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NAHUM B. UZZIEL KAPLAN (Reb Nahumke Grodner)

NAHUM B. UZZIEL KAPLAN (Reb Nahumke Grodner):   

By : Herman Rosenthal    Peter Wiernik  

Preacher and philanthropist; born 1811; died at Grodno Oct. 25, 1879. (Born in Beysegela, Shavli district, northern Lithuania, Studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva- A student of Rabbi Eliezer Freed .E.) Though he was a great Talmudist, he preferred to hold the humble position of "shammash" (sexton) in the synagogue Ḥebrah Shas and to pass his life in poverty. But his untiring energy in behalf of the distressed of all classes and the implicit confidence reposed in him made him famous throughout Russian Jewry. He spent a great part of his time in going from house to house, collecting from residents of Grodno and from visitors money or articles of necessity and bestowing them wherever they were most needed. He exercised much influence also by his great piety and simplicity of life. He was a preacher of much force and was adored by the Jewish masses, to whom he spoke, usually on Sabbath afternoons, on plain moral truths in a language and manner suited to their feeling and understanding. Numberless anecdotes about his kindness and liberality, and about the esteem in which he was held by high personages, are still current in Grodno, where his memory is revered. His funeral is said to have been the most imposing ever seen in Grodno. Bibliography: Gurvich, in Razsvyct, 1879, No. 7; Lipshitz, Nekrolog Rabbi Nokhim iz Grodno (reprinted from Russki Yevrei, 1879, No. 9), St. Petersburg, 1879; Ha-xẒefirah, 1879, No. 42; Ha-Meliẓ , 1879, No. 43; Friedenstein, 'Ir Gibborim, pp. 95-96, Wilna, 1880.H. R. P. Wi.

From the net;
...famous rabbis of Grodno were Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, ... who lived in the 18th century, and Rabbi Nachumke of Horodne, who died in 1880. ...
Reb Nachumke was the sexton in a synagogue of learned men in Grodno in ...
Rabbi Nachumke of Grodno, spiritual mentor of the Chafetz Chaim, following a move by his family to a new town and a new school when he was ten years old, could not succeed in Torha learning. He lost his love for learning and fell into a depression, deciding that he was incapable of it. He then joined up with a gang of wild boys and would wander around the town. It was decided to send him away so that he would not have a deleterious influence on other boys. He left the house of study, returned home, ceased studying, started collecting edible nuts from the forest and selling them to assist in supporting the family, and only a long time later slowly got back on track
The world renowned Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir (HaKohen) Kagan (1838-1933), had a rebbe who was not nearly well known as he was. His rebbe was a saintly man from the town of Horodna, Lithuania, named Rabbi Nachum Kaplan (1812-1879). Those who knew him referred to him lovingly as Reb Nachum'ke. The Chofetz Chaim made it a point to observe carefully Reb Nachum'ke's every action and deed, for he knew that anything that Reb Nachum'ke ever did was done with forethought and good reason.

It happened one night during Chanukah that the Chofetz Chaim was in the home of Reb Nachum'ke. The time for lighting Chanukah candles came and the Chofetz Chaim waited for his rebbe to recite the blessings and light the candles, but Reb Nachum'ke let the time pass and made no move to light the menorah. The Chofetz Chaim was a bit surprised that his rebbe would let the time slip by -- but he didn't dare say anything.

More time elapsed, and still Reb Nachum'ke went about his regular routine without saying anything about the lighting of the Chanukah candles. An hour went by and then another hour, still the menorah was not lit. The Chofetz Chaim simply could not understand his rebbe's inaction and apparent inattentiveness to this mitzvah.

Finally, deep into the night, there was a knock at the door. The Chofetz Chaim ran and opened it; it was Reb Nachum'ke's wife. Almost immediately after she came in, Reb Nachum'ke began his introductory prayers, recited the appropriate blessings and then lit the Chanukah menorah.

The Chofetz Chaim felt that there had to be a lesson here and so once the flames were flickering, he respectfully asked his rebbe to explain to him why he had let so much time elapse before finally lighting his menorah. Reb Nachum'ke explained patiently to his beloved student. "The Talmud (Shabbos 23b) poses a question: What is the law if a man has money to use for only one candle on the Friday night of Chanukah? Should he spend it on a Shabbos candle and fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles? Or rather spend the money on a candle for his Chanukah menorah and thereby fulfill the mitzvah of Chanukah candle-lighting?"

Reb Nachum'ke continued. "The Talmud states unequivocally that one is obligated to spend the money for a Shabbos candle, the reason being that the Shabbos candle, aside from the mitzvah involved, adds to shalom bayis (peace and tranquility of the home). Thus a candle that fosters shalom bayis takes precedence even over the mitzvah of lighting a Chanukah candle." (See also Codes of Jewish Law - OC 678:1)

"I have no doubt," continued Reb Nachum'ke, "that had my wife come home and realized that I did not wait for her with the Chanukah candles, she would unquestionably have been distraught. There would have been tension, and perhaps even anger on her part that I didn't show her the courtesy to wait until she returned. Thus I delayed and delayed until she came home."

"You see," added R' Nachum'ke, "the Talmud itself used Chanukah candles as a focal point to emphasize the importance of marital harmony. Should I then have taken these same Chanukah candles and through them caused a lack of shalom bayis? I had no choice but to let the ideal time for candle lighting pass, and wait until later to kindle them at a time that was still consistent with Jewish law.

When Rabbi Sholom Schwadron retells this story he adds an interesting insight. "Shalom bayis in this instance also meant that Reb Nachum'ke didn't complain to his wife -- when she finally arrived -- that her lateness had caused him to wait so long to perform a mitzvah. He understood that to complain would have fostered ill will as well and minimized shalom bayis."

Rav Gavriel Ze'ev Wolf (Velvel) Margolis (1847-1935). Born in Vilna, from age 14 to 17, he studied under R' Yaakov Brit, one of the teachers of the Chafetz Chaim. In 1864, he married the daughter of R' Nachumke of Horodna (Grodno). Beginning in 1876, R' Margolis served as rabbi in several Lithuanian towns. In 1880, after the death of his father-in-law, he settled in Grodno where he taught for 27 years. In 1907, he was brought to Boston, Massachusetts as its Chief Rabbi. In 1912, R' Margolis moved to Manhattan's Lower East Side as rabbi of the Adas Yisrael congregation. R' Margolis' Torah commentary Toras Gavriel was published in the 1920s
R' Gavriel Ze'ev Wolf (Velvel) Margolis z"l was born in Vilna on 27 Cheshvan 5608/1847, the son of the scholar and kabbalist R' Yechiel Yitzchak Margolis. From age 14 to age 17, young Velvel studied under R' Yaakov Brit (1797-1883), one of the teachers of the Chafetz Chaim. In the letter of semichah/ordination that R' Brit gave R' Velvel in 1869, the teacher wrote: "He became great and greater still, not like the greatness of students who succeed in their studies after five years - he, in a short time, volume his friends; they chased him but could not catch him, because his belly was filled with Talmud and halachah." In 1864, the young R' Margolis married the daughter of another teacher of the Chafetz Chaim, the famed tzaddik R' Nachumke of Horodna (Grodno).
Beginning in 1876, R' Margolis served as rabbi in several Lithuanian towns. In 1880, after the death of his father-in-law, he settled in Grodno where he taught for 27 years. In 1907, he was brought to Boston, Massachusetts as its Chief Rabbi. In 1912, R' Margolis moved to 203 East Broadway on Manhattan's Lower East Side as rabbi of the United Hebrew Community of N.Y., Adas Yisrael of New York Congregation in the same building. A Bais Din, under his leadership, flourished there until his demise. He was also the leading proponent of irrefutable kashus standards in N.Y.C. He died on 11 Elul 5695/1935. His demise and funeral made headlines in most New York major newspapers.
R' Margolis' five volume Torah commentary Torat Gavriel was published in the 1920's together with his commentaries on