Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Biography of Rav Chaim Brisker - Rav Chaim Soloveitchik

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik
(1853-July 30, 1918)
Rav Chaim Soloveitchik was born in Volozhin to his father Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, the Beis HaLevi, who taught in the famous Volozhin Yeshiva. When he was a few years old, his fathhr became Rav in Slutzk. Rav Chaim quickly became known for his brilliance and remarkable understanding.
When Rav Chaim was 20, he married Lipsha, the daughter of Rav Raphael Shapiro, and the granddaughter of the Netziv who was the Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin. After Reb Raphael moved to become a Rav, Rav Chaim became a Rosh Yeshiva with the Netziv in the yeshiva.
Rav Chaim began to teach gemara using a new method known as the Brisker Method of learning. Every halacha is analyzed and classified like a scientist. This helps talmidei chachamim understand the gemara and halacha better. This method of learning is now used in all modern yeshivos. Rav Chaim created a new vocabulary so that everyone could understand the gemara better.
In 1892, the Czar forced the Volozhin yeshiva to close. Rav Chaim moved to Brisk where his father was the Rav. When his father died,  he became the Rav.  For this reason, he is known as Rav Chaim Brisker.
Rav Chaim wrote a very important  sefer called Chiddushei Rabbeinu Chaim on the Rambam. His shiurim were recorded by his talmidim in notes called "Rav Chaim's stencils.” Much of his Torah has also been passed down by his talmidim.  He had six main students; his sons Rav Moshe Soloveitchik (who moved to America),  Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik (also known as Rav Velvel or the Brisker Rav who moved to Yerushalayim), Rav Baruch Ber Lebowitz, Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rav Elchonon Wasserman hy”d, and Rav Shimon Shkop. The talmidim of these 6 students have led the Torah world.
Only Emes
Rav Chaim did not write down his chiddushei Torahh imself. His sons or a shochet in Brisk, Reb Noach, would do so. One Shabbos on Erev Chanuka, Reb Noach was called to the house to record the chiddushim. Rav Chaim spoke for several hours while Rav Chaim wrote 12 full pages. Suddenly, Rav Chaim took the pages and tore them beyond recognition because he said there was a mistake in his ideas. His Torah could only be the truth.
Only Torah
During World War I, Rav Chaim Brisker and familywere forced to flee to Minsk. A Rav went to visit him. The house was in complete disarray. 5 children were sleeping on a board. There was little food. Rav Chaim was resting in a chair. Rav Chaim’s son, Rav Velvel and his son-in-law were trying to clarify the Torah they had just learned from Rav Chaim. Rav Chaim awoke and started to correct the complicated topic he had just taught. Only then did he acknowledge the Rav’s visit. Rav Chaim was able to ignore everything else that was going on because of his quest for the Torah.
This Rav also mentioned how Rav Chaim had many locks on his doors when in Minsk. The reason was that city had many cruel Jews who were trying to take Jewish children away from Torah and did not do chesed  for the poor properly. He locked the door many times so he would not learn from them. Once, they sent him special flour so he wouldn’t get sick. He returned the flour to be given to others who were poorer and in greater need.  
Rav HaChesed
Rav Chaim Brisker changed Torah learning all over the world. Yet, at the time he was niftar, this was not what was remembered the most. What everyone remembered was his chesed. On his matzeiva was written the description “Rav HaChesed”
Rav Chaim’s house was open to all. In Rav Chaim’s living room, beggars would put notices up on the wall. They would sleep on his couches. He would always be careful not to disturb them. Sometimes, his wife or children would walk into the bedroom and find that Rav Chaim had invited some poor people to sleep there and noone in the family had beds.
There was a huge fire in the town and many homes were destroyed. Rav Chaim devoted himself to helping the penniless survivors. Rav Chaim insisted in sleeping in the hallway of the shul. He asked how he could sleep in his bed if there were so many who didn’t even have a roof over their heads.
Rav Chaim was once having an important meeting with the Bais Din in Brisk. A pauper came into the room, ate Rav Chaim’s lunch and fell asleep on his couch. Rav Chaim warned everyone there not to disturb the poor man.
Mothers would leave their babies on his doorstep if they were unable to take care of them or the babies were too sick. Rav Chaim hired women to feed the babies and cared for them in his home.
The people of town paid Rav Chaim to be their Rav. However, whenever he got a pay check, he immediately gave it away to tzeddaka. They had to give the money to his wife to insure that they would have food.
Rav Chaim had a rule. Anyone could ask for something and the family would need to give it without a complaint. Once someone asked Rav Velvel for his pen. Rav Velvel was in the middle of writing some of the chidushei Torah of Rav Chaim. Rav Velvel asked him to wait a minute. Rav Chaim got very upset and said “what is going on here that we don't lend our pens..." (Holchei Nesivos - Middos Tovos)
Rav Chaim changed the world of Torah. We are all talmidim of his because of the Brisker method, the yeshivos that were founded by his talmidim and from learning about his chesed.

No comments:

Post a Comment