Shabbat B' Shabbato
1482: Devarim 6th of Av 5773 13/07/2013
|Something about books|
|The Arduous Journey from Lublin to the City of the Fathers / Rabbi Yosef Leichter,|
The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem
Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Rabbi Shmuel, from Lublin. Approximately: 5415-5495 (1655-1735).
A House as a Meeting Place for Wise Men
Rabbi Eliyahu was born in Lublin, about the year 5415 (1655). His father, Rabbi Shmuel, was a descendent of Rabbi Moshe Halpern, the author of "Zichron Moshe," which was published in Lublin in the year 5397 (1637). The Halpern family was considered a prominent family among the Jews of Poland. In his introduction to his book, Yad Eliyahu, the author reminisces about how as a young boy he attended the meetings of the council of the Four Countries, which took place in Lublin. Twice a year the leaders of the Jewish communities met to discuss current issues. They established decrees, discussed the distribution of the taxes collected by the authorities, and tried to settle disputes between various communities. The participants were the leaders of the communities.
At the same time, the rabbis of the communities met to discuss complex Torah issues. They held discussions which drew to them young Torah scholars who would watch the elder rabbis in their Torah disputes. The gatherings took place in Lublin at the same time as the winter markets, called the Gramitz Fairs. Rabbi Eliyahu writes: "During my youth I was raised among many people of our nation, within the holy community of Lublin. In my days there was a meeting of scholars, the wise men of Yisrael, during the Gramitz Fairs every year... I imbibed their words thirstily..."
At an early age, Rabbi Eliyahu moved to Brisk, in Lita, where he studied with Rabbi Mordechai Ginzburg, the rabbi of Brisk (who passed away in 5448, 1688), and with Rabbi Moshe of Brisk. He also studied with Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac, the rabbi of Zamut, who took him into his house as the husband of his daughter. In his father-in-law's house, Rabbi Eiliyahu delved deeply into the Torah. He was invited to move to the city Biala to serve as the rabbi. He also taught Torah in the city of Brisk. At the time the status of the Jews in Poland was not good, after the disasters of 5408 and 5409 (1648-1649), known as the persecution of "Tach V'Tat," and the war with Sweden, which caused great destruction in Poland. The Gentiles accused the Jews of supporting Sweden, and they began to attack the Jews. Many Polish Jews were forced to move to central Europe, to places such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Rabbi Eliyahu too left Poland, and he went to Morbia (the eastern section of the Czech Republic). He was appointed the rabbi of Eibshitz, where he hoped to settle in peace.
The Manuscript that was Rescued
One time while he was living in Eibshitz, when he was outside of the city, a fire broke out that destroyed all of his possessions. Here is how Rabbi Eliyahu describes the situation:
"The finger of G-d touched me by sending a huge fire that burned all I had, in the middle of the night, on Shabbat eve. No pillow or any cover was left behind... And I wept that no books remained from the four hundred that I owned, even including my favorite small Torah scroll. It was burned with all the silver utensils, everything burned.
"And when I came back to my city I could not find the place of my home, since everything was burned. But a man came to me with the good news that three manuscripts had been saved."
As a result of the fire, Rabbi Eliyahu decided that the time had come to publish his books. He chose a hundred responsa that he had written and collected them into a book. It was published in Amsterdam in 5472 (1712), and it was called "Yad Eliyahu" – the hand of Eliyahu. In the introduction he explains that the numerical value of the name (including one for the unity of G-d) is 68, the same value as "chaim," life. He felt that his life was saved when he found his books. Rabbi Eliyahu hoped to publish another book, thereby presenting two "hands." His responsa include correspondence with the great rabbis of his generation: the Chacham Tzvi, Rabbi Shaul of Brisk, and Rabbi Moshe Rottenberg, the rabbi of Hamburg. Rabbi Eliyahu's responsa are written in a brief and very clear style, and they include issues that appear in all four volumes of the Shulchan Aruch.
Tehillim in the Middle of the Night
In his old age, Rabbi Eliyahu decided to move to Eretz Yisrael. The ship he was on encountered a severe storm and was wrecked. Miraculously, both Rabbi Eliyahu and his books were saved. He arrived in Constantinople, where he stayed at the home of Rabbi Shmuel Bachar Yehuda. After a pause of a few weeks, he continued on his way to Eretz Yisrael, and settled in Chevron. In his book "Shem Gedolim" about prominent men, the Chida writes:
"I heard from the elders of the rabbis of Chevron about his great knowledge, and how he would go at midnight to read Tehillim with great weeping. Streams of water flowed from his eyes."
Rabbi Eliyahu's books and manuscripts remained in Constantinople. He wrote a letter to his son Moshe, in Lublin, asking him to go to Constantinople and have the books printed. The son went to Constantinople but he did not find his father's books. He did not want to leave the city without accomplishing anything, so he published his own insights on the Talmud and on the Torah, calling his book "Pirchei Shoshanim." It was published in Constantinople in the year 5494 (1734).