Rav Akiva Sofer of Pressburg (1878-1959), author of Daas Sofer. Son of Rav Simcha Bunim Sofer (The Shevet Sofer), grandson of the Kesav Sofer (Rav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer) and the great-grandson
of the Chasam Sofer (Rav Moshe Sofer). He succeeded his father as Rav and Rosh Yeshiva at the tender age of 24. Interestingly, three continuous generations – the Chasam Sofer, the Kesav Sofer, and the Shevet Sofer – all served as Rav of Pressburg for 33 years. When Rav Akiva Sofer neared his 33rd year as Rav, he asked his uncle, the Erlauer Rav, what to do. Upon his uncle’s advice, the Daas Sofer moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1940, thus saving himself from the horrors of World War II.
Rav Aharon Kotler (1892-1962), found and rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoah, Lakewood. The son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman Pines, Rav Aharon was known as the “Shislovitzer iluy.” At 14 he entered the Slobodka yeshivah, where he learnt under the Alter and HaRav Moshe Mordechai Epstein. He also heard shiurim from Rav Baruch Ber, who had his own yeshiva in one of the suburbs of Slobodka. He married the daughter of R. Isser Zalman Meltzer, head of the yeshivah Etz Chaim in Slutsk, and became his assistant (1914). Even before he was 25 years old, he became one of its roshei yeshivah. After the yeshivah’s forced transfer to Kletsk in Poland – due to the Bolchevik takeover and religious persecution (1921), Rav Isser Zalman emigrated to Erez Ysrael, and Rav Kotler directed the Etz Chaim for 20 years. With the Soviet occupation of Poalnd in 1939, Rav Kotler escapied first to Kobe, Japan, then to the United States (April, 1941). Reb Aharon assumed a leading role in the operations of the Vaad Hatzoloh. Under his leadership, Beth Medrash Govoha opened in a converted house in Lakewood, New Jersey in April 1943, and the yeshiva and kollel student body increased from the original 14 to 140 in 1962, the year of Reb Aharon’s petiroh. Reb Aharon also headed Chinuch Atzmai, the network of Torah day schools in Israel, founded in 1953, and he took over the leadership of Torah U’Mesorah, the American day school movement, after the death of its founder HaRav Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz. He also headed Agudas Yisrael’s Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah.
Rav Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, the Lakewood mashgiach. Rav Nosson was born in Kuhl, Lithuania. His father, R’ Moshe Yom Tov was one of the 14 original students of the yeshiva in Slutsk. (Another of these students was R’ Aharon Kotler). Rav Nosson himself began his education in the yeshiva in Kelm. When he was fifteen, he came to the United States – his father had accepted a rabbinic post in Montreal – and enrolled in Yeshivat Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan (forerunner of the Talmudic division of Yeshiva University). After two years there, he returned to Lithuania to study at the Mir Yeshiva. He also studied under R’ Shimon Shkop, and in Kamenetz, under R’ Baruch Ber Lebowitz. Beginning in 1941, R’ Nosson joined with R’ Aharon Kotler to develop the Lakewood Yeshiva. He left several children, including R’ Elya Ber Wachtfogel, rosh yeshiva of the Yeshiva Zichron Moshe in South Fallsburg, New York. (1910-1998)
Rav Dr. Dov Revel (1885-1940). He was born in Pren, a neighboring town of Kovno, Lithuania, a son of the town’s Rav, Nachum Shraga Revel.He briefly studied in Telz yeshiva, attending the lectures of its Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yosef Leib Bloch. He was also taught by Rav Yitzchak Blazer and learned in the Kovno kollel. He became involved in the Russian revolutionary movement, and following the unsuccessful revolution of 1905, was arrested and imprisoned. Upon his release the following year, he emigrated to the United States. Immediately after his arrival, Rabbi Revel enrolled in New York’s RIETS yeshiva. He received a master of arts degree from New York University in 1909. In 1911, he earned a doctorate of philosophy from Dropsie College, the first graduate of that school; his thesis was entitled “The Karaite Halakhah and Its Relation to Sadducean, Samaritan, and Philonian Halakhah”. After his doctorate, he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to join his in-laws’ family oil business. However, his primary occupation continued to be his Torah study. In 1915, he was appointed to serve as President and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan in New York. In this capacity, he headed both the religious and secular departments of the Yeshiva, teaching the highest Gemara shiur and also lecturing on Yoreh Deah and Choshen Mishpat. From 1920 to 1923, R’ Revel left the Yeshiva for long periods to return to Tulsa, Oklahoma and his in-laws’ troubled oil business. In December 1923, he announced a five-million dollar campaign to start Yeshiva College, a four-year liberal arts college. That college, which later changed its name to Yeshiva University, opened on September 25, 1928.
Rav Nachum Weidenfeld of Dombrova, the Chazon Nachum (1875-1939). Born in Hormilov, Galicia, to Rav Yaakov (the Kochav MiYaakov) and Rebbetzin Rachel, a direct descendant of the Shach. One of his brothers, Rav Dov Berish, became famous as the Tchebiner Rav. After the Kochav MiYaakov passed away in 1894, Rav Nachum and his elder brother, Rav Yitzchak, supervised the studies of their younger brother, Rav Dov Berish, who had just celebrated his bar-mitzvah. After marrying his wife, Taibah, he went to live with his in-laws in Yassi, Romania. A year later, he replaced his maternal grandfather, Rav Shabsi HaKohen Rappaport, as the rav of Dombrowa, Galicia. Although Dombrowa was relatively small, it was intensely Jewish, having a population of about 2,400 Jews and 600 gentiles. Jews had lived there since the end of the sixteenth century. Nazi troops seized Dumbrowa on the 8th of September, 1939, only eight days after the war started. At the last possible moment, Rav Nachum fled the town with nothing but his stick and a knapsack. He had sent dozens of manuscripts to his son-in-law in Kolbasov but not one member of that family survived and all his writings were lost.
Dayan Eliezer Posen, born in Frankfurt to Rav Gershon, who was appointed Dayan of the IRG (Jewish Religious Society) by Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch. As a bachur, he learned in Pupa, Hungary, then returned to Frankfurt and married Chulda Falk in 1923. After his marriage,he became magid shiur in the Breuer Yeshiva; he then succeeded his father as Rav of the kehilla in 1932. In 1938, he escaped the growing Nazi menace to England. He was appointed Dayan of the Adas Yisrael shul in 1945. His brother was Rav Shimon Yisrael Posner, the Shoproner Rav of New York. (1892-1969).
Today in History – 2 Kislev
· Jews of New York were allowed to swear in court without reference to Christianity, 1727.
· Czar Nicholas I of Russia issued a decree calling for the establishment of a school for Jewish students and a seminary to train rabbis and teachers as part of his program to assimilate the Jews, 1844. The students and rabbis of these schools became the heads of Haskalah.