Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5761 - March 28, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Sparks of Greatness: The Shloh Hakodosh;
In honor of his yahrtzeit 11th Nisan

The holy gaon, Reb. Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz was born in Lemberg in approximately the year 5230 (1470). His father R' Avrohom Halevi was dayan in Prague, Cracow and lastly in Lemberg. R' Yeshaya learnt with his father and with the gaon R' Shlomo Ben Reb Yehudah Leib zt"l, better known as the Maharshal Hasheini, the second Maharshal. He also learnt with the Maharam of Lublin, zt"l.

He married Chaya, daughter of one of the prominent members of the community in Vienna, Rabbi Avrohom Moyal. In an awesome statement, R' Sheftel zt"l later wrote about his mother, the Rebbetzin Chaya, "It was said in her generation that she lacked nothing in deeds and traits of the holy Imahos, Soroh, Rivka, Rochel and Leah."

Over the years, R' Yeshaya Halevi practiced as rov in various communities: in 5260 (1500) in Dubno, Russia, in 5262 in Ostroa and from 5266 he took over the reins in Frankfurt, leading the prestigious kehilla until their expulsion from the city on 27 Elul 5274 (1514). The rabbi was exiled together with his flock and he returned to Prague, where he was appointed Rov in 5275 (1515).

When his Rebbetzin passed away on 4th Adar 5280 (1520), Reb Yeshaya Halevi decided to make his dream of going to live in Eretz Yisroel a reality. On 8th Elul 5281 the Shloh boarded the ship and after a turbulent, difficult journey he arrived in the holy land on 2nd Kislev, 5282. Upon reaching Yerushalayim, he was immediately accepted as Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisroel.

Seeing the immense poverty of the settlers in the holy land, the Shloh sent messengers to the Diaspora and their Rabbonim, particularly to the communities where he had served as rov, initiating a tzedokoh campaign which he called "Yachatz" -- an acronym in Hebrew for the three cities Yerushalayim, Chevron and Tzfas.

On 11th Elul, 5285 (1525), the Shloh was imprisoned due to a libel trumped up by the wicked Machmed Ibn Paroueh. On Rosh Hashonoh, start of the year 5286 he was freed and he fled to Tzfas and Teverioh. There he established his center of learning and prayer in the ancient Beis Haknesses on the shores of the Kinneret in Teverioh.

He was niftar on 11th Nisan and is buried in the old cemetery in Teverioh close to the grave of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai.

His holy seforim were accepted and beloved by Jews the world over, a fact which is proven by the amount of times his great sefer Shnei Luchos Habris had to be printed over and over.

His famous siddur Shaar Hashomayim is also world renowned and in reference to it the Shach wrote in his approbation, "I guarantee that whoever davens with this siddur, his tefilloh will be accepted."


The Shloh Hakodesh was extremely preoccupied with his Torah studies and duties as rov, and had no spare time at all. However, when he saw how most of the Jews of his time were grossly neglecting their fear of Hashem and their whole attitude in serving Hashem was so lax, he took upon himself as a holy mission to teach Bnei Yisroel mussar, ethics and unadulterated fear of G-d. With this is mind, he wrote his holy sefer Shnei Luchos Habris, teaching the bypaths of the Torah and exhorting every Rov and teacher to impress mussar and ways of serving Hashem upon their congregants and pupils.

The greatness of this work of the Shloh Hakodesh and its value is indicated in the following amazing, if not chilling, story:

The gaon of Frankfurt a generation later, Rabbi Yosef Shmuel zt"l, in addition to carrying out all his duties as rov of the city, bestowed the Torah world with his immense treasures. In the margins of his gemora next to each sugya, he would point out all the places where the gemora mentions this subject. This column, known as Masores Hashas has now been added to every gemora so that anyone studying a sugya has laid out in front of him a full index of every place in Shas where the subject matter is mentioned.

Rabbi Yosef Shmuel had a wonderful method of learning Torah with a large group of the cream of talmidei chachomim of Frankfurt.

All day they would each learn individually a chosen topic and in the evening they would gather together for the shiur of the rov. Each one would bring up for discussion the questions and comments that had arisen during the day's learning and a great and mighty storm would engulf the beis medrash. From all directions questions and doubts were hurled with gale force and it seemed as though the sugya was too difficult to navigate with waves of problems that would drown those studying it.

Until the rov Reb Yosef Shmuel opened his mouth and showed them how to steer a clear way through. He would answer and explain, prove and expound until the gemora radiated clarity, like the sun on a clear day.

In this thorough manner the group learned the whole of Shas over many years.

The Chidoh, in his biography of R' Yosef Shmuel zt"l, wrote that the rov of Frankfurt learned all of Shas forty- two times, fulfilling the commandment "Vedibarto `bom'," (the numerical value of `bom' being forty- two). He also added that for 25 years he learnt standing on his feet and all his learning was Torah lishmoh!

When this holy Rabbi, Reb Yosef Shmuel was niftar, all the city joined his levaya in great mourning and a long hesped was given.

Upon their return from the levaya, his group of talmidim gathered in the beis medrash to continue their practice of studying together and to their astonishment, in his seat, was their departed Rabbi, sitting ready to learn as in the past. Shaken by the sight, they looked at one another, wondering if they were dreaming.

"Do not be afraid and do not tremble," said R' Yosef Shmuel zt"l. "I will soon go back to my eternal rest. I came down to let you know what has been going on with me in the Heavenly court, up there in the World of Truth.

"When I arrived to the Heavenly spheres they called out loud - - "make way for R' Yosef Shmuel" and immediately my court- case proceeded -- the verdict being that my place in Gan Eden is next to the Shloh Hakodesh. However, the Shloh himself arose in protest, refusing to accept the company of his new neighbor. "The reason," he said, "is as follows. I wrote the sefer Shnei Luchos Habris which is full of mussar, to teach all Jews ethics and the correct way to serve Hashem. Many are the tears that I shed whilst compiling this sefer, entreating Hashem that it should fulfill its purpose in arousing the hearts of those who learn it to better their ways. However, this Reb Yosef Shmuel here spread Torah to multitudes of people, learned with his distinguished group of talmidei chachomim all of Shas, yet never once did he teach them mussar or exhort them to better their avodas Hashem. How can he sit next to me here in Gan Eden?"

Reb Yosef Shmuel zt"l continued to relate to his mesmerized talmidim. "The Heavenly court heard out the Shloh and sat in judgment again. They decided that my rightful place, reward for my holy work all my years, cannot be taken away from me; however, the Shloh is correct in his argument that I did not teach you mussar. They thus decreed that I must correct this misdeed before receiving my just reward and sent me down to you during our usual study hours to instruct you that from now and onwards before your daily learning session you should study mussar and avodas Hashem. In doing so, you will enable me to rest in peace and enjoy my reward in Gan Eden."

Shaken by this heavenly revelation, the talmidim immediately took upon themselves strictly to obey his will, studying the Shloh's words of mussar every day before their shiur.

With that their Rabbi disappeared, returning to his seat in Gan Eden next to the Shloh Hakodesh.

Zechuso Yogen Oleinu.


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