One of the great gaonim was Rav Yaakov Berlin, the father of the Netziv (Naftali Tzvi Yehuda of Berlin), the rosh yeshiva of the Volozhin Yeshiva and a leader of European Jewry at the close of the 19th century.
It was the night of Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, and the Jews in Jerusalem adhered to the custom of remaining up all night and studying the Torah. Not all, however, could do so, and as the night wore on, a few got up to go home.
Shares In The Embarrassment Among the famous practitioners of our forefather Abraham’s virtue, hospitality, was Rav Akiva Eger. Naturally, on Pesach, it was “Let...
But not everyone is destined to taste of the fruit of this world and to enjoy its vintage. Among the inhabitants of this town lived a poor man, Nachumka.
“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.
When Alexander Yannai, king of Judea, appointed Rabi Shimon ben Shetach as president of the Sanhedrin, peace and tranquility reigned in the land. Prosperity came to the people as they followed in the ways of the Torah.
Modesty, both in conduct to people and in dress and speech has always been a deeply praised virtue — especially for Jewish women. In Yerushalayim there once lived a woman named Kimchis, who symbolized this virtue and was blessed for it.
The Gaon, Reb Yechiel Michel Epstein, the author of the Aruch HaShulchan, and the chief rabbi of Novordak for 34 years, was known to be a very liberal person.
When a person is called a gaon, it is because he is a great scholar, a genius in the Torah. But many of our gaonim, besides their greatness and their scholarly acumen, were also gaonim in their deeds. Their kindness towards their fellow man was unsurpassed.
The great sage Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508) would never stop lauding the brilliance and sagacity of his fellow Jews to King Alfonso V of Portugal. Abarbanel was the King’s treasurer and he was respected and loved by the monarch.
“It isn’t the work,” said Eliezer. “I want to learn our holy Torah.”
Time passed and Zemira gave birth to a son but not even this could awaken Avinadav from his melancholy.
The two fathers began to discuss the terms and naturally, they were astounded to find that each one assumed that the other would give double.
The Gaon Reb Yosef Ber Soleveitchik avoided criticizing anyone. When once he did criticize a person he felt so bad about it that he later asked for his forgiveness.
Rabi Pinchas’ piety and honesty were known far and wide. He would often say, “Even though our Sages (Yevamot 65b) declared that to preserve the peace, a person may change his words to ﬁt the situation, I will never utter a false word regardless of the consequences.” If he heard that one of his followers had uttered a false word, he would expel him from his presence.
One of the great chassidic rebbes was the saintly Rav Mordechai of Nashchiz. He used to eat only a loaf of bread the whole week, and added herring on Shabbos — in honor of the day.
Many inspiring stories emanate from the Lubavitch chassidic movement. One of the stories published in Di Yiddishe Heim bulletin describes the early years of Rav Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek. This year marks the 146th anniversary of his passing.
Rav Yosef Hochgelanter, the rav of the city of Zamushet, where Rav Akiva Eiger received his early training while still a young boy, was a great scholar and the author of Mishnas Chachamim. At the time he was chosen to be rav of the city he was the son-in-law of a very wealthy man who was very generous with his support.
Reb Raphael of Barshad was a humble and pious man, known as a tzaddik who never uttered a bad word against anyone.
Now let me ask you, what would happen to an infantryman if he deserted his regiment and went to serve in the cavalry? He would be court-martialed, wouldn’t he?”
Rav Chaim Soloveichik, the Torah luminary of the city of Brisk, was a legendary figure when it came to charity and good deeds.
Pesach is synonymous with aiding the poor and the needy. In the city of Kovno where the great Reb Yisroel Salanter was the chief rabbi, there was a special house set aside for the very poor; there they were housed and given food. Unfortunately, the house was a dilapidated one and in massive disrepair.
From the remarkable Beis Midrash in the town of Brodi came forth a dazzling number of Talmudic chachamim (scholars), many of whom went forth to greatness in the annals of Israel. One of them was Rav Chaim Tzanzer.
The name of the Gaon, Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor, was known to Jewry throughout the world. He was also well know to Russian royalty, having visited the Czar many times to plead for his fellow religionists.
When the sages prevented Alexander Yannai, king of Yehuda, from becoming Kohen Gadol, he ordered that all the sages of Israel be killed. Many were; those not caught, fled. The greatest sage of them all, Rabi Shimon hen Shetach, was saved by his sister, Queen Shlomit Alexandra, who sheltered him in a secret hiding place.
Crowded into their ghettos and suffering legal disabilities that make today’s claims of discriminations pale into insignificance, the German Jews suffered poverty and wretchedness.
Chazal thought very highly of a jester, a person who makes people laugh. They say that a special high place is waiting for him in Gan Eden.
The Jewish people are hardly strangers to persecution and tyranny. When we hear of the complaints of other peoples, we smile bitterly and wonder: What do they know of persecution? What do they know of tragedy and bitterness? We are a people who have experienced oppression for centuries and have drunk deeply of the bitter cup of woe.
On the twentieth day of Teves we mark the 808th yahrzeit of Rabeinu Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam (Maimonides). The Rambam (Maimonides) lived from 1135 to 1204. His scholarly works are world-renowned and it is about him that we say, “From Moses to Moses there never arose so great a person as Moses.”
Once when there was a drought in Eretz Yisrael, the rabbanim approached Rabi Yochanan Ben Zakkai. “Rebbe,” they said, “please pray to Hashem that He send rain before the people perish from thirst and hunger.”