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[Page 86]

Religious Jewry, its Institutions and Personalities

by Ben-Zion Gershoni

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The author, a poet and a writer, was born in 1910 in the town of Lyubonichi in the Province of Minsk, where his father of blessed memory served as the rabbi of the town. He studied secretly in Minsk in the Yeshiva of the Shoavei Mayim synagogue and in the Kibbutz of the Maskil-LeEitan Synagogue directed by Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist (Horodner) of holy blessed memory. He made aliya to the Land on 1932.

The author wishes to thank all of those who helped him collect the material, especially Reb Mordechai Sender Zimbalist who willingly dedicated a great deal of his time to memorialize that which was forgotten and to uncover interesting chapters from the glorious annals of Minsk.

A Synagogues

According to tradition, the Jewish community began to form in Minsk in the latter half of the 16th century. At that time, Minsk was already an old city with a rich past.

The Jewish community continued to gain in strength, and within a relatively short time, it developed into a large, splendid community that was known far and wide The communities of Rakov and Smilovichi, upon which Jewish Minsk was dependent for all Jewish matters at its inception, remained small communities in comparison to Minsk. Minsk overtook them with giant steps to become a Major Jewish community, or as it was nicknamed by others – Minsk Karta Deshufraya (Minsk, the Splendid City).

As was usual, the Jewish community centered around the synagogues. The number of synagogues, Beis Midrashes, prayer quorums, and Kloizes grew with the growth of the population, and became the backbone of the Jewish community of Minsk.

Old sources tell that the renovation of the Great Beis Midrash was completed in the year 5440 (1680) and it was then ready for prayer services. This Beis Midrash was built atop a destroyed building that was purchased by the community from Polish residents of Minsk. The fact that this ruined building turned into a large, splendid Jewish synagogue later vexed the Poles greatly. In their jealousy, they attempted to cancel the sale and to take ownership of the Beis Midrash, but their attempt failed since the sale was legally authorized by the government.

Every important synagogue maintained a ledger in which the ordinances and decisions of the synagogue committee were recorded. (After the October revolution, the ledgers were confiscated and given over to the Historical Research Institute of Minsk.) The ledger of the Great Beis Midrash, called “the Ledger of the Chevra Kadisha – the Shiva Keruim”. These two institutions merged together into one institution for this purpose. In this ledger, which started in the year 5523 (1763), it is written that in the year 5522 (1762), all of the buildings in the vicinity were burned down due to the large fire that broke out in the Great Beis Midrash, and all of the books, including the ledgers of the Beis Midrash, were burnt. In the year 5523, a stone building surrounded by a yard was purchased for the Beis Midrash from the Jesuit society (“Black Priests”). Actually, at first the lot and all of the buildings upon it belonged to one Jew who had obtained them as a pledge from the Jesuits in return for a loan, but when the loan was not paid, all of the property passed to the Jesuits. The community was not able to pay for the new building and lot, so they were purchased through yearly payments. A yearly rent of 200 Polish Groszy was set.

With all this, an ordinance was set by the community to pay 200 zloty annually from the communal coffers “until the coming of the Messiah” for the needs of the Great Beis Midrash and to purchase books. Two years later, this ordinance was amended as follows: to set aside 200 zloty annually from the shechita funds for the needs of the Great Beis Midrash and for the repair and purchase of books.

This large sum of 200 zloty[1] annually – equivalent with the annual rent for the building and the lot demonstrates the value of holy books at that time, and on the great importance that the community placed upon books as a vital necessity.

This is also demonstrated from the following ordinances that were issued later: 1. Every member of the Shiva Keruim organization (only honorable and scholarly men were accepted to this organization) must bring with him a chumash for the reading of the Torah. 2. The shamash (beadle) is required to maintain an exacting list of all of the books of the Beis Midrash, and must go over the books every week to reconcile their number with the list.

After a set period, the income of the Great Beis Midrash increased from the “mitzvah money” (for Torah honors, etc.) and donations from householders, to the point were people were able borrow these funds for renovations in return for obligations to provide for the various needs of the Beis Midrash, including firewood, candles for light, the salary of the shamash, and the purchase and repair of books.

The Beis Midrash had additional income from renting out prayer halls and collecting donations in charity boxes during the weekday services.

In 1793, Minsk transferred from Polish to Russian rule. With the departure of the Jesuit Order from Russia and the transfer of the contract to the Russian government, the society paid 30 rubles a year for rent. In 1905[2], the Chevra Kadisha Shiva Keruim took possession of the lot.

With the increase of the income of the organization, butcher shops were also built on the lot. In the year 5562 (1802) the butcher shops were removed from the place due to a government edict, and in their place shops were built which were rented out. In the year 5565 (1805) the construction of the Great Beis Midrash began anew atop the shops with the assistance of funds from donors. The building was concluded only in the year 5572 (1812) due to a lack of funds.

Aside from the aforementioned sources of income, the following other sources of income came to the Shiva Keruim organization

  1. Rental money from buildings and shops that were dedicated by the donors for this purpose through willed endowment funds. In a certificate of authorization from the year 5439 (1679) that was found in the hands of the society, it is listed that the society owns 21 lots, 10 shops, 3 houses, a cemetery and a bathhouse.
  2. Rental money from the shops which were located beneath the new Beis Midrash.
  3. The direct levy imposed upon the householders.
  4. Rental money from the communal bathhouse that was leased “with clear terms that the rental money should be dedicated to the needs of the Great Beis Midrash”.
  5. The “taxeh”, which was the meat tax, served as the prime source of income. Already in the year 5522 (1752), the level of the tax was set for each ox, cow, calf, etc.

The meat tax was collected with the full force of the law. Any person who was so brazen as to circumvent the tax ordinances had his shechita declared invalid without any recourse, and permission was given to impose all coercion upon him in order to fill the tax requirements. These ordinances were in force throughout the entire time of the existence of the community. The taxeh (or korovka as it was called in the latter period) was always set according to the needs of the time, and this income was later leased out by the government to the community.

The butcher shops were located in an enclosed area, and every purchaser had to pay the tax at the exit gate for each bird or peace of meat according to its weight.

This income was used to pay the salary of the rabbis, the maintenance of the mikvas (ritual baths) and the provision of other communal needs. An explicit ordinance established the requirement to set aside an annual sum for the Talmud Torah and for the charitable funds for the poor, for the visiting of the sick, for redeeming of captive, for providing for poor brides, etc.

There were approximately 100 synagogues and Beis Midrashes in Minsk. Every type of trade – craftsmen, tradesmen, officials, etc. saw it as their duty to found a synagogue for their members. Thus we find that there were synagogues for carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, seamstresses, hat makers, butchers, water drawers, officials, etc. Even the rag dealers established a fine synagogue for themselves with their small coins.

The ledgers of the Synagogue of the Water Drawers describe how the people built their first synagogue, a wooden shack, with their own hands with great dedication. The work was done after an exhausting work day.

The Choral Synagogue, called the “Enlightened Synagogue” was built in a magnificent modern style. However, the central synagogue of Minsk Jewry was the Great Beis Midrash located in the synagogue courtyard. It had room for thousands of worshippers, and one could always feel the heartbeat of Jewish life in the city therein.

The Great Beis Midrash bustled with Torah and prayer. This was especially evident each day during the time between the Mincha (afternoon) and Maariv (evening) services. The scholars sat on one side listening to a class on Yoreh Deah, and on the other side the householders listened to a class on Midrash. Booksellers laid out their wares of holy books behind the bima. People approached them, scanned the merchandise and purchased books. Groups of wealthy householders, tradesmen, teachers and Yeshiva students gathered in the vestibule and discussed out loud their affairs and the news of the day, as they unburdened themselves of their impressions of the day. Then the sound of the knocking of the shamash on the bima was heard, and the masses of people hastened to their places. A noise as loud as the waves of the sea was heard – as thousands of people poured out their hearts for the Maariv service.

The Ittinger Synagogue in Minsk was built in around the year 5600 (1840). Its founder was Rabbi Chotoyevich of blessed memory.

He was a very wealthy man with an honorable personality, respected in the Jewish community of Minsk. He built a large courtyard on Gubernatorsky Street in the center of the city, which included several buildings and approximately twenty stores. The large, splendid synagogue stood out among these. He set it up himself and called it after his name – the Chotoyevicher Shul.

Rabbi Chotoyevich married his daughter off to Rabbi Landau, who was a descendent of the Gaon of Vilna of holy blessed memory. When Rabbi Chotoyevich died, all of the property passed to the ownership of Rabbi Landau.

However Rabbi Landau and his wife the daughter of Rabbi Chotoyevich did not live long. When they died, they left behind a young daughter named Chayenele, who inherited the large inheritance of the buildings including the synagogue.

When Chayenele became an adult, she married Rabbi Simcha Ittinger of blessed memory. Rabbi Simcha Ittinger was a great scholar, the scion of a large, famous family which established generations of Torah giants, important parnassim (communal administrators) and wealthy activists who pursued charity and good deeds in the city of Minsk.

Rabbi Simcha was great in Torah and fear of Heaven. When he became one of the well-known wealthy men of Minsk, he became known as a benevolent man renowned for his generosity and an important activist, aside from his greatness in Torah. His hand was open to any impoverished person, and his heart was open to the bitter of spirit. He distributed his wealth with great generosity to charitable funds and for the benefit of the Jewish community both within Minsk and outside of it.

Therefore, the name of the synagogue was changed to his name: “Ittinger – Chotoyevich Shul”. This splendid synagogue stood out as a precious gem in Minsk, which was rich in synagogues and communal buildings. It was a center of Torah and prayer at all times. Even after the Bolshevik revolution, when many of the synagogues were confiscated, the Ittinger Synagogue had great merit for it was able to maintain itself for many years. Even then it bustled with many worshippers. It was located on the main street, whose name was changed to Leninskaya.

On Sabbaths and festivals the famous preacher of Minsk, Rabbi Binyamin Shakovitzky of blessed memory, would deliver his wonderful sermons as he stood next to the splendid Holy Ark – just as he did in former times. It was as if a revolution had not taken place in the country. His enthusiastic words would rise high in the synagogue that was overflowing with people who drank up his words with thirst, as he called upon them to maintain their stance during the difficult times, despite the trials and tribulations.

It seems as if the merit of the synagogue's great founders stood for it during the harsh revolutionary era.

The famous Shul Hauf (Synagogue Courtyard) housed many synagogues in the upper and lower floors of the buildings in the large square. Among these was the oldest synagogue in Minsk, known as the Cold Synagogue “Di Kalte Shul”. According to tradition it had first been a church. It was purchased from the Christians in 5333 (1573), renovated and set up as a synagogue. Its old structure, thick walls, and arched ceiling testified to its ancientness. Unlike the rest of the synagogues, this synagogue did not serve as a place of study. Therefore it did not have a winter oven. Therefore it was nicknamed “The Cold Synagogue”. It did not have a mezuzah, in accordance with the law that a synagogue is exempt from the commandment of mezuzah[3].

The following list of synagogues in Minsk gives evidence to its Jewish splendor. However Jewish Minsk was not known solely for its synagogues. Minsk was also a center of Torah, Yeshivas and Yeshiva students whose Torah influence spread afar.

List of Synagogues

Altschuler Shul
Anutshniska Shul
Reb Abba Shiff's Minyan
Blumke's Kloiz
Broide's Shul
Brisker Vakzal Shul
Breg Shul
Gezeln Shul
Ginzberg's Shul
Getzov's Shul
Great Beis Midrash
Dobromishler Shul
Hekdesh Shul
Vilner Vakzal Shul
Vatikin Minyan
Zeldovitsh's Shul
Zibetziker Shul
Reb Zerach's Shul
Chonen-Dalim Shul
Chevra Za”tz Shul
Cheder Shul
Chevra Maachal Kasher Shul
Chevra Kadisha Shul
Tatareshe Shul
Tshelezhnikers Minyan
Reb Yehoshua Bobonier's Shul
Reb Yitzchak Dorski's Shul
Reb Yitzchak's Kloiz
Choral Shul
Klei-Zemer Shul
Lubavitcher Shtibel
Liachovska Shul 1
Liachovska Shul 2
Linat Tzedek Shul
Maliarska Shul
Moskovska Shul
Moliarska Shul
Meltzer Shul
Menorat Hamaor Shul
Minyan Shiva-Keruim
Maskil-LeEitan Shul
Reb Michel Neshvizer Kloiz
Novokrasner Shul
Nei-Shtetl Shul
Reb Nachum's Minyan
Neier Beis Midrash
Slonimer Shtibel
Stolerse Shul
Sloboder Shul
Soldatska Shul
Serebrinker Shul
Slepianker Shul
Ittinger Shul
Podgorner Shul
Prikozshtikes Shul
Peresper Shul
Feigel Shul
Feld Shul 1
Feld Shul 2
Fildin Shul
Tzigelner Shul
Kaidenover Shtibel
Katzavishe Shul
Nei-Kirzhnershe Shul
Alt Kirzhnershe Shul
Kontorovitshe's Shul
Nei-Komarovka Shul
Alt Komarovka Shul
Klibaner Shul
Kabakov's Shul
Kasarin Shul
Kalte Shul
Klein Beis Midrash
Nei-Romanover Shul
Alt Romanover Shul
Reb Reuven's Shul
Shoavei Maim Shul
Shneidershe Shul
Shustershe Shul
Shtepersher Minyan
Talmud Torah Shul
Talmud Torah Hauf

List of Synagogues in the Shul Hauf

Reb Abba Shiff's Minyan
Blumke's Kloiz
Great Beis Midrash
Vatikin Minyan
Chonen Dalim Shul
Chevra Kadisha Shul
Menorat Hamaor Shul
Moshav Zekeinim Shul
Minyan Shiva-Keruim
Reb Nachum's Minyan
Neier Beis Midrash
Prikozshtikes Shul
Kalte Shul
Klein Beis Midrash
Shtepersher Minyan
Talmud-Torah Shul

B. The Rabbinate and Rabbis of Minsk

The rabbinate of Minsk was well known throughout the Jewish world, and the rabbis who served there were famous Gaonim, great in Torah and halacha, many of whom wrote important, valuable books which enriched the Jewish treasury.

If we start to enumerate the detail, the text will be too long. Therefore we will only mention in brief the dynasty of rabbis of the community of Minsk. We will go into a little more details about the more famous rabbis.

As the community of Minsk grew and became well-established, the first rabbi accepted to the community was Rabbi Moshe the son of the holy rabbi and Gaon Rabbi Mordechai (who was murdered in sanctification of the divine name in Lublin in the year 5396 / 1636). In his time he was known as a great and sharp genius.

He first served as the rabbi of Wêgrów, from where he became known to the community of Minsk. When he was appointed as the rabbi of Minsk, he conducted the rabbinate at a high standard, and made it his business to aggrandize Torah therein. He founded an important Yeshiva in the city that attracted many students. Rabbi Moshe died in the year 5456 (1696).

The second rabbi, appointed after the death of Rabbi Moshe, was the sharp Gaon who was known as Rabbi Leibl Baal Hatosafot (The grandfather of Rabbi Aryeh Leib the author of Shaagat Aryeh), who was given this name because he was already an expert in the Tosafot commentary on the entire Talmud in his youth.

He was a native of a small town in the region of Minsk. He rose in greatness to the point where he was already known as a Gaon and one of the great rabbis of the generation, and his name had spread afar when he came to serve in the rabbinate in Minsk. He also ran a large Yeshiva in Minsk. During his time, Jewish Minsk grew in prominence, and was known as a city of scholars and scribes.

At that time, Minsk became the primary district city for the Jewish communities of the entire region. The rabbi of Minsk became the district rabbi and oversaw all Jewish maters in the district. All of the rabbis and communities were subordinate to him. This office not only encompassed matters of Torah and spirit, but also included all civil matters such as income, expenditures, debts, taxes, etc.

Rabbi Moshe Zeev (the son of the Gaon and Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda, the author of the book “Kol Yehuda”) was chosen as the first district rabbi. He conducted all affairs properly and with diligence. He enjoyed great success, to the point where the borders of his jurisdiction were increased and additional cities and towns were added to his district.

With the death of Rabbi Leibl Baal HaTosafot (approximately 5468 – 1708) a vacancy arose in the rabbinate of Minsk for several years until the year 5472 (1712) when the Gaon rabbi Yechiel Heilprin was appointed as the rabbi of the city. He came from good lineage, the scion of Gaonim tracing their ancestry back to the Talmudic sages. He wrote many important books on Torah subjects (Rabbi Ch. D. Azulay wrote about him in his book “Shem Gedolim” that he had mastered both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. “We have seen his strength and expertise in Talmud… that is astonishing and a great wonder…”) His book “Seder HaDorot”, an important historical work that has helped historians, is especially famous. Excellent students, great in Torah, came to study in the Yeshiva that he directed in Minsk.

Along with him, the position of district rabbi was filled by Rabbi Menachem Mendel the son of the previous rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Zeev. Not long thereafter, Rabbi Asher, the son of Rabbi Leibl Baal HaTosafot was chosen to take his place. However he settled in nearby Smilovichi rather than Minsk (for the district rabbi was allowed to set up his residence in any place that he chose).

The rabbinical tenure of Rabbi Yechiel Heilprin did not go smoothly. His fortunes turned for the worse and he aroused the ire of the sharp Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib the author of “Shaagat Aryeh”, who also founded a Yeshiva in Minsk and who was not satisfied with the style of learning of Rabbi Yechiel which focused on the simple interpretation of the texts. Despite the fact that he was younger than Rabbi Yechiel, he publicly opposed his teaching methodology and refuted his words of Torah. Thus a major dispute broke out in the city between the supporters of Rabbi Yechiel and the supporters of Aryeh Leib. Peace and rest were lacking throughout the years of the rabbinate of Rabbi Yechiel Heilprin. He died sated in years and vexation, when he was over 80 years old, around the year 5502 (1742). The district rabbi Rabbi Asher died at around the same time.

The dispute continued on after the death of Rabbi Yechiel and even strengthened, for many people promoted the merits of his son Rabbi Moshe Heilprin to take the place of his father, in accordance with the will that was given over in the name of the deceased. However, a certain portion of the city wished to appoint Rabbi Aryeh Leib as the replacement for his father Rabbi Asher as district rabbi, and his brother Rabbi Yitzchak Avraham as the rabbi of the city. The supporters of Rabbi Moshe Heilprin finally prevailed, and he was appointed as rabbi of the city of Minsk in the year 5504 (1744).

The position of district rabbi remained vacant for several years. In the year 5509 (1749) Rabbi Yitzchak Avraham was appointed as district rabbi in place of his father. However, he quickly found that the burden was too great and took most of his time. He gave up his position in 5516 (1756). He then dedicated himself to Torah and teaching in Minsk, and died in the year 5536 (1776). The young Gaon Rabbi Rafael the author of “Torah Yekutiel” was appointed as district rabbi in his place. He had formerly served in the rabbinate in Rakov and Wilkomir. He was already known as a wondrous genius in his youth. His relative and rabbi, Rabbi Aryeh Leib the author of “Shaagat Aryeh” predicted a bright future for him and appointed him as a Rosh Yeshiva in his Yeshiva when he was only 20 years old He also settled in Smilovichi, and later in Dukora. He was very successful in his important position, and he succeeded in obtaining various benefits from the government for his flock.

He fulfilled his role with dedication and faithfulness, and did not forego the truth before any person. He excelled in his sermons and in admonishments. As he traveled in his role from city to city and from town to town, he taught the people the opinions of the Torah, morality and the fear of Heaven. His directed words and his reproofs bore fruit, and he met with success in his work. However, he too saw that this position prevented him from dedicating himself appropriately to Torah. After six years (in the year 5523 – 1763) he left his position. He was accepted as a rabbi in Hamburg one year later.

Rabbi Shmuel of Amdur, the author of the response book “Teshuvat Shmuel” was appointed as district rabbi in place of Rabbi Rafael. He became famous as a great rabbi. Even the Gaon of Vilna attested to his power and greatness in Torah. When he entered his role, he set up his home in Minsk, and then moved to Rakov where he lived until he died there in the year 5537 (1777). He was the final chief rabbi of the district, for the position of district rabbi was annulled by the government in the wake of slander and protests.

The Gaon Rabbi Aryeh Leib, the author of “Shaagat Aryeh” wandered in the meantime from city to city in Lithuania and Poland. Rabbi Leibl the Rosh Yeshiva of Minsk became known as a great Gaon. He finally reached Volozhin, where he was appointed as a rabbi and where he published his famous book “Shaagat Aryeh”. He founded a large Yeshiva there that produced Gaonim who were great in Torah, including the two famous brothers Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman of Volozhin, who later became students of the Gaon Rabbi Eliahu of Vilna. However, there too rest eluded him, and he returned to his city of Minsk.

The community of Minsk received him with great honor after word about his greatness in the Jewish world reached their ears. Jewish Gaonim in every city waited to hear his words, and he was revered and honored by everybody. He was appointed as rabbi in Minsk along with their former rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Heilprin. However this “pair” did not work out well and a great dispute broke out once again in the city due to the opposition of Rabbi Aryeh Leib to Rabbi Moshe. The vast majority of the residents opposed him and caused trouble for him. Only isolated families remained faithful to him and offered him support and assistance. Among those who excelled in their support for him was the renowned benefactress Blumka Vilnikin, who supported him and even built a Beis Midrash for his Yeshiva.

However, Rabbi Aryeh Leib was finally forced to leave Minsk. He traveled abroad and was appointed as the rabbi of the city of Metz in France, where he succeeded. He served honorably as the rabbi there, and his name was revered by everyone.

Legend states that after Rabbi Aryeh Leib left Minsk (some say that they hired a farmer's wagon, seated him therein, and sent him from the city); a sort of curse enveloped the city. It came down drastically from its honorable status, and large fires broke out. The opponents of Rabbi Aryeh Leib died, and Rabbi Moshe Heilprin died as well. Many saw the hand of G-d in this, avenging the honor of Rabbi Aryeh Leib. He died at an old age, when he was about 90, in the year 5545 (1785).

After the death of Rabbi Moshe Heilprin, Rabbi Yosef HaKohen Rappaport was appointed as the rabbi of the city. He was a great genius in Torah and had a fine background. He served in the rabbinate in Minsk until about the year 5538 (1778). Following him was the Rosh Yeshiva of Minsk at that time, Rabbi Gershon Charif, who was well known for his knowledge. He served in the rabbinate for approximately 15 years until the year 5553 (1793).

{Photocopy page 93: The title page of Shaagat Aryeh}

After Rabbi Gershon Charif, Rabbi Yisrael Mirkish was chosen as the rabbi of the city. He was a friend of the Gaon Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, and was already well known as a genius in Torah and wisdom. He excelled in his fine character traits. He was revered and loved by all of the people of the city, without difference in class and strata. He dedicated himself with his entire soul and means to raise the level of the Jewish community in Minsk, without concern for his own money and health. He raised up Torah, set up charitable and benevolent institutions, and enacted important and productive edicts.

Rabbi Yisrael Mirkish died in the year 5573 (1813). The Jews of Minsk mourned his death deeply. Everyone felt that there was no replacement for this great loss, and the feeling that the “last Mohawk” was being brought to burial led to a brazen decision: Minsk will never again accept a rabbi!

Another tradition explains the decision in a different fashion. Rabbi Yisrael Mirkish lent large sums of Money to the community of Minsk. Since he was wealthy and generous, in many cases of expenditures for various necessities when there was no possibility of covering the obligation from the empty communal coffers, Rabbi Yisrael used his own money to pay the expenditure with the faith that the loan would be repaid when the communal coffers would later refill. However, as time went on, the value of his loans reached a great sum, and the hope for paying them back was not realized. When Rabbi Yisrael Mirkish was lying on his deathbed, he summoned the trustees and administrators of the city to his side and admonished them to pay the debt to his heirs. He declared that as a guarantee for repayment he would take the title of “Rabbi of the city” with him to the grave. That means that the city would not be permitted to appoint a rabbi to replace him until the debt was repaid. Since the city was not able to repay the debt, rabbis of the city then took the title of “Mara Deasra”[4] rather than rabbi.

Rabbi Shmuel Segal was appointed as the rabbi of the city in place of Rabbi Yisrael Mirkish. He did not live long, and died in the year 5579 (1819). Then Rabbi Yisrael Heilprin of Ruzhany was appointed as the rabbi of the city. He was the student of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman the author of “Kedushat Yom Tov”. He served in the rabbinate until his death in the year 5596 (1836). He was replaced by Rabbi Leib Di-Botin who had been a rabbi in the city of Mohilev. He conducted the rabbinate until his old age. When he became old and quite weak, with his agreement Rabbi David Tavli of Stovitz, the author of the books “Beit David”, “Divrei David” and “Hachalat David” was appointed as the rabbi of the city in the year 5609 (1849). He was an expert in Torah, wise, and understood the realities of the world, thought and research. He conducted the rabbi with the pride of his flock. His name became known throughout all strata of the population of the city. Those near and far benefited from his advice. He was even appreciated by the Christians of the city. Rulers even asked him to judge them and mediate their affairs.

Rabbi David Tavli died in the year 5621 (1861). Many years then passed without an official rabbi of Minsk. The wise men of Minsk found it very difficult to choose a rabbi for themselves who would be able to replace the preceding one. Out of honor for his father-in-law, they even refrained from appointing Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib, who served as the chief halachic decisor and conducted all matters of the community in an unofficial manner. Only at the time of the old age of Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib, in the year 5643 (1883), did they appoint Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Leib Perlman of Pruzhany as the rabbi of the city. He became known as “The Great One of Minsk” (Gadol MiMinsk), for he was great in his wisdom of Torah, sharpness, and depth. He had already been known as the Genius of Brisk (HaIluy MiBrisk) during his youth. He conducted his rabbinate in a high fashion for thirteen years and died in the year 5666 (1896) when he was only 61 years old. His writings were published posthumously. These included a book of response entitled “Or Gadol” as well his novellae on Mishna, also with the same name, “Or Gadol”.

During the last years of the “Gadol”, the government appointed an official rabbi to serve at the side of the main rabbi. This rabbi was Rabbi Shlomo Zilkind Minor. He had a higher education, many talents, and was an excellent orator. However, there was great opposition to him since he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Haskalah movement. He even assisted the government in its demand to include general studies for Jewish cheder students, and was the first to preach from the pulpit to Jews in the Russian language.

{Photo page 95: Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the community of Minsk.}

The opposition to him deepened and the dispute affected him greatly, to the point where he was finally forced to leave the city of Minsk in the year 5666 (1896).

After the death of Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Leib, there were many opinions about the appointing of a replacement, for there were two candidates who were fitting to receive this important office: The first was his son-in-law Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz, who was a student of the Volozhin Yeshiva, and was already famous as the genius (iluy) from Kiev in his youth. He was later accepted as a rabbi in Smolovichi. The second candidate was the son of Rabbi David Tavli, Rabbi Yitzchak Rabin, who was born in his old age. Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz was finally appointed, and his deputy was Rabbi Yitzchak Rabin.

The beginning of the tenure of Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz was a flourishing era for religious Jewry in Russia, for despite the oppression of the fiercely anti-Semitic Czarist police, and despite the Haskalah movement which was waging an energetic battle against religious Jewry at that time and was demanding some sort of religious reform in order to rejuvenate the face of Russian Jewry, religious life developed and flourished from all perspectives. There were many cheders, Yeshivas, Torah greats, sages, and charitable and benevolent foundations that were set up by benefactors. The city of Minsk was a flourishing center of Judaism in Russia. Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz found at that time a broad arena for his work on behalf of Jewry. He was great in Torah and beloved by all strata of the population due to his generous character traits. He conducted all aspects of communal affairs with great intelligence.

Times changed with the outbreak of the October Revolution. The Communist government began to exert pressure on religion, and wrathfully persecute rabbis and religious functionaries. Rabbi Eliezer was imprisoned by the government and kept in jail for a period of time. However his spirit did not weaken, and after his release he continued to work to strengthen Torah and the benevolent institutions. He even donated his own money to the poor, and canvassed those who still had financial means to support Torah and charity.

Rabbi Eliezer died in the year 5684 (1924), leaving behind manuscripts on Torah topics. His book of responsa was published in Israel by Mossad Harav Kook with the support of his family and through the efforts of Rabbi Sh. Y. Zevin. This book “Ud Mutzal Meeish” (A Brand Plucked from the Fire) was secretly smuggled out of Soviet Russia, and thereby saw the light of day in the Land of Israel.

Rabi Eliezer Rabinowitz' son-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gluskin was appointed as the rabbi of Minsk in his place. He had already served in the rabbinate in important cities in Russia. At first he took his father's place in Parichi. Later he became a rabbi in Priluki and Nezhin.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel's lot was to witness the complete spiritual destruction of Minsk Jewry by the Bolshevik government. He was an exalted personality. Aside from his greatness in Torah, he had a broad general knowledge, and was wondrously discreet and modest. He bore the suffering of religious Jewry with exemplary calm. He represented religious Jewry with honor, and honorably bore the personal persecution that fell into his lot from the government.

He was twice evicted from his home, which was confiscated by the local government. The second eviction notice was received when he was sitting shiva after the death of his wife. Then he went to live in the women's gallery of the synagogue.

As the struggle against religion grew sharper, Rabbi Gluskin was imprisoned by the GPU (secret police) and put in jail. After he was freed they did not leave him be. The persecution and pressure increased from day to day. A religious Jews who became an agent of the GPU looked after him. He spent a great deal of time in his presence as a friend, and took interest in communal matters, embittering his life.

He finally decided to leave Minsk, and answered the call of Leningrad to become their rabbi. He moved to Leningrad in 5695 (1935) to become the rabbi there. He died there about three years later, in the year 5698 (1938), finally ending the splendid era of the chief rabbinate in the metropolis of Minsk.

List of Rabbis of Minsk

(Aside from the city rabbis and chosen Mara Deatras)

Rabbi Menachem Eliezer (author of Yair Kino)
Rabbi Yitzchak Pines
Rabbi Baruch ben Rabbi Tzvi
Rabbi Shaul ben Rabbi Shlomo
Rabbi Zeev Wolf ben Rabbi Moshe
Rabbi Yekutiel Zusil HaKohen
Rabbi Yaakov Hillel Ittinger
Rabbi Yaakov Aharon Luria
Rabi Yeshaya Zecharia HaKohen Yolles (author of Et Ledaber and Dover Meisharim)
Rabi Shmuel ben Rabbi Akiva Eiger
Rabi Avraham Dworetzer
Rabbi Dov Ber Yitzchak Izak of Krasna
Rabbi Yehuda Betzalel
Rabbi Yaakov Kaplan
Rabbi Mordechai ben Rabbi Avigdor
Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Pines
Rabbi Moshe Tzvi
Rabbi Dov Ber Tomerkin
Rabbo Moshe Zak of Shklov
Rabbi Menachem Shlomo Gordon (author of Menachem Shlomo)
Rabbi Aryeh of Igumen (author of Beer Heitev)
Rabbi Tovia ben Rabbi Yehuda Leib
Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Hindin
Rabbi Aryeh Leib HaKohen Hasachal
Rabbi Gershon Tanchum
Rabbi Chaim Chaikel Bernstein
Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Lipshitz
Rabbi Yoel Charif
Rabbi Yissacher Dov Ber Bampi
Rabbi Eliezer Lipman Rabinowitz
Rabbi Gershon Avraham Berger
Rabbo Baruch Mordechai Hari
Rabbi Shimshon Grozovski
Rabbi Yaakov Hindin
Rabbi Yehoshua Hindin
Rabbi Shraga Feivel Plotkin
Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist
Rabbi Aryeh Leib Bass
Rabbi Ben-Zion Davidson
Rabbi Izak Feikin
Rabbi Grunem Abramowitz
Rabbi Avraham Goldberg
Rabbi Leib Dworkin
Rabbi Yaakov Kopilowitz
Rabbi Mendel Leib Levin
Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Epstein
Rabbi Nachum Dluga
Rabbi Yekutiel Zochovitzki
Rabbi Gavriel Gavrilov
Rabbi Yaakov Meir Grodzinski
Rabbi Zusia Mali
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hutner
Rabbi Yaakov Lichovski
Rabbi Yaakov Vishnivtzki
Rabbi Avraham Eber
Rabbi Yisrael Isser Chachalowitz
Rabbi Nachum Heitman
Rabbi Aryeh Dardak
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Sadovski
Rabbi Yitzchak Seltzer
Rabbi Dov Berman
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Yarchi
Rabbi Asher Kerstein
Rabbi Izak Rabinowitz
Rabbi Reuven Judkovski
Rabbi Chaim Elazar Bernstein
Rabbi Chaim Lieberman
Rabbi Zeev Wolf Brauda
Rabbi Kadish Menachem Rabinowitz
Rabbi Leiv Kantarowitz
Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Berman
Rabbi Yitzchak Rubin
Rabbi Moshe Sandomirski

C. The Influence of Hassidism in Minsk

Minsk was fundamentally a Lithuanian style city, and served as a strong fortress for the opponents of Hassidism. Nevertheless, the Hassidic movement penetrated into Minsk, just as it had penetrated into many other Lithuanian cities. The Hassidic population grew and became firmly based in the city, which at first aroused the ire of the Misnagdim. A battle was waged against the influence of the Hassidic movement.

The Hassidim of Minsk tell that Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, the great student of the Magid of Mezerich, was accepted as a Magid (preacher) in Minsk. However when Pesach Sheini[5] came, which was celebrated prominently by the Hassidim, he appeared in the synagogue wearing festive white clothes as was the custom of the Admorim. To the great dismay, that year Pesach Sheini fell out on one of the fast days of Bahab[6], about which the Misnagdim were quite particular. When the householders saw the Magid looking like “a groom amongst mourners”, they became quite incensed, and they chased him out of the city… The Lubavitcher Hassidim would point out the ruins of the mikva (ritual bath) next to the synagogue, in which Rabbi Mendele of Vitebsk would immerse himself.

However, as happened in other places as well, the opposition did not succeed in stopping the mounting wave of Hassidism, which finally established a firm stake in the city. Various Hassidic shtibels were founded. There was a magnificent synagogue of the Lubavitch Hasidism in the center of the city, the Lubavitch synagogue of Rabbi Chaim Kretchmer, the Chabad minyan in the Perespa suburb, and the Chabad synagogue of the Kabakov brothers. They even maintained their own their own “Chozer” (a speaker on Hassidic topics), Rabbi Chaim Chanin, an elder of the Chabad Hassidim. There was also the synagogue of the Koydanov Hassidim and the synagogue of the Slonim Hassidim.

There were classes for the study of Hassidim. Admorim came to visit and conducted table celebrations for their Hasidim. We know that already in 5595 (1835) the Chabad Admor Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who was known by the name of his book, “Tzemach Tzedek”, visited Minsk. He was received with great honor and splendor in the city. The residents of Minsk and the surrounding area came out in multitudes to the doors of the dwelling where he was staying, wanting to see his face and hear his Torah. In Minsk he met the Gaon Rabbi David Tavli and Rabbi Zecharia Yeshayahu Yolles. Rabbi David Tavli even maintained a correspondence with him about Halachic response, which was published in their respective books (Tzemach Tzedek and Nachalat David).

Other Admorim that visited Minsk included Rabi Shmuel Weinberg the Admor of Slonim and Rabbi Yosef Perlow the Admor of Koidanov. The latter died in Minsk while leading the prayers in the synagogue. He is buried in Minsk.

Chabad Mashpiim[7] (rabbis and spiritual guides) were sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to direct the Hassidim and teach them about Chabad Hassidism.

One of the important Mashpiim was the rabbi and Tzadik Rabbi Avraham Romanov, the father of the rabbi, Hassid, Kabbalist and Torah giant Rabbi Shalom Shachna Romanov who was a rabbi in the city of Klitshev in the district of Minsk and died in Minsk in the year 5688 (1928), leaving behind manuscripts on the Kabbalah.

The final Mashpia, sent to Minsk by the Admor of Lubavitch Rabbi Shalom-Ber Schneerson (following the Mashpia Rabbi Elimelech who preceded him), was Rabbi Avraham Baruch Pevzner of Pochep. He was faithful to the house of the Rebbe, great in Torah and Hassidism, and a talented rabbi with a great deal of energy. He was imprisoned by the GPU for his activities, and accused of receiving written instructions from the Lubavitcher Rebbe who lived outside of the country (after his imprisonment, the place transferred to Russia) to organize cheders and Yeshivas, and to strengthen religion in Soviet Russia.

Rabbi Avraham Baruch brought the youth close to Hassidim and established classes on Hassidim for the Lithuanian Yeshiva students who at that time were learning underground. He was exiled by the Soviet government and died in exile in Siberia.

Thus, Minsk was a wide branched city in Jewry, and an unceasing well for those who took refuge under its shade.

D. A City of Torah

From the day that the community of Minsk stood on its own, it became known as a repository of Torah and knowledge. Thousands of students studied in its Cheders and Talmud Torahs. Its Beis Midrashes bustled with daily Torah classes. Various groups for the study of Torah were founded. Its Yeshivas, filled with young and old students who came as well from afar and found a spiritual refuge for their thirst for knowledge, attained worldwide acclaim.

Minsk was never satisfied with one Yeshiva. There were always several Yeshivas. Its Yeshiva heads were known as princes in Torah, renowned Gaonim who spread their Torah orally as well as in writing through the means of their books. Its wealthy people lovingly distributed of their fortune to provide clothing, shoes and other needs of the students. Its householders who loved Torah donated willingly for the upkeep of the Yeshiva. Even the poor provided weekday and daily meals for the Yeshiva students who came from afar. Before the Communist Revolution in Russia, Minsk had several small Yeshivas spread out in its Beis Midrashes. The following are the best known of the Yeshivas.

{Photo page 99: Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist (Horodner).}

  1. Blumke's Kloiz. And old Yeshiva. According to tradition, it was built by the benefactress Blumke of the Vilenkin family for the Yeshiva of Rabbi Aryeh Leib the author of “Shaagat Aryeh”. Its Rosh Yeshivas included Rabbi Avraham the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Evenchik. Rabbi Avraham the son of Rabbi Zecharia Mendel Hamburg, Rabbi Gershon Tanchum the son of Rabbi Eliahu Binyamin. The final Rosh Yeshiva of this Yeshiva was Rabbi Binyamin Shimonovich.

    The salary of the Rosh Yeshiva was meager (3 rubles per week). Most of the Yeshiva students took their meals on a rotation basis at people's homes, and others at a kitchen that was set up for them. Bread was collected from householders, and meat was donated by butchers for this purpose.

  2. The Water Drawers' Synagogue. This Yeshiva was also old. Great Gaonim served as Rosh Yeshivas, including Rabbi Hendel Friedland of Parichi, Rabbi Eliezer Rabinowitz who was later the rabbi of Minsk, Rabbi Shlomo who later served as a rabbi in Horodok, Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist of Horodna, and Rabbi Yehoshua Leibowitz of Ragala.
  3. The Small Beis Midrash. The Rosh Yeshivas included Rabbi Muni, Rabbi Yisrael the son of Rabbi Elchanan Hochman, Rabbi Shlomo Golovenchik of Mohilev and Rabi Abba Schiff the author of “Toafot Reem” on Sefer Yereim.

There were also three Kibbutzim, where there were large Yeshivas in which excellent students and Torah greats studied themselves without a Rosh Yeshiva.

  1. In the Gezeln Shul which was founded after the death of Rabbi Yerucham Yehuda Leib Perlman and was called after his name “Beis Yehuda”. Rabbi Yitzchak Seltzer examined the students and guided them in their studies.

    These students received a monthly stipend of six to eight rubles to support themselves, and they lived in rooms which they rented for themselves. They only ate with householders on Sabbaths. A special committee was occupied with obtaining the means to support the kibbutz. The heads of this committee included Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist and the philanthropist Rabbi Moshe Tabenkin.

  2. The kibbutz in the synagogue in the Komarovka suburb, which was founded by Rabbi Betzalel Alexandrov, a friend of Rabbi Yosef Yozel the founder of the Novhorodok Yeshiva. This kibbutz was run in accordance with the Mussar movement.
  3. The kibbutz in the Dz”tz (Zivchei Tzedek of the Butchers) Beis Midrash. It was directed by the butcher Reb Yaakov Oksenkrug, who supported the kibbutz and collected money from the butchers for its maintenance. The treasurer of the Yeshiva was Rabbi Yehoshua Zimbalist, who also assisted in maintaining the Yeshiva.

Tomchei Torah was a high level Beis Midrash for young married students who were great in Torah, enabling them to complete their rabbinical studies and prepare themselves for serving in the rabbinate. It was founded in 5631 (1871) by a group of activists and philanthropists.

The Talmud Torah building was built by Rabbi Eliahu Hendeles. A committee of activists and philanthropists oversaw and maintained the Talmud Torah. Income came from private donations, charity boxes that were distributed to householders, the meat tax, and from the rental income from the stores that were owned by the Talmud Torah. As is recorded in the ledgers of the Chevra Kadisha Shiva Keruim, already by the year 5564 (1804), an annual tax was imposed upon the householders for the benefit of the Talmud Torah. The rate was 20 Polish Guilders (Zloty) for the wealthy people, 10 for the middle class, 6 for people with low net worth, and 3 for those who were poor.

In the year 5644 (1884), the institution consisted of six rooms, six melamdim (teachers of religious subjects), three teachers of the Russian language, arithmetic and penmanship, and two mashgichim (overseers of religious values). More than 300 students studied at the Yeshiva during that era, and the annual expenditure was over 4,000 rubles.

Of course, the city had many cheders where the children studied Torah. They were maintained primarily by the tuition paid by the parents.

The Cheder of Reb Isser began in the year 5618 (1858) by the workers' organization which was founded by Rabbi Yehoshua Heller in order to spread Torah among the laborers. They studied in a synagogue that was called the Cheder Shul or Rabbi Isser's Cheder, after the name of their rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Isser Chachlovitch. Laborers and simple craftsmen would gather in this synagogue each day after their work to study the Code of Jewish Law, Mishna and Gemara. This was not an ordinary class for householders in a Beis Midrash. Rather, they were taught exactly as students in a school would be taught. They had to study their lessons and prepare for examinations given by their rebbe.

It was a spectacular sight to see these manual laborers sitting after a tiring day of work and toiling in Torah to prepare their lessons, how they were agonized when they did not understand the material, and how their faces glowed with joy when the issue was grasped and absorbed into their minds. Many of them became expert scholars, with a broad and deep knowledge of Torah.

In the year 5646 (1886), the number of members of the synagogue reached 200. Rabbi Yisrael Isser died in the year 5672 (1912), but the studies in the synagogue continued at all times. The son-in-law of Rabbi Aryeh Dardak continued to teach in this position until his death in the year 5688 (1928), ten years after the October Revolution. Rabbi Aryeh was well loved by his students, and appreciated by all of his acquaintances. His broad knowledge in Torah, his generous and refined character traits, and his splendid countenance endeared him to everybody.

The Tiferet Bachurim group was located in Blumke's Kloiz in the latter period. There, the youths and young married Yeshiva graduates who now worked as businessmen, tradesmen or officials continued their studies in Gemara each day after their work, delving into their studies in depth.

E. A City of Charity and Kindness

Aside from the Torah organizations and institutions that we have mentioned in the preceding chapter, Minsk was full of philanthropic, charitable and benevolent organizations, as well as various organizations for the strengthening of Judaism. Its wealthy citizens and philanthropists supported and strengthened all of these organizations with great generosity.

  1. Chonen Dalim was an old organization, founded in 5576 (1816) to distribute financial assistance and food to the poor.
  2. Gemilut Chasadim, founded in 5624 (1864) was an organization to assist the poor.
  3. Ohavei Tzedek was founded by business officials to assist those members suffering from financial difficulty.
  4. The Union of the Teachers and Melamdim provided mutual assistance for its members, including distributing charity.
  5. The Cheap Soup Kitchen was founded by Reb Dove Ber Goldberg. His father Reb Shlomo donated a stone house to the institution. Thousands of poor people satisfied their hunger there on weekdays as well as on Sabbaths and festivals.
  6. Linat Tzedek provided hospital assistance for poor and isolated sick people.
  7. Kosher Food for Soldiers provided important assistance for Jewish soldiers who would not agree to eat non kosher food, and therefore suffered from a lack of food.
  8. The Jewish Hospital was the pride of Minsk. It opened in the year 5589 (1829) in a fine two-story building. It had six wings with approximately 75 beds for sick people. There was a wing for the elderly and handicapped, a special place for the mentally ill, a pharmacy, a bathhouse, a beautiful garden and a synagogue.
  9. The Women's committee to assist the Sick provided assistance to impoverished sick people, even those found in the hospital, who required strengthening through food, drinks, chicken, etc.
  10. Hachnasat Orchim provided a place for poor and needy visitors to sleep.
  11. Hachnasat Kalla provided assistance for Jewish brides who could not afford all of the costs of the wedding.
  12. Chevrat Mishnayot [Mishna Study Group]
  13. Chevrat Shas [Talmud Study Group]
  14. Chevrat Tehillim [Group of Psalms Reciters]
  15. Shomrim Laboker
  16. Poale Tzedek
  17. Maavar Yabbok
  18. Pidyon Shevuim to work for the freeing of people who were imprisoned for various reasons.

List of Philanthropists and Activists

Reb Chaim ben Reb Tzvi Simchowitz
Reb Zev Wolf Vilenkin
Reb Tzvi ben Reb Chaim Simchowitz
Reb Yaakov Horowitz of Dokshitsy
Reb Tzvi Hirsch Zaltzman
Reb Simcha Luria
Reb Zalman ben Reb Shmuel Levin
Reb Shlomo Zalman Horowitz
Reb Simcha Ittinger
Reb Simcha Chaim Landau
Reb Mordechai Klibanov
Reb Zeev Wolf Zeldowitz
Reb Eliahu Hendelis
Reb Moshe ben Reb Aharon
Reb Yosef Zukerman
Reb Moshe Chaim Brauda
Reb Eliahu Yosef Polak
Reb Aharon Dov Ber Brauda
Reb Shlomo Goldberg
Reb Mordechai Solomonov
Reb Dev Ber Pines
Reb Shmuel Luria
Reb Uriel Rogovoy
Reb Chaim Luria
Reb Zusman HaKohen Yolles
Reb Dov Ber Zoldowitz
Reb Zeev Wolf Getzov
Reb Hillel Klebanow
Reb Baruch Zeldowitz
Reb Moshe Polak
Reb Binyamin Polak
Reb Yitzchak Rogovin
Reb Lipa Goldberg
Reb Sh. A. Lisser
Reb Shmuel Hirsch Shabad
Reb Moshe Tabenkin
Reb Dov Ber Goldberg
Reb Dov Zokin
Reb Shalom Sliazberg
Reb Dov Ber Blimowitz
Reb Mordechai Simchowitz
Reb Akiva Rappaport
Reb Zlipman Eliasberg
Reb Shmuel Yona Eliasberg
Reb Moshe Tzvi Solomonov
Reb Hillel Ittinger
Reb Mordechai Solomonov
Reb Mordechai Jablov
Reb Avraham Kabakov
Reb Moshe Gordon
Reb Moshe Dinin
Reb Ben Zion Kabakov

List of Preachers (Magidim) and Sermonizers (Darshanim)

Rabbi Avraham ben Reb Asher Anshel the author of “Amud Hayemini”
Rabbi Avraham Abli Rizanos the author of “Machaze Avraham”
Rabbi Yeshoshua Izak ben Reb Yechiel (Reb Izel Charif)
Rabbi Yisrael Asher ben Ozer (the Magid from Horodna)
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz (The Magid from Mozir)
Rabbi Asher Kerstein (today a rabbi in Israel)
Rabbi Binyamin HaKohen Shokovitzky
Rabbi Nachum Chaitman
Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Romanov
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Levin
Rabbi Hirsch Magid

Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Earlier, this was noted as 200 groszy, which is a much smaller sum (groszy is a subunit of zloty). Return
  2. From the context, this may be an error, and may be 1805. Return
  3. A mezuzah is the parchment scroll affixed to the doorposts in observance of the biblical commandment. A synagogue used solely for prayer is exempt from a mezuzah. However this exemption does not apply a synagogue that is also used for social events or for study, as are most synagogues. Return
  4. Literally, Master of the city – a title of a rabbi of the city without using the appellation 'Rabbi' explicitly. Return
  5. Pesach Sheini occurs one month after Passover. In the Torah, that day is designated as a makeup day for those who could not bring the Passover offering at its right time. The day remains on the calendar, although there are very few observances associated with it today. Return
  6. Bahab is the name for a series of the minor fast days observed twice a year, in the period following Passover, and in the period following Sukkot. They are not obligatory, and only observed by especially pious people. Return
  7. Literally “Influencers”. Return

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