. He gathered a group of Hassidim there who were under his subordination and he excelled in his righteousness, his learning and his sacred work. Even the house owners “the opponents” in Bialystock admired him very much. They respected and accepted his advice and wisdom lovingly.

When he died all the townspeople attended his funeral. His descendants were:

  1. his son, the Rabbi Mordechai Yehuda from Lublin, who was the son-in-law of the righteous Rabbi Yakov Leiner from Eazbetzia, the author of “Beit Yakov,” The House of Jacob, who died on the 14th day of Tishrei in 1922,
  2. his daughter, Ester Leiba, the daughter of the great Rabbi Simcha Mendelbaum, related to the Rabbi Baruch Mendelbaum, one of the great Koralin Hassidim who went to live in Israel in 1874. Rabbi Simcha Mendelbaum was one of the best known Jewish communal


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In the book, “God and the Remainder,” by Rabbi Levi Grossman, Tel Aviv, 1943, we find details about the genealogy of the righteous workers in Jerusalem. He was one of the founders of the committee called “Help from God” for helping the needy. He also was one of the founders of the town (Moshav town) Kfar Saba. During the First World War he gave food and money to the needy from money that came from America.

Among his sons-in-law, one has to especially note the Rabbi Aharon Halevi Teitelbaum, a well known communal religious worker and one of the presidents of the war committee that was known for its work for the New York Yeshivas, and the Rabbi Rafael Hacohen Kook, the head of the Rabbinical court of Tzfat, who was the nephew of the famous and genius Rabbi Abraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook. The third child was Malka Dvora, the wife of the genius and righteous Rabbi Meir Shalom, a descendent of Dov Shatzadrovitzki, who served as a publisher and an official Rabbi in Bialystock for 30 years. From the year 1918 and thereafter he took the place of his father-in-law, Rabbi Nachumke, in the Rabbinical position. He was very learned in Talmud studies and for a few years he lectured on Gemara in the Beit Midrash in the religious school of the “Guiding People's Association” in Bialystock.

The famous Rabbi Meir Shalom, who was known as “The Bialistok Meirke,” each year visited the Hassidim of his father-in-law, Rabbi Nachumke, in Kobrin, the town in which he resided when he stood on the threshold of his father-in-law. Rabbi Meir passed away on the second day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, 1940, in Bialistok. He was given a funeral which was attended by many people. The fourth child was Miriam, the wife of the sacred Rabbi Yitzchak Aharon Vingraten from Lobashevo. His son Abraham Aba Vingraten became the head of the Rabbinical court of Lobashevo during the lifetime of his father, the grandson of the righteous Rabbi Menachem Nachum, the Rabbi Shmuel Shatzdrovitzki, related to Rabbi Meir Shalom, the great Rabbi of Bialistok and Kobrin now lives in Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Nachumke during his early days in Kobrin isolated himself in a room in an upper floor of one of the houses in the neighborhood called Zamuchovitz. He dealt with the visible and the invisible and studied tirelessly and wrote some wonderful revisions to the Torah. He was very knowledgeable in the “Poskim.” (A Rabbinical authority or scholar who arbitrates in disputes in Halachic questions, Halacha meaning the legal part of Jewish traditional literature.)

It is important to note that among the Hassidim of Rabbi Nachumke in Kobrin were two honorable Rabbis, Rabbi Alter Palivoski (a relative of the first Kobriner and great Rabbi Moshe), and Rabbi Shmuel Zavel Auerbach. The second was one of the teachers of Kobrin, an expert on arbitration according to the Torah laws and an administrator of the orthodox in the official religious community who was chosen in the year 1928.


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For the Hassidim of Rabbi Nachumke, there were special one-room schools, in Kobrin, Brisk, Bialistok, Horodok, Warsaw, and Lodz.

The Magid from Kamnitz, Rabbi Chaim Zondel Makabi, was born in a village next to Kobrin in the year 1856. In the book, “The Sayings of Life,” which was published in Tel Aviv in 1929, he tells the story of the Magid from Kamnitz. His parents were poor and simple folk, but honest and orthodox. Still in his childhood, Chaim Zondel was recognized as an unusual sensitive and clever boy. Nobody ever harmed him or did any wrong to him. Still in the “Cheder” when he saw that somebody wronged another person he would scold him. Even then he was known for his fight for honesty and decency and he already had the future characteristics of a “national preacher.” When he began to attend the cheder he already showed signs of a genius who devoted himself to the Torah. Even years later, when he started studying the Talmud, he brought out the beauty of the Tanach and the rest of the prophets.

Still in his youth, he behaved as a religious and older person. He prayed with fervor and with the enthusiasm of a Hassid. He also behaved as as if he experienced the injustices of the world and the bitter taste of life in the Diaspora. He used to recite the prayer “And He is Compassionate” while crying and with great sadness. The verses, “Have mercy God and do not let your people be put to shame,” or the verse, “Observe dear God how infuriated we are among the Goyim” he chanted in such a sad manner that the listeners shed tears from their eyes. The sensitive soul of Chaim Zondel was able to absorb the sorrow and sadness of the Jewish people. He used to feel that sorrow in his young innocent heart even though he did not have much experience in life and the word “Diaspora” was strange for him.

He loved listening to the Magidim, the preachers, when they visited Kobrin. He listened to every word that they said, respected the Magidim as if they were God and he admired their talents. He especially liked the modern preachers, who by using their sharp brains stimulated the belief and the security of their listeners. He also liked when the preachers spoke about the splendid past of the Hebrew people and future of the Jews, and when the Messiah and the redemption of Israel will come. While listening to all this, Chaim Zondel became very excited, even more than when listening to dry ethical statements.


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Until the age of 12 Chaim Zondel studied in the city of Kobrin and he excelled in his studies. Already then he was well versed in the Tanach and the Talmud, and he knew very well the order of the “Nezikim,” the fourth divisions of the Mishnah. Afterwards he moved to Brisk and continued his studies in the local Yeshiva. With much consistency he studied for three years there. He made a good name for himself as well in the new place. He became famous and especially became close to the Rabbis and the learned people in Brisk. When he reached the age of 16, he married the daughter of Rabbi Mordochai Belcher, the head of the very prominent family in Projani (region of Horodna). He was an influential person with the “Paritz,” a rich local estate owner. The rest of the story with reference to this national preacher Rabbi about his life and his work for “Chibatzion” among the Russian Jews, as well as a preacher in London in 1846, until the day of his death in 1916, the reader will find in the book mentioned above, which contains articles of interest. Here we just mentioned items from the era when he was educated in Kobrin which reflects the life of the Jews in Kobrin about 85 years ago.




The Genius and Righteous Rabbi Merim,

The Son of Rabbi Moshe Shavit
(The Grandson of The Great Rabbi From Padova)

Already at the age of 14 he was a Rabbi in Mishtit (in the region of Slonim) and then in Vishniovi. In the year 1849 he became a Rabbi in Shoventziani and later in Yakbeshtat in Korland (Latvia) and from 1817 in Kobrin.

He died while he was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin in 1874 on the 18th day in the Hebrew month of Heshvan in Kobrin and his place of rest is in Kobrin next to the grave of the great Kobriner Rabbi Moshe. His name and his memory remain engraved in the hearts of all the Kobriners. He will be remembered as a paragon and an example of a very decent person. Also, he will be remembered as the genius of his generation and very knowledgeable in the Talmud world. He was admired by all the segments of the community and especially because of his fondness for the Hassidic movement which was established in great numbers in Kobrin and was popular because of the righteous Rabbi Moshe.

According to the Hassidic tradition, Rabbi Merim hailed from the town the new Mosh (located near Barnovishti). He was the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Hadayan when the head of the Rabbinical court was Rabbi Yechiel who also gravitated toward the Hassidic movement and because of him the segment of the Hassidim, the Baal Shem Tov, was established and spread in that area. Rabbi Meir Merim was connected to the great Rabbi Moshe from Kobrin and after he passed away he visited the Rabbi Abraham from Slonim like most of the Kobrin Hassidim. Rabbi Meir Merim was the father-in-law of the great rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Abraham from Slonim.


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In the book, “Light of the Righteous,” the author, Chaim Klainman, from Brisk of Lithuania, recalls some stories about the great righteousness of Rabbi Meir Merim.

The author of the book calls him “the great genius, the splendid and the bright one, who with his wisdom lights the country and its people. He is humble and every rabbi and genius will attest and vouch for him. He wrote a wonderful book by the name Nir. In merciful kindness he helped the poor and the humble. The people of Kobrin will attest to his deep devotion to God.”

A story is told about him in the book titled “Nir.” He arranged the marriage of his young son with a close relative of the great Rabbi and teacher Rabbi Yitzchak from Nashchiz. The marriage contract was written at the home of the great Rabbi from Nashchiz. They wrote in the text “the genius and righteous” referring to the Rabbi Meir Merim. While the great Rabbi and teacher was reading the text in front of the invitees he reached the place where Rabbi Merim was mentioned and he said, “Yes, yes” and continued reading the marriage contract.

Rabbi Shub, the eldest of the Kobrin Rabbis in Jerusalem relates more details about Rabbi Meir Merim. Rabbi Meir Merim hated greediness and had modest requirements for himself. He resided on Ratner Street in a two room apartment barely furnished. When he became the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin he suggested that everyone pitch in enough equally to pay his salary so he would not be tempted to favor anybody above others.

When his book, “Nir,” was shown to Rabbi Izel Charif in Slonim, the Rabbi looked at it and commented, “I am capable of writing a book like this, but as far as being righteous as Rabbi Merim, that I cannot do.”

After the death of Rabbi Meir Merim, his chair in the Kobrin Rabbinate did not remain empty very long. Rabbi Elinka Schick the head of the Rabbinical court of the new Zager agreed to come to Kobrin to become the head of the Rabbinical court there. To make the Rabbi's family happy, it was arranged that his son, Aharon Yehoshua Shafit, who knew Russian reading.and conversing, would become the community Rabbi. When complications arose between him and the Russian authorities he went to live in Israel and settled in Tzfat. His father-in-law, a lawyer from Panovka, took his place and remained in this position until the First World War.

The book, “Evel Kaved” (“The Great Sorrow”), by Rabbi Shmuel, related to Rabbi Binyamin, the head of the Rabbinical court of Stviftzi and later a publisher in Jerusalem, contained lamentations about the death of the great Rabbi Merim from Kobrin, may he rest in peace.


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In the lamentation booklet by Rabbi Moshe Nechemia Kahana, the head of the “Etz Chaim Yeshiva” (“the tree of life”) in Jerusalem, he also notes the passing away of “the genius Rabbi Merim, may he rest in peace, the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin and who was known for his wisdom and righteousness.”

The son of Rabbi Meir Merim, Rabbi Aharon Yehoshua Shafit, was affiliated with the Slonim Hassidim and helped them always to influence the Jewish organizations to assign his people to various tasks. His second son, Betzalel Chaim Shafit, was. the head of the Rabbinical court of Viazim and published his father's book, “HaNir” (“The Light on Jerusalem”).

One has to note Rabbi Merim's nephew, his sister's son, the famous Rabbi Abraham Aharon Yudalevitch, who was born in Novhardok, and was the Rabbi in the towns Salov, Koznitza, Komstantinov, Torov, Kapolia, Manchester in England, and later in America in Wayne. In his youth he studied Torah with his uncle in Kobrin. He wrote “The House of a Father” about the four parts of the “Shulchan Aruch,” “Tapuche Zahav” (oranges), and more stories about other subjects of the Torah.

The famous professor and Talmudic scholar, Levi Ginzburg, in his introduction to his book, “Interpretations and Revisions of the Yerushalmi” (New York, 1901), writes about the three most important compositions that were written by the wise men of Lithuania in the course of the last 150 years: "The book, “The Talmud Haverushalmi,” is among the ones who brought the forgotten Torah to its stage of life. Without them we would have forgotten the Eretz Israeli Talmud, if not for them and the book, “Light on the Yerushalmi,” written by Rabbi Meir Merim, whose value is incredible also from the scientific point of view.”

Professor Levi Ginzburg writes about the “Nir” by Rabbi Merim from Kobrin, about the first three parts. It is an example to the reviewer of the book, “Briya.” And the hesitation of the author proves not only his humbleness but also his cleverness, and any attempts to correct or to review the book diminishes the quality of the book.

And Shaul Liberman in his introduction, “The Yerushalmi In Its Simplicity” writes about the book, “The Nir,” the following: “The interpretations of Rabbi Meir Merim, may he rest in peace, which until now were published only on the first three weekly portions from the Torah, are profound and are straight to the point. However, since his interpretations allow different meanings and the author does not point out which is the correct one, the book is difficult to comprehend.”


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The genius and righteous Rabbi Eliyau Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg was the head of the Rabbinical court of Amstivovi, Lona, Bretsin, the new Lida Zager, and in the end of his life, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, where he passed away in 1830. The family name Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg proves his prominence since the Yehuda Levi Ginsburg family traces its breeding from the father of the officer and Rabbi Shaul Vahal from Brisk (who the Agada tells us was a king of Poland for a day), who was the genius Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Katzelboigen. The story of his parents is told briefly by Rabbi Eliyau Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg who was known by all as “Rabbi Elinka.” In his introduction to his book titled “The Eye of Jacob” he writes about himself: “The son of the sacred Binyanmin Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg who was related to the righteous Arie Yehuda Leib, the head of the Rabbinical court of Vashlishok (a region of Vilna), Yom Tov Lipman Ginzburg, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Kobrin and Prozin, who was related to the famous genius Chanoch Hanich Ginzburg, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Shiklov.” He continues further, “And on my mother's side I hail from the grandson of the righteous convert Moshe Aharon Garden, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Vashilishok, the son in law of the righteous Rabbi Eliezer, the author of “The Fields Bush” (was a Rabbi in Kloiz, Karlin and one of the opponents of the Chassidut movement in Pinsk - Karlin, during the era of the Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, the Barditzhovek, while he was the head of the Rabbinical court of Pinsk), the grandson of a great luminary Rabbi known in the Torah wisdom.” In the introduction to his book he writes that when he was 12 weeks old he became an orphan. (His father and his close uncle died). Rabbi Pinchas was good to his family as well as to his adopted father, David Ben Pinchas from Blatrimetz (in the Vilna region) who had educated him (he was the grandson of the author of “The Seed of Jacob,” which deals with the book of “Tehilim”).

Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg married the daughter of Rabbi Jacob from Valkovisk, a community filled with learned people and great writers. Many famous people hailed from it. He said, “I grew up among very learned people and the one who brought me close to all the learned people was the late genius Rabbi Biniamin, who later became the head of the Rabbinical court of Horodna (and from there he moved to Lomza, the father of the luminary Rabbi Yehoshua Yehuda Leib Diskin, the head of the Rabbinical court of Lomza, Mozritesh, Shaklov, Kovna, and Brisk of Lithuania; at the end of his days he was the head of the Rabbinical court of Jerusalem and the leader of the luminary Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kovna and the leader of other luminaries as well.)” When he was a young lad, Rabbi Eliyou Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg was accepted as the head of the Rabbinical court in Amstivovi in the region of Volkovitz. Later was the head of the Rabbinical court in Luna (in the area of Grodna).


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Its leaders were famous and religiously observant. Later he moved to Dratshin, that famous city of the Jewish world, all of whose Rabbis were very famous throughout the world. (Also the famous Rabbi Eliyahu, when he wrote his life story, said: "When I was accepted as a Rabbi in the sacred city of Lida, the famous community with its learned and God-fearing people." As he grew old, he became the Rabbi of the sacred city of Zager in Zamot. The city was sacred and the people godfearing, loving, righteous, and learned.

About the coming of Rabbi Elinka Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg to New Zager we find correspondence in the paper “Hamaqid” from 1863 (45). He tells of the previous rabbi, Rabbi Tzemach Zaks, who acted as the head of the Rabbinical court for 40 years and who died. Now they accepted the new rabbi, the luminary genius and righteous Rabbi Eliyahu Yehuda Ginsburg from Lida. A special delegation came to him to Davins from Zager and handed him the Rabbinate position. Among them were the learned Rabbi Shimon Horovitz (who was appointed to be a rabbi later and a publisher in Liepzig, Germany. He also authored books about the Torah and the wisdom of Israel. He also wrote a book about the Machzor, the prayer book, named “Vitari.”)

The late Moshe Liyashiv hailed from the famous wise men of Zager, whose representative was Chaim Zev, and the great grandfather of the known Jewish author of the book, “The Owner of Thoughts.” He was born in Kovna. In 1889, Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg published his paper, “The Eye of Eliyahu,” which is an interpretation of the book, “The Eye of Jacob,” and had the privilege of being famous as the paper which is easily comprehended by anyone, regardless of his title or wisdom. This paper covers and answers questions on all aspects of the Torah.

We see his great modesty in his introduction. He states as follows: “My new interpretations really are based on what I saw in the Bavli (Babylonian) and in the Yerushalmi interpretation, etc.” What we see between the lines is a clarity of expression with a subtle simple summary of the subject. About the righteousness of Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg and his life based on the Torah we find proofs in the book, “Zmirot David,” the Songs of David, (Vilna, 1879) by the Rabbi Shlomo Bar Meir Meirovitz Dovager who knew Rabbi Eliyahu personally. Among other things he writes that the deceased was a righteouos luminary, was a great preacher, a wonderful host and studious. From a different source, we are made aware of his firmness against the “kidnappers” (during the era of the Cantonist). Although he took his life in his hands while behaving so bravely during the Cantonist (the kidnappers), he did not keep quiet. He called on everyone to speak against the cruel kidnappings of Jewish children who were inducted into the army and forced to become Christians.


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In the book, “The Source of Baruch,” authored by Rabbi Baruch Epstein from Pinsk, who also wrote the book, “Torah Tmima,” the Innocence of the Torah (Part 2 from the year 1883) we find an interesting story about Rabbi Elinka Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg, about the Cantonist. Once he called openly to lament the Cantonism situation and he based his speach on the book of Isaiah, chapter 42, which states, “I have called thee in righteousness to bring out the prisoners from the dungeons and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the Lord. That is my name.”

In 1874, Rabbi Eliyahuu Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg was installed as head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin. A notice about this was written in the paper, “Hamaqid,” from 1874 (22), with these words: “This serves to announce to everyone that the luminary Rabbi known throughout all Jewish communities, the learned and genius Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg, the author of the book, “Eliyahu's Eve,” and other important books, the head of the Rabbinical court of the new Zager, came to Kobrin to stay. Everyone unanimously chose him to become a Rabbi and a teacher and to fill the vacant position of the great Rabbi Merim, may he rest in peace, who was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin.” This position was filled suddenly by Rabbi Elinka, who was on a trip to Brisk in Lithuania for the purpose of selling his book, “Elivahu's Eye.” Since the position of chief Rabbi of Kobrin was vacant, he agreed to accept the position and became the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin. When they heard about it in Zagar, the honorable and rich tried to get him back by sending him a telegram, but he stayed in Kobrin. The reason for his accepting the position was not that Kobrin was a bigger town than Zager but because he found a God-fearing community in Kobrin more than in Zager, which was located near Korlandi. He was in Kobrin for only six months but his presence made a long lasting impression. He preached on Saturdays all the day until summer.

Everyone came to hear him. Rabbi Elinka was known not only for his righteousness but also for his cleverness and even the non-Jews came to him for his advice and his litigation. In any kind of litigation he imposed his firmness on the lowest and most powerful, and they stood humbled in his presence. The Kobrin community was not fortunate enough to have this distinguished person stay very long. Approximately six months after his arrival, while preaching the Hadaran, he suddenly fell and died. His death caused an uproar among the Jewish communities throughout the world and he was mourned everywhere. The luminary Rabbi Yehoshua Yehuda Leib Diskin, the head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk, came to his funeral and suggested that the Kobrin community hire his son in his place. The Kobrin community agreed that after the Shiva, the seven days of mourning, the son declined the position. Instead he agreed to accept the position of a righteous teacher only.


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Some people say that during the genius Rabbi Leib's stay in Kobrin the butchers of the city asked him to appeal and endorse the “Uma Hasrucha Ledofen,” which was approved by the previous Rabbi. His reply was that he will look into it but he never gave them a final reply. Because of that the law remained in its validity. Only when Rabbi Chaim Birlin became the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin he ordered to release them from the above-mentioned law, as was customary in Volozin from where he came. In Volozin the law was lifted by the genius and the author of the “Lion's Roar” while he was the community rabbi. The book, “Heavy Mourning,” by Rabbi Shmuel from the family of The Rabbi Binyanmin family, the head of the Rabbinical court of Stoifti, contains a eulogy on the genius and famous Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Yehuda Ginzburg, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Kobrin for his righteousness. Even the Hebrew papers dedicated the columns to writing about the death of this great man and especially the religous paper, “Halevanon,” (1874 to 1875). That paper went all out emphasizing the greatness of the man.

In addition, to his book, “Eliyahu's Eye,” his son Rabbi Pinchas Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg published a book called Derech Avot, (“Father's Way”), a new interpretation of the book, “Avot,” printed in Warsaw in 1884, which, like his previous books, became very famous. It was printed twice more in the course of the years. The second printing was in Philadelphia in the USA in 1895. It was published by his grandson, the author and Rabbi Chanoch, hailing from the family of Shmuel Yehuda Ginsburg and the very famous Rabbis in America, among them Rabbi Yachov Yosef Charif, the Rabbi of New York, Dov Ariea Ben Abraham Hacohen Lowental. The Rabbis in Philadelphia all gave their permission to print the book the second time. All were admirers of his. One has to emphasize that his custom was to teach the people a few chapters of the book, “Pirkei Avot,” every Saturday. Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Ginzburg also wrote an introduction for his father-in-law's (through a second marriage) book, “Ethics and Knowledge.” The book includes rules and explanations of the Book of Rambam. His father-in-law was a publisher in Vilna. The book was published in 1888. Rabbi Zalman Zeev hailed from the family of Rabbi Yechezkel Fiben.


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About Rabbi Eliyahu Shmuel Ginsburg and his revolt against the kidnappers we find in the book, “From Generation to Generation,” by M. Lipson, Book 2, from 1937. This story “is a saga about Rabbi Eliyahu, who happened to be in Horodna when he heard that the community house was filled with Jewish babies, the ones that were kidnapped to be converted and to be inducted to the army later on. He took an axe and went to the congregation square and started screaming loudly, 'Jews, our Brothers, Jews, our Brothers. Why are you silent? Come and let's save Jewish souls.' When people saw Rabbi Eliyahu with an axe in his hand, they ran immediately taking axes and following him. They gathered around the Jewish community, opened the doors and the bolt, and freed the children. At the same time, Rabbi Eliyahu gathered the community in the congregation and talked to the people and made them promise not to help or collaborate with the kidnappers.”

The son of Rabbi Eliyau, Rabbi Pinchas, declined the position his father held to become the head of the Rabbinical court of the community of Kobrin and was appointed as a publisher and a litigator. He remained in this position for the rest of his life, approximately 28 years. Rabbi Pinchas, who was known as Rabbi Pineli, was a righteous man. He was not interested in a Rabbinical career. He used to sit at the Beth Hamidrash Ratner in his steady place where he prayed and taught students and answered questions regarding religion and litigation. Despite his humbleness and refusal to involve himself in public affairs, this famous person was known as the generation's righteous Rabbi, not only in Kobrin, but throughout all the Jewish communities in Lithuania.

The famous author, Shmuel Yakov Yatzkin, published an obituary which honored Rabbi Pineli. He wrote, “Rabbi Pineli from Kobrin also passed away. He was a righteous man. The son of Rabbi Eliyahu from Zager who was the author of the “Eye of Eliyahu” and the “Eye of Jacob,” he was innocent and learned. He was not world wise or a very learned man, just a righteous one. He did not study the book “More Nevuchin,” nor was he a scholar. He studied the Torah because of Mitzvah, not for acquiring wisdom. He performed the Mitzvah, as the saying goes, 'And you will study the Torah day and night.' He was not even the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin but he was loved by everyone. He was not greedy. He lived humbly. The Rabbis that came after him were not as pure as he was. The quality of the Rabbis declined in our generation and in many instances ones who should have been at the top were at the bottom. Rabbi Pineli is one of a kind in his generation with his kindness, sacredness and purity.”

Rabbi Yomtov Lipman who was a Rabbi in Kovel was the son of the righteous Rabbi Pineli from Kobrin. Rabbi Yomtov Lipman studied in the Vilna Yeshiva and accepted the rabbinical graduation to become a rabbi from Rabbi Yacov Yazaf, a publisher in Vilna, and from Rabbi Hillel Livshitz, the head of the Rabbinical court of Sovlak and Lublin. He married the daughter of Rabbi Moshe Zakim, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kavel and took the place of his father-in-law in 1873 in that town.


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The son-in-law of Rabbi Pinchas from Kobrin was Rabbi Moshe Goldshmidt, the head of the Rabbinical courts of Kobrin, Kshirsek and later the head of the Rabbinical court of Kovel in Vollin. When he first resided in Kobrin he helped his father-in-law, Rabbi Pinchas Shmuel Yehuda Ginzberg regarding teaching and litigation in the city.

Rabbi Noach Chaim, who hailed from the family of Moshe Halevi Levin, was born in Kobrin in 1838. He was a diligent student and did well in his studies when he was young. He was a devoted reader. His father arranged his marriage to the daughter of Rabbi Moshe, the great teacher, a Rabbi from Kobrin. When Rabbi Meir Merim arrived to Kobrin in the year 1857 to become the head of the Rabbinical court he met Rabbi Noach Chaim and he made him his confidant and in the year 1870 he added him to the Rabbinical court as a publisher in a permanent position. Rabbi Noach Chaim authored a number of theological books. These books became famous and helpful in understanding the Torah throughout all of the Jewish communities.

His theological book was “Biniyan Yerushalaim,” “The Building of Jerusalem,” printed in 1874, which includes all the Hagadot, the legends of the “Yerushalmi Talmud,” which were not written in the book, “The Eye of Jacob.” The second book is called “The Scroll of Esther,” which includes an interpretation of “Yeshua Gadola,”(A Great Salvation). It includes a chapter of a very famous book, “The Forests of Honey,” by the genius Rabbi Yehonatan Ivshitz from the year 1864. The third book, “Megilat Yechusim,” is a geneology scroll which incudes the story of the great Rabbi and teacher from Prague (The Maharal). It details all the wonderful stories about this wonderful Rabbi. The fourth book was “Asara Maamarot,” Ten Articles. It tells of the book, “Maase Torah,” by the author and genius from Vilna. The fifth book, “Masechet Avot,” the Book of Fathers, which has a collection of the writing of the Bavli and Yerushalmi by the learned authors who passed away (Vilna, 1866, Warsaw, 1868).

This book was endorsed by the greatest rabbis of that generation, for instance, Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natanzon, the head of the Rabbinical court of L'vov, Rabbi Hirsh Orenshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk of Lithuania, Rabbi Betzalel Hacohen from Vilna, Rabbi Elizer Moshe, the head of the Rabbinical court of Pinsk, Rabbi David Mekutzek, Rabbi Yakov Ariea from Radzimin, Rabbi Yitzchak from Nashciz, Rabbi Gershon Hanich from Izbitzia, Rabbi Yacov David from Mashimov, Menachem Mendel from Varki, Rabbi Leib Ager from Lublin, Rabbi Asher from Stolin, and Rabbi Abraham from Slonim. One has to add that there is also the endorsement of the head of the Rabbinical court of the lower house from Kobrin, Rabbi Merim, from the year 1866. The author reminded us favorably of his good friend, the Rabbi, and Master Meir Merim, the head of the Rabbinical court of the sacred town of Kobrin, commented and lamented on the late learned rabbis, may they rest in peace.


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Commentary #1
The Brita Kinyan Torah - The External Mishha
The Teachings of the Tanaim

Outside of the Mishna book there is a chapter which is a guide and a study section to the learned ones. It explains the quality of the Torah through collections of the Shas, the Talmud, and the Midrash, the legends (Warsaw 1872). Brita, the external books outside of the Mishna, “Maase Torah,“ which pertains to our sacred Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, with commentaries by Rabbi Eliyahu from Vilna who collected thousands of legends from all writers, including from the ones in the the written law (the Bible), and from the oral law (the Talmud), from the book, “the Zohar,” and from numerous other sources. He edited and rearranged it alphabetically. His son Rabbi Abraham edits more of that type of material to the book, “Kneset Israel,” (the Assembly of Israel) (Warsaw, 1884-1888), which contains the story of King David according to the Talmud, the legends, the book of psalms, and various commentaries. “Derech Tzadikim” (The Righteous Way) is a book which deals with the well being of the kingdom, (Warsaw, 1888). Oneg Shabbat (The Enjoyment of Shabbat) is a collection of commentaries and legends concerning the Sabbath (Warsaw, 1895). Hoveret Hashabbat Hashniya (The Booklet of the Second Sabbath) (Warsaw, 1900) concerns itself with the quality of the Sabbath, written by the learned Abraham Eban Ezra. It includes an edict to the Warsaw community with reference to the observance of the Sabbath. In addition he wrote the book, “Lehavot Ash” (Towns of Fire), which contains the dimensions of the Torah and the different commentaries within the Bible's verses. “Or Yeraukot” (Green Light) deals with the story of the teacher Rabbi Akivah (who wrote it in the end of his days). In addition there is the book, “Refu'at Nefesh” (Mental Cure). One has to note that this Kobrin author and publisher published the book, “Yam Shel Shlomo”(The Sea of Shlomo), which contains the first four chapters of the Ketubot Tractate which till then were in an off hand written state.




Rabbi Shaul Katzenellenbogen (Epshtein)

Head of the Rabbinical Court in Kobrin

Rabbi Shaul was born in Vilna in the year 1828. His father was the famous Rabbi Meir Halevi from the family of Epshtein. He was raised in the town of Kopishak (a region of Kovna), the place where his father served as a Rabbi between the years 1833-1837.


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Later his father returned to Vilna, he was appointed as a rabbinical judge, a litigator and a publisher in the suburb by the name of Shnipishok and he was known till the end of his life as “a Rabbi Meir Shnipishker.” About the greatness in the Talmudic studies of this Rabbi Shnipishker we read in the book, “Ear Vilna” (The Town of Vilna), by the author, Noach Magid Shtinshnider. It is worth mentioning that the Epshtein-Halevi family is very noble. A number of famous geniuses are among them. Rabbi Shnipishker belonged to the Grodna town branch since he was the son of the grandson of the famous Rabbi Arie Leib Epshtein from Grodna, the author of the book, “Sefer Hapardes” (The Book of the Grove).

In Vilna the young Rabbi Shaul Katzenellenbogen mingled with the famous learned Rabbis. He was a diligent student and already then he was recognized as a young student with an incredible future. In the year 1845 he married the daughter of a noble man in Grodna. When the young Rabbi Shaul was preaching his first Talmudic preaching in front of great learned men, everyone was amazed by his knowledge of the Torah. Especially impressed was Rabbi Eliezer Landau. He kissed him on his head and told him before all those assembled there, “Blessed be the person who brought you up.”

In the year 1858 he was a grown-up and an excellent rabbi, also a righteous one. Rabbi Shaul was accepted as the head of the Rabbinical court in Kosoba (region of Slonim). When he left Grodna, those who studied Torah there said that the walls of the house of learning literally shed tears about his leaving them since he was a real Torah person. In addition to his learned ways, he was also loved by everyone since he was a very righteous man. He was 24 years old when he became the head of the Rabbinical court in Kosoba and led his community with talent, patience, kindness, and firmness. He accepted and befriended everyone. He was compassionate and helpful. Also he turned everyone to the Torah and the love of God. He became famous all over his community, including far away places, and not only because of his wisdom, but also because of his special personality. He had a special talent to impact people with his goodness. He was also aware of the world's affairs. It was no wonder that many communities wanted him to be the Rabbi. Among them Lochavitch, Krinak, and even the New Zager community (when Rabbi Elinka Shik left there to become the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin.)

Rabbi Shaul did not want to leave his post in Kosoba. He was very happy there. In 1882 Rabbi Shaul was honored with his post as the head Rabbi of Kobrin. He was chosen by both the Chassidim and by the Opponents as well. When the Kosoba community found out that their Rabbi has a great opportunity to become the head Rabbi of Kobrin, they begged him not to leave them.


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In the meantime, he stayed in Brisk, in Lithuania, for some business mediation matters between the local rich men and the Rabbi Zvi Horkov and his partners. When the Kobrin folks learned that he was in Brisk they went there to ask him to accept the appointment as the head Rabbi in Kobrin. So he did not return to Kosoba from Brisk but went directly to Kobrin.

In Kobrin, as well, he became a very popular Rabbi and they loved him and listened to him. They treated him with respect during all the ten years he served in Kobrin as the head of the Rabbinical court. His task was not an easy one since the Kobrin community was quite divided. He saw to it that nobody was alienated. He was a real leader with the knowledge of all that was happening in Kobrin. He lifted the spirit of the poor and miserable. He not only made them trust in God for help but actually helped them in their sorrow. He worked especially hard in the Cheroke area in Kobrin so that the poor could borrow money without interest. He was a righteous man. He helped the widows and the orphans during his term in Kobrin. He was asked to become the head Rabbi in other communities, among them the very important Mishbiz community. But the Kobrin community never let him go. They realized they would not be able to find another able Rabbi like him and he was also happy in Kobrin and would not leave to begin all over somewhere else.

When he became old he was quite sick but he never neglected his job. People used to come to his home every Shabbat for services whenever he could not leave his home on Ratner Street. Some of the Hassidim used to also come to him on Saturdays. His preaching satisfied everyone, opponents and supporters. Only during the Yomim Hanoraim (the days of awe) would he go to the big Yeshiva and there he prayed the traditional prayers. He was removed from everyday matters. He truly believed that by suffering pain and living in poverty he helped the world and himself. When he was very sick and about to die, he traveled to Warsaw to be operated on and treated by special doctors. Although he was critically ill he went to the congregation on Yom Kippur and he even fasted.

Rabbi Shaul died in Warsaw in 1891. He was only 64 years old. The Jews in Warsaw paid him their last respects. Thousands went to his funeral. All the members of the Lithuanian (Shois) organization from Nalbeki Street were there. They carried him on their shoulders up to the cemetery. When it was learned that the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, Rabbi Shaul Katzenellenlbogen (he changed his name from Epshtein to Katzenellenbogen for personal reasons), had passed away, he was mourned by many major cities like Kovna, Brisk, Minsk, Mir, Mazritch, Rasyani, and others. They sent their condolences to the Kobrin community.


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A very interesting letter was sent by the great Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector. He wrote, "How sad and terrible for our people that this great Rabbi has died. We cry and mourn him deeply. Israel should mourn this loss." Rabbi Shaul did not leave any books. His papers were lost during the big fire in Kosoba in 1870 and late in his life, being very busy, he neglected to take care of his writings. Only a few of his sermons and some of his talks were printed in a book titled, “Eamrei Noam” (Word of Graciousness), by Rabbi Abraham Meir Halevi, who was his son (his family name was Ashkenazi) and who was the father-in-law of the luminary Rabbi Gershon Tanchum Poznika, a publisher and a Torah great in the city of Minsk.

Rabbi Gershon Tanchum Poznika was the author of the book “Ealana Dechavai” (The Tree of My Life). He was also known as a very knowledgeable rabbi of the Torah and as a great educator. He was known previously as the author of the paper, “Mincha Belula” (Mixed Tribute) (Vilna, 1888), which contains deep philosophical words in reference to the Shas (the books of the Mishna and the Talmud). He wrote that paper when he was a young lad. That paper was published with the blessings of his father, his father-in-law, and with the blessings of many known Rabbis such as Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen, a publisher in Vilna, and Rabbi Yosef Roizin, the head of the Rabbinical court of Slonim, who praised him and declared him as a luminary of the Torah. All this attracted the attention of rabbis and students and it gave him the inspiration to write and publish his second paper, titled, ”Eamrei Noam” (Word of Graciousness) (Vilna, 1888), dealing with Drasha and Halacha. By then he had already been a Rabbi for five years in the town of Snov, which is close by to the town of Nishviz. Later on he became the head of the Rabbinical court of Leavisk.

One has to note two of his sons, Rabbi Mordochai Leib Ashkenazi from Minsk and Binyamin, who was the director of the Yeshiva students in Ponibazesh, named for the kind hearted Gutz from Moscow. Like their father, his sons were also handsome, noble, and possessed extraordinary good manners. The eldest son of Rabbi Shaul, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin was Binyamin Easer Halevi Katzenellenbogen, the head of the Rabbinical court of Virzena, which was close by'to Stoiftzi. He was born in 1845 in Horodna. When he was only 13 years of age he renewed some thoughts about the Torah and he corresponded about Torah matters with the Rabbi of Soltz, who was, in those days, Rabbi Yerucham Yudah Leib Perelman, later the head of the Rabbinical court of Prozina and Mara of Atra in Minsk.

One has to mention Rabbi Binyimin's two sons, Rabbi Abraham Chaim and Rabbi Sholom Yaacov. Rabbi Abraham Chaim continued the tradition of his ancestors and he became a Rabbi. He excelled in knowledge of the Torah and as a preacher and possessed excellent manners.


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After the death of his father in 1897 he took his place in the community of Savirzena. Later he became a Rabbi in Talatshih (the Mohilov region). From there he moved to Smolbetesh (after which the Rabbi Abranski, the rabbi of that community, became the head of the Rabbinical court of Slotzek and later the head of the Rabbinical court of London). After Smolbetesh, Rabbi Abraham Chaim Katzenellenbogen was a Rabbi in Niazin and Certiv. He was one of the few famous Rabbis who held a post under the Soviet authorities. Rabbi Abraham Chaim Katz was the father-in-law of the luminary Rabbi Eliyahu Baruch Kamei, the head of the Rabbinical court of Tivta in the old and the famous yeshiva called Mir.

In the autobiography titled, “Kochvei Boker” (Morning Stars), (published by Hotzat Am Oved in 1950), the first minister of culture and education in Israel, Zalman Shazar, wrote about the young son of Rabbi Shaul. Shazar tells us about Yaacov Shalom Katzenellenbogen, what a great impact had that Rabbi from the town of Sivirizna on him. Rabbi Yaacov also published his poems in the paper, “Hador” (The Generation). In his book, Shazar told us how influential Katzenellenbogen was on him while he was in the town of Sivirizna. Yaacov Shalom, who used to be a Yeshiva Bocher, a Yeshiva man, belonged to the group of the Musarnikim, the moral people of Rabbi Yozel in Novhardok. Yaacov Shalom published his poems in “Hador,” by David Frishman. He was also known by the name of “Yishak.” Later he published his books and articles in the “The Flag,” the London publication by Yitzchak Sovalki. He later drowned in a lake in Switzerland while he was still a young man. He was eulogized by Frishman himself. His story, “A Winter Night,” was reprinted in a new edition after his death, edited by Y. Ch. Brenner, printed and published by the association of “Hebrew Speakers” in London.

Mr. Shazar describes the story of Yishak, the grandson of Rabbi Shaul from Kobrin, as “the first swallow of the first novel in the modern Hebrew world.”

Rabbi Shaul's son-in-law, Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef, hailing from the family of Rabbi Shimshon Karlitz, continued the Rabbinical tradition of his father-in-law. He was born in 1852 a great grandson of Rabbi Shimson, the head of the Rabbinical court of Slonim, and later he also was the head of the Rabbinical court of Slonim Kingsberg, substituting for his uncle, the author of the “Pardes” (The Grove), who was his brother-in-law. In 1883 Rabbi Yosef took the place of his father-in-law, who left for Kobrin. In that town he was a head Rabbi until his death in 1922.

After the death of Rabbi Shaul, his son-in-law published a pamphlet by the name of “Givat Shaul” (Shaul's Hill) (Warsaw, 1892), with the help of his third son, Rabbi Mordechai Yonathan, which contains “The Story of Shaul.”


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It also contains a eulogy about the great Rabbi Shaul hailing form the family of Epshtein, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin. His fourth son, the Rabbi Chaim Leib, like his brother Mordechai Yonathan lived in Rovna.

In this pamphlet (which I have used as a source for writing about Rabbi Shaul, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin) the Rabbi from Kosova recommends that the Kobrin community accept his brother-in-law, the Rabbi Binyiam Easer Halevi, the son of the writer, as the head of the Rabbinical court. He also quotes the eulogy letter of Rabbi Yitzach Elchannan which is sent to the Kobrin community. The luminary from Kovna writes at the end, “And our sorrow is great but our consolation is that he left his son, the great Rabbi of the sacred city of Shvarzana, since he is famous and capable of being the head of your community, since I know his son and of his talents and qualificatins to become your leader.” Also many other Rabbis recommended him to become the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin.

The Rabbi Shmarayahu Yosef was blessed with famous sons in the rabbinate and in the Torah world. First one has to note the greatest of them, the famous luminary Rabbi Aharon Yishaya Karlitz from Vilna, who resides now in Bnei Brak, in Israel, who is famous for his valuable prayer booklet by the name of “Chazon Eash” (The Men's Prophecy).

The second son of Rabbi Shmarayahu Yosef was the Rabbi Meir Karlitz (the son-in-law of the luminary Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen, the publisher from Vilna) the head of the Rabbinical court of Lachvich, who resides in Israel. He belonged for many years previously to the Mizrahi in Vilna. He moved to the Agudat Israel group and now is serving as the Rabbi and the director of “Poalei Agudat Israel” in Israel. The third son was a Talmudic scholar by the name of Rabbi Moshe who was a publisher in Vilna and an editor of  “Kneset Israel” (The Assembly of Israel), a monthly Talmudic magazine of the association of the Rabbis in Pbland and Lithuania and its yeshivas. He was murdered by the Nazis in the Vilna ghetto in 1941. The fourth son, Rabbi Zundel, was a Rabbi in Karlitz Korsova and the head of the Rabbinical court in Tiktin. He was also murderd in his hometown by the Nazis, may they be cursed forever.

The second son-in-law of Rabbi Shaul was Rabbi Moshe Lieberman, a resident of the town Motila, the son of Rabbi Barock Lieberman, a resident of Pinsk (son-in-law of Rabbi Yonna Tennenbaum, the father of the genius Rabbi Malchiel Tzvi Halevi Tennenbaum, the head of the Rabbinical town of Lunza, the author of “Rabbinical Responsa,” divided into five chapters and named “Divrei Malchiel,” (The Words of Malchiel). In 1898 he had a son by the name of Shaul.


[Page 49]


The grandson was a researcher in Jewish studies who was also a Rabbi and a professor by the name of Professor Shaul Lieberman. From the first marriage of his son-in-law, the genius Rabbi Eliezer Rabinovitch from Minsk, and from a second marriage the son-in-law of the Rabbi Shaul Lieberman, who had previously been the president of the Talmudic institute named Harry Fishel in Jerusalem and now a teacher of Talmud and Midrash literature in the Solomon Schechter seminary of Rabbis in New York. In his well-known book, “The Simple Jerusalemite,” he notes two Kobrin personalities, Rabbi Meir Merim, the head of the Rabbinical court in Kobrin, who contributed a lot with their papers about the book, “The Jerusalemite.” The third son-in-law of Rabbi Shaul, Rabbi Chaim, hailed from the family of Shor, the great grandfather of the Rabbi Eliyahu Yakov Dov, the head of the Rabbinical court of Zofran, the author of the book, “Metiyot Chaim” (The Plantings of Life), which deals with the four parts of the “Shulchan Aruch” and contains questions and answers through debates about the Torah laws. The book culminates with a long chapter by the name of “Nefesh Chaya” (A Living Soul) dedicated to and about his mother, Chaya, the daughter of Rabbi Shaul, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin.

Rabbi Shaul founded a charitable society in Kobrin. After his death the leaders and the charitable people of the town of Kobrin, Shmuel Solovietzik, Aharon Leib Vladavski, Leib Zaliaznik took over the society. They gave it a new name and called it “Shaul's Deed” for the founder, Rabbi Shaul, the head of the Rabbinical court. With reference to the death of Aharon Leib Vladavski in 1866 we found an interesting column in the “Hamelitz” from 1903 (42) . The person that signed that column, by the name of “A Good Person,” says there: “One of the pillars of Kobrin has died. His name was Rabbi A. L. Vladavski. He founded an old people's home and built a new hospital. He was a religious person, a learned one, and an all around fine man. Every writer that came to our home town was invited to his home. Every person in need was welcomed to his home. Also he had answers to difficult questions for everyone.”




The Rabbinical Quandary After Rabbi Shaul's Death

Although Rabbi Elchana recommended that Kobrin should hire Rabbi Shaul's son as a replacement for his father, the recommendation did not materialize. In the paper, “Hamelitz,” from 1892 (154), a reader writes about his feelings concerning this matter with these words: “In the town of Brisk, where its chief Rabbi Yosef Bar, may he rest in peace, passed away, the town's people selected his learned son, Rabbi Chaim, to be the chief Rabbi there. However, the Kobrin people did not do the same thing.


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