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16 Elul 5777 - September 7, 2017 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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What did Rabbi Akiva Eiger Really Look Like? HaRav Abramsky's Dream #1

by Rabbi A. Cheifetz

Rabbi Akiva Eiger was niftar in 1838 (5738), before the invention of photography. However there are a number of paintings that purport to show his likeness.

As we will see, HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky (yahrtzeit: 24 Elul, 5736), saw Rabbi Akiva Eiger in a dream, and as a result he identified pictures as being a good likeness or not.

Dos iz nisht Rabbi Akiva Eiger! This picture was taken at the engagement of HaRav Avrohom Genichovsky, who is at the right of the picture. HaRav Abramsky is in the center, standing under the picture that is not Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

The son of HaRav Avrohom Genichovsky zt"l told Musaf Kodesh that HaRav Abramsky attended the engagement party of his grandfather. He saw a picture on the wall purported to be Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and he said, "This is not Rabbi Akiva Eiger." We have a photograph taken on that occasion with HaRav Abramsky in the center (and the chosson at the right). Behind HaRav Abramsky, on the wall, is clearly visible one of the pictures purported to be of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. HaRav Genichovsky supplied us with the photograph taken at the home of his grandfather, HaRav Eliyahu Moshe Genichovsky, in Bnei Brak.

HaRav Yeshaya Bernfeld told us that he heard from HaRav Gavriel Sternfeld zt"l, the following: One time HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky attended a simchah. He thought it was the engagement of HaRav Avrohom Genichovsky. On the way out, he saw a painting on the wall.

Maran asked who was in the picture. They told him that it was Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

"No! This is not Rabbi Akiva Eiger," declared HaRav Abramsky unequivocally.

But this is a well-known and widely accepted likeness.

"No! This is not Rabbi Akiva Eiger!"

HaRav Sternfeld asked respectfully, "I accept that this is not a true likeness of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. But may I ask the Rav to understand, how he knows so definitely?"

The answer came with HaRav Abramsky's customary decisiveness. "One time, I had a great difficulty with a passage in one of the teshuvos of Maran Rabbi Akiva Eiger. I was pained, and I worked very hard, and I davened to Hashem very much to understand this Torah. Then he appeared to me in a dream to explain the sugyah to me.

"And therefore I say: Dos iz nisht Rabbi Akiva Eiger!"


"Yes his is what Rabbi Akiva Eiger looked like.

We also heard from HaRav Dovid Kundstadt, the son of the rosh yeshiva of Kol Torah HaRav Elchonon Kundstadt, zt"l.

He said that his father often told over that once on Succos HaRav Abramsky went to the succah of HaRav Yehuda Addes in Bayit Vegan in Jerusalem, and he saw a painting of Rabbi Akiva Eiger and he said, "Yes his is what Rabbi Akiva Eiger looked like."

HaRav Abramsky told HaRav Kundstadt that he saw Rabbi Akiva Eiger in a dream and he told him that his is planning to publish a sefer on Tosefta. And Rabbi Akiva Eiger answered, "I have heard about that..."

HaRav Kundstadt used to say also that when the Chofetz Chaim was preparing to go to Eretz Yisroel, one of the seforim he bought was Chazon Yechezkel on Zeroim.

On the subject of the drawing itself, we also heard from HaRav Yaakov Zer, who said that he visited Maran HaRav Shach with his father HaRav Yitzchok Zer. Since his father dealth with pictures, he once asked HaRav Shach about the single picture of Rabbi Akiva Eiger that hung in his room. There were no other pictures on the wall.

My father asked if the picture was a true likeness, and HaRav Shach said that there is a tradition that it is, and that it is also mentioned in Igros Sofrim as a true likeness.

As a result, my father borrowed the picture and reproduced it and distributed it. In the original picture, besides Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the two dayanim flanking him, there is a large plaza and several buildings around it. The picture was painted by a non-Jew.

We also heard from a descendant of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, HaRav Yaakov Yerucham Vershner who wrote:

"The undersigned is currently working on finishing up a biography of Rabbi Akiva Eiger that was originally published in German by my grandfather and will soon be published in Hebrew.

"This picture was first published in Igros Sofrim that was published by a direct descendant of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, the Ksav Sofer, HaRav Shlomoh Sofer who also wrote Chut Hameshulosh. (Note: This latter sefer was aid by HaRav Yaakov Friedman of Tifrach to be one of the most reliable of all biographies of gedolei Yisroel. - AC)

HaRav Sofer said that the painting was done when Rabbi Akiva Eiger was 74 years old, two years before he was niftar, by a non-Jewish artist. The well known part is really only a small part of a large painting that shows many people and buildings.

In the book to be published, my grandfather writes about the impression given by Rabbi Akiva Eiger: This great soul was like a fine wine preserved in a cheap earthenware vessel (Taanis 7). His outward appearance was not special. He was described by those who knew him: His body was small and short. His face radiated seriousness. On his lips was a faint smile and a heavy humility. On the whole his gaunt face gave an impression of sickness and quiet suffering.

Next week: Another dream of HaRav Abramsky and new material about the famous incident with the Chofetz Chaim and HaRav Abramsky.


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