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Chapter 6

The First Rabbis of Bialystok

א    A

The first Rabbi Maggid Meishorim
[Preacher of Uprightness] in Bialystok

Translated by David Horowitz-Larochette

It is a wonder, that during the whole time [encompassed] in the record book of the old study-hall are not mentioned the first great rabbis, fathers [leaders] of the rabbinical court, who surely prayed and studied in the study-hall, as it was the only communal study-hall. In the whole record book there is absolutely no mention of the existence of a rabbi father of the court in Bialystok at all. Only once in the year 5562 [1801] it is mentioned in a by-the-way manner, that according to a decision the rabbi father of court need not pay for an aliya [being called to the Torah in the synagogue].

It would seem that the rabbis, fathers of court, were not inscribed in the Chevre Ner-Tomid [Eternal Light (altar lamp) Society, in charge of the study-hall maintenance] and could not be inscribed in it, because as rabbis and fathers of court they stood higher than other members of the Chevre to be limited by the regulations, and the Chevre only inscribed members in the ledger. The maggidim meishorim [preachers], who could be inscribed in the ledger, are mentioned in the ledger as members of the Ner-Tomid. The first and oldest maggid inscribed is Reuven son of our teacher the rabbi Shlomo Segal HaLevi. He was admitted to the Chevre in the year 5492 [1732]. The ledger reads: on the second day of chol hamoed pesach '92 [Apr.13, 1732] the leader and Torah scholar his honor the rabbi Reb Reuven son of the rabbi Reb Shlomo was appointed as member, according to the old regulations (ledger, p.27, side A). In 5492 he was appointed as trustee of the ledger (there, p.28, side B). He is mentioned for the first time as a maggid meishorim in the election of 5506-5507 [1746-1747], the rabbi the maggid[1] Master Reuven Segal (there, p.42, side B). Afterwards, he was often chosen for the greatest appointments as permanent member and organizer, and is mentioned every time with great respect: “The first of permanent members, the leader and Torah scholar the marvelous and outstanding, the righteous our teacher the rabbi Segal maggid meishorim in our community may his creator protect and enliven him[2] (there, p.30, side B, p.32 sides A and B); in 5530 [1770] he is also mentioned among the appointed, Rabbi Reuven local maggid meishorim, but in 5536 [1776]

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his son was already accepted into the Chevre: “Appointed amongst us is the Torah scholar Master Shlomo son of the deceased rabbi the maggid in our community Reuven HaLevi of blessed memory” (there, p.32, side B, in p.71 without a date). He was in this way a member of the Ner-Tomid for about 43 years and maggid meishorim for about 30 years.

He is the same outstanding rabbi the maggid the righteous our teacher the rabbi Reb Reuven son of our teacher the rabbi Shlomo Segal that is mentioned in the prologue to the book Lev Aryeh [Lion's Heart] on Chullin [Ordinary or Mundane, a tractate in the Talmud]. He is mentioned: “Thanks to my uncle the great rabbi the righteous maggid meishorim of the place Bialystok, the rabbi, Rabbi Reuven”; he is also mentioned in the book Shut Bris Oilom [Q&A World Covenant] by Reb Yitzchok Eisik Weller (Warsaw, 5657) [1897], the rabbi and father of court at Wysokie Mazowieckie: “Rabbi Reuven father of court and director of the yeshiva of Bialystok”, and he claims descent from him thus: “Great-grandson and respectable [obvious misprint, should say “g-grandson and grandson”, which is a typical formula in rabbinical genealogies. Neched is grandson while Nechbed is respectable] to the prodigy, the holy, the renowned etc. Rabbi Reuven father of court and maggid meishorim of Bialystok”[3].

As we have seen, he was definitely not the rabbi father of court, but he was, even though he called himself only maggid meishorim, a substitute rabbi, at a time when there was still no rabbi father of court in Bialystok at all, and Tiktin had yet not given permission to appoint their own rabbi; therefore, he was officially called maggid meishorim, as the Vilnius maggid is called today. He was the substitute rabbi and father of court before Rabbi Yehoshua Shapiro and after him (he is also mentioned in the eulogy from the local Chevre Kadisha) “the rabbi the maggid Master Reuven son of Reb Shlomo HaLevi”, but mistakenly he is mentioned there quite late, after the rabbi, Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipman Halperin, when he should really be mentioned first, before all the other rabbis.


Rabbi Father of Court and Head Father of Court

We must clarify here the difference between the rabbi-father-of-court and the head-father-of-court. The rabbi-father-of-court was the highest authority in the community and its district not only in religious matters: in prohibitions and permissions, in financial rulings between two people, but also in all community matters- in its maintenance and its financial and political issues. The rabbi father of court was usually brought from outside[4], where he had become renowned

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as a great prodigy. Judges where mostly [chosen] from local scholars who were authorized in instruction. The head-father-of-court was chosen only from the judges as the eldest or greatest- their head, but the rabbi father of court was chosen from the whole community, only if there was no rabbi father of court then the head-father-of-court was called simply “rabbi”, but the judges, it seems, would call the rabbi father of court also head-father-of-court because he was, after all, their head. As we find, the Tiktin judges gave their rabbi, Rabbi Velvele, author of Maros Tzvaos the title: “His honor our master, teacher and rabbi, the renowned prodigy our teacher the rabbi Moshe Ze'ev the head-father-of-court here in our community”[5].

When Bialystok started to appoint their own rabbi father of court, and who he was, we cannot know for sure, because, as we have said, we have not been able to receive access to the Bialystok book of records. But in the nearby sister-community of Choroszcz we find in the communal book of records that they already appointed their own rabbi father of court in 5487 (1727), the Tiktin rabbi's son-in-law. We can surmise that Bialystok by then also had their own rabbi.


The conditions in Choroszcz

It is interesting to give here the text and conditions of appointment according to the Choroszcz communal book of records, which says: “And on these conditions we received his honor the marvelous and outstanding rabbi our teacher and rabbi his honor Osher son of the rabbi, the great prodigy head of court and director of the yeshiva of the holy community of Tiktin may his creator protect and enliven him.

  1. And this is the first, the said rabbi must lend the leaders of the community four-hundred gold coins without any interest in the world and the community leaders must give him a promissory note signed by them with a bill of lading on the Krupka [internal Jewish tax on kosher meat etc.] of our community here.
  2. The said rabbi will live with us here in our community with his wife and the Rebbetzin [the rabbi's wife] must mostly live here in our community.
  3. The said rabbi must take a permit from the leaders of the community, may its creator protect and enliven it.
  4. The said rabbi must take a permit from the exalted government official for his expenses and the community leaders are obliged to procure him with one of the community members as witness to his expenses.
  5. The said rabbi shall not engage in any commerce that may deprive one of the community members of his livelihood but otherwise shall engage in any form of commerce as long as he does not deprive as mentioned above.
  6. The community leaders are obliged to give to the said rabbi the sum of forty[6] gold coins per week for rent from the day he arrives to live here with his wife the Rebbetzin.
  7. And to the community leaders shall the said rabbi give a contract with his authentic signature to affirm and uphold all things mentioned above and it has explicitly been conditioned with the condition of the sons of Gad and the sons of Menashe [a double condition. See Book of Numbers 32:20-24] that the said
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shall live explicitly here and his wife and nowhere else and no detail shall be left to fall to the ground [neglected].
  1. The community leaders are obliged to give the said outstanding rabbi living quarters befitting his status.
The leaders of the community and congregation and those authorized are signed below- all mentioned above has been done at a full table, Thursday, on the eve of the first of Shvat 587 without the thousands [5587, Jan.28, 1827] here, holy community of Choroszcz, may its creator protect and enliven it (afterwards come 6 signatures).

24 years later we find that Choroszcz no longer had their own rabbi but that they used the Bialystok rabbi according to a compromise that they agreed upon. A copy of the conditions is found in the Choroszcz book of records that we bring here:

Today and below [?] the account between our congregation and his honor the prodigy Rabbi Yehoshua of the holy community of Bialystok and in our community, may its creator protect and enliven it, regarding the rabbinical rent that is given to the said rabbi every year fifty Polish gold coins and our community has remained owing one red gold coin till the 18th of Iyyar 5511 [May 13, 1751] forthcoming to our benefit [refers to the aforementioned date] and anyone who rents the Krupka in the future must reimburse to our rabbi the prodigy the said red gold coin that we owe him from the past, and from the 1st of Iyyar [April 26]forthcoming to our benefit shall begin a new year of rent for the said rabbi and for this are mortgaged (!) the wages for shechitah [ritual slaughter of animals] from our shames [Jewish equivalent of church-warden] and the balance left over for which the shames wages do not suffice, shall be paid by our community from the Krupka. And as proof we sign below by command of the community and by command of the said rabbi. Today, Friday, the eve of the holy Shabbos, 6th of Kislev 5531 [Dec.4, 1750]. Proclamation of Yehuda Leib son of our teacher the rabbi Reb Shlomo Zalman shames of the aforementioned holy community.
From these two documents from the Choroszcz book of records we see that in the year 5531 (1751) the Bialystok community had a rabbi in partnership with Choroszcz, i.e. that Choroszcz contributed also to his rent and also, that in so the Bialystok community had grown larger than Choroszcz, since Bialystok already had a great rabbi prodigy, and Choroszcz also used him, giving a contribution for his rent. Who the rabbi prodigy from Bialystok was, we shall see subsequently.

ב    B

Rebbe Yehoshua SHAPIRA

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Rebbe Yehoshua SHAPIRA, it appears, was the first rabbi in Bialystok [serving] jointly in Choroszcz. He was the author of Kuntres misugyot hamurot [Pamphlet of grave matters] as an appendix to the book Hok Yaakov [Jacob's Law] authored by the Rabbi Yakov of Metz on the laws of Passover, published in Berlin in 5517 [1757]. He became well known in the academic world through his great book, Panin Masbirot – Arba'ah Shitot [A Kind Face Four Methods][7]. He was born in Zabludow in about 5488 [1728]. He says in the preface to Hok Yaakov that in the year 5517 [1757] he is still young, not yet a full 30 years old.

He was from a great lineage. His was descended[8]. from the son of my master, teacher and rabbi, Zvi Hirsh, may his memory be of a blessing in the world to come, son of my master, teacher and rabbi, the rabbinic scholar, the respected master and teacher, Reb SHAPIRA, grandson of the truly great author of Megale Amukot

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and his uncle was the great scholar, our master and teacher Reb Shemarya, may his memory be blessed, head of the religious court of the holy community of Wysokie and he also was appointed to the community of Zalkiew, and on his mother's side he was a grandson of the great scholar, our master and teacher, Avraham Segal EPSZTAJN and the famous great scholar, our master and teacher, Reb Naftali Hirsh, from the lineage of Zvi and her uncle was the great scholar, the famous Hasid, our master and teacher, Leib, head of the religious court of the holy community of Lwow and the region.

As the Tiktin Rabbi, Rebbe Efraim bar [son of] Yehoshua attests in his approbation to Panin Masbirot that he knew him from his youth because he was raised in Tiktin and in the nearby district and he had since his childhood shown his great capabilities (one can recognize a wise man even in his youth).

He himself said about his path in life (in the beginning of Hok Yaakov) that at the age of 18 years he already had written innovations on the order of the Talmud from his Talmudic lectures that he studied with the students: the group and his students strongly urged him to publish. However, the demons were pitted against him and led him from the right path and he went to his birthplace, the magnificent city of Zabludowa. The leaders of the community asked him to accept the office of rabbi of the community. He agreed. He was treated with respect. However, as his time there became boring because he could not bear the burden of the rabbinate, where learning was disparaged, he resigned as rabbi and returned to studying and authored a book of several hundred pages on the Sedra Moed [Order of the Festivals – a section of the Mishnah – the oral Torah]. In it he defended all of the areas that the Maharsha [Rabbi Shmuel EIDELS] had left unresearched. He asked the advice of prominent men about publishing this. They agreed [that he should]. So he left and took a bundle of money with him for printing expenses. On the way, spending the night in an inn, his bundle of money and his manuscripts were stolen while he slept. When he awoke he was depressed by his misfortune and cried not because of the loss of the money but because of the theft of his manuscripts. However, he later calmed down and accepted as his fate that this was a punishment for him because he had harangued Reb Shmuel EIDELS. He had bothered him about publishing the manuscripts. However today he is still not at ease: God had led him far from home until he arrived in the capital city Berlin[9]. Here he gave his Talmudic lessons.

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One of the respected Berlin Jews, the respected and generous rabbinic scholar, our wonderful teacher and Rabbi, Reb Meir SEGAL TOSK, took him into his home and supported him with everything [he needed]. There he decided to republish the Hok Yaakov, with his pamphlet of innovative interpretations of difficult Talmudic questions on the laws for Passover and of other doctrines that was no longer in [print]. He published it in Berlin with the approbations of the rabbis in Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder), Mezritch and Schwerin. He was given the title, the rabbi, the great luminary, clever and sharp, our teacher and rabbi, Yehoshua from the holy community of Tiktin.

On the title page he was called the Rabbi, Reb Yehoshua SHAPIRA of Tiktin and the replacement as head of religious court in the holy community of Zabludowa. Later he became the rabbi in Schwerin and the chief rabbi of all the provinces in Mecklenburg. We do not know for how long he was the rabbi there. He was still called the Schwerin and Mecklenburg rabbi in 5529 [1769], but in 5531 [1771], the heads of the community of his birthplace, Zabludowa, invited him to return to the rabbinate in their community and he agreed to this[10]. In 5531 [1771] he published his larger book, the first section of Panim Masbirot – Arba'ah Shitot. Therefore, he referred to himself on the title page of the book as presently the chairman of the rabbinical court of the holy community of Zabludowa, his birthplace, That is to say that meanwhile when he had become rabbi and the head of the rabbinical court in Zabludowa (not presently, as is usually the significance of the wordsIt also is said further along on the page: He had been appointed years ago as head of the Jewish rabbinic court there, and head of the Jewish rabbinic court in the holy community of Bialystok and neighboring communities and for many reasons[11]). , troubles and misfortunes he moved from there (he fled from his blemishes); for several years the light of his scholarship shone in all regions in Mecklenburg, may God protect it. That is, that earlier he was rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Zabludowa, afterwards in Bialystok, later in Schwerin Mecklenburg and then he returned to Zabludowa.

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As he was chairman of the rabbinical court not only in Zabludowa, but also in other cities in Poland, Reb Shmuel AMSTERDAMER also says in his approbation of Arba'ah Shitot that the rabbi, the great and wonderful scholar, very learned in Torah, was chairman of the rabbinical court of the holy community of Zabludowa and in other holy communities in the land of Poland (this is Bialystok, Choroszcz and a few more nearby kehilus).

He, himself, in his preface to Hok Yaakov, speaks only about his first rabbinate in his birthplace Zabludowa and not of his second rabbinate in Bialystok-Choroszcz because at that time they still were small, unknown cities in the world when Zabludowa already was known. The Zabludower Rabbi, Reb Eliezer KALIR was then already the rabbi in Cologne and its entire region (as he tells in his preface to the book, Ner Tumid [Eternal Light] of the Zabludower Rabbi, Reb Bendet on divorce and continuity). He was a very sharp mind as is seen from his two books, “a sharp, slashing sword”[12] and, as it appears, he always was a follower of the Enlightenment as it is written about him in his preface to Arba'ah Shitot [Four Methods], the Rabbi, Reb Efroim Fishl, the Tiktiner Rabbi: “The famous rabbi, the sharp luminary, great scholar of the Jewish People, wise and educated in general knowledge.”

His second rabbinate in Zabludowa from 5531 [1770] on is still uncertain[13], because in the Pinkas Khevra Kadisha Gakhsha [burial society of true charity] of the holy community of Zabludowa is signed Rabbi Chaim KLUMIMUS KAC, the local rabbi in the years 5518 [1757] to 5537 [1776] and it is not mentioned that Rabbi Yehusha SHAPIRA was again rabbi of Zabludowa at that time, when at that time the rabbi was Chaim. He cites: “rabbi of Zabludowa and the upper region” – perhaps he divided the rabbinate in Zabludowa into two districts.

ג    C

Rabbi Yehuda Leib son of Rabbi Mordechai of Horodyszcze

Translated by David Horowitz-Larochette

The second rabbi of Bialystok after Yehoshua Shapiro lies in the first old Bialystok cemetery, but not in the rabbis' row,[14]

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because he does not carry the same title as the other rabbis “HaGoen” [the prodigy][15]. On his tombstone, a simple, small paving-stone, is engraved:

“Here lies Rabbi Yehuda Leib son of master Mordechai of blessed memory from the holy community of Horodyszcze father of the court at this holy community [Bialystok] passed away on the eve of Rosh Hashanah year 543 without the thousands [5543, (Sep.26, 1783)], may his soul be bound in the bundle of life.”
This shows that he was extremely modest, he specified in his will that no titles should be written on his tombstone. We also find in the Vilnius cemetery various similar tombstones without titles for great rabbis, as for the author of Chayei Odom [The Life of Man] Rabbi Abraham Danzig and for the Vilnius Rabbi, father of court at the Yessod study-hall [Rabbi Elyahu, the Vilnius Goen]. On one it says explicitly that he ordered not to praise him excessively[16]. There is no detailed information about the said rabbi, apart from the fact that he was from Horodyszcze. This shows, that he was known by the name of his birth-town as was Reb Chaim Brisker, Reb Yehosua'le Kutner etc.

I must also clarify, that Shimon Koniak found in the same place, not far from the last tomb a tombstone with the text: “Here lies the rabbi the prodigy our-teacher-son-of-our-teacher Master Efroim Fishel son of the rabbi our teacher Yehoshua and passed away 5th of Cheshvan 5537 [Oct.18,1776]”[17]. There is no doubt that this is the tomb of a prior rabbi of Tiktin, who is mentioned above with his approbation to the rabbi Reb Yehoshua Shapiro. But it is excluded that he may have later become rabbi of Bialystok, because on his grandson's tomb, who lived in Bialystok, is the text:” Here lies David son of our teacher the rabbi Menachem Mendel grandson of the prodigy our teacher the rabbi Efroim father of the court of the holy community of Tiktin, passed away in good name, Sunday, the second day of Iyyar 5557 [Apr.28,1797]”. Had his grandfather been rabbi of Bialystok, he would have been identified as the grandson of the local rabbi in Bialystok. Rabbi Efroim Fishel son of Reb Yehoshua is mentioned in the Chevre Kadisha Gamlius Chassodim shel Emes [Holy Society for True Charity, meaning that the deceased cannot repay charity done to them] ledger of Tiktin (p.132) as the rabbi there as far back as Shvat 5535 [Jan.1775]; it seems that he came here [to Bialystok] to his grandson to be treated by a local doctor, and here he died and was thus here buried[18].

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ד    D

Rebbe Kalonymus Kalman LICHTENSZTAJN

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The third Bialystok Rabbi, Chairman of the Kehile [organized Jewish community] was when Bialystok became an independent kehile. His name was Reb Kalonymus Kalman LICHTENSZTAJN. He was a famous gaon [genius, brilliant man] of his time; his letters of recommendation are found in the book, Zer'a Avraham [Seeds of Abraham], by his brother, Rebbe Avraham Yekuteil LICHTENSZTAJN, the Plonsker Rebbe. In his introduction, he says that in Zer'a Avraham there are many wonders of wonders by his older brother; he says about him that he was a wonderful preacher; people would run to hear his sermons. His recommendation, as the Bialystok chairman of the Beis Din [religious court] in 5545 (1785), is also found in the book Divrei Kohelet [The Words of Ecclesiastes] printed in Novidvor, [taken] from his brother's Zer'a, [by] Avraham's son, the Rabbi, Rebbe Shlomo[19]. His recommendation for the year 5546 [1786] also appears in the book, Pnei Aryeh [Face of the Lion] (Nowy Dwór, 5547 [1787]). As his grandson, Rabbi Avraham LICHTENSZTAJN, said, the Rabbi, Rebbe LIPMAN's son, his son's son, rabbi in Przasnysz, in his book, haTorah vaMitzvah [Torah and Mitzvah - commandments],[20] his grandfather, the rabbi, Kalman LICHTENSZTAJN was the first rabbi in Bialystok. It is only true that he was the first rabbi in the independent Bialystok kehile [organized Jewish community], but in general he was the third rabbi in Bialystok. His information can be correct for another reason. As was reported,[21] the last Bialystok rabbi during Polish times was Reb Kalman LICHTENSZTAJN. He was to pay the government 200 ducats for his certification; in this way, he was the first rabbi in Bialystok who was certified by the government.

As was said, he was an educated, European man; he had access to BRANICKI's court and during a visit by the Polish King PONIATOWSKI to his brother-in-law, he had a long conversation with him.[22][*] As his grandson said, the Rabbi, Rebbe Hersh LICHTENSZTAJN of Tukum, the author of Hegion Libi [The Thoughts of My Heart] (died in Krzemieńczuk, 5680 [1920]), in the name of his father's brother, from BRANICKI's court honored the Rabbi, Rebbe Kalonymus LICHTENSTAJN; he gave the eulogy for the deceased

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Jan Klemens BRANICKI; he eulogized him in Latin, which made a great impression on the higher spirituality and on the Polish aristocracy, which came to the funeral.[23]

His family was very illustrious. They recorded 13 generations of great rabbis. Rabbi Reb Kalonymus Kalman also established a great pleiad [group of seven outstanding people] of rabbis of genius. His son, the Rabbi, Rebbe Shlomo from Nowy Dwor was the father of the Rabbi Rebbe Eliezer Lipman LICHTENSTAJN, the author of Shem Olam [World's Renown] on the Book of Leviticus. He was the rabbi in Tukum, Courland and his grandson was Rabbi, Reb Mordekhai LICHTENSZTAJN, also rabbi in Tukum for 33 years. He had great prominence and great influence in Kurland.[24]

The Rabbi, Rebbe Kalman LICHTENSZTAJN died here [in Bialystok] and is the first one buried here in the row of rabbis at the old cemetery. The wording on his headstone appears thus:

“Here is buried the Rabbi and great scholar, our teacher, Kalman Kalonymus, son of Moshe Yosef, may his memory be blessed, who was head of the religious court here and Rosh Mesivta [head of an educational institution], and died Tuesday, the 17th of Kislev [4 December 1781]. May his soul be in the bond of the living.” His title Rosh Mesivta proves that he taught students here [in Bialystok] at a separate yeshiva [religious secondary school].

Translator's note

* It is not clear if the conversation was with BRANICKI or the king Return

ה    E

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman son of Reb Chaim

Translated by David Horowitz-Larochette

Before Rabbi Shlomo Zalman became the fourth Rabbi of Bialystok he was the dean of the Yeshiva at Tiktin, as mentioned in the eulogy by Rav Velvele, author of Maros HaTzovos [Mirrors of the Gathering], in his book Agudas Ezov [Cluster of Hyssop]: “The Rav, The Great Light, sharp and famous, who was among the unique great scholars of our city and who established outstanding disciples learned in his innovations and in this study hall (where the eulogy was given) he taught his disciples all day and even at night his heart took no rest as is known to many for he toiled the toil of the Torah in this study hall and spent many nights in it immersed in Halacha, his ways are everlasting [meaning that Halacha was his world].”

The endorsement of the Rabbi Reb Shlomo Zalman son of Reb Chaim as Av Beis Din [chief justice] Rabbi of Bialystok is to be found in the book Shaagas Aryeh [The Lion's Roar] on Makkot [Lashes, a tractate in the Talmud] by the Rabbi of Krink (later to become Rabbi of Bialystok), which was printed in Bialystok in the year 5565 [1804], and in the book Asifas Geonim [Gathering of Geniuses], printed in Bialystok, 5566 [1805]. There he is given the title “endorsed by the rabbi, the brilliant, great, sharp, versed and famous model to the generation, splendor of the sages, the honorable and holy, our teacher the rabbi Reb Shlomo Zalman who is the Mora D'Asra [Aramaic, Master of the Region] Av Beis Din [chief justice] and rabbi and teacher of the holy community of Bialystok, the opulent” (his wife is thought to have had a business from her grandfather on Jatke Street). The endorsement is found in the book Maamar Mordechai [Mordechai's Essay] on Proverbs, printed in Horodna, 5571 [1810-11]: the endorsement is from the same year on Teves 13 [Jan 09, 1811].

His signature is found in the year 5568 [1808] in the introduction to the ledger of the Shulchan Aruch Society [Halacha study group] in the new study hall together with the Dayan [judge] Rabbi Zeev son of Reb Binyomin and also in the ledger of the Midrash [an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures] study group together with the [signatures of the members of the] rabbinical court.

The text on his tombstone in the old cemetery reads: “Here is buried the honest and god-fearing man, our teacher the rabbi, the great genius, model to the generation our teacher the Rabbi Shlomo Zalman son of the rabbi our teacher Rabbi Chaim year 5574 [1814]” (Adar 18 [March 10], according to the eulogy from [the book] Agudas Ezov [Cluster of Hyssop] in the booklet Alon Bochus [Oak of Bereavements].

Thus Rabbi Shlomo Zalman was rabbi in Bialystok when it was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia and died [when it was] under the Russian government in 1814. His rabbinical certificate is to be found at the Jerusalem National Library [National Library of Israel][25]). It is from the year 5549 [1789] with the date: Sunday, first day of creation, on the twelfth day of the month Shvat [Feb 08] 5549 [untranslatable numerological reference follows connecting the year to the name Shlomo and the fact that king Solomon was the wisest of all men]. He was confirmed as Rabbi and Av Beis Din [chief justice]. There are about 40 signatures [on the certificate]. In this way Reb Shlomo Zalman was the Rabbi of Bialystok between 1789-1814, i.e. 25 years.


  1. Nowadays he would be called: The Rabbi the great prodigy…. Return
  2. As it seems from the regulation in the study-hall ledger (p.15, side B) regarding the kaddish d'rabbonon [rabbis' kaddish]in the morning, which may only be recited by a member of the Chevre, because the Chevre maintains the study-hall and also a maggid meishorim, the same Rabbi Reuven. Return
  3. In the book Emek HaBocho [Valley of Tears] by the rabbi the great light the expounder and interpreter Moshe Lichtenstein, which is attached to Sefer Divrei Koheles [Book of the Words of Ecclesiastes] by his brother Rabbi Israel Lichtenstein, is brought on p.3, side B, an innovation in name of the prodigy the righteous the renowned our teacher the rabbi Reb Reuven HaLevi of blessed memory. Return
  4. Even from a foreign country, mostly from a small shtetl to a great city as, for example, the “Shaagas Aryeh“ [Lion's Roar], rabbi in Volozhin, a small poor shtetl in the Vilnius Gubernia, was appointed as rabbi of Metz, the capital of Elsass-Lothringen [Alsace-Lorraine], and so on. Return
  5. See Agudas Ezov, part A, question A. Return
  6. Obviously- a mistake: it should be four gold coins. Such high rent was not taken in those days even by the rabbis of the largest communities. For example, Choroszcz in those times had a rabbi in partnership with Bialystok and the part they payed was fifty Polish gold coins a year. Return
  7. See: Ben-Yakov, Treasure of Books: “Panim Masbirot by Rabbi Yehoshua SHAPIRA, head of the religious court of the Holy Community Schwerin, first part new commentaries of the Tractate Paschim chapters a and b, and after that 23 Responsa on Passover laws” and it is written in the introduction: the 'pamphlet of sygyot' [subjects, chapters] including Nesher and Hok Yaakov.”

    See also in Shem haGedolim [The Name of the Great], first part, 80: “He authored four chapters on the Tractate Paschim, Sukkah, Beitza, Megilla, and Responsa concerning the above Tractates. However, I have only seen the first two chapters in print.” Return

  8. In the approbation of Panin Masbirot – Arba'ah Shitot. Return
  9. However, in the approbation [printed in the front of a religious book] from Frankfurt's head of the religious court and the remaining rabbis who gathered for the daily court session here in the above-mentioned holy community in 5517 [1757] about Hok Yaakov, it was said that because of the theft he returned to his place and that now the book, Hok Yaakov, was being printed by him, it can be that after the theft, which was before 5510 [1750], he was the rabbi in Bialystok and Choroszcz and from there he first went to print the Hok Yaakov, but from his own story it appears that he did not have any respite from the theft and God led him to Berlin and he printed Hok Yaakov there. Return
  10. Therefore, in the approbation for Abra'ah Shitot from the head of the religious court in Berlin, on the 10th Sivan 5527 [7 June 1767] he still is called rabbi of Schwerin and Mecklenburg, but in the approbation of the rabbis of Frankfurt (Oder) and Amsterdam he is called the rabbi of Zabludowa, but Reb Shmuel AMSTERDAMER also calls him the rabbi of Zabludowa in 5527 [1767]. Return
  11. As Rabbi SHAPIRA writes in his same great approbation (there), the kehile leaders of his birthplace, Zabludowa, again called him to assume the rabbinical seat of their community on Rosh Khodesh [start of the new month] Tevet 5531 [18th December 1770] and his brother's son, the publisher of Panim Masbirot [Cordial Expressions], also said that the community leaders of Zabludowa restored the situation to its early splender (in his approbation to the innovations there). I must mention here that his book Abra'ah Shitot is found here in many houses of study, but his pamphlet to Hok Yaakov is an expensive rarity. Here he found himself in the new building of Yehiel Neche's house where he almost found it among sheymes [books containing the name of God which must be stored in a special room rather then discarded or destroyed] – Reb Shimeon KONIAK. He opened my eyes about his history. Return
  12. As it appears in his questions and answers in the pamphlet Hok Yaakov about the subject of using honey [particularly at Passover] that when he passed by here in the holy community of Skoky on his trip to Berlin, he was asked a question about very small insects, such as mites, that cannot be filtered and are found in their water. He banned the [use of the] water. A great rabbi from Poznan, who was permissive, was opposed. He overcame all of pieces of evidence, [saying] they were built on false premises. Return
  13. As Mr. Shimeon KONIAK brought to my attention. Return
  14. It seems that, while he was the first, later they reconsidered and made the rabbinical row a little bit higher. Return
  15. In the “Seder Selichos” [Prayers of Atonement] of the local Chevre Kadisha, that they recite on their fast-and-feast day on Kislev 15, we also find a prayer for the deceased, in which they commemorate all the dead rabbis and judges; the rabbis fathers of the court are given the title “the great prodigy” and the judges simply “rabbis”, but this specific rabbi father of the court is counted in this prayer among the judges, and he's mentioned only after the rabbi Reb Shlomo Zalman son of the rabbi Reb Chaim- thirty-odd years later. Also in the town it is completely forgotten that he was once the rabbi of Bialystok. True, they have forgotten Reb Yehoshua Shapiro as well, but he is not buried in the local cemetery. Return
  16. See: Rabbi Shmuel Yosef Fuenn, Kirya Neemono [Faithful Borough], p.183,199,234. Return
  17. See: Unser Leben [Our Life], 1933, #184. Return
  18. It is very much false what the new Shem HaGdolim [rabbinical encyclopedia] writes, that he is buried in Tiktin. See Friedberg's Luchos HoHazkoro [Memorial Tablets], p.7, comment 8. Return
  19. The author of Hokhmat Shelome [Solomon's Wisdom], novel interpretations of halakhah [religious law] and post Talmudic commentators and of the book Klil Tiferet [Perfect Splendor]. Return
  20. He was the rabbi and a preacher in Liba [Lepai], Zabludowa, Wołowysk [Vawkavysk], Onikst, Vilkmir [Ukmergė], Kreuzburg. He was the author and publisher of many books, such as: Kanfei Nesharim [Eagle's Wings], Igeret Hatzofe [The Epistle of the Seer] published in Bialystok in 1806, Amudei Shamayim [Pillars of Heaven], Ge'ulate Olam [Eternal Redemption], Hin Tzedek [A Right Measure], Tikun Hamidot [Correction of Manners] on the eight chapters of Rambam and still others. Return
  21. Altpreußische Monatsschrift [Old Prussian Monthly], Königsberg, 1911, No. 48, S. 417. Return
  22. As it was told to me by a Jewish-German source – M. Cipowicz. Return
  23. See the book, Di Geshikhte fun Yidn in Letland [The History of Jews in Latvia] by Levi Dov Ber Yona UCINSKI, written in Hebrew, translated into Yiddish, published in Riga, pp. 188-119. Return
  24. Ibid. Return
  25. According to the list of manuscripts compiled by Dr. Joel, Jerusalem, 5694 [1934], p.47, folder 462. Return

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