The Jewish communities of England are eagerly anticipating
the visit of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira, rosh yeshiva of
Be'er Yaakov and one of the most outstanding and influential
gedolim of Eretz Yisroel.
HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira is one of the rare, remaining
Torah scholars of our era intimately familiar with the pre-
Holocaust world of European yeshivos. A scion of a
distinguished rabbinic family with ties to Brisk, Baranowitz,
and Mir, he went on to take an active part in molding many of
the yeshivos that are currently the pride of Eretz Yisroel.
HaRav Moshe Shmuel served as a bridge between worlds,
transplanting the classic derech halimud of the
greatest European roshei yeshiva to the current generation.
Along the way, he developed close relationships with many of
the previous generation's most outstanding gedolim and
gained renown and reverence across the spectrum of Torah
Maran HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira was surrounded by the
royalty of Lithuanian Torah scholarship from his earliest
childhood. He was born in Minsk at the beginning of World War
I. His father HaRav Aryeh, the dayan of Bialystok,
opened his home to Rav Moshe Shmuel's illustrious grandfather
HaRav Refoel Shapira, who served as rosh yeshiva of Volozhin.
In addition, Rav Moshe Shmuel's uncle, Rav Chaim of Brisk,
stayed at Rav Aryeh's home when he fled to Minsk because of
the war. Thus HaRav Moshe Shmuel was brought up in a home
permeated with the highest levels of Torah scholarship.
At a young age, HaRav Moshe Shmuel developed a close
relationship with HaRav Elchonon Wassermann H"yd, rosh
yeshiva in Baranowitz. Rav Elchonon immediately discerned the
unusual talents of his young pupil and believed that a great
future lay ahead for him.
HaRav Shmuel Birnbaum, rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva in
America, detailed the singular bond that existed between Rav
Elchonon and his student. That special connection was
especially evident when Rav Elchonon planned a trip to
England to raise funds for his yeshiva. The students were
distressed at the thought that their beloved rosh yeshiva was
leaving them, even temporarily, and they arranged a
delegation to approach him to cancel his trip. That
delegation was headed by the young Moshe Shapira, who told
the Rosh Yeshiva, "We are willing to subsist on tea and dry
bread, if only the Rosh Yeshiva would stay and learn with
us." The Rosh Yeshiva reacted with a rare smile; as Rav
Birnbaum recalls, it was the only time they saw him smiling
Rav Moshe Shmuel gained a name among his peers as an
outstanding student. A fellow student who arranged for him to
learn bechavrusa with his younger brother wrote to
their parents that he had gotten "the best in the yeshiva."
But the younger brother's letter told a different story. He
wrote that his chavrusa was "the sweetest bochur"
in the yeshiva.
After studying in Baranowitz, Rav Moshe Shmuel went on to
learn in the Mir. He then journeyed to Eretz Yisroel, where
he received semichoh on all four parts of Shulchan
Oruch from HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt"l.
Spreading Torah In Eretz Hakodesh
In Eretz Yisroel Rav Moshe Shmuel took on a new role; he
began actively spreading and teaching Torah to others. He
began delivering shiurim in the Lomza yeshiva, a
prominent yeshiva which had absorbed hundreds of Holocaust
survivors. After his marriage, he went on to become rosh
mesivta in Kol Torah for two years.
HaRav Moshe Shmuel developed a close relationship with the
Chazon Ish and they learned bechavrusa for three
months. At the close of that period, the Chazon Ish founded
the yeshiva in Be'er Yaakov and appointed Rav Moshe Shmuel as
its rosh yeshiva. The Chazon Ish retained his close
relationship with Rav Moshe Shmuel literally until his last
day, when he received Rav Moshe Shmuel privately and spoke
with him for two hours.
HaRav Moshe Shmuel has served as rosh yeshiva in Be'er Yaakov
for the past sixty years, influencing thousands of disciples
in that time. Due to his desire to focus solely on Torah
learning and teaching, he transferred the rabbonus of Be'er
Yaakov to Rabbi Moshe Menachem Jacobson. He was then able to
channel all his energies into his students.
However, his outstanding greatness and the purity of his
Torah perspective were much needed by Klal Yisroel,
and thus he took on an additional role as well.
Leader Of Torah Jewry
Rav Moshe Shmuel has been a member of the Moetzes Gedolei
HaTorah for more than forty years, shaping policy and
rendering vital decisions for religious Jewry in Eretz
Yisroel. He is one of the most senior members currently
sitting on the Moetzes, having sat together with HaRav Chaim
Shmuelevitz, HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky, HaRav Yechezkel Sarna,
the Beis Yisroel of Gur, the Imrei Chaim of Vishnitz, and Rav
Shach, zichronom livrochoh. Rav Moshe Shmuel enjoyed a
close friendship with all of the above gedolim, and
currently works with their sons and successors.
In addition, Rav Moshe Shmuel is the nosi of the Vaad
Hayeshivos, in which he has served for approximately fifty
years. He took on this position at the urging of his cousin,
the Brisker Rov, and the Chazon Ish, who foresaw his
greatness and leadership abilities when Rav Moshe Shmuel was
Perhaps because of the decades spent working on behalf of
Klal Yisroel in tandem with leaders of every faction,
Rav Moshe Shmuel is honored and respected across the entire
spectrum of Torah Jewry. Chassidim, Sephardim, and
traditional Lithuanian-style yeshivaleit all view him
as their leader.
Over the years, Rav Moshe Shmuel has become a giant among
roshei yeshivos. No matter what their background or
particular approach to learning, Jews of all stripes see him
as the address for authentic Torah thought. Gedolei Torah
of the highest order are eager to benefit from his
Rav Moshe Shmuel is accessible to, and interested in, each
individual Jew as well. He is a true father figure,
dispensing blessings and advice to everyone who visits him.
Rav Moshe Shmuel is renowned for the unique efficacy of his
tefillos, and he has been known to bring about
personal yeshuosfor Jews in need of Divine aid.
On his forthcoming visit to England, Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapira
hopes to impart a message of chizuk to his fellow
Jews. He will spend time with the Jewish communities, deliver
shiurim and visit the local Torah centers. The entire
religious population is eagerly anticipating the chance to
meet this outstanding godol.