Rav Tzvi Hirsh Levin, the rav of Berlin, was an extremely clever and sharp individual and possessed a remarkable sense of humor that he used well in his attempts to get across Torah views.
Reb Raphael of Barshad was a humble and pious man, known as a tzaddik who never uttered a bad word against anyone.
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.
One of the greatest opponents was a certain wealthy man who did all that he could to make life difficult for Rav Naftali.
Our forefathers were giants when it came to having faith and a belief that G-d would take care of them. Nothing worried them save that they wasted time not studying our holy Torah. They relied on G-d to take care of their needs.
Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.
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.
Rav Eliyahu Chaim Maisel of Lodz was a great scholar and also had a very sharp mind. Because of his own cleverness, he once saved an innocent Jew from an unjust punishment.
The Gaon, Rav Eliyahu Chaim Maizel, the chief rav of Ludz, loved his fellow man. He treated every person as an equal; whether Jew or a Gentile and when a matter of dishonesty came before him he bent all of his efforts to apprehend the culprit.
A famous scholars of the beis midrash in the city of Brodi was Rav Avraham Gershon of Kitov. This modest and unassuming man possessed such wondrous qualities of goodness and knowledge that the great Nodah B’Yehudah referred to him, in part, as follows:
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.
Modesty and humility are traits that were usually found in our Gaonim. When the Chasam Sofer was courting the daughter of the Gaon, Rav Akiva Eiger, the chief rabbi of Posen (born Nov. 8, 1761 - died Oct. 12, 1837), he wrote to the Gaon inquiring about the qualities of his daughter.
By means of a clever pretext, they succeeded in getting Rabi Yitzhak aboard a ship and sailed it down the river.
Once, Rav Shabsi HaCohen, the Shach — author of the Sifsei Cohen on the Yoreh De’ah and Choshen Mishpat - had a dispute with a prominent merchant of Vilna. The matter pertained to a monetary transaction, and each claimed loss and damages.
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.”
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.”
The Gaon, Rav Chaim of Volozhin, one of the most beloved students of the Vilna Gaon, was known to be a genius even as a child.
The Gaon Yosef Ber Solovetichik, while chief rabbi of Slutsk, was in poor ﬁnancial straits. It was a poor community, and there was very little money for the rabbi. Once, a delegation from Mohlev arrived to offer the gaon the position of chief rabbi of Mohlev, which was a larger and wealthier town. The gaon, however, refused the offer.
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 mitzvah of drawing water for the baking of the matzah for the Seder comes only once a year. I do not care to share it with a horse.’’
The following story is told about the Vilna Gaon who was called upon to decide a case of a bill that was due a doctor.
There are certain mitzvos that all civilized people can understand and appreciate. One such mitzvah is that of honoring one’s parents. While there are certain specific particulars that are distinctly Jewish, the general concept is one accepted by non-Jews as well. Indeed, when the Talmud sought to find an example of one who observed this mitzvah in its proper form, it selected a non-Jew by the name of Dama ben Nesina.
The Baal Shem Tov had two grandsons, Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim and Reb Baruch. While both were pious and well educated in Torah, Reb Moshe lived a frugal and poor life while his brother, Reb Baruch, became very wealthy.
Reb Moshe Chaim Ephraim, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, was a deeply learned man who took his sources and admonitions from the Torah.