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[Page 59]

Rabbis – Natives of Steibtz

by M. Tzinowitz

Translated by Harvey Spitzer


Rabbi Yochanan Mirsky



He was a native of Steibtz, son of Rabbi Meir Mirsky. He studied at the Knesset Beit-Yitzchak Yeshiva in Slobodka-Kovna and was the disciple of the Ga'on[1] Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz, head of the above-mentioned rabbinic college.

He was appointed as a rabbi in Bodki (district of Bilsk in the region of Grodno), replacing the Gaon Rabbi Reuven Zelig Bengis, who moved to Kalvaria in Lithuania.

In the year 5685 (1929), he was appointed rabbi in Zavlodovi (Zabludow), near Bialystok, and led his community with loyalty and devotion and was respected and admired in all circles of the small town. He was active in religious Zionism and joined the Mizrachi[2] party and practiced what he preached in all matters pertaining to the Land of Israel, to the Keren Kayemet[3] and to the Keren HaYesod[4] and signed all manifestos for the benefit of both these funds.

Rabbi Mirsky was active in the area of religious-Zionist education and was regarded as one of the founders of the school in the small town, where the students were educated in Torah, good manners and love for the Land of Israel. In addition, he also encouraged talented students to continue their studies in yeshivot. Likewise he created publicity in his small town to inspire the youth to emigrate to the Land of Israel and worked hard to establish a branch of HaShomer HaDati and Hechalutz HaMizrachi[5] in Zavlodovi.

He was also respected in circles of Agudat Yisrael[6], because of his sincerity and his activities that were performed in God's name.


Father and Son – Rabbi David and Rabbi Moshe Vilentzik

Rabbi Moshe is described as “wise and perfect and a remarkable preacher”. He was the son of the righteous Rabbi from Steibtz, Rabbi David who was related to the Maharal of Prague[7] and to the author of the book Panim Meirot, (the Gaon Rabbi Meir Eisenstadt, president of the rabbinic court, son of the daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Shabtai HaKohen, author of Siftei Kohen commentary on sections Yoreh De'ah and Choshen Mishpat of the Shulchan Aruch[8]). Rabbi Moshe Vilentzik married the daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Eliezer Moshe Heiligman from Nesvizh. He did not want to take on a position as rabbi and earned a living as a merchant in Tomashpol in the district of Kiev. In the year 5657 (1876), he wrote an important book, Shirat Moshe, an explanation of the Book of the Song of Songs, with his own innovations of Halacha[9]. This book was praised by the great rabbis of the generation in their “Approvals”, among them Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Rabbi Moshe Nachum Yerushalimski from Kaminka, Rabbi Shlomo Freides from Liadi and also special approval from his father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Heiligman. Rabbi Moshe endowed other books of Halacha and handwritten religious literature.

(According to HaDorot HaAchronim by Ben- Zion Eisenstadt)


Rabbi Yaakov Vilentzik

He was born in Steibtz in 5612 (1851). He was a pupil of the Gaon Rabbi Chaim Zalman Eisenstadt, president of the rabbinic court in Mir. He also studied in Birzh, Lithuania under the Gaon Rabbi Asher Nissan, author of Gan Na'ul. In the year 5648 (1887), he was appointed rabbi and president of the rabbinic court in Pikeln, where he worked for 29 years and died there in 5677 (1916).

He became famous in the rabbinic world with his book, Dlatot Tshuva, dealing with the Yoreh De'ah[10]. He also wrote the books Tehilah L'David (Vilna, 5630/ 1869) and Be'er Yaakov (Vilna, 5639 /1878). Among his writings remained other responsa[11] and new interpretations of Halacha as well as elucidations of Our Sages of Blessed Memory. Dlatot Tshuva was published in HaPeles[12] (Year 1, 5661/ 1900) and also in Divrei Malchiel by the rabbi from Lomzeh and in other essays. The book Dlatot Tshuva includes explanations and markers indicating places in the words of the Achronim[13] concerning the Yoreh De'ah section of the Shulchan Aruch from paragraph 1-122. The first part (from paragraph 1-82) was published in Vilna in 5650 (1889), and the second part (from paragraph 87-122) was published in Vilna in 5651 (1890), including the omissions from the first part. In the epilogue, we read: “In it are compiled all the laws and new interpretations by the former and later Gaonim who “split the heavens” [luminaries]. Among them were laws that were in force at the time of the Ptchey (Gates of) Tshuva[14] and were not included in his book, or those that were interpreted afterwards, to this day… Also many reformed interpretations of laws that came to my mind according to the basic law of the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) and the Arbiters of Halacha, with God's help, may he be blessed.

In the introduction to Part I, the author mentions that he used 800 books of responsa which are in the library of Rabbi Matityahu Shtrashun.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ga'on - A title given to a great learned Rabbi. Return
  2. Mizrachi - Orthodox party in the Zionist organization. Return
  3. Keren Kayemet - Jewish National Fund. Return
  4. Keren HaYesod - The Foundation Fund also known as the UJA (United Jewish Appeal) or UIA (United Israel Appeal). Return
  5. HaShomer HaDati and Hechalutz HaMizrachi - These were both religious Zionist organizations. Return
  6. Agudat Yisrael - An anti-Zionist religious organization. Return
  7. The Maharal of Prague - Yehuda ben Bezalel Loew. Return
  8. Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law. Return
  9. Halacha - Jewish Law. Return
  10. Yoreh De'ah - section of the Shulchan Aruch. Return
  11. responsa - questions and answers regarding Halacha. Return
  12. HaPeles - HaPeles was a magazine in Hebrew, published in the city of Poltava in the Russian Empire, between the years 1900-1905. The editor-in-chief and publisher of the journal was Rabbi Eliyahu Akiva Rabinowitz. (Wikipedia in Hebrew translated). Return
  13. Achronim - Famous Rabbis and last interpreters of Halacha the Code of Jewish Law. Return
  14. Gates of Tshuva - This may actually relate to his book Dlatot Tshuva (Doors of Tshuva). Return


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