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Yaakov Meir Zelkind

by Abraham Kahana


He was the only one in his generation, R' Yaakov Meir, son of R' Mordechai Yehuda Zelkind, of blessed memory, in his life work and dedication to it. He was born in the town of Kobrin in the county of Grodna on the sixteenth day of Shevat, 1875. He died in Haifa on the twenty-first day of Teveth, 1938.

He came from a distinguished lineage that reached to the great in Israel in Torah like the wise Tzvi and the interpreter YomTov and also in Hassidism such as the Bal Shem Tov. In his youth he excelled in the Yeshiva of Volozin. From there he went to Kiev and received his Certificate of Matriculation, then to Western Europe to the Universities in Germany, France and Switzerland. He studied several branches of the humanities, many languages, the classics and the modern ones. In everything he excelled and he was familiar with everything.

He was Rabbi here and he was called Rabbi there. He was a great Jew and became a great man. On one hand he was very knowledgeable in the Mishna and the interpreters and the rest of the Jewish literature, and on the other hand he grew into the general science, the early and the later.


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His excellent knowledge in many languages stood him in good stead when he needed to become familiar in those various areas and various branches. Together with all that he was alive and very alert to everything that was happening in the world of Israel. He edited newspapers, books and articles and he wrote in several languages: Yiddish, Hebrew, French, German, English, Russian, Spanish and more. He was also a Zionist from the beginning of the movement and was a public activist. He was first in everything that would capture his heart. The. land of Israel was his best dream and when a group called Achuza was established in London to liberate land in the land of Israel, he was among those who established it.

But the Torah lived in him, bubbling until it took over all the other matters and activities, then the man would leave, go to his room and start his work. The clever one would vow, “I am going to the roots of a matter,” but at the same time he was a populist. All of his life he was sorry about the decline of the Torah in his generation and his mightiest wish was to return the crown of the Torah to what it used to be in olden days, to make the Torah folksier, to make it close to the Israeli nation.

Of course, the main thrust of the Torah, and he saw it himself, was Mishna. And from there the tree of Judaism grew and stretched and made fruit and fruits of fruit. He arranged a plan for his work. To bring the Torah and the wisdom of the Mishna to a person of Israel you have to renew the traditional ways in which it has been taught and you can teach it in two ways, as was done for hundreds of years: in the Hebrew language and in give and take while studying.

He said you had to give the body of the Talmud in translation to the same Jewish language, but the same language has to be clear and as Jewish as can be, and the give and take has to be within an adequate interpretation that explains the matters from all sides according to the intention and in details according to early and later sources, with old and with all the power of the scientific spirit and combined with Jewish scholarliness and with the enlightenment of the general culture.

Zelkind approached his translation work and his interpretation of the Babylonian Talmud with a definite clear understanding of the awesomeness of the work, both from the quantitative point of view and the qualitative point of view. This is one of the main thoughts concerning our greatest creations: What other nations create through groups and groups of people in academic institutions with a lot of expenses is done in Judaism by single people who have the energy and great patience but who lack any money.


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With the great stubbornness of stones that have been pulverized by water, these great humble people go to work on this gigantic work that they have dared to take upon themselves without making any demand toward the great world of their nation. More than that, most of them, as humble as they are, do not even recognize the greatness of this giant work into which they put their souls.

As one of those great ones, Rabbi Yakov Meir did, in his great excitement, in his great and mighty wish, with all the love in his heart and his scientific mind, deliver himself to this great work. He was a believer in the great influence of his work on the masses of Israel. It seemed to him to be the only way to demolish ignorance from among his people and to improve their spiritual life and their values. Ten years he persisted in his great cultural and literary work, which has no equal in the history of our literature. He published four volumes: Brachot, Peah, Dema, Kilaim.

Nothing stood in the way of his excellent sobriety. Scholarly students wondered about his magnificent creation and the solid block that united the text and the interpretation, but many of them saw his work with a joy that was mixed with sorrow. They wondered, “Isn't it a pity that all the great energies are not invested in the Hebrew language and in Hebrew literature?” and they expressed their sorrow to him.

As an example, I will present here one of the letters of Ch. N. Bialik to him:

London, 19th January 1931

Honored Dr. Zelkind, my dear friend,

I'm sorry that I could not come to your town and have the pleasure of your company. I doubt very much whether I will have time to do so before I leave. In a few days I will leave London and return to the land of Israel. I received with thanks the first issue of Masechet Kilaim and it is the witness of the quality of your work. How much energy and labor you have put into it, and scholarship, and straight thinking. Bless you. Every time I receive something of your work, it is like a holiday to me. I hope God will allow you to continue this work and to finish it. You are doing a great thing in Israel and you will be rewarded for it. Again I say to you that you should stop doing your work in the Yiddish language. In this way you will not succeed. The natural place for your interpretation is the Hebrew language. The Hebrew audience needs your interpretation and it is twenty times greater than the Yiddish audience. Why should you labor so much without more benefit? Please, in your great mercy, move your home from the Yiddish to the Hebrew and don't ruin your estate. You know that it is not out of envy I am saying this because I don't like the Yiddish language. I have no animosity against it. On the contrary, I like it.




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I want to see it succeed and flourish, but Hebrew interpretation is worth seven times or maybe seventy-seven times more than that in the Yiddish and also the people who would buy it would be probably seven times as many, and I'm sure that the Hebrew will help them finish that work, because as the number of buyers grow so will your capability to publish the parts one after the other without many interruptions and without obstacles and also without any excessive worry about loss of time to look for some monetary means to publish the interpretation. I bless you and your wonderful project with complete success.

Your faithful friend,

Ch. N. Bialik



But meanwhile there came a new period in his life and with it the welcome change in his life's work. Zelkind immigrated to the land of Israel. Here he saw the need not to continue his giant work but to begin anew, to do it in Hebrew and also to change the plan. He decided to give the Mishna and interpretation side by side, where one explains and compliments the other and the same style with vowels, and cleaned up. Zelkind used to do the same give and take comprehensively on the origins of the Talmudic literature and the interpretations early and late and according to the scientific logic, everything edited and appropriately in his nice and stylish Hebrew.

Here again came this mighty work and he did it in his small place but with the same depth and simplicity and sharpness and knowledge, but… in our time the angel of death does not worry anymore as he did in early times (it seems like you should not stop someone in the middle of work) and in the middle of his work while he was printing the first volume (only the twelve first sheets printed) he died. The people who were close to the man and his project saw a great need to finish the printing of that volume and with the influence of the Rav Ben-Zion Meir Chai Uziel and Professor Nachum Slosch and the undersigned, his widow Mrs. Pava Zelkind took the issuance upon herself and thanks to her we were lucky enough to see his light, a blessing upon her.

(On the 26th of Kislev 1939, signed by Abraham Kahana)





A Memorial to a Friend from Among the First

(to commemorate ten years after the publication of the monumental essay of Dr. Yaakov Meir Zelkind)

by Professor Nachum Slosch


“Everything has to do with luck, even the Torah in the temple.” So said our sages. And who, as the people of our generation, could make it true, this saying? The murderers who are after the people of Israel did not only want to take the bodies of the Holy Ones among our people, but also the soul of the people. They desecrated the Torah books. They tore them. They burnt them.


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And they put them to shame and abominations which no language could tell, not even the littlest of it.

This article came to my mind when I received suddenly a large book in quantity, a book I was one of the reasons for the publication of, together with the mention of a few other names. As far as I know, all the examples were packaged and stayed in the houses of those who inherited them from the author, but I was not privileged to see it coming from the print, and only now, after exactly ten years have I had the honor of receiving it.

As I read it and studied it, it became clear to me that it was indeed a great project the author had planned to do, to distribute the Talmud and the interpretation, but then came death and we have nothing more but the work that is in front of me. The book that was printed with much adornment was edited according to a new plan that encompasses the whole material that touches this section, the two Talmuds, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem, alongside the Mishna. The additions in a special section build a second part of the book. The versions are corrected and proofread with excellent precision and everything is printed in large format with big letters. Everything is explained and explained again and it makes everything very clear.

In this interpretation, the interpreter showed not only a great knowledge of all the books of the other interpreters, but also a deep knowledge in the customs of Israel in the lands where he lived. Straight thinking and logic come with much sharpness and then he is being assisted with the knowledge of Semitic languages as well as others, such as Greek and Latin, and everything is written and edited in excellent order, in the language of a quick author and clear thinker.

The author explains arid re-explains every segment and every verse and every question and explains the words of the sages that dealt with that same question. And at the end he summarizes in large letters the conclusions that stem from the words of the sages that preceded him. And where there are contradictions or lack of clarity, he makes the decision between them and expresses his opinion with the authority of a great and wise student to whom there is no secret in the literature in the Talmud and the interpreters. As far as the sayings of the Agada, of which there are only few in the Mishna, a little bit more in the additions, the interpreter appears as an investigator who is equipped with all the knowledge of the natural in science and in history without allowing himself to deviate from the ways of the pure tradition.


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A great blessing can be found by both a student and an expert from the reading and the section of Brachot. It is a pity that death overtook the interpreter before he could finish his interpretation for the entire Mishna because, as I will tell later, a part of it has already in print but it wears the clothes of a simpleton. In any case, it is fitting that the application of this Mishna should be a lesson to all those interpreters who would follow it and who would continue this important work, of which there has been nothing similar since the time that the Rambam edited, unfortunately in Arabic, his interpretation of the Mishna, one of which Zelkind used in his new and expanded interpretation. And maybe they will find also in the notes that the author left behind him something useful to help them.

As I read and study this full volume and enjoy all the good that the author put in it for a student who is trying to sail in the sea of the Talmud without being hit with all the obstacle stones that are scaring many of the students, I remember with sorrow the author, one of my youthful friends who was an especially gifted person whom death took suddenly before he finished his mighty life's project. According to his plan it was supposed to encompass the Mishna and all the additions and to serve as a basis to renew the system of studying the Talmudic literature as a whole.

In middle age his energy left him and in the middle of his work the man died. While the sheets of his composition were before him, he also was not privileged to be eulogized appropriately because it was a time in which the Arabs and those who protected them were rioting in the land of Israel and in the old world came the Holocaust of Hitler which threatened the dwellings of Israel. And even this writer became ill at the time and I could not give appropriate honor to the deceased, the honor that he deserved definitely.

At this time in the month of Tevet, which is the month in which Dr. Zelkind died, and in this year, which is ten years since the publication of the project, it is our Holy duty to spread the blessed treasure that the great masses were not privileged to enjoy. I see myself as having a duty to all the Hebrew masses to tell a little bit of his life, what he succeeded in doing in his struggles and all his yearnings, not all of which were peaceful and restful. He stayed faithful to the Torah and to the mission in the noblest way of these words.



B.

In Berlin, in Basil, in Paris and in London where we met frequently we always talked about the defense of the political principal of the revival movement, without compromises and concessions to those who belittle the image of the Jewish state. But I knew to honor the wise student, the scholar who had all that knowledge and the excellent Hebrew author.


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Not many knew that Zelkind, aside from his greatness in the Torah, also had a basic knowledge in Russian, German, French, English, Spanish, Greek and Latin, as well as Arabic. In some of them he wrote and published research works. The literature pieces he wrote specifically in Hebrew, in which he excelled in his manly and original style.


kob321.jpg [30 KB] - A party in honor of Dr. Y. M. Zelkind during his visit to Kobrin
A party in honor of Dr. Y. M. Zelkind during his visit to Kobrin


In history books for youth from the beginning of the century he published stories, plays and various researches. Even if there are not many of them, they emanate an almost childish warmth, proving that he was endowed with a sensitive soul that was not clouded even in his winter days. I think that nobody, aside from myself, remembered that when Zelkind was still in Bern he immersed himself in the work of translating the plays of the French playwright Moliere, some of which I saw with my own eyes and some of which were ready for publication or for print, and I do not know what happened to those manuscripts.

After he received his doctorate degree he came to settle in London. There he occupied himself in morals and a lot of wisdom and Torah. After several years he was appointed to be a rabbi in Cardiff and it seemed that circumstances of life in those out of the way congregations did not fit his temperament, quiet externally, but stormy and wondering inside. When he found himself in special circumstances he rebelled against the tradition from which he came, to find himself for several years involved with various revolutionary groups. The breakaway from mainstream society in those days was established by Kropotkin and others, and he would be part of a company of folksy poor people who spoke Yiddish in the east part of London.


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The years before the first World War were declining years in that country for Zionism, of which the first principle was the belief in the establishment of the land of Israel and the wish of the people to be free. That was neglected by leaders who were satisfied with small accomplishments and with some views of a situation that was far from the life of the masses. And here is Zelkind who was wondering in spiritual ways and who was also a practical and dynamic person. He did not find satisfaction in the activities of the Zionists and those who were pushing the revival for many generations. Still, despite his breakaway and at that very time, his traditional thread became stronger. Above all, there was in him this love of the Torah that he inherited from his forefathers and in which he buried himself and that was what protected his Jewish soul so it should not cease from its purity. More than anything he was always aware of the danger that the Torah would be forgotten and he saw that from his own experience in the offices of the Western Rabbinate in all its nakedness.

When he saw that the modern way of life did not permit the younger generation to dedicate themselves to the Torah, which according to the old tradition of teaching in the synagogue can be fulfilled only in someone who dedicates themselves totally to it, he saw that there would come a time soon in which the Torah would be forgotten in Israel. The spirituality of Zelkind, the scholarly student who was completely imbued with the spirit of the Torah and who knew how much delight in the Torah could make that simple Jew repent and become better, was not dimmed. He decided to bring the Torah to those who distanced themselves from it. Like a homeopathic physician who treats the diseases with the means that caused them, Zelkind put his mind to curing the illiteracy with the same weapon that caused the abandonment of the Torah and that was to turn the Yiddish language to a tool for distributing the Torah among the masses. He approached the publication of the Talmud accompanied by a Yiddish translation explained very well and clearly, corrected and styled still in a scientific method.

He had enough time to publish the first four parts: Brachot, Peah, Dmai and Kilaim. And we would not exaggerate if we would note that this publication of the Talmud, like Mendelssohn's interpretation of Bible, is important first and foremost as a means of correct and clear explanation but also as a scientific document. Zelkind's knowledge included the sources of the Torah as well as a wide scientific knowledge. But still, quickly the interpreter/translator saw that his target was far from him, and the people in general, namely the working classes who read Yiddish in the West and in America, did not pay attention to the new source that was open before them to know and to understand the Talmud in its spoken language.


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The scholars did not at all find any use in religious literature like that and those who knew Hebrew knew and felt that without the knowledge of the original language the Torah would not spread in Israel.

And so there came the days of hoping for a good ending after the first World War. Together with the publication of the Balfour Declaration, the cloudy skies of the Diaspora became clearer. The revival dew that came from Herzl's wide and feeling heart, the dew that dried up and de-energized, came back and wet the shriveled hearts and poured his vitality on the students of the prophet who like him were looking to do great things. And here there was an opening to fulfill the prophecy and they too awoke to activities and building in the promised land. Dr. Zelkind, who I knew from his youth as a practical person and a fighter among his colleagues in Bern, tried his work in pragmatic action from the beginning of his settlement in London. He was an establisher and the active member of the Association Achuza, which liberated land in the land of Israel. With the background of the Balfour Declaration and when the British mandate government was established, he made efforts to settle in Israel with his wife and sons, who answered his mightiest wish.

Zelkind went to the land of Israel and with his influence established a settlement in the name of his wife, the settlement of Puah, on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa. It should also be remembered that they bought Naharia.

But mostly he wanted to study the Torah and research. His spiritual loneliness returned him to the smaller space of Torah and dedication. The community activity even for the sake of mitzvah did not fit the scholarly student, a graduate of yeshiva and higher education, and he isolated himself more and more. Sometimes he just stayed by himself with the tools of the Torah and research in one of the colonies. And then it was true, as it was said, that this was the way of the Torah. But he stayed in touch with his friends, among them the writer of these lines, and especially with his supporter and advisor, Bialik. And so he gave himself completely to the project of the interpretation of the Mishna that is done according to the two Talmuds and their interpreters of all generations.

But his energy left him and in the height of printing the large volume on the Section of Brachot, he died. If he did not succeed in finishing the work, at least he left a blessing after him: all his scattered writings and especially this part out of which the interpreters of the Talmud will see and study to continue his work in the way that he showed. In that he gave a hand to those who are studying the Torah and are seeking to make its name great and fit it to the spirit of the time and according to scientific research.


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The Rabbi, the Chief of the Rabbinic Court,
Rabbi David Son of Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg, of Blessed Memory


Rabbi David was born in Kobrin in 1850. His father, R' Shmuel, was known in Kobrin by the name of “the teacher from Orli.” He was among the best Gemara teachers in town and he had as students the sons of the better people and the richer people in town. He became famous even during his childhood and youthful years as one with excellent talents and a wonderful memory. He studied then day and night in the Ratner Synagogue and he became famous in the town and in the whole neighborhood as one who was a great scholar in Talmudic literature. His colleague in studies in the Ratner Synagogue was Rabbi Nachumka, a native of Visoka in Lithuania who was then in Kobrin. In the same synagogue he befriended also the sage Ridbez who was older than him by five years, and both of them studied together. Rabbi David Greenberg was then in Brisk, where he studied the Torah for several years. He married there the daughter of one of the respected people in town, R' Yaakov Shmuel, who had an iron business. His brother-in-law was Rabbi Asher David Chari who was among the richest people and the most learned in Brisk and later when he lost his fortune he became the head of the Rabbinic Court in the town of Ravibsh in Vohlin.

In 1895, Rabbi David Greenberg was appointed to head the Rabbinic Court in Piesk, in the county of Volkovisk. In 1906, when the head of the Rabbinic Court in Kobrin, Rabbi Meir Atlas, left to become the head of the Rabbinic Court in Shavli in Zamot, Rabbi David Greenberg accepted the Rabbinate of Kobrin and became the head of the Rabbinic Court until he died in 1923.

The truth should be told that the life of Rabbi David Greenberg, the head of the Rabbinic Court, was not easy in Kobrin, the town where he was Rabbi and the town where he was born. The “Chassidim”, most of them, and some of their “opponents” were against the idea of him getting the job in their town. Although the victory was on the side of his party, still his opponents were not happy with his Rabbinate and because of that he suffered from various directions. He himself was a stern person, would not give up his opinion and his view and in addition to that he showed everybody the opponent in him.

So there was a schism between him and his many objectors who really did not like his position as the head of the Rabbinic Court of the congregation. Significant among his opponents was the local Rabbi, who, as one of the Chassidim of Slonim in town, took various opportunities to get his revenge from the head of the Rabbinic Court of the Congregation.


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Rabbi David Greenberg was great in the Torah, one of the most famous Rabbis in the whole area. His well known book, “Sugah Bshushnim”, in two parts, that he printed close to the beginning of the previous world war in 1914 and which aroused some attention in the world of the Torah and the Rabbinate, served as a witness to his great Talmudic scholarship.

This essay of his about the “Shulchan Aruch” includes two explanations which contain some new interpretations by the sages of the Torah. In his introduction to his book, the Rabbi author writes, “God was my help to bring these many innovations. The great of this generation were wondering how good it was and although I have much in writing with me, I gave a preference to my essay about the laws mensuration because this is a true interpretation of the “Shulchan Aruch,” to know and to discover what the “Shulchan Aruch” was teaching.”

A manuscript of R' David contains some sermons by the author's brother, R' Yeshaia Tzvi Greenberg (who lives in Tel Aviv), that he gave in two of the towns where he was a Rabbi, Piesk and Kobrin. Some of those sermons have a connection to the religious environment at the time in Kobrin, the town where he was Rabbi.

So, for instance, in his sermon on Shabbat Tshuva during the first World War in the great synagogue in Kobrin, he speaks bitterly about the desecration of the Shabbat that became very widespread because of the hard times. He announces that a group has been established to keep the Shabbat and to keep an eye on those who desecrate, to support one another in keeping the Shabbat.

In his sermon about the qualities of the Torah and those who study it, he emphasizes a lot how people should appreciate and like whoever is bringing some innovations in the study of the Torah to strengthen weak hands, those who study the Torah internally, studiously and then leave quietly, humbly to be away from everything. The Rabbi of Kobrin encouraged the spirit of Torah students in those bad days, saying “Your heart should not weaken and say, 'where shall I find a livelihood for me and my household?' The Torah is good with good manners.” And the Rabbi in his sermon promises that the Torah itself tries to publicize or to make famous its students and so everybody will see and appreciate it.


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In this essay there is also a eulogy that he delivered in the synagogue in Kobrin on the 23rd day in the month of Av, the year 1918, upon the passing away of the great Rabbi Chaim Halevi Soloveitshik, of blessed memory, who was the head of the Rabbinic Court in Brisk. The words were said in the great synagogue. There is also a memorial to those killed in Lemberg. The mourning was over an important man who feared God, Rabbi Arie Leib Zalaznik in Kobrin, who was of good manner, charitable and hospitable. There are also, in that book, some comments of his over a few summaries that he made in the Ratner synagogue, such as the summary of Ein Yaakov in the year 1915, the studying of the Mishna of a group and the ending of another Mishna. These are all speeches that he made when people were presumed finished studying various books.

In his eulogy over Rabbi Hirsh Rabinovitch the head of the Rabbinic Court in Kovna, the son of the famous Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Elchana, of blessed memory, the speaker scolds the people of his congregation in Kobrin for the laxity of their Torah study, that the wheel turned and the synagogues now are locked all day and do not open, only at the time of prayer, and students are practically nil.

With the beginning of political Zionism, Rabbi David Greenberg showed it a very welcoming face and became one of its supporters. So we see for instance that in 1901 he signed a proclamation for Zion, that appeared in Hamelitz in 1900 (285), to benefit the financial project to create a special fund for the laborers in the land of Israel with the goal to prepare in time a certain part of them as colonists and for the time being to find them, as often possible, work by developing various branches of industry according to the place, the conditions and the circumstances. It is told there in that bulletin about the importance of this project for the laborers. It says, “Our brothers have sacrificed their souls on the altar of the love of their people and their country and on them depends the building of the settlement that is in the land of Israel. They are the ones who support it. And because of their patience and their dedication they did so much for the future of our people and did not care about themselves. The little wages that they get as day workers from the peasants and the masters of their states and the bureaucracy for their hard work do not suffice for more than a little bread and meager water. And even this has changed now and leadership in the settlement has changed and because of that, our brothers, the laborers are now without work and they are looking forward to the shame of hunger, they and their household, because many of them cannot suffer anymore and they have to leave the land that they yearn for so much and to travel wherever they travel.” Rabbi David Greenberg said those things when he was still the head of the Rabbinic Court in Piesk. When he was already in Kobrin, he disassociated himself completely from the Zionist movement and although he was not among the zealous opponents to Zionism in public, he still stood afar and did not become involved in the movement.


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Rabbis Native to Kobrin


Rabbi Abraham Eliezer Alpershtein

Born in 1853 in Kobrin. Until his thirteenth year he studied in his native city in the synagogue of his relative, Rabbi Yaakov David Vilovski. Afterwards he studied in Vilna. In Kovna his excellent talents and his dedication put him in the first line of the greatest sages of the Torah. He excelled in the two Talmuds, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem, and also in various questions of the Mishna. His outstanding Rabbis were, according to his own testimony, Rashi and Rosh. He paved his own road of studies but he followed those early teachers. He was ordained for teaching by the two famous sages, Rabbi Mordechai Meltzer, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Lida, and Rabbi Arie Leib Yellin, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Bilsk, who wrote a book entitled “The One With Pretty Eves.”

Rabbi Alpershtein was one of the first Rabbis to come to America and became a Torah pioneer there. Already in 1880 we see him as the Rabbi in New York, in 1894 as a Rabbi in Chicago, in 1899 in St. Paul, in 1901 in the big congregation Mishkan Israel, in New York. Then this Rabbi was one of the few Rabbis who gave up the side income that was the custom, especially in America, and this congregation knew to apportion him a certain salary so he wouldn't even expect and need other incomes from side deals.

Rabbi Alpershtein published these books: “Bikurei Anavim,” “Pri Hilulim,” “Yeelat Chen,” and in the Jerusalem Talmud on the section of Brachot and with an additional special pamphlet to explain the viewpoints of the sages of Israel against the scholars of other nations according to a new special system. He showed his greatness and wisdom and innovations and they were published in “Hameashef” (a newspaper which appeared in Jerusalem in 1903 and 1904). He was also among the inspectors and the directors of the yeshivas and schools in New York.

About Rabbi Alpershtein's greatness in Torah and in other areas wrote one of the Hebrew correspondents in America in the newspaper “Hamelitz” in 1890 (216), “This rabbi is one of the greatest Torah scholars in our days as is evidenced in his book “Harel,” in which he has showed his great talent and knowledge, so much so that his book is not inferior to the book “Shaagat Arie.” Rabbi Joseph Duber Halevi, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Brisk, gave his recommendation to this book.”


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The writer notes furthermore that aside from the fact that Rabbi Alpershtein is one of the wisest people in the land, he is very enlightened and he also is very knowledgeable in Hebrew literature, the old and the new, and he is also well liked because he is of good temperament and also has very noble qualities. The writer complained about the sad phenomenon, that the Jews of Chicago, where Rabbi Alpershtein served as a Rabbi in one of the congregations, do not appropriately appreciate his great value. And more than that, that this Rabbi who was known by the name of the Kobriner Ilui (genius) wanted to bring order to the performance of marriages, so as to not have some little idiot, people who are not qualified to perform them. But then some bullies, like “little rabbis” who were not ordained, and some cantors who were performing weddings, stood against him, so much so that he had to resign from being a rabbi in a group called, “Ohavei Shalom” of the people of Mariampol in Chicago.




Rabbi Ephraim Kanitafski

He was born in the 1856 to parents who were fine and honest people in Kobrin. He studied in the yeshiva in Razino and succeeded greatly in Torah studies. When he was still a youth he amazed people, his listeners, in his knowledge of the Torah that he expressed from the pulpit in his city of birth.

After his marriage, he became the head teacher in the Talmud Torah in Kobrin. He came to America and became Rabbi and Preacher in the synagogue of the people of Bialystock in New York. Then he became ill and the doctors ordered him to leave the big city of New York. He settled in Asbury Park and made his living in commerce. He composed a book called, “Zichron Ephraim” and another book, “Ateret Ephraim.” He also had some other publications.




Rabbi Yaakov

Rabbi Yaakov, son of Rabbi Shlomo Padaraviski, was born in the year 1872 in the town of Kobrin to his sage father. His grandfather R' Zev, who was the son of Rabbi Isser, was renowned in the Torah and a respected merchant. He studied in the Yeshiva of Slavodka and he sat at the feet of Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Rabinovitch (who later became the head of the Rabbinic Court and the Rabbinic College in Fonivitch). He received his ordination for teaching from the learned Rabbi R' Eliyahu Chaim Meizel, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Lodz and from the learned Rabbi R' Shmuel Mohilover, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Bialystok. In the year 1904 he became Rabbi in Yalavke (the county of Grodna).


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Rabbi Moshe

Rabbi Moshe, the son of Yaakov Yaffe, was born in the year 1858 in Kobrin. His father was Rabbi Yaakov, one of the heads of the teachers in town, a son of Rabbi Yeshaia who did not want to accept the duty of the Rabbinate. Rabbi Moshe Yaffe was ordained by Rabbi Joseph Rozin, the ally of Rabbi Tuvia Guttman, the head of the Rabbinic Court of Keltz and the author of the book “Birkat Cohen,” and from the Rabbi Ptachia Hornblass, a teacher in Warsaw. In the year 1897, Rabbi Moshe Yaffe became the head of the Rabbinic Court in Pitshatz and was considered to be one of the great scholarly rabbis in the area. His older brother, R' David Yaffe, was also a teacher in Kobrin for about thirty years. He died in the year 1912 and his son-in-law, the Rabbi Noach Vineberg, was elected to be his successor.




Rabbi Yaakov Yehuda Leib Zilbergleit

Rabbi Yaakov Yehuda Leib Zilbergleit, composed a book, “The World of Action,” about the Bible (Warsaw, 1911) . It contained “pleasant interpretations and sweet sermons, wise and with good taste, that are pleasant to hear and to read and attract the heart in their wisdom and morals and bring the hearts of the children of Israel closer to their Father in Heaven.”

From the introduction to this book, which contains important material about the religious and spiritual life in Kobrin in the near past, we learn that this preacher was among those who established the synagogue “Chaye Adam” in Kobrin in the year 1863. Two years before that, while he was only twenty-two, he established in our town an association and taught them from this book, “Chaye Adam, ” the psalms and the five books of Moses and interpretation. According to him he succeeded in teaching them very well. With the establishment of the synagogue, the congregation “Chaye Adam” developed even more and the members of the group succeeded very much in their studies and in their good manners. “God's blessing helps me to plant in them.” It is told that the students in the synagogue “Chaye Adam” surpassed all the other synagogues in town to study by themselves, in groups and in classes, every day in the morning and evening and to accomplish a lot for these youngsters who sit in their own synagogue. He adds, “Until now [the year of the printing of the book: 1911] they are still holding to God's Torah and study it.”

The author tells us, still in his introduction, that “for some light reason” he left the synagogue “Chaye Adam” where he was one of the teachers and founders. This was in the middle of the summer in the year 1868. Since then, he tells us, “I have learned in other synagogues, a few years in one synagogue and a few years in another, almost in all of them, the books of “Midrash-Rabba,” the book of Psalms with interpretations. For the past four years I have been studying the “Shulchan Aruch” and the books of the Tzadik who wrote the book, “Chafetz Chaim.”


[Page 330]


Rabbi Yaakov Yehuda Leib Zilbergleit tells us there in his introduction about his “teaching language” to know and to go in groups and in congregation and to teach them Torah and commandments with wisdom. The Rabbis of Kobrin agree with him because they praise his book: Rabbi Chaim Berlin, who knew him while he was the head of the Rabbinic Court in Marzo, writes that he is “great in the Torah and excellent in pure observance, he whose lips are roses and his words are pretty.” Rabbi Meir Atlas the head of the Rabbinic in Kobrin after Rabbi Chaim Berlin, writes in agreement in the year 1902 about this author, “The great Rabbi in observance and in the Torah, distinguished in his morals and his customs, he preaches well and does well. I also heard from others who praised what he said before the congregation, nice words that are pleasant to the ear.”

The great Rabbi Menachem Nachum Ben Yehuda Leib who was known by the name “R' Nachumke Kobriner” because of his native city Kobrin, also wrote in agreement to this book in the year 1902: “My dear friend, I was very happy and it gave me great pleasure to read this book because I found in it good and helpful things in explaining the Holy Scriptures and the sayings of our late sages in matters of ethics and tales that attract the heart of a person to his Father in Heaven.”

There are more agreements from three other rabbis about this book, from Rabbi David Shlomo, from the great rabbi from Lubeishi, Yaakov Arie, son of Rabbi Yitzchak, and from the great rabbi in Turisk. Asked by this rabbi, Israel Segal, his assistant in his holy work writes, “Since I know him to be a righteous person and many of his days and nights he gave to exhaust himself in the Torah to study and to teach.” Also, there is here the agreement by the Rabbi Zalman Sender Kahana Shapira from the year 1903. He was then the head of the Rabbinic Court and the Rabbinic College in Maltsh. He wrote, “And I also know him, this great friend, may he live.” In his later years he would comment about the weekly portion in Saturday morning before the prayer in the synagogue Ratner. For a period of time he would travel to small towns, especially in Vohlin, to say his sermon. He was also a relative of the Rabbi from Turisk.

The rabbi and preacher Yaakov Leib Zilbergleit died in the year 1907. In the book of sermons of the Rabbi David Greenberg, the head of the Rabbinic Court in Kobrin (handwritten with his brother R' Yeshaia Tzvi Greenberg in Tel Aviv) there is a eulogy about him on the eve of Yom Kippur in the year 1907, “about the passing away of a man who is great in the Torah and in good deed and in the world of action. This man is elevated from the masses. R' Yaakov Leib we should ask his forgiveness.”


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