Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg

Not to be confused with Yaakov Weinberg.
Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg as a young rabbi in Pilwishki

Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (1884-1966) was a noted Orthodox rabbi, posek ("decisor" of Jewish law) and rosh yeshiva. He is best known as author of the work of responsa Seridei Eish.

Rabbi Weinberg was considered a genius in his time - with mastery over both Torah and secular subjects. An insightful and introspective individual, his varying interests in Talmud, musar, Hebrew literature, Russian language, and general academia make him one of the best representatives of the tumultuous intellectual trends present in his period.


Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg was born in Poland.[1] He studied at the yeshivas of Mir and Slabodka. In the latter, "he combined within himself Lithuanian profound understanding of Halacha with the Slabodka musar expounded by the illustrious Alter, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel."[2]

In 1906 he married 16-year-old Esther Levine, daughter of the deceased Rabbi Yaakov Meir. Under pressure from teachers and residents of the city of Pilwishki (Pilviškiai) which contained scholars of note, considerably his senior, he accepted the posts of spiritual rabbi and crown rabbi positions, and served for seven years. At the outbreak of World War I, he went to Germany. There he studied at the University of Giessen. Although Polish-born and Lithuanian-trained, Rabbi Weinberg "developed an extremely beautiful German prose style which was matched only by his mastery of modern Hebrew."[1] He taught at and eventually became rector (rosh yeshiva) of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. His students included Rabbis Menachem Mendel Schneerson,[3] Eliezer Berkovits, Giuseppe (Yoseph) Laras and Josef Hirsch Dunner.

As rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Weinberg emerged as a leading advocate of Neo-Orthodoxy, the German approach to Orthodox Judaism, based on the Torah im Derech Eretz of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Although Torah im Derech Eretz was "an ideology that he had openly opposed in his youth,"[4] Weinberg "championed" this approach during his tenure at the Hildesheimer seminary,[5] and he "played and was to play a seminal part in the reconciliation of Torah orthodoxy with modernity." [6] His "melding of sources, methods, and worlds was unparalleled in modern halachic literature. It required breadth and depth of knowledge that were, and remain, rare."[4]

In 1939, he fled Nazi Germany, and became trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he was a prominent leader. Because of his Russian citizenship, the Germans imprisoned him together with Russian prisoners of war, enabling him to avoid the concentration camps and to survive the war. After the war, a loyal student, R. Shaul Weingort, brought him to Montreux, Switzerland, where he lived until his passing in 1966. Despite many offers of prominent rabbinic positions across the globe, R. Weinberg chose not to leave Switzerland, where he penned many influential and important responsa.[7]


External links and references



Articles and Halacha


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