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Faith & Tradition in Rzeszow

 

Rabbis of Rzeszów

Rzeszów

By Abba Appelbaum

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It is a city on the Wisłok River in central Galicia. It had a Jewish community from ancient times. According to the details written in the Holy Ark of the Old Synagogue, the building was built in the year 5105 (1345). It seems from this that at that time, there was already a large enough community that was capable of building such a significant building. There were two other ark covers in that synagogue, from the years 5440 and 5469 (1680–1700). There was another synagogue in the new city called Wola, a large Beis Midrash filled with ancient books of great value, and a large Kloiz for those who worshipped according to the Nusach Sephard rite. Aside from these, there were about 20 minyanim [prayer quorums] and 30 societies involved in communal needs, such as: Bikur Cholim [tending to the sick], Beit Osef for the elderly, Dorshei Tov [Seekers of Good], Nosei Sevel [Bearers of the Burden], and other similar ones. The Jews earned their livelihoods from commerce and various trades.

The rabbis of Rzeszów: The city of Rzeszów sent delegates from among the communal leaders to the Council of the Four Lands during the 16th century. There are two monuments in the cemetery. One of them contains the following inscription: Here is buried the lofty leader, a head, captain and leader of the Council of the Four Lands and the community, the philanthropist our rabbi Azriel the son of Rabbi Yehuda of blessed memory. Died on the 27th of Adar 5316 (1555). The second one is as follows: the leader and the captain, a head of the Council of the Four Lands, Pinchas the son of Rabbi Azriel of holy blessed memory. He died on the 8th of Iyar, 5352 (1592). Apparently he was the son of the first one. Rabbi Aharon Shmuel Kaidanover was accepted as the rabbi of Rzeszów. He was the author of “Birchat Hazevach” who was also a rabbi in Frankfurt am Main and Amsterdam. He was followed by Rabbi Mordechai, who had been a rabbi in the city of Podhajce. In 1685, the rabbi was Rabbi Moshe, who issued an approbation for the book Zechor Leavraham. He was followed by Rabbi Shneur the son of Rabbi Chanoch, who wrote an approbation for the book Gvurot Anashim (he died on the 27th of Sivan, 5459 / 1799). After him Rabbi Shmuel Halevi the son–in–law of Rabbi Yitzchak of Posen, the rabbi of the Magen Avraham, was chosen as rabbi. At that time, the head of the Yeshiva in Rzeszów was the famous rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Reisher, the author of Chok Yaakov and the Shvut Yaakov Responsa book, as is apparent from his approbation on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim section with the commentary of Ben Nota and Leket Hakemach. The following rabbis served in Rzeszow after them: Rabbi Aryeh Leib the son of Rabbi Shmuel the son of Rabbi Heshel the head of the rabbinical court of Krakow, known as Rabbi Leib Amsterdamer. After him was Rabbi Dovber the son of Rabbi Aryeh Leib the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Zamosz. When he was summoned to the city of Lwów, he was replaced by Rabbi Aharon the son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Itinga. At that time, the head of the Yeshiva was Rabbi Tzvi the son of Rabbi Yehuda, the author of the commentary Gaon Tzvi on tractate Bava Metzia. After them Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim Blumenfeld was the rabbi of Rzeszów, followed by his son Rabbi Yechezkel Tzvi, who led his congregation for approximately 45 years (he died on the 19th of Kislev 5616 / 1856). During the latter period (1871–1873) Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ornstein served as the rabbi, after he had been deported from the city of Brisk Litovsk by the government. He was a grandson of the author of Yeshuot Yaakov. He did not last long in Rzeszów, for after the death of Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson, he was called to fill his place in Lwów, where he lived until his death.

Bibliography

Dembitzer, Klilat Yofi: Friedberger Luchot Zicharon, page 319–320, section 9 Otzar Yisrael Encyclopedia, third edition.


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The City and its Rabbis

by Rabbi Moshe Kamelhar

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Photo page 72: uncaptioned. Rabbbi Kamelhar.

A. The Early Kehilla

From among the famous cities in Poland from the period where Poland was known as “The finest repository of Torah and religion from the days that G–d left Ephraim and Judea” the city of Rzeszów is also mentioned in the various documents and sources that testify to the importance of the community and its notables, rabbis, and leaders. In this article, I do not intend to arouse once again the historical debate regarding the date of the beginning of Jewish settlement in Rzeszów. If we assume that the continued settlement of Jews from Germany in the Slavic lands laid the groundwork for Poland to become a Jewish metropolis with the passage of time, it is possible to determine that those deportees who were deported or were always in danger of deportation from Germany, Bohemia and Moravia settled in Rzeszów just as they had settled in Krakow and Lwów, for Rzeszów is halfway between those two ancient communities. With this assumption, it is possible that there were already Jews in Rzeszów at the beginning of the 15th century, and that they had already founded a community there with all the institutions connected to it.

Two gravestones in the ancient cemetery, the first of “The lofty leader, a head, captain and leader of the country, Rabbi Azriel the son of Rabbi Yehuda of blessed memory” who died on the 27th of Adar 5316, which is 1555, and the second of “the head, captain, chief and leader of the Council of the Four Lands, Pinchas the son of Rabbi Azriel of holy blessed memory,” who died on the 8th Adar 5352, which is 1592, strengthen our theory. These gravestones could be deciphered, whereas most of the gravestones in the old cemetery were impossible to decipher, for not even a trace of lettering remains on them. Many of sunk into the ground from age, as I have seen with my own eyes.

Since the second gravestone mentions that the deceased was a leader of the Council of the Four Lands, it is worthwhile to present a brief survey of the essence of the Council of the Four Lands, its authority, and the autonomy granted to that council for a period of over 200 years. Many of the personalities whom I will describe further on played a significant role in that council.

In the year 5300 – 1540, a proclamation emanated from King Zygmunt I that every province of the States of Greater and Lesser Poland as well as Red Russia should each choose two people, from among the leaders of the cities of Krakow, Poznan, and Lwów, who will be called the administrators of the state.

They are to always gather on the market day in the fair of Grosnitz of the district of Lublin and the end of the winter, and in the Jarosław fair at the end of the summer. They had to oversee communal affairs and the imposition of taxes, judge monetary matters between merchants who visited the fairs, and proclaim enactments on matters of religion. They also had to supervise the retaining and appointments of rabbis and Yeshiva heads in every city. At first, the administrators of the council were chosen from only the three countries of Greater and Lesser Poland and Red Russia, therefore it was called the Council of the Three Lands of Poland (Tzemach David end of Section A / Responsa of Mahara”m of Lublin section 88). However, in the year 5340 – 1580 the states of Volhynia and Lithuania were added, and it became the Council of the Five Lands (see the book Netivot Olam of the Mahara”l of Prague and the response of the Gaon of Poznan from the year 5348 – 1588, as well as the ledgers of the city of Krakow from the year 5340 – 1583 [1]). We should note that the Kingdom of Poland was divided into five different states: Greater Poland with the capital of Poznan; Lesser Poland with the capital of Krakow; Red Russia, which is Eastern Galicia and also known as Podolia with the capital of Lwów; the State of Wolhynia with the capital of Ludmir, and the State of Lithuania with the capital of Brisk. In the year 5383 – 1623, Lithuania ceded and formed its own council called the Council of the Communities of the State of Lithuania. From that time, the council consisted of four lands, and was known as such until the last day of the year 5525 – 1764.

Aside from the Council of the Four Lands, a special council existed in each state, in which leaders of that state convened in one of the cities of the district to oversee communal affairs and internal matters affecting them alone. This was known as the Regional Council. The chief communities of each state chose their own leaders. In the State of Lesser Poland where the Krakow District was located, they were called the Heads of the Regional Community. In the state of Greater Poland where the Poznan District was located, they were called the Regional Leaders, and in the State of Red Russia where the Lwów District was located they were called the Leaders of the State. In addition to all of these, three other administrators were elected. They were great and important people who were called the Heads of the State.

Various sources of information shed light on the heavy taxes that were imposed on the Jews in various periods, as a result of the invasion of various enemies

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such as the Tatars, the Swedes, and the Cossacks who penetrated Poland to plunder and pillage. At the convention of the city of Rzeszów in the year 5422 – 1662, there was an apportioning of tax amounting to 105,000 zloty imposed on all the Jews of Poland in order to give a gift. That convention also adjudicated several other disputes between the Council of the Four Lands with various councils as well as with the Council of the State of Lithuania.

In an announcement from May 10, 1662 (21 Iyar, 5422), the Minister of Finance Jan Kraszinski demanded that the leaders and each Jewish community of Poland enter negotiations and settle up by the Feasts of John the Baptist (June 24, 1662 – 7 Tammuz 5422) the aforementioned tax sum that was imposed on them by the recent Sejm [Polish parliament] that had convened in Warsaw as well as the current Sejm for the aforementioned gift. The aforementioned sum was to be collected and paid in accordance to the apportioning that was conducted by the Council of Rzeszów, with the agreement of the “Jewish leaders and chief secretary” (the heads of the Council of the Four Lands and the Trustee of the House of Israel of the Four Lands), and to bring it to the treasury via the Lwów Commissar.

We noted the dispute between the leaders of the leaders of the Council of the Lands and the leaders of the Council of Lithuania. This dispute was based on sums of money that were owed by the leaders of Lithuania over and above the sums that were collected, as well as on the claim that the leaders of Lithuania no longer wish to participate with the Council of the Lands of Poland. Deliberation over these matters was postponed at the convention of Rzeszów until the year 5430 – 1670. During that convention in Rzeszów, the “Hameorot Hagedolim” [Great Lights] decision was issued, stating that every resident of Poland, even an individual, has a right to seize property from a particular community or district in order to service his debt that he has to a particular community. Apparently, many decisions were issued at the conference of Rzeszów in the year 5422 – 1662 about matters that were related to the Lands of Poland and Lithuania.

Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Izak Charif of Rzeszów was among the most important and prominent people who participated in the decisions of the Council of the Four Lands. He was one of the arbitrators in the dispute with the leaders of Lithuania, that is to say, the notables of Brisk along with the communities of Horodno, Pinsk, and Vilna. The dispute between these cities lasted a long time, and it was only resolved through a special, explicit decree from King Jan Sobieski demanding the resolution of the dispute by bringing it to a court composed of four rabbis of the aforementioned communities, two leaders of Brisk and in addition “Three Jewish rabbis from the Kingdom.” One of these was Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Charif of Rzeszów.

The leaders of Rzeszów were also summoned to court at the convention of Jarosław in the year 5432 – 1672 since a ban had been imposed on them with regard to the border, and that they were not careful about their signatures. The issue of the border was that each Land in Poland and Lithuania had the authority to forbid the entry of merchants from a different Land during the fairs. In the Ledger of the State of Lithuania, entry 740 from the year 5430 – 1670 states, “If anyone comes from Poland to Brisk or to any other community on the border, there is permission to compromise with him and to pay up to 30 zloty so that he would not travel to Lithuania. This is written in the ledger of the head of the community. etc.” Apparently, the merchants of Rzeszów transgressed this ban, and therefore were themselves placed under ban. At that time, the shamash Reb Zalman of the community was summoned to court for “refusing the leaders of the Lands of Warsaw, so he is forbidden from serving as shamash in that community and in any Land until he accepts upon himself the verdict of the convention of Jarosław.”

The position of shamash was very important during that period. The shamash was a sort of middleman between the merchants who came to commercial cities and fairs in various places. In a source from the year 5499 – 1738 given to the shamash Reb Yehuda Leib, the shamash of the Land of Russia, in the city of Breslau, began to persecute the shamash Reb Wolf Zelig of the city of Rzeszów and Rabbi Yehoshua Segal of Krakow, the head of the rabbinical court of Ciechanów. He was the son of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Segal the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów and the father of the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak the head of the rabbinical court of Dobromyl until he was appointed rabbi of Ciechanów. At the end of his life, he was the rabbi of Siemiatycze. When he was in Dobromyl, he issued an approbation for the book “Brit Shalom” (24 Tishrei 5473 – 1712); in Ciechanów on the book “Chukei Derech” (15 Shvat 5488 – 1723; and in Siematycze on the book “Yezamercha Kavod” (6 Elul 5492 – 1732). He was the rabbi of the Gaon Rabbi Shaul the head of the rabbinical court of the Hague, who was the son–in–law of the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib the head of the rabbinical courts of Głogów, Tarnopol, Rzeszów, and Amsterdam, the son–in–law of the Chacham Tzvi. As a trustee of the House of Israel of the Four Lands, he wrote a letter on Sunday 24 Tevet 5499 – 1739 to Rabbi Yehuda Leib the shamash of the Land of Russia in Breslau, advising him to take the second shamash Rabbi Wolf Zelig of Rzeszów under his protection so that he would not be deported from the city along with the rest of the Jews. Rabbi Yehoshua noted in his letter “that everyone praises the heir of Rabbi Wolf Zelig, and about him (Rabbi Yehuda Leib) complaints have already been heard from many merchants who have requested that the leaders and trustees of the Four Lands become involved in the matter. He protected him because he was concerned for his honor, and therefore it is my hope that he will do good for him and fulfil my request.” This document, located in the civic archives of Breslau, is written in the German Language. From it, we can deduce the importance of the shamash Rabbi Wolf Zelig. There are no words in the mouths of the leaders of Lwów to describe his greatness. Rabbi Yehuda Leib, the first shamash of Breslau, was under the authority of the Land of Russia, headed by Lwów, and therefore they turned to their own shamash and reprove him for the deeds that relate to him, for he was among the “evil ones of Jewish lineage” who caused the deportation of most of the Jews from Breslau, with the shamashim only able to choose five Jews to be under their protection. They threaten Rabbi Yehuda Leib with all sorts of punishments if he does not rectify his deeds, and especially to stop Rabbi Wolf Zelig of Rzeszów. After the leaders of Lwów, the letter was certified by the rabbi of Głogów, who later served as the rabbi of Rzeszów, Rabbi Aryeh Leib. It concludes “that we will write to all the leaders of all the Lands, and all will agree with us completely.”

Rzeszów belonged to Prince Lubomirski. In a letter from December 11, 1678, he turned to the prince who was the Wojewoda [governor] of the Land of Russia, demanding that the city council of Breslau not force the Jews of Rzeszów who were subject to him to pay the debt of the “leaders of the Jews of the Kingdom of Poland.”

The Jews of Rzeszów had strong business connections with Breslau, and we can surmise with respect to the debt that “the Jewish community of the Kingdom of Poland (Council of the Four Lands) admitted in the year 1676 that it owed Krystof Bressler of Breslau a sum of 12,120 Reichstaler.” They were obligated to pay the debt within 12 years. Apparently they were derelict in their payments, so they wanted to force the merchants of Rzeszów who were the most recognizable in Breslau to pay this debt. This was the cause of the approach to the prince, as is described above.

In the year 5447 – 1687, the authorities confirmed for the second time regarding the community

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Opatów from the “Leaders and Captains of the Four Lands, to not accept any person to live amongst them.” They are given permission to deport anyone who came there against their will, for everyone knows that the community of Opatów only has one street, and it is impossible for them to expand their bounds. It would be sufficient if they be uprooted from their homes, and they should not establish themselves on the land or under the heavens.” Among the signatories of this power of attorney was Rabbi Azriel of Rzeszów, the source for the aforementioned ban. This was because the city of Opatów was under the ownership of the landowner Siedlowicki. The time of the beginning of Jewish settlement in Opatów is obscure. According to estimates, there were already Jews there in 1518. However, the main settling began in 1634, when a Jewish quarter was set up, in which Jews of the lower classes settled on the account of a payment from the community. In the middle of the 17th century, when a number of Jews of the various communities began to stream into Opatów, the place became too crowded to take them all in. The authorities did not grant them permission to expand their boundaries or to move from the narrow street to a broader one. Therefore the heads of the community saw themselves as forced to request “the law of the community” from the Council of the Four Lands – that means to give them a power of attorney that additional Jewish settlement there would be dependent on receiving a permit from the community.

Regarding the identity of the aforementioned Rabbi Azriel from Rzeszów, Y. Halperin, the author of the book “Pinkas of the Council of Four Lands” bases it on the date that is engraved on the monument that the Rzeszów resident Mr. Abba Appelbaum found in the old cemetery (mentioned earlier) of Rabbi Azriel the son of Rabbi Yehuda from the year 5316 – 1556 (Otzar Yisrael volume 9, page 319). He writes that information on Jews in Rzeszów dates only from 1550. During the entire 16th century and even during the 30 years following, there were no more than seven Jewish families there! The source of this is from Panckowski's book “History of the City of Rzeszów” that references the archives of the city of Rzeszów. Therefore, he identifies Rabbi Azriel the son of Rabbi Yehuda with the Rabbi Azriel who signed the aforementioned power of attorney in 5447 – 1687. To the extent that I knew the writer and historian Reb Abba Appelbaum, it would be an injustice to attribute such a serious error in dates to him, for how is it possible to identify Rabbi Azriel the son of Rabbi Yehuda who died on the 27th of Adar 5316 – 1556 with the Rabbi Azriel who signed the aforementioned document 122 years later. An error such as this in deciphering a gravestone inscription would not have been made by Reb Abba Appelbaum, and he remains with his authority. I am uncertain if it is possible to rely on the writer Sanckowski regarding this, for it is possible to assume that there were Jews in Rzeszów even before the date that he gives to us. These would have been from among the Jews deported from the lands of Kaiserish Germany, such as Bohemia and Moravia. They would have been the ones who founded their community in Krakow and also reached Rzeszów, where they laid down the foundations of the community similar to other communities that already existed in their country.

I will mention here some of the important parnassim [administrators] in the city of Rzeszów who were signatories to various decisions of the Council of the Four Lands. Rabbi Yisrael Krakower signed the ban on importing printed books from outside of Poland. This ban was issued by the Council of the Four Lands in the year 5459 – 1698. One of the most important parnassim of the Council of the Four Lands was Reb Yitzchak Chazak the Physician Fortis. He first lived in Lwów and Jarosław, and later purchased a house in Rzeszów and settled there as the in–house physician of Prince Lubomirski in Rzeszów and Baron Potocki of nearby Leżajsk. In 1671, he was appointed as a servant to the king. He played important roles in Jewish communal life. He became an in–law to the parnas Rab Avraham Chaim Heilprin of Lublin who married off the son of Reb Yaakov Chaim to the daughter of the “famous, expert physician.}

A document in the German Language remains in the civic archives of the city of Breslau to which Y. Halperin refers in his book “Pinkas of the Four Lands.” Dealing with the complaint of the shamash Reb Yehuda the son of Reb Mordechai, the shamash of the district of Russia Lwów against a certain man named Yaakov the son of Reb Simcha of Olkusz who attempted to encroach on Breslau. It gave “support to the claim of Reb Yehuda Leib to remain on his guard.” Among others, three residents of the city of Rzeszów signed: Rabbi Moshe of Rzeszów, the son of the rabbi of the community of Pinczew, Reb Lipman Priester of Rzeszów, and also Reb Avraham Yitzchak Chazak the physician. The date was Tuesday the 5th of Adar, 5484 – 1724. Further with regard to that matter, the Council of the Four Lands published a verdict at the convention in the community of Jarosław on 12th of Elul 5484 regarding the employment of the aforementioned shamash and his signature “along with the other leaders and chieftains of the Four Lands in the Kingdom of Poland,” Shlomo the son of the head of the rabbinical court Rabbi Moshe of Rzeszów and Avraham Yitzchak Chazak the Physician. In various documents, we meet the aforementioned Rabbi Shlomo regarding the tax payments of the city of Leżajsk from the year 5479 – 1719. We cannot identify him for we know that in the rabbi of Rzeszów, the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Halevi died in the year 5478 – 1718, and Rabi Shlomo signed as the son of Rabbi Moshe, the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów in the year 5478 – unless two rabbis served at one time. Rabbi Shlomo the son of Rabbi Moshe of holy blessed memory of Rzeszów is also among those who agreed to publish and support the author of the book “Damesek Eliezer.” During the convention of the leaders and chieftains of the Four Lands on the 18th of Elul 5481 – 1721 in Rychwał. In an announcement issued in the merit of Rabbi Yochanan Eibeschitz that was given at the convention of Jarosław from the year 5514 – 1754 he signed along with Rabbi Dov Berish the son of the Gaon of Zamosc who lived in the community of Krasnik, and later became the rabbi of Rzeszów. From there, he was accepted as the head of the Yeshiva of Lwów around the year 5519 – 1759. At the convention of Jarosław in the year 5484 – 1724 his father the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib signed, among other things, an agreement to republish the book “Yefei Toar” on the Midrash Rabba. At the same time, the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib the son of Rabbi Shaul who lived in the community of Rzeszów also issued an approbation to the book. He was the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh–Leib the son–in–law of the Chacham Tzvi. We will write more about him later.

B. The Rabbis of the Community of Rzeszów

In his introduction to his response book “Yad Eliahu” (Amsterdam 5472 – 1712), the Gaon Rabbi Eliahu of Lublin, he writes: Then, at the time of “G–d ascends in the holy convention in the countries of Poland and Lithuania in the meeting of the shepherds.” The delegates stood in their full strength, and the more honorable communities, Rzeszów among them, sent their delegates to the place of the convention. That community had its honor and also always sent its parnassim and rabbis to the conventions. We do not know the name of the first rabbi of Rzeszów. However, among the first rabbis, was the famous, sharp rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Aharon Shmuel the son of the chieftain Rabbi Yisrael Keidanover, known as the Maharsha'k. He was the relative of the rabbi and Gaon rabbi Yehoshua of Krakow the author of “Pnei Yehoshua” and “Meginei Shlomo” (who is mentioned in his book “Birchat Hazevach” Chapter 2 of Temura). He was the student of the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Yaakov of Lublin and his very sharp son who was known as Rabbi

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Heshel. The Maharsha'k was a member of the head of the rabbinical court of the author of “Chelkat Mechokek” of the city of Vilna. At the time of the tribulations of the year 5415 (1655) he also went with the exiles of Vilna and wandered from place to place. According to the testimony of his son Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch the author of the book “Kav Hayashar” (Frankfurt am Main 5443 – 1683) in his introduction to the book of his father “Birchat Shmuel” on the Torah, he writes: He currently disseminates Torah in the city of Luz, Austria (perhaps this refers to the city of Linz, for in his introduction to the book “Nachalat Tzvi” printed in Venice in the year 5451 – 1691 he signed: Aharon Shmuel who currently lives in the community of “Luz” in the Country of Austria). Later, he was accepted to the community of Furth and the community of Nikolsburg. “A bud blossoms and flower blooms in the large, holy community of Głogów, and he gave to the holy community of Rzeszów and all the people of the country.” The intention was certainly for the entire region of Rzeszów. From there, he was accepted to the rabbinical seat of the major Jewish city of Frankfurt am Main. At the end of his days, he ascended the rabbinical seat of the community of Krakow. He did not last long there, for when he traveled to the regional convention in the city of Chmeilnik, his pure soul ascended heavenward on Tuesday 19th of Tammuz, 5436 – 1676. There is no agreement among historians regarding the year of his death. In his book “Kirya Neemana”, Sh. Y. Fin lists the date of his death as 5438 – 1678. His in–law the rabbi and author of “Shaar Efraim” the Chid'a mentions in his book “Shem Gedolim” that he died in the year 5439 – 1679. He was replaced by a rabbi named Rabb Hertz, who perhaps was the son of the daughter of the Ba'ch.

We do not know the time of his residency in Rzeszów. Perhaps he ended up in Rzeszów during the time that he was in exile from Vilna, and from there he moved to the large and important cities that I noted above. It is also worthwhile to point out that the community of Rzeszów always desired to have famous rabbis and Gaonim, whose renown was already established, serve as rabbis of the city, such as the rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Gavriel of Krakow, the head of the rabbinical court of Olkusz in Poland, and who also had been the head of the rabbinical court of Prague, Metz, Rzeszów and Nikolsburg. He was chosen as the rabbi of Rzeszów and signed the approbation to the book “Orach Chaim” with the “Magen Avraham” commentary that was printed in Direnfort: ”the head of the rabbinical court and the head of the Yeshiva of the community of Metz, who had previously served in the community of Prague and now was accepted to the community of Rzeszów.” However, he also did not accept the rabbinical position of Rzeszów. He went to Nikolsburg, where he died on 2 Adar I 5478 – 1718. He wrote an approbation for the book “Shabta Derigla,” printed in Furth in the year 5459 – 1699, and a year earlier, on the book “Ohel Yaakov” on Agadot [rabbinic lore]. He was also the arbitrator from Poznan and its district, and when the Gaonim of the Council of the Four Lands agreed at the convention of Jarosław to ban the printing of new books, especially books on exegesis, he too was numbered among the Gaonim of the Lands in the State of Poland in the year 5448 – 1688. Later, in Rzeszów, they made efforts to get the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Leiv, the author of the book “Shagat Aryeh and Kol Shachal” as the rabbi. He himself was a great rabbi, aside from his connections as the grandson of the Bac'h. However, he did not accept the rabbinate of Rzeszów for his own reasons. The community of Rzeszów always aspired toward such great people. Prior to the year 5488 – 1728, the rabbi, Gaon, and Kabbalist Rabbi Shneur the son of Rabbi Chanoch was the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów. He died there in the year 5459 – 1699.

C. The Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi and his sons

Later, the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Miedzyrzec was accepted as rabbi of Rzeszów. Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi was the son of the famous parnas of the Council of the Four Lands Rabbi Avraham HaLevi, who was the son–in–law the wondrous Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua the head of the rabbinical court of Krakow, and the author of the book “Pnei Yehoshua and Meginei Shlomo,” and son–in–law of Rabbi Yitzchak the head of the rabbinical court of Poznan, who was renowned in his generation. Before he was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Krakow, he served as the head of the rabbinical court in Horodno, Tyktin, and Przemysl, and he was the head of the rabbinical court of the outskirts of the city of Lwów. The grandson of the aforementioned Gaon Rabbi Elyakim Getz the rabbinical judge served in Krakow from the years 5399 – 5408 (1639–1648). In his introduction to the book “Meginei Shlomo” he writes the following words: “Know my masters that my grandfather the Gaon of blessed memory told his students during his lifetime that Rashi of blessed memory came to him, showed him the picture in his own person, with great joy, and said “Fortunate are you in this world, and it will be good for you in the World To Come, for you saved me from the mouths of sharp, brave lions, the Tosafists of blessed memory. I will come to greet you in the World To Come with all of my students.” Approximately a half a year before his death, when the great people of the Jewish community of Krakow were with him, he said to them “Make way for our rabbi, the light of our eyes, the Gaon Rashi of blessed memory, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, who came to me along with all his holy ones, and accepted me with joy to show me the way of life when I stood at his right hand to respond to the questions that the Tosafot asked on his commentary.” Therefore, he called his book “Meginei Shlomo” [The protector of Shlomo] as is noted in the book “Tzemach David.” “When I hear with my ears, and our fathers told us that they understood the matter completely when they were in the community of Krakow, and the men of truth told me in the manner of great divisiveness.” Rabbi Yehoshua HaLevi was born in Vilna around the year 5353 – 1593, and died on the 27th of Av, 5408 –1648. He is buried in Krakow.

Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów attended the rabbinical convention in Jarosław in the year 5460 – 1700. There, they agreed to the publication of the book of his grandfather the Gaon, and he signed it as Shmuel the son of my master, my father Avraham Chuna of the community of Rzeszów, the grandson of the aforementioned Gaon and author. Rabi Shmuel issued approbations for several books throughout many years. Wiener, the author of “Daat Kedoshim” erred in what he wrote, for the approbation of the book of his grandfather was issued in the year 5478 – 1718. The convention of Jarosław that dealt with this matter, among others, took place in the month of Elul, 5460 – 1700.

Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi had two sons and one daughter:

  1. The Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua, the head of the rabbinical court of Dobromyl (mentioned above), and later the head of the rabbinical court of Ciechanowiec and Siemiatycze. He was a trustee of the Four Lands. One of his sons, Rabbi Yitzchak, took his place in Dobromyl, and who had a son who was the mighty Gaon Rabbi Shaul, who later served as the rabbi in The Hague, Holland (see about him later).
  2. The Gaon Rabbi Natan HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Polna. He issued an approbation for the book “Pnei Aryeh Zuta” on the Torah.
  3. His daughter Reizel, who was the wife of the famous chieftain Rabbi Yaakov, the head of the rabbinical court of Brody and grandson of Rabbi Heshel of Krakow.
Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi had a sister Miriam, who was a righteous woman, the wife of the wealthy Reb Tzvi Hirsh. They had a son who lit up the world with his Torah, the Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua who became known through is book “Pnei Yehoshua” on the Talmud. His parents lived in the village of Wandzmysl near Rzeszów. When this precious son was born, they named him after the grandfather, the author of “Pnei Yehoshua and Meginei Shlomo.” He excelled with his clear intellect and exception talents already in his youth. Therefore, his parents sent him to their uncle the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel, the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, where he studied and rose up. Therefore, we are permitted to count this Gaon amongst the Gaonim of Rzeszów.

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It is related that the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi helped with his own hands “in the community where he reigned to set up a praiseworthy and splendid sanctuary.” This certainly refers to the second synagogue that was known as “The Woler Shul,” that was known for its splendid internal architecture. It was built many years after the old synagogue. The two synagogues were different in style. Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi died in Rzeszów in the year 5479 – 1719. Before him, the Gaon and Kabalist Rabbi Shneur the son of Rabbi Chanoch was in Rzeszów. He issued an approbation for the book “Gevurat Anashim” by the Gaon Rabbi Meir, the father of the Shach.

D. The Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib the son–in–law of the “Chacham Tzvi” and his Sons

The Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib was the son of Rabbi Shaul, the son of the mighty Gaon Rabbi Heshel of Krakow, and the son–in–law of the Chacham Tzvi – the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi. “The Chacham Tzvi purchased him for a very high price. Even though he was able to make a match for his eldest daughter with many very wealthy people in Germany who were fine lads, and who chased after him to marry his daughter for no dowry, and even to give of their own money… he did not turn to this… in order to stick to family pedigree… the family tree of Rabbi Heshel of blessed memory…” (Megilat Sefer). It is possible that he held him in esteem because he himself was a scion of that branch, for Rabbi Binyamin Zev, the grandfather of the Chacham Tzvi, was the son–in–law of Rabbi Yaakov the head of the rabbinical court of Lublin, the father of Rabbi Heshel.

The Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib was the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in many communities prior to being accepted as the rabbi of Reszow. He served in greater Głogów, Tarnopol, Lwów, Rzeszów, and from there was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Amsterdam. He participated many times in conventions of the Council of the Four Lands along with other Gaonim and chieftains. His approbations appear on many books, and at the convention of Jarosław in Elul 5484 –1723, he signed his approbation to the book “Yafeh Mareh” as Hakatan [the small one] Aryeh Leib Chuna of the community of Rzeszów. We already mentioned above the matter of the shamash Reb Wolf Zelig of Rzeszów who was in Breslau facing the danger of deportation. Rabbi Aryeh Leib was also one of the supporters of the aforementioned shamash. In his letter, he threatened Reb Yehuda Leib the shamash that “we will write to all the leaders of all the Lands, and all will agree with us without pushing us aside.” He issued an approbation for the book “Toldot Yaakov” on the chumash with three commentaries, published in Direnfort in the year 5486 – 1726 and signed it the Hakatan Aryeh Leib Chob'k of Rzeszów. He issued approbations on the book “Mora Dachia” in the year 5594 – 1734, on the publishing of the Frankfurt edition of the Talmud in Berlin; on the book “Histaarot Melech Hanegev” 5495 – 1735; on the book “Kehilat Shlomo” in the year 5500 – 1740 where he signed as head of the rabbinical court of the community of greater Głogów whose protection extends over the community of Lwów and the district. That year, he was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court and head of the yeshiva in Amsterdam. There, he issued approbations for many books. He was very active in the well–known dispute between his brother–in–law Rabbi Yaakov Yaabet'z with Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz. He sharply attacked Rabbi Chaim the head of the rabbinical court of Lublin, the son of the leader Rabbi Avraham, who tried to defend the Gaon Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz – excommunicating him and his opponents. He was especially angry that Rabbi Nechemia of Metz and Rabbi Moshe Mai were excommunicated. Rabbi Nechemia was the grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Reisher, who was a head of the yeshiva in Rzeszów.

His approbation of the book “Mara Dachia” is interesting. He writes the following words: “Who can estimate the great splendor in the wisdom of grammar, for he is the essence and the first in any enterprise known to those of grace. However, due to our great sins in these times, nobody is seeking to find desirable words, and nobody pays attention. A person with a heart of wisdom can only be found one in a city, who is moved to occupy himself in this subject, which is necessary for understanding the scriptures, Mishna and Talmud in many places.” The publisher of that book referred to Rabbi Aryeh Leib as “the Great Grammarian” (his approbation was issued in the year 5494 – 1734).

Rabbi Aryeh Leib died in Amsterdam on the 7th day of Passover, 5515 – 1755. He was eulogized by the great ones of the generation. His brother–in–law Rabbi Yaakov Emden wrote in “Shaagat Aryeh” among other things: “How much more so am I obligated to eulogize him in this matter, not only that he suffered on my behalf, as is known. But I do not wish to state ‘on my behalf’, but rather ‘for my reasons.’”

Photo page 76: the Old Synagogue, the Holy Ark.

The Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib had two sons and three daughters:

  1. The Gaon Rabbi Shaul the son–in–law of the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Kahana the head of the rabbinical court of Dubno. Rabbi Shaul had originally been the head of the rabbinical court of Lukacz. After the death of his father–in–law and brother–in–law Rabbi Moshe who took his father's place, he was accepted as the rabbi of Dubno. He was elected to the council of Jarosław in the year 5514 – 1774, where he signed his name as “HaKatan Shaul the head of the rabbinical court of Dubno, arbitrator of the State of Volhynia.” After his father died, he was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Amsterdam. He was a Gaon of renown. In a letter to the Gaon Rabbi Yissachar Ber the brother of the Gaon of Vilna,
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    the Gra [Gaon of Vilna] of holy blessed memory adds the following words: “I too extend great peace to the honor of my beloved in–law the great Rabbi and Gaon whose name is known in the gates, as a splendor to the masses, Rabbi Shaul may his light shine.” He wrote the book “Binyan Ariel” and we have a responsa from him in the books “Or Hayashar” and “Or Yisrael” (regarding the get [bill of divorce] from Kleva); as well as in the responsa books “Zichron Yosef,” “Noda BiYehuda,” and others. His novella on Mishna and Torah were published under the title “Chatzar Hachadasha.” He issued approbations to many books throughout the years he served in Amsterdam. He served there as the rabbi for 35 years, and died at the age of 73 on the 8th of Tammuz, 5550 – 1790.
  1. The Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch was born in Rzeszów in 5481 – 1720, and later became known throughout the world as Rabbi Hershel Berliner. He was a genius in Talmud and general sciences. He studied with his father in his youth. When his father was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Amsterdam, he followed him there. After the death of his father, he was accepted as rabbi of the Ashkenazic community of London. From there, he went to Halberstadt. In response to the question from the heads of the community of London as to why he was leaving them, for the income is in abundance from the businessmen who “pass through and return,” he responded: “To my sorrow, I only see here many who “pass through” but not even one of those who 'return.'” He was accepted as rabbi of Mannheim in the year 5530 – 1770. From there, he moved on to be the rabbi of Berlin in the year 5532 – 1772. He was sharp and intelligent, and we know from his wise responsa during that time that he was in contact with the maskilim of Berlin. Once the maskilim approached him and requested his agreement for them to accept a modern rabbi who would be able to speak, he responded to them with a parable: “You know that even though the price of a chicken egg is cheap, it is brought to the table of kings. However, if he wants to grow a chicken to wake him from his sleep, he would take several eggs, and place chickens upon them. Some would break, and some would be deformed. However, three chickens would come forth that are able to call out. He would eat the rest. The broken and deformed ones only poison the air with their stench. The parable is: the Talmudic rabbi – say about him what you might – but you would all agree that he is G–d fearing, has a clear opinion on monetary matters, performs charitable deeds at all times, and tends to visitors – but what is he lacking? To sermonize clearly. Perhaps two or three Talmudists emanate from the rabbinical seminaries, whereas the rest poison the environment with their antics.”

    When people came to complain about the son of Menachem Moshe Mendelsohn that no vegetation was found in his house on the Festival of Shavuot, in accordance with Jewish custom, he responded to them: “There is nothing novel about this. Formerly, the son of Menachem would ‘agree to a part and would be would be obligated in oaths.’ However, now he rejects everything, and therefore he is exempt from ‘oaths’ [i.e. Shavuot] [2].”

    He had great anguish at the end of his days on account of his son Rabbi Shaul who published the book “Besamim Rosh” in the year 5553 – 1793, an anthology of responsa that are attributed to the Ro'sh with his own glosses called “Kasa Deharsana.” The great ones of the generation objected to him, claiming that the manuscript attributed to the Ro'sh was forged. His father tried to protect the son from the opinions of the great ones of the generation at that time. This caused him great anguish and pain. He issued approbations on many books, and we have response from him in the book “Beit Efraim” to the Gaon Rabbi A. Z. Margalios of Brody, and in the book “Binyan Ariel” of his brother, and others. He died in Berlin at an old age, full of anguish and full of years on Monday 7th of Elul 5560 – 1800, at the age of 79.

  2. Rabbi Aryeh Leib's daughter Dina was the wife of the Gaon Rabbi Shaul, the head of the rabbinical court of the The Hague in Holland. Already during his childhood, the child was recognized for his great talents and that he was destined for greatness. He was the son of the aforementioned Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Dobromyl, the grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Yehoshua HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów. Dina was a wise and intelligent woman in the study of Torah and in all areas of wisdom and science. She was also fluent in Hebrew and wrote fine and lovely verses and poetry. Once, she sent a poem to her brother the Gaon Rabbi Shaul the head of the rabbinical court of Amsterdam, and by mistake interchanged a “chet” with a “chaf.” When her brother pointed out the error, she responded, “Those who hope in G–d will have extra ‘strength’ [3].” Rabbi Shaul added to his wisdom when he was supported at the table of his father–in–law, where he accomplished great things in Torah and wisdom, and became known as a genius whose name went out as one of the great ones of the generation. When his father–in–law was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Amsterdam in the year 5500 – 1700, he joined him. In the year 5502 – 1702, when he was 28 years old, he was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court in the city of Emden, where his wife's uncle had been the Gaon Yaabet'z. He served there for six years, and then he became the head of the rabbinical court in the capital city of The Hague. On account of the great love shown to him by the sages of his generation as well as the members of his community, the leaders of the community decided to draw his portrait in fulfilment of the verse “Your eyes should see your teacher” (Isaiah 30:20). Many copies were made of his portrait with his pure countenance. His picture was also distributed in the towns of Israel. That year, the Gaon Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz died and was eulogized by the rabbis and great ones of the generation in all countries. The head of the community of The Hague urged their rabbi to also eulogize the Gaon, but he refused, for he stood with his father–in–law and uncle the Gaon Yaabet'z during the dispute about amulets. Therefore, he did not wish to eulogize Rabbi Yonatan. The communal leaders did not let up from him. When they afflicted him greatly, he responded, “The parnasim and chieftains do not have the power to force him – they can only dismiss him from the rabbinate. I am prepared to return my writ of the rabbinate to you, willingly and peacefully, but I will not go against my desire in this matter.” He occupied the rabbinical seat of The Hague for 37 years. Throughout all these years, he did not sleep on a bed and fasted twice a week for 55 years. He died in the year 5548 – 1788. He was accorded great honor after his death, for there was nobody like him. Many Christians, including the leaders of the city, followed after his bier. “He was revered and regarded as holy by the Jews, and was honored by the residents of the city of The Hague.” (This was printed in the newspaper published in The Hague at that time.) “A great trembling fell upon me when I witnessed the death of my in–law the great rabbi and Gaon, who was both a Hassid and a modest person. He was worthy of having the Divine presence, for Rabbi Shaul was a chosen one of G–d, who was the head of the rabbinical court of The Hague, the chief of the Levites, and worked as a Levite in pure fashion throughout his life. It is fitting to say of him that no sin arose through him.” These were the words of the Gaon Rabbi Eliezer Kalir, the author of the books “Or Chadash” and “Chavat Yair.”
  3. Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Yoske, the son–in–law of Rabbi Aryeh Leib. Rabbi Moshe had three famous sons. The oldest was the mighty Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Zeev Orenstein, the head of the rabbinical court of Lwów. His father signed his name as Moshe Ashkenazi, since during those days, the permission was not given for a native of another city to live in Lwów, so as not to add to the number of Jews. Therefore, when Rabbi Mordechai Zeev was accepted as the rabbi of Lwów, that community sent out a family named Orenstein and brought Reb Mordechai Zeev in their place. Therefore, they were forced
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    to accept upon themselves the name Orenstein, which was the name of the previous family. His son, the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov, known for his book “Teshuot Yaakov” served after him. His grandson Rabbi Tzvi Orenstein served as rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów before being accepted as rabbi of Lwów in place of his father the author of “Yeshuot Yaakov.”
  1. The Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court and Yeshiva of Krakow. He was the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Reitzes who was killed and burned in sanctification of the Divine name in Lwów in the year 5488 – 1752. Rabbi Yitzchak HaLevi died in Krakow on the 11th of Sivan, 5559 – 1799.
Thus, many splendid branches emanated from the large tree of the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib. These branches spread out through various countries where they served as leaders and taught Jewish law to the people of Israel. We still drink of their waters to this day.

Photocopy page 78: The opening page of the book “Minchat Yaakov.

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We will mention here several other famous personalities – great Gaonim who graced the community of Rzeszów.

  1. The Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Reisher who served there either as the head of the rabbinical court or as the head of the Yeshiva. He signed his approbations as head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, but there exists some doubt about this in the historical works, for there was a different rabbi and head of rabbinical court in Rzeszów at that time. The matter requires investigation.
  2. The sharp Gaon Rabbi Dovrish the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, the son of the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib the head of the rabbinical court of Zamosc. He served as the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów until the year 5519 –1759. After the death of the Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib Rappaport, the head of the rabbinical court of Lwów, he was appointed as Rosh Yeshiva there. He was the in–law of the Gaon Rabbi Ch. HaKohen Rappaport, the head of the rabbinical court of Lwów. Even after his death, he continued on as Head of the Yeshiva, for he lived a long time. He issued an approbation for the book “Har HaKarmel along with the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo of Chalma the author of “Mirkevet Hamishneh,” for he too had been the head of the rabbinical court of Lwów, and died in Salonika while on route to the Land of Israel in the year 5541 – 1781.
  3. Rabbi Moshe Natan the son of Rabbi Yisrael, may G–d avenge his blood. The term “may G–d avenge his blood” is always mentioned along with the name of Rabbi Yisrael. He was the aforementioned Rabbi Yisrael Krakower, who was “one of the leaders and chieftains, leaders of the Four Lands on the market day that was a day of gathering for everyone – Sunday 26th Elul, 5459 – 1699. It is possible that his son Rabbi Moshe Natan was accepted as the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów after Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the son–in–law of the Chacham Tzvi, was accepted as head of the rabbinical court of Lwów. (According to the order of the times, he was before the Gaon Rabbi Dovrish of Zamosc.)
  4. He was followed as head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów by Rabbi Aharon Itinga, the son–in–law of the Gaon Rabbi Chaim HaKohen Rappaport. According to the Gaon Rabbi Yaavet'z in his book “Torat Hakenaot” Rabbi Aharon was a disputant with the Tzadik Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. Apparently, his opposition was due to the reason that his father–in–law did not hold him in esteem. It is told that during the time that the the Magid Rabbi Michel of Zoloczew lived in Lwów, he visited Rabbi Chaim Rappaport when he was ill. During their conversation, the Magid of Zoloczew reproved him for not supervising several judges in his court who were suspected of taking bribes. Rabbi Chaim responded with resentment, “And why is Your Honor not careful that anyone who wishes to take the name ‘rabbi’ can do so, including Elimelech
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    of the prophets?” Upon hearing these words, the Magid rose up and asked: “To whom is Your Honor referring: If it is Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, he is a Tzadik, a foundation of the world, upon whom the world rests!” The reason that Rabbi Chaim the Gaon of Lwów spoke out against Rabbi Elimelech was because his essence had not spread out through the world at that time.
  1. During the period of time that Rabbi Aharon served as the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi the son of Rabbi Yehuda, known by the name of his book “Gaon Tzvi” on Tractate Bava Metzia, was accepted as head of the Yeshiva. In his introduction to that book, his son writes, “G–d expanded his borders among the students. The kings of the rabbis, the great luminaries who sit in the seats of wisdom, who poured water on his hands.” During his younger days, he served as the head of the rabbinical court of Dobromyl. From there, he was brought with honor to Rzeszów, where he founded a splendid Yeshiva from which people great in Torah emanated, as his son notes. He died in Rzeszów in the year 5500 – 1740.
  2. We again find one of the descendants of the Chacham Tzvi occupying the rabbinic seat of Rzeszów. He was the great rabbi, Rabbi Meshulam Zalman the son of the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel the head of the rabbinical court of Podhajce. Rabbi Shmuel married the daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Yisrael Zalman the head of the rabbinical court of Pomarin, who was the son of the Gaon Rabbi David the son of the Chacham Tzvi. In the responsa book “Pri Tevua” by Rabbi Shmuel Meshulam Zalman of Rzeszów, he signed, “The Katan Yisrael Meshulam Zalman the son of the great luminary and great Hassid Rabbi Shmuel of holy blessed memory, the head of the rabbinical court of Podhajce.” The Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi David the son of the Chacham Tzvi was formerly the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Jarczow. He was the son–in–law of the chieftain and leader of the Land Rabbi Gershon Natan of Zolkowy, the brother–in–law of the great chieftain Rabbi Henech the son–in–law of Rabbi Betzalel of Wochsan who was an important personality in the court of King Sobieski. The ministers of the kingdom called him “The Second Mordechai.” King Sobieski built him a large house in Zolkowy as a token of appreciation and love. Regarding Rabbi Natan and his brother–in–law Rabbi Henech, we find written in the scroll of Rabbi Yaavet'z, that the famous chieftain rabbis such as Rabbi Henech and his brother–in–law Rabbi Nathan, may they rest in peace, wanted me to settle in Zolkowy and learn in their Beis Midrash to my satisfaction.” The Gaon Rabbi Shmuel had a second son, the Gaon Rabbi David of Tarnogrod. He was the father–in–law of the sharp Rabbi Aryeh Leibush Halberstam of the city of Tarnogrod, who was a rabbinical judge in Przemyśl at the end of his days, the father of the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Chaim Halberstam the author of “Divrei Chaim” of Sanz. This is how the Gaon of Sanz is related to the lineage of the Chacham Tzvi.
  3. The Rabbi and wealthy man Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Segal, a leader of the city of Rzeszów, was known as Rabbi Zalman Parnas. He was the son of the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi the head of the rabbinical court of Tysmienica. Rabbi Zalman Parnas had a daughter named Sheindel.
  4. Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim Blumenfeld was a head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów. He was the son of the Gaon Yehoshua Heshel, the head of the Rabbinical court of Zmigrod, and grandson of the Gaon Rabbi Naftali Hertz of Dubno.
  5. The Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Tzvi Blumenfeld took the place of his father, the aforementioned Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim. He served in this position for 45 years, and died in the year 5617 – 1857.
  6. The Rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Zeev Wolf Frankel, the author of the book “Meshiv Kehalacha.” His mother was the daughter of the aforementioned Rabbi Shmuel the head of the rabbinical court of Tysmienica. The Gaon was formerly the head of the rabbinical court of Przeborsk. He settled in Rzeszów at the end of his life. He was in Rzeszów what the author of the “Beit Ephraim” was in Brody. He was a great genius, very wealthy, a Hassid and a Tzadik. Therefore, his words were listened to in the city, and he was accepted by all his brethren. He disseminated Torah in Rzeszów and established students who were great in Torah, and were sharp. He died in Rzeszów in the year 5609 – 1849.
  7. The head and leader in the city of Rzeszów was Rabbi Yehoshua Segal. He was also the son of Rabbi Mordechai, the head of the Land from Tysmienica. He was the son–in–law of Rabbi Yechezkel Torner the son of the chieftain Rabbi Wolf, the son of the chieftain Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the rabbinical judge and teacher of righteousness in the city of Opatów. He was the husband of the famous woman Mrs. Vitish the daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Charif who was nicknamed “Shpitzkopf.” Incidentally I should note that according to the sources listed in “The Annals of the Ginzberg Family” the father of the author of the “Noda BiYehuda” was Rabbi Yehuda Segal Landau, the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów. The Gaon Rabbi Yehuda was a “prince and leader of the Land.” In his aforementioned book, first edition, second Even HaEzer section 89, his son the Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel writes: “When I was young, I saw the ledgers of the District of Krakow with my father the rabbi of blessed memory, and I saw old ledgers signed by important Gaonim, as well as my grandfather Rabbi Sh. Ch. The son of Rabbi Heshel of holy blessed memory, and after him my great uncle Rabbi Leib (Rabbi Leib HaAroch the head of the rabbinical court of Krakow.)
  8. The Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke the head of the rabbinical court of Sieniawa, Rychwał, and Nikolsburg. He was the son–in–law of Rabbi Yehoshua Segal, the leader of Rzeszów. He was born in the year 5486 – 1726 to his father the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi the head of the rabbinical court of Czortkow. He along with his brother the Gaon Rabbi Pinchas the author of “Haflaah and Hamekaneh” were students of the Magid of Mezritsh. He died at the age of 52 in the year 5538 – 1778.
  9. The son of the sharp Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Yehoshua Segal Horowitz, the head of the rabbinical court of Rybotycze and Tarni lived in Rzeszów for a period of time. He was the author of the book “Smichat Moshe” appended to the book “Nazir Hashem” by his father, the aforementioned Gaon. The people of his generation called him “Yehoshuale Charif.” At the beginning of the book “Nazir Hashem,” we find a letter from Rabbi Dov Berish Meiselish in which he writes “I also knew well the holy Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Yehoshua HaLevi who stayed at Father's house in Rzeszów.” His son Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke was a resident of Rzeszów.
  10. Rabbi Yitzchak Chaim Wallerstein the grandson of Rabbi Yechezkel Blumenfeld was the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów. 144 rabbis of renown and leaders of the community signed his write of the rabbinate. He died in the year 5642 – 1882.
  11. His son Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel Wallerstein was appointed as head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów after him. He wrote the books “Kerem Vesadeh Yehoshua” (5661 – 1901).
Above, I mentioned the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Orenstein who served as head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów after the Czarist government deported him from Brisk where he had served as head of the rabbinical court. From Rzeszów, he was appointed as head of the rabbinical court of Lwów after the death of his uncle Rabbi Yosef Shaul Nathanson, the head of the rabbinical court of Lwów. Many other rabbis and scholars such as Rabbi Nachum Reuven Plasker, the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, the author of the book “Nachalat Reuven” are mentioned in the Responsa book “Divrei Chaim.” He died in the year 5632 – 1872. The rabbi and Tzadik Rabbi Chaim Uri of holy blessed memory, Rabbi Heshi Dayan, Rabbi Moshe David Piltz, the sharp Rabbi Shmuel known as Reb Shmuel Redimer, and others are also mentioned. Later, in the section of memoirs, we will mention the rabbinical courts of our time. Above, we noted Rabbi Reuven Plasker who was the head of the rabbinical court of

{Page 80}

Rzeszów and his deputy Rabbi Chaim Wallerstein who was the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court. Both of them were tied to the frightful event that was known in its time as “the dispute of Sanz and Sadagora.” The first spark from which this fire arose came forth from Rzeszów. Then, everyone used to say, “Why is the city called Reisha, because it is ‘Reisha’ [the head] of dispute and divisiveness.” This began when the two aforementioned rabbis wrote a letter to the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Chaim Halberstam. The contents of this long letter mentions that the Hassidim of Sadagora worshipped together with them in a single kloiz, and they suddenly began to act improperly. “It has now been many years since a group of strongmen of the generation gathered here. They did not respect their elders, and tied themselves to the tree of Sadagora. Since we were unable to chase them away, they gained in strength to the point where the G–d fearing individuals who were followers of the holy Admor were forced to leave the kloiz and found their own house of worship. Now, on account of our great sins, we have heard the news that will make the hair of the listener stand on edge (referring to the incident with the son of the Ruzhiner, Rabbi Dov of Liba)… We sent to call them and speak to their hearts without desecrating the Divine Name. We had thought it would quiet things, but they still opened their mouths with words of strife and curses… We heard from their mouths in public words for which it would be fitting to rend one's garments… For they said, “Why is it that you speak to us such words, when you do not understand this path, that is highest of the high…” Much gunpowder was placed in this long letter, and it is no wonder that this letter had its intended effect. From that time, all sorts of internecine disputes broke out, such as the one we are discussing as well as others that came latter between various Hassidic groups from various Hassidic courts. Here, in the place that we live, we have advanced in this matter, of course, and there is no breach or shouting in our streets.

The Gaon Rabbi Yaakov Yollis, the author of “Melo Haroim”

This Gaon was called Rabi Yaakov Yankele Premishler. Perhaps he originated from Premishlan. He was a rabbi in Dynow and Głogów, near Rzeszów. He was a friend and colleague of Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dynów, for in his approbation to his book “Melo HaRoim” he writes, “How honorable is this day when I was told the good news that the holy writings of the pious rabbi, famous among the Jewish people in Torah, holiness and Hassidism have been published: Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Yolles of blessed memory, who sat on the rabbinic seat here in our community and in several other communities, and spread a great deal of Torah in Israel… I have always abstained from this (from giving approbations) but I could not refuse, and I am especially obligated in this… I recall days long ago when we were busy in a group of friends who were listening to Halachic discourses, and the aforementioned Tzadik was wise in all his ways, and G–d was with him. The law is in accordance with him…”

Just as he wrote the book “Kehilat Yaakov,” which is a treasury of principles, fundamentals and introductions in the secrets of the Torah in alphabetical order, he also wrote his book “Melo HaRoim” on the revealed Torah. His books were received with great reverence and love by all of the giants of Torah and sages of Halacha.

He was a student of three pastors: Rabbi Yisrael the magid of Koznice, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanów, and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak the Seer [Chozeh] of Lublin. He was also a student of the rabbi of Opatów, the “Ohev Yisrael.” In his book “Kehilat Yaakov”, he brings down great things that he learnt from them.

He died in his prime, at the age of 47, in the city of Rzeszów. He is buried there, and the following is written in brief on his gravestone:

“Here is buried the great Rabbi and Gaon, the holy luminary, pious and sublime, our Rabbi Tzvi Yaakov the son of Rabbi Naftali, who died on 9th Nisan, 5588 – 1828. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.”

Notes on the ancestry of the “Pnei Yehoshua”

Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua, the grandson of the “Maginei Shlomo” was born in Krakow, but when he was 9 years old, his parent left Krakow after the death of his grandfather Rabbi Shmuel, who was a captain and leader of the community of Rzeszów, and moved to Rzeszów. Rabbi Shneur the son of Rabbi Chanoch served as rabbi in Rzeszów at that time. It is impossible to know if he studied with him, but it is known that his rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of Bolechów, lived in Rzeszów, whom is mentioned in his book “Pnei Yehoshua” on Tractate Shabbat. Aside from this, after the death of Rabbi Shneur, his uncle the Gaon Rabbi Shmuel Segal was appointed as rabbi of Rzeszów, and he certainly studied with him.

With regard to his family, his father had two brothers, Reb Elya and Reb Yaakov. They are mentioned in the ledgers of the community of Rzeszów with respect to the evaluation, when a fine was imposed on the Jewish residents of Rzeszów during the time of the war with the Swedes, who reached Rzeszów and its area (1702–1710). “Reb Elya was asked to pay 1 old coin (a coin of that time), and 10 zloty to the trustee. Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch (the father of the “Pnei Yehoshua”) paid 5 old coins, and 1 old coin to the royal evaluator of the Ashkenazim. Reb Yaakov made a collection, and was evaluated to give less. “He gave 6 old coins before his journey to Breslau.”

All this is written in the ledgers of Rzeszów. A copy was made by the intelligent youth Shmuel Kreitstein the son of Reb Berl, the shochet of Rzeszów.

Mr. Avraham Landau, a descendent of Rabbi Nathan the son of the “Pnei Yehoshua” was among the grandchildren of the “Pnei Yehoshua” who lived in Rzeszów.

Inscriptions on Graves in the Old Cemetery

The grave of Rabbi Shmuel of Będziemyśl, near Rzeszów, who lived there at the end of his life, and died there:

“Here is buried the sublime leader and captain, head of the land of the Four Lands, and the community, the wealthy man, our Rabbi Shmuel the son of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of holy blessed memory, who died and went to his world on Monday, regarding which it was not written ‘it is good’, 28 days of the month . 5416 – 1656.”

His footstone reads, “Here is buried the Captain, Rabbi Shmuel of holy blessed memory, may his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life, and for the final resurrection.”

Bibliography

Otzar Yisrael volume 9; Daat Kedoshim by Wiener
Derech Deah by the Gaon Rabbi Y. A. Kamelhar
Kelilat Yofi by the Gaon Rabbi Dembitzer
Kitvei Hagaonim by the Gaon Rabbi Tz. Horowitz
Luchot Zikaron by H. Friedberg
Megilat Safar by the Gaon Rabbi Yaavetz
Mofet Hador to my Father by the Gaon Rabbi Y. A. Kamelhar
Netivot Olam by the Mahara'l
Research into the history of the Economy by Weinreb
Mahara'm of Lublin, Responsa Tzamach David
Keria Nisgava by Rabbi Sh. Buber
Keria Neemana by Rabbi Sh. Fine; History of the Poskim by Honis
History of the community of Opatów by the Gaon Rabbi Tz. Horowitz
Ledgers of the Four Lands by Y. Halperin.

{Page 81}

Photocopy: title page of Iyun Yaakov, novella on the lore of the entire Ein Yaakov


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Either the secular or Hebrew date is incorrect here, as 5340 would correspond to 1579 or 158). Return
  2. The word Shavuot can mean “oaths”, or “weeks” – as well as the Festival of Weeks. The retort is a play on a Talmudic law regarding oaths. Return
  3. The Hebrew word for strength, koach consists of the letters “chaf” and “chet.” Return


{Page 82}

My Grandfather Rabbi Nathan Lewin

by Rabbi Dr. Isaac Levin of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Photo page 82: Rabbi Nathan Lewin

1.

The Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin of holy blessed memory, who was accepted as the rabbi of Rzeszów in the year 5664 (1904) and served there until the day of his death, was born in the city of Brody in the year 5618 (1858) to his father Reb David Yehuda, an honorable merchant who was an expert in Torah. [1] Reb David Yehuda, or has he was called Reb David Leib, was the son of Reb Levi Yaakov Lewin and the son–in–law of Reb Yechezkel Reisfeld, who was a famous philanthropist. Reb Levi Yaakov Lewin had a great pedigree. The Gaon Rabbi David Yehuda, the head of the rabbinical court of Radichów, the author of the book “Yad Yehuda” on Tractate Pesachim published in Lemberg in the year 5632 (1872) from a manuscript that was in the hands of his sons Rabbi Yitzchak Lewin of Brody and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Lewin of Kaminka, was, apparently, also the father of Reb Levi Yaakov (even though only the two aforementioned sons are mentioned in the book “Yad Yehuda” and not Reb Levi Yaakov).

Reb David Leib Lewin, the father of the Gaon Rabbi Nathan, was born on 2th of Adar 5597 (April 4, 1837), and died on 6 Adar 5658 (February 28, 1898) at the age of 61. These two dates are noted in one book in the handwriting of another son of Reb David Leib, whose name was Rabbi Yisrael [2]. That page also includes words written by the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin, stating the date was “Tuesday of the Torah portion of Nitzavim, 21 Elul 5638 (1878).” Rabbi Nathan, who was then 18 years old, writes that he purchased the book for four Florin (zloty) [3].

Rabbi Nathan's great–grandfather, the Gaon and author of “Yad Yehuda” was one of the great ones of his generation. He died in the year 5591 (1831), when his book was ready for publication. The author, who was a rabbi in the city of Radichów, describes his lineage in the introduction to his book: His father, Rabbi Avraham, was the son of “The great rabbi in his generation, Rabbi Yechiel Michel, rabbi of the community of Breslau.” From his mother's side, he was a descendent of the holy and pure Rabbi Nathan of holy blessed memory, the prince of the Land of Israel. He is buried there in the Holy Land.” Apparently, this Rabbi Nathan was the trustee of the charitable fund of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, and therefore is called the “Prince of the Land of Israel.” According to the author of “Yad Yehuda” Rabbi Nathan was the son of the Gaon, the author of the book “Beit Levi.” This apparently refers to the book “Beit Levi” by Rabbi Levi the son of Rabbi Shlomo of Brody, which contains novellae on the Talmud, published on Zolkowa in the year 5492 (1752).

There are three approbations in the book “Yad Yehuda.” The first was written during the lifetime of the author, in the year 5590 (1730). It was by the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Kluger, who wrote, “I will sing a song to my friend a Song of Ascents to David, he is the sharp rabbi and Gaon Rabbi David Yehuda the head of the rabbinical court of the community of Radichów… He called the book ‘Yad Yehuda’ [Hand of Yehuda] because his displayed his strong hand to fight the battles of Torah, and to delve into the Talmud and rabbinic decisions, to destroy and build, and to turn the tortuous route into a plain. The following is the prayer on my lips: May G–d hear the voice of Yehuda, and bring him to his nation [4].” The words of two other approbations are included with feelings of honor: the Gaon and Tzadik Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, the head of the rabbinical court of Ujhel and author of the famous book “Yismach Moshe”, and the Gaon Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Heller, the head of the rabbinical court of Ungvar [Uzhgorod] and author of the books “Teiv Gitin,” who knew Rabbi David Yehuda from his youth in the city of Rawa.

Crowned with this pedigree, and possessing of broad knowledge in Torah, at the young age of 20, Rabbi Nathan married the only daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes, who was the head of the rabbinical court of Przemysl at that time, and renowned in the Torah circles of Galicia at that time for his book “Beit Yitzchak” on Orach Chaim, that was published in the year 5635 (1875). Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes had a son Reb Aharon who died in the year 5631 (1871) at a very young age, and he was left with an only daughter Hadassah. He searched for a groom for her who was graced with all fine traits, and the Gaon of Przemysl found such in the Iluy from Brody, the son of a well–pedigreed merchant who was involved in importing pearls from Italy. The match was made in the year 5637 (1877) (or perhaps already in 5636). We find a responsa from that year in “Beit Yitzchak Section II (on Yoreh

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Deah I), addressed to “my future son–in–law, the young, pleasant, expert youth Nathan Lewin, may his light shine” (section 970). In this responsa, the Gaon of Przemysl deals with a strong question from the young Iluy regarding the Gemara of Kritut folio 23. He also praises his response to the question (“you have answered well”), and discusses his words (“this is not answered with your answer'). The response was written with respect and great appreciation. In responsa from the year 5638 (1878) (sections 84, 93, 98, 147, 166) he already referred to Rabbi Nathan “my son–in–law.” This proves that the wedding took place that year. In one responsa (section 84) from the year 5630 (1870) he is given the description “The great rabbi, sharp and expert in all aspects of Torah, full of wisdom.” It should be known that the author of the “Beit Yitzchak” was very careful in granting such descriptions, and if he called his son–in–law with such terms when he was 21 years old, it was a sign that Rabbi Nathan Lewin already excelled in great expertise as well as in exceptional sharpness and understanding. From these responsa, it seems that he was not only expert in Talmud, but also in Bible. The author of the “Beit Yitzchak” praises “your precious notations” of his young son–in–law, who was able to tie the commentaries of the Rada'k on the book of Kings to the words of Tosafot in Menachot (section 84). At times, he was enthusiastic about the questions and wrote, “Your question is like a strong wall” (section 36 – without a date). There is no doubt that the Gaon of Przemysl was comforted through Rabbi Nathan over the loss of his son who died in his prime. We read this in the emotional words of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes in his introduction to the “Beit Yitzchak” on Orach Chaim, “I gave over my first born due to the sins of my soul, death came through my window and waved his harsh sword over my only son and true friend, my dear son, sharp and G–d fearing from the time of his youth, Rabbi Aharon of holy blessed memory… I drank my share of the poison cup over my shoulder and my right eye, as all of my hopes were wiped out in weeping for my only son.” His son–in–law became as a son to him and an assistant. The four sections of “Beit Yitzchak” that were published after Rabbi Nathan Lewin married the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes (on Yoreh Deah I and II, and on Even HaEzer I and II) also carry the signature of Rabbi Nathan Lewin, and the final section of “Beit Yitzchak” (on Choshen Mishpat) that was published after the death of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes, was the fruit of the pen of Rabbi Nathan Lewin in the same way as it was of his father–in–law the Gaon.

2.

Rabbi Nathan Lewin lived in the home of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes for about 15 years. These years were a very fruitful period in his life. In Przemysl, where the author of “Beit Yitzchak” lived in honor and comfort until he was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Lwów, the capital of Galicia in the year 5654 (1894), Rabbi Nathan found a broad field for growth and ascent in Torah. In the third section of “Beit Yitzchak” (on Yoreh Deah II) published in the year 5655, there are many responsa to him that testify to his greatness. Significant responsa from Rabbi Nathan Lewin himself are also found in this section, including the wonderful responsa of sections 84 and 85 responded to Rabbi Chaim Zeev of Satanów, the head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, written in the year 5641 (1881), or the response in section 115 written in the year 5648 (1888).

Some of the responsa from the third section of “Beit Yitzchak” to Rabbi Nathan Lewin are from the first period, when he had just become the son–in–law of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes [5]. However, there are also responsa there from a bit later [6]. The author of “Beit Yitzchak” is effusive in praise to his scholarly son–in–law in all of these responsa. He brings the words of Rabbi Nathan in the midst of his words in several responsa [7].

When this section of “Beit Yitzchak” was published in the year 5655 (1895), Rabbi Nathan Lewin already had two sons: Reb Aharon the father of the writer of these lines, and Reb Shmelkes, as well as three daughters: Miriam, Sima, and Sara. All five grandchildren are mentioned with love by their grandfather in his introduction to this section of the book. Reb Aharon is mentioned in section 99 [8]. In “The final volume” at the end of the book, his scholarly grandson, who had become famous in the Jewish world through his books, and excelled at protecting Jewish rights in the Polish Sejm, includes a wonderful note. He earned this right of including his own note by participating in bringing the book to publication [9].

Some time after publishing the third section of “Beit Yitzchak”, Rabbi Nathan stood outside the house of Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes – he was then a rabbi in the city of Pukshan, Romania. However, he only served as a rabbi there for a brief period, since the conditions of life were difficult and the community was involved in a dispute at that time. Rabbi Nathan Lewin pursued peace throughout his life, and was unable to tolerate the atmosphere in Pukshan. He returned to his father–in–law's house in Przemysl. In the book “Beit Yitzchak” on Yoreh Deah II, Rabbi Nathan is mentioned several times as the head of the rabbinical court of Pukshan, but in the introduction to that book, written already in the year 5655 (1895), the Gaon of Lwów prays for the wellbeing of his only daughter and her husband “The Rabbi and Gaon who is sharp, expert, wholesome, G–d fearing, the crown of rabbis Rabbi Nathan Lewin may his light shine, who had been the head of the rabbinical court of Pukshan.” The word “who had been” had a sort of tragic note in the life of my grandfather the Gaon. He did not want to mention the rabbinate of Pukshan after that, and his gravestone inscription does not mention at all that he had been the rabbi in that city.

At almost the same time that the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes moved to Lwów, Rabbi Nathan Lewin was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the city of Rohatyn. He remained in that community from the year 5655 until 5664 (1895–1904).

When the fourth section of “Beit Yitzchak on Even HaEzer I was published in the year 5661 (1901), his father–in–law wrote in the preface,

{Page 84}

“May the Blessed Master bless the G–d fearing man, my son–in–law who is beloved to me like a son, the Rabbi and Gaon, sharp and expert in all facets of Torah, the scholarly man with a good name, Rabbi Nathan Lewin may he live long, the head of the rabbinical court of Rohatyn, and his wife, my only daughter the honorable, modest, good hearted Rebbetzin Hadassah.”

Another son was born to him in Rohatyn in the year 5658 (1898), named Yechezkel, after his great–grandfather Rabbi Yechezlek Reisfeld of Brody. His middle son Shmelke, who was living with his grandfather Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes of Lwów, died at the end of his tenure in Rohatyn. (This was after his older brother Reb Aharon, who had previously been educated in the home of his grandfather, got married in the year 5663 – 1903).

After years of studying Torah in the home of his father–in–law, Rabb Nathan developed as a rabbi and halachic decisor throughout the period of his tenure in Rohatyn. He lived in that city for approximately ten years, and was not only beloved by his flock, but his name also became known throughout the breadth of Galicia as a leader who was faithful to his nation. Delegates of the communities of Galicia gathered in Lwów for a national convention in the year 5660 (1900), where the young rabbi from Rohatyn was elected as vice president. His speeches at that convention left a great impression, and their echoes spread throughout the country.

In his books “Beit Yitzchak” on Even HaEzer that appeared at the time that Rabbi Lewin served in Rohatyn, he is mentioned with great honor and respect by his father–in–law (Volume I: sections 122, 123, 129, 137, as well as on the final page where it is written, “A bit of ink still remains in my pen, so I will mention what was my son–in–law the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin may his light shine, the head of the rabbinical court of Rohatyn, asked me:” Volume II: sections 33, 92 and others).

At the end of the year 5664 (1904), the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin was accepted as rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of Rzeszów, where he remained until his death. He became beloved by his community very quickly. All the people of the city, from young to old, loved him. His wonderful traits – that included truth and uprightness, love of his fellow and love of his nation – caused the community to literally treat him as their head. His name grew from year to year as one of the Gaonim of the country. Rabbis turned to him from near and far with questions on matters of faith and law. He answered everybody, and the number of his letters grew. He then prepared his letters for publication in the name of “Beit Nediv” (which is the acronym for Nathan the son of David Yehuda). However, he did not merit to see his book in publication. After his death, his sons and sons–in–law prepared them for publication, but all of his letters were lost during the world war.

His daughters got married in Rzeszów. His daughter Miriam married Shimon Dym of Krosna, who was an honorable merchant, a scholar, and a noble man. His daughter Sima Yuta married Shmuel Eintracht of Krakow, the son of one of the important communal heads of Krakow. His daughter Sara married David Kratz of Lwów, the son of an important householder of that city. His two sons became communal leaders of Polish Jewry. The Gaon Rabbi Aharon Lewin was chosen as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court of the city of Sambor in the year 5665 (1904). While serving as rabbi of that community, he was elected as a representative of the Polish Sejm in the year 5683 (1923), as well as in the Sejm of 5691 (1931). He even took the place of Rabbi Nathan in Rzeszów after his death. The second son, Rabbi Dr. Yechezkel Lewin, became the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Katowice, and later a rabbi in the city of Lwów.

All of them – his two sons, three daughters, three son–in–laws, along with several grandchildren – perished in the Holocaust at the hand of the Germans, may their names be blotted out.

While serving in Rzeszów, the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin became known as one of the most important rabbis of Galicia. During the First World War, in the year 5675 (1915), he escaped from the Russians who invaded Galicia, and spent several years in the city of Vienna. There, he was appointed as one of the ten expert rabbis of Galicia who were given permission by the Austrian Government to testify about whether candidates for the rabbinate were worthy for that position. If a candidate received a certificate from one of those rabbis, he would be exempt from army service.

Photograph page 84: Gravestone of Rabbi Nathan Lewin (1966).

Many books that were published between the years 5665–5686 / 1905–1926 bear an approbation from the Gaon Rabbi Nathan Lewin. At times, he includes wonderful Torah notes in his approbation. His Torah novella are published in various rabbinic anthologies. When a dispute broke out between the Kolel of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness (headed by Rabbi Chaim

{Page 85}

David Sofer of Drohobycz) and the Kolels of Kosów, Visznitz, and Ottynia in 5672 (1912), Rabbi Nathan Lewin of Rzeszów was asked for his opinion about the location where the Torah judgment should take place (in the Land of Israel or the Diaspora). His fine responsa is published in the bookless “Teshuva KeHalacha.”

There is no doubt that if we had merited to see the masses of his Torah writings in print, and especially his Halachic responsa, a deep genius, expert in the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, as sharp as one of the Gaonin of previous generations, would have been revealed to us. It is too bad that the entire literary treasury that was preserved with his son–in–law Mr. Shimon Dym, was lost in the Holocaust, as has been noted.

I recall that on one occasion, when I was in Rzeszów with my uncle Mr. Dym, may G–d avenge his blood, and I was perusing the works of my grandfather Rabbi Nathan of holy blessed memory, I found a notebook with an article written in wonderful Hebrew. The title of the article was “Regarding Tears.” It contained words of praise about tears, which helped him assuage his grief during his youth. I burst out in tears as I saw how that Gaon recognized the good in tears… In a poetic manner that penetrates the depths of the heart, my grandfather describes how a man sated with agony feels as he weeps: the pain (and he describes there various types of pain) weakens progressively as tears pour from his eyes… a philosophical idea that is confirmed by reality.

My grandfather the Gaon died on the 5th of Elul 5686 (1926).

A canopy was erected around his grave. The accursed Germans destroyed the canopy, but the grave and the monument remain to this day.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a text footnote here, as follows: In a response to Reb David Leib Levin in the year 5641 (1881) in the book “Beit Yitzchak” Section Yoreh Deah II, section 112, he is addressed as, “The Honorable wealthy, scholarly rabbi, who is wholesome, expert, famous, and well pedigreed.” Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text, as follows: This book was owned by Dr. Karl Lewin of blessed memory of Tel Aviv, the son of Rabbi Yisrael Lewin. He sent me a photocopy of this biographical article. Return
  3. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: His love of books was awakened in him when he was still a lad. Throughout the years, he amassed one of the largest and most important private libraries in Galicia. Return
  4. Deuteronomy 33:7. Return
  5. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: Section 56 and 61 from the year 5638 (1878). Section 43 was written in the year 5634 (1874). Of course, it was impossible that this could be the date of the responsa, for Rabbi Nathan was only 14 years old at the time, and certainly did not yet know Rabbi Yitzchak Shmelkes. Sections 87 and 170 were from the year 5639 (1879). Sections 104, 119, 120, and 169 are from the year 5660 (1900). Return
  6. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: Such as section 139 from the year 5646 (1886). On the other hand, in the fourth section of “Beit Yitzchak” Even HaEzer I, there are responsa belonging to this period. Responsa of sections 122–123 were written in the year 5639 (1879). The responsa to section 129 was also written that year. Return
  7. There is a footnote in the text here: For example, in section 81, paragraph 5. Return
  8. There is a footnote in the text here as follows: “My grandson, the sharp lad Aharon Lewin may his light shine pointed out to me…” Return
  9. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “The grandson of the author states: Since I had the pleasant lot of copying the table of contents, I will bring a note that I found among the words of my grandfather the Gaon may he live log, in the final section that is appended to his work.” Return

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