Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, zt"l

By Betzalel Kahn

The Torah world lost a father figure when HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, one of the great mashgichim of our generation who left his imprint on thousands, passed away on the second night of Chol Hamoed Pesach 5765 at the age of 90. As per his request in a will, no titles were added to his name.

The bitter news of HaRav Wolbe's histalkus spread quickly among his many talmidim and the entire Torah world. The levaya set out the next day from Yeshivas Givat Shaul in the Givat Moshe section of Yerushalayim, led by Maran HaRav Eliashiv, HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira and other gedolei Yisroel.

Shlomo Wolbe was born in Berlin to R' Moshe in Tammuz 5674 (1914), just weeks before World War I broke out in Europe. As a child he studied in his home city and at a young age was sent to Yeshivas Frankfurt, where he studied under HaRav Shlomo Breuer. After transferring to Yeshivas Montreux in Switzerland one day he heard a mussar talk given by a talmid of Maran Hamashgiach HaRav Yeruchom Levovitz of Mir Yeshiva. After the talk when he inquired about the origins of its contents the talmid told him and suggested that he try studying at Yeshivas Mir in Lithuania.

R' Shlomo took his advice. At Mir he cleaved to the teachings of HaRav Yeruchom and after his petiroh he attached himself to HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein.

When World War II broke out, as a German citizen he could not remain in Lithuania or Poland so he traveled to Sweden, which had declared neutrality. There he worked for the US-based Rescue Committee in coordination with HaRav Binyomin Ze'ev Yaakobson. For an extended period he served as liaison between Maran HaRav Aharon Kotler and the talmidim of Yeshivas Mir, then staying in Shanghai.

At the end of the war he stayed in Lidinge where, together with HaRav Yaakobson, he started a girls' seminary for Holocaust survivors. He then made aliya in 5706 (1946) and studied at Yeshivas Lomzha in Petach Tikva. During this period he married the daughter tlct"a of HaRav Avrohom Grodzensky Hy"d, the menahel ruchani of Yeshivas Slobodka in Europe.

HaRav Wolbe continued his studies at Kollel Toras Eretz Yisroel in Petach Tikva under HaRav Yitzchok Katz. In 5708 (1948) the Chazon Ish instructed HaRav Wolbe to start a yeshiva in Be'er Yaakov. HaRav Wolbe drew high caliber marbitzei Torah to the town, including HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapira who was already recognized as one of the leading talmidim from the ranks of Brisk.

For more than 35 years until 5744 (1988) HaRav Wolbe served as the menahel ruchani of Yeshivas Be'er Yaakov, which produced some of the generation's leading marbitzei Torah, Mussar figures, educators and organizers. Using his linguistic skills and unique approach he managed to imbibe thousands of talmidim with the foundations of Mussar and Torah study.

The Mashgiach molded his students not only through Mussar but through Torah study as well. During the sedorim he would walk among the talmidim, offering them encouragement and spurring them on. A talmid who learned well during the week won the privilege of sitting as a guest at his Shabbos table.

During the period of euphoria among secular Israelis following the Six-Day War the Mashgiach, after receiving the approval of his rebbe HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, decided to set out on a campaign to build emunoh in the general population. He started an organization that helped set up Torah institutions for baalei teshuvoh and he himself went to kibbutzim and army bases to deliver talks.

His inspiring words stirred many secular Jews to return to their roots and played an instrumental role in founding the Teshuvoh Movement, which had been nonexistent in Israel until then.

His efforts to promote teshuvoh were redoubled following the Yom Kippur War, and he even published a booklet called Bein Sheshes Le'assor. Written in simple Hebrew it penetrated the hearts of many secular Jews.

A few years later, noting that the Teshuvoh Movement had gained momentum as other people and organizations were becoming involved in disseminating Torah, HaRav Wolbe ceased his active involvement in this area, assuming an advisory role instead. He also continued to guide thousands of baalei teshuvoh and published a book for beginning baalei teshuvoh called Olom Hayedidus.

Actually HaRav Wolbe had begun serving as a guide for those involved in the Teshuvoh Movement as the rebbe for many menahelim ruchanim in the holy yeshivas of Eretz Yisroel. For years—and when he eventually moved to Jerusalem as well—he would gather together the mashgichim and educators at the end and beginning of each zman to provide them guidance in various topical matters of import.

In 5744 (1984) he moved to Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood, where he agreed to serve as the rov of Kehillas Chanichei Hayeshivos. For years he gave regular Mussar talks at Yeshivas Mir, Yeshivas Kol Torah, Yeshivas Lakewood and Yeshivas Netzach Yisroel Ramailles.

During this period he also founded the Beis HaMussar, which offered a kollel and a beis vaad for avreichim. His goal was to foster avodas haBorei, education, good middos and Torah study for its own sake. Here various vaadim were set up focusing on tefilloh, Torah study, education, midos, and other vital topics. Hundreds of avreichim came every week and some of them received personal guidance from the Mashgiach.

Upon reaching the age of "gevuroh" a decade ago he started Yeshivas Givat Shaul, which he headed until his last day on earth. The yeshiva, with its 200 students, later moved to Givat Moshe (Gush 80) along with the Beis HaMussar.

Over the course of his lifetime HaRav Wolbe wrote thousands of letters to bochurim and avreichim seeking chizuk in emunoh, Torah study, sholom bayis and bein odom lechavero. Every problem of education for the previous generation came before him. Talmud Torah principals and roshei yeshivos consulted him before founding their talmud Torah or yeshiva, and continued to seek his advice on how to teach students, what to focus on, and the entire range of education issues. He would dedicate all of his time and energy to every matter of education placed before him.

Prominent mashgichim and menahelim ruchanim gathered regularly to hear his Mussar talks. Just as the mashgichim of past generations left their imprint, HaRav Wolbe left his imprint on the last generation and the generations to come.

During the past years he was very involved in the problem of students dropping out of yeshiva, including several meetings in his home to discuss the issue with mashgichim. In the course of these meetings it came to light that cell phones constitute one of the primary stumbling blocks among young men. He encouraged and attended the large gathering on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Vayigash this year, where maranan verabonon including HaRav Eliashiv, shlita, announced the ban against the use of cell phones by yeshiva students.

Over his lifetime HaRav Wolbe wrote numerous unsigned books. His first work was Part I of Alei Shor, which caused a revolution in the yeshiva world. It carried approbations from HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky and the Admor of Ozhrov the author of Eish Dos, who perused the manuscript and added comments. Years later he published Part II of Alei Shor, noting in the introduction that much had changed in it from what was written in Part I after having studied bechavrusa for several years with HaRav Yitzchok Hutner zt"l.

HaRav Wolbe's published works included Olom Hayedidus, Odom Bikor on the life and teachings of HaRav Yeruchom, Pirkei Kinyon Daas and Zeri'o Uvinyon Bechinuch, which was the only work he agreed to have translated into several languages. Recently he released the book, Mitzvos Hashekulos, and in the past year he published Maamorei Yemei Rotzon, which contains Mussar talks he gave in the past during the month of Elul at Yeshivas Be'er Yaakov. In 5730 (1970) he published a booklet to serve as a guide for chassonim and kallos.

About six months ago his health began to fail, yet he continued to run the yeshiva to the best of his ability and to deliver Mussar talks and vaadim. He gave his last talk in the beis medrash of the yeshiva on Shabbos Zochor, speaking at length. On Erev Pesach he was admitted to Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, but despite the doctors' efforts he returned his soul to his Maker on the second night of Chol Hamoed in the presence of his family members and close talmidim.

In his will he requested not to have his mittoh brought into the beis medrash and that it be carried only by his older talmidim. He also asked that the levaya pass by Beis HaMussar before proceeding to Har Hamenuchos, where he did not want to be buried in the rabbinical section.

The levaya set out from his apartment at Yeshivas Givat Shaul in Givat Moshe, where Tehillim were recited by his son-in-law, HaRav Yaakov Eliezer Schwartzman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Lakewood in Eretz Yisroel. His son- in-law HaRav Yechiel Bamberger, the rov of the chareidi kehilloh in Haifa, offered short words of parting and noted that although it was permitted to give a hesped during Chol Hamoed for a talmid chochom who taught thousands of talmidim, he was obliged to honor his father-in-law's request not to be eulogized.

Thousands joined the funeral procession as it wound through the neighborhoods of North Jerusalem, eventually arriving at Har Hamenuchos Cemetery where he was buried near his brother- in-law, HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth.

HaRav Shlomo Wolbe is survived by his wife, his sons R' Avrohom and R' Yaakov, his sons-in-law, HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir in the US, HaRav Yechiel Bamberger, the rov of the chareidi kehilloh in Haifa, HaRav Yaakov Eliezer Schwartzman, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Lakewood in Eretz Yisroel, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all following in his path of Torah, yir'oh and Mussar.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.