Avraham Aharon Price
Rabbi Abraham Aharon Price (1900–1994) was a world-renowned Torah scholar, writer, educator, and a community leader in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was one of the city's most influential rabbinic figures.
In his book, The Jewish Community in Canada, Stuart E. Rosenberg discusses Rabbi Price's influence on Toronto's burgeoning Jewish community, beginning in the 1930s, as follows:
By the start of World War II, there were twenty-one Jewish schools in Toronto, employing nearly one hundred teachers, giving instruction to nearly three thousand Jewish children, or forty per cent of the Jewish school-age population of the city. Since the war, as in Montreal, Jewish schools in Toronto have blossomed. The city has also seen the beginnings of a rabbinical seminary in the Yeshiva Torah Chaim founded by Rabbi Abraham Aaron Price. Born in Poland in 1900, Rabbi Price came to Canada and established his Yeshiva in 1937. He has published a number of important scholarly works in Hebrew and is regarded as a major Talmudic authority. Among the graduates of his are rabbis in the United States and Canada, including Gedaliah Felder, Albert Pappenheim, Erwin Schild of Toronto, Benjamin Hauer of Montreal, and Phillip Rosensweig of Kitchener. Rabbi Felder subsequently succeeded him as the Chief Rabbi of Toronto.
Arrival in Toronto and Yeshiva's establishment
In an 1985 interview with the Canadian Jewish News, Rabbi Price discussed his arrival in Toronto and the beginnings of his Yeshiva.
Recalling how he came to Toronto, the rabbi says, “I was very fortunate — I fled from Berlin to Paris in 1931. I lived there for five years before applying for a visa to the United States.” Describing each detail, the rabbi says that he came to Toronto on the invitation of the Chevra Shas almost 50 years ago after he had been in New York City only 10 days. “The men most responsible for convincing me to stay here were Moishe Oelbaum, Moishe Sigal, and W.J. Silverberg. They wanted to open a yeshiva, so they engaged me for $50 a week to head the yeshiva and as well I became the official rabbi of the Chevra Shas.”
Before Price came to Toronto, the Chevra Shas had organized a class of higher learning. Nachman Shemen, who is executive director of the Orthodox Division of the Canadian Jewish Congress, was its organizer and first teacher. “Under the strong and dedicated leadership of Rabbi Price, and with his vision, the class developed into a flourishing yeshiva,” says Shemen [...] Price spoke of the establishment of Yeshiva Torah Chaim — of moving from a crowded room on College St. to a house [at] Ulster and Markham and seven years later, to his yeshiva [at the corner of] Montrose [Avenue] and College [Street].
Many prominent rabbis were ordained at the Yeshiva and [it is] where many doctors, engineers, university professors and others received their Hebrew and Talmudic educations. Rabbis Gedaliah Felder, Erwin Schild, Bernard Rosensweig, Benjamin Hauer of Montreal, and many who went to the United States like Joel Litke in the San Francisco area, Abraham and Wolf Kelman and hundreds of others were my students, says the rabbi, “and many still study with me regularly.”
Each of these individuals became influential community leaders in their own right. Gedaliah Felder, in addition to succeeding Rabbi Price as Chief Rabbi of Toronto, also led the Shomrai Shabos Synagogue of Toronto. Albert Pappenheim led Beth David B’nai Israel Beth Am Congregation of Toronto, Erwin Schild led Adath Israel Congregation of Toronto, Benjamin Hauer led Congregation Chevra Kadisha – B’nai Jacob of Montreal, and Phillip Rosensweig led the Beth Jacob Congregation of Kitchener-Waterloo.
Bringing War Refuges to his Yeshiva
During World War II, Rabbi Price expended considerable energy in his efforts to have young, Jewish refugees released from internment camps to come study in his yeshiva.
Price worked with the CJC (Canadian Jewish Congress), Senator Arthur Roebuck and with federal government officials to help young Jews. “We were instrumental in bringing out more than 50 young Jewish men from an interment camp in Quebec. They were German citizens sent here from England. We helped liberate them, helped them get a Jewish education and helped them get established in Canada. Then we brought 55 young boys to Canada from a yeshiva in Prague.”
More details on this episode can be found in Erwin Schild's book, The World Through my Window.
In the later part of his career, Rabbi Price continued to be occupied with his writing, with work at his Yeshiva, which had relocated north along the Bathurst Street corridor along with the rest of the Toronto Jewish community, and with his scholarly writings. In 1985, at the age of 85, he was still the dean of Yeshiva Torath Chaim, and providing supervisory kashruth services for the Toronto Jewish community.
Rabbi Price was also known for his impressive collection of rabbinic materials. By 1950 The Toronto Daily Star reported on his library:
As Rabbi A. A. Price works in his study on Palmerston Blvd., he is surrounded by what is probably the largest private library of Hebrew books on this continent, a total of 2,200 volumes. Among them is one published in Italy 416 years ago and written by Benjamin Zev, a physician and scholar. There is only on other copy of Zev’s book know to exist and it is in the British Museum.[...] Rabbi Price’s present library represents less than half of the original collection owned by the Polish-born, 51-year-old rabbi. He had them brought over after he decided to extend a visit to Toronto in 1935 into a permanent stay. The rest of his books were destroyed in Paris by the Germans a week before the French capital was liberated. His brother and sister were killed in France by the Nazis, and recently an orphaned niece arrived in Toronto.
Many of his older books are now held at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto in the Price Collection of Rabbinics.
Rabbi Price authored at least four sets of books. Mishnat Avraham (Vol. 1 and 2 published in 1944) and Imrei Avraham (Vol. 1 published in 1946, Vol. 2 published in 1975) both contain his speeches and writings on the weekly torah portion and the Jewish holidays. The other two sets contain his commentary on two important 13th Century Jewish texts. The three-volume Sefer Hasidim is a commentary on the 12th-13th Century work of the same name by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg. The two-volume Mitzvot Gadol is a commentary on one of the earliest codifications of Halakah by Judah's student, Moses ben Jacob of Coucy, known as "SeMaG", short for Sefer Mitzvot Gadol.
Three of the volumes on the book-lined wall are the work of Rabbi Price himself. The latest, “Learning of Abraham, Vol. II,” just off the press, while hardly causing a ripple here, has won high praise from Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog.
Rabbi Price’s latest book, the first of its kind ever published in Canada, was printed by a Toronto firm. Dr. Hertzog wrote that he was particularly impressed with its treatment of Shabbat laws. The intricacies of these laws, Dr. Hertzog remarked, have earned them the title of “mountains suspended by a hair.” [...]
His latest book, like the volume one, is a commentary on the Talmud. It is not intended for general circulation but for scholars and rabbis who spend their lives studying the Talmud and interpretation of Jewish laws. Four years earlier Rabbi Price published a commentary on the Book of Genesis and Exodus.
In 1965 Rabbi Price was awarded the Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook award of merit signed by the mayor of Tel Aviv on the recommendation of the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim. It was the first time that this prestigious prize was given to an author outside Israel. Price asked that the prize money be distributed among poor rabbis in Israel.
- Rosenberg, Stuart E (1970). The Jewish Community in Canada. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. p. 201. LCC F1035.J5 R73.
- Gasner, Cynthia (1985-10-24). "Talmudic Scholar Price Published Commentary" (pdf). The Canadian Jewish News. p. 22.
- "Rabbi Price has Rare Books in Largest Hebrew Library" (pdf). The Toronto Daily Star. 1950-01-28.
- Book Collections, Hebraica and Judaica. Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto Libraries
- Price, Abraham A., Mishnath Avraham, [New York, 1944]
- Price, Abraham A., Judah ben Samuel, he-Hasid, d. 1217., Sefer Hasidim, [1955-64]
- HebrewBooks.org has the texts of all 9 volumes available in PDF format.
- Imrei Avraham 1 (Toronto, ON 1946)
- Imrei Avraham 2 (Toronto, ON 1975)
- Mishnat Avraham 1 (Toronto, ON 1944)
- Mishnat Avraham 2 (Toronto, ON 1944)
- SeMaG 1 (Toronto, ON 1978)
- SeMaG 2 (Toronto, ON 1978)
- Sefer Chasidim 1 (Toronto, ON 1955)
- Sefer Chasidim 2 (Toronto, ON 1960)
- Sefer Chasidim 3 (Toronto, ON 1965)