Menachem Mann Shach (1895- 2001)
HaRav Shach was born to Rav Ezriel and Bat Sheva of the Levitan
family, a family of talmidei chachomim who served as rabbonim in
important Lithuanian communities. Her brother was HaRav Nisan Levitan
zt"l, who became one of the most senior figures in Agudas HaRabbonim
HaRav Shach was born in Vabolnik, Lithuania on erev Rosh Chodesh Shvat
5655 (1895) ....
"I remember how I was educated in my parents' home: when my yarmulke
fell off my head, I was taught that you had to cry from distress. They
were guided by a concern for the punctilious observance of mitzvos.
Once I woke up after the zman Krias Shema according to the Mogen
Avrohom and I burst out crying and continued to cry about it all day
Although there was a yeshiva ketana in his hometown, he begged his
parents to let him go to Ponevezh Yeshiva in order to fulfill the
directive, "Exile yourself to a place of Torah." When they
persistent he was they agreed to his request, and he set out for
Ponevezh Yeshiva. He was never to see his parents again.
He pursued his studies diligently together with the other talmidim.
His great rov was HaRav Itzele Blazer zt"l and he also had the
of sleeping in the Ba'al Hamitzvos' House. Already in his youth those
characteristics, which were to make him admired by the whole Jewish
world, stood out: his amazing hasmodoh, wonderful talents, a shining
mussar personality, respect for his fellow man, and a cheerful
He acquired his learning during his youth from Slobodka Yeshiva in
Lithuania, where he quickly became one of its outstanding students.
During the years 5673-74 (1913-14) he absorbed Torah and mussar from
his great rov, the Alter of Slobodka, HaRav Nosson Zvi Finkel zt"l,
from his son- in-law, HaRav Yitzchok Eisik Sher zt"l and HaRav
Mordechai Epstein zt"l.
Throughout his life HaRav Shach considered himself to be a talmid of
Slobodka and he often praised that great institution of Torah and
mussar. Once he said that all the Torah in Eretz Yisroel and America
today originates from Slobodka, the "mother of Yeshivas,"
for all the
roshei yeshiva of the last generation learned there.
The Slobodka mussar outlook and the Alter's approach to the depths of
ma'amorei Chazal guided the Rosh Yeshiva in his avodas Hashem in
general and in his mussar shmuessen in particular.
In 5614 (1914) HaRav Shach was forced to leave Slobodka due to the
outbreak of war and he returned to his hometown of Vabolnik, where he
joined the yeshiva of HaRav Yechezkel Bernstein zt"l, the author
the Divrei Yechezkel, who had opened a yeshiva in the town in which
his father- in-law lived.....
Rav Shach writes about this period in the introduction to the new Avi
Ezri edition published in 5753 (1993): "How can I repay Hashem
His mercies? Starting from the days of my youth, when I went through
periods when I had nothing at all. I cannot adequately describe this
period from the beginning of the First World War in 5674 (1914) when
all the Jews were exiled from the Lithuanian towns and I did not know
where my parents were, for I was alone in Slutsk and I had no contact
with them. That was how I spent several years, suffering much."
The Rosh Yeshiva spent these years fleeing the terrors of the First
World War. He wandered from town to town, but fulfilled the posuk,
"Had Your Torah not been my delight, I should then have perished
affliction." He learned in shuls and botei medrash, washing his
hands and feet in the sinks at the entrance of the botei medrash.
Every fiber of his being was immersed only in Torah, and he could say
about himself, "The Torah which I learned in the period of wrath,
After a while HaRav Shach joined the HaRav Isser Zalman Meltzer zt"l
who had founded a yeshiva in Slutsk in 5657 (1897). He developed a
close relationship with HaRav Isser Zalman, whom he considered his rov
with respect to everything, and he had the merit of absorbing Torah
from HaRav Isser Zalman in his house in Slutsk.
In the introduction to his great work Avi Ezri on Haflo'o-Zeroim HaRav
Shach writes: "It is my duty to mention my uncle, HaRav Isser Zalman
Meltzer ztv"l and my aunt . . . who were like parents to me already
my youth . . . I received much from them, and whatever is mine -- is
Throughout his life HaRav Shach related to his uncle HaRav Isser
Zalman like a son to a father and a talmid to his eminent rov. In his
shiurim he often cites divrei Torah of Rav Isser Zalman on sugyos of
Shas. In a letter on the occasion of the establishment of Even Ho'ezel
Yeshiva in Netivot, HaRav Shach wrote, "Rav Isser Zalman disseminated
Torah throughout his life, and I, although unworthy of it, had the
merit of becoming close to him and he taught me like a father teaches
.Rav Isser Zalman also treated HaRav Shach like his son, remaining
very attached to him throughout his life and showering him with an
abundance of Torah and yir'oh. Rav Isser Zalman praised Rav Shach's
chiddushei Torah greatly, and due to his great admiration of them he
published some in his book Even Ho'ezel. Rav Isser Zalman also
encouraged the Rosh Yeshiva to publish his sefer Avi Ezri. When Rav
Shach was about to publish his first sefer in 5708 (1948) there was
shortage of paper because of the war and Rav Isser Zalman took pains
to obtain sufficient paper for the printing of the book.
On 16th Av 5683 (1923) HaRav Shach was engaged to Rav Isser Zalman's
niece, Guttel, the daughter of Rav Ben-Zion Gilmovsky z"l, who
descendant of the Ponim Meiros. The book Shimusho shel Torah contains
her lineage as recorded by Rav Isser Zalman. They were married between
Yom Kippur and Succos 5684 (1923), Rav Isser Zalman being mesader
Over the years the Rosh Yeshiva would speak about the Rebbetzin's
mesirus nefesh, which allowed him to toil in Torah undisturbed. She
took upon herself the yoke of supporting the family, working as a
pharmacist in the town. "After my marriage too I would travel [to
yeshiva to learn] from Pesach to Succos and from Succos to Pesach to
devote myself undisturbed to my studies, and my whole Torah is to be
credited to her."
For five consecutive years he devoted himself to his studies with
amazing hasmodoh acquiring a mastery of all parts of the Torah. His
soul yearned for Torah, and during those years he overwhelmed his
inclination and purified his body, submitting it totally to Torah with
his elevated yiras Shomayim. He did not cease his studies day or
night; he did not take leave of his books or interrupt his studies.
afflicted his body and purified his soul until he had acquired a vast
knowledge of the Talmudic waters.
In 5789 (1929) he was asked by HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l to assist
by becoming a maggid shiur in Kletsk Yeshiva. He disseminated Torah
there for five years, leaving his mark on many talmidei chachomim.
During this period he developed a close relationship with HaRav
Yechezkel Levenstein zt"l, the future mashgiach of Ponevezh, who
the mashgiach of Kletsk at the time.
At this time HaRav Shach was asked by the Brisker Rov to accept the
position of rosh yeshiva of Toras Chaim in Brisk to replace the Imrei
Moshe, HaRav Moshe Soloveitchik, but for various reasons HaRav Shach
did not take up this position.
After the sudden passing of HaRav Meir Shapira zt"l on 7th Cheshvan
5694 (1933), HaRav Shach was asked by Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt"l
to become the rosh yeshiva of Lublin and he stayed there for a while.
He then served as maggid shiur in Novardok Yeshiva, where he taught
Torah to young students for two years. In a letter written by HaRav
Aharon Kotler to HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky he asks Rav Chaim Ozer
"to use his influence to support Novardok Yeshiva since my relative,
the Gaon Rav Eliezer Shach shlita joined the yeshiva as a maggid
shiur, and I have it on reliable information from members of that
Yeshiva that the learning is on a superior level especially now that
my above relative has been accepted there, for he is great in Torah
and influencing others in Torah . . . "
In 5696 (1936) the Rosh Yeshiva became a maggid shiur in Karlin
Yeshiva in Luninetz, which was headed by the Rebbe Rav Avrohom
Elimelech Perlow zt"l.
For the entire article go to;
2001-11-09 Rabbi Eliezer Shach, Religious Giant, Dies
By Landau & Wiener
"We won't be seeing his likes again" is the kind of elegaic
one so often hears at funerals and reads in obituaries. Rarely is it
In the case of Rabbi Eliezer Menachem Shach, who died early last
Friday and was buried the same day in Bnei Brak â€
his age estimated
anywhere from 103 to 108 â€ the statement is indeed
A "late bloomer," Shach wielded power from the mid-1970s,
when he was
already elderly, through the mid-1990s, when he gradually succumbed
physical infirmity and withdrew from active public life.
On the broader political plane, Shach is considered one of the most
powerful forces in the evolution of Israeli society.
His place in Israel's political pantheon was achieved not only by his
vigorous leadership of his own yeshiva world but by his leadership,
during its formative period, of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas movement.
As a member of the Agudat Yisrael Council of Sages in the 1970s and
early '80s, Shach was consistently outspoken in his support of the
grievances being articulated â€ at first diffidently,
increasing vehemence â€ by young Sephardic Orthodox
The result was the creation of Shas, which exploded onto the Israeli
political scene with four Knesset seats in the 1984 general elections.
Shach fell out with the Shas leadership in 1990, when Shas' political
leader, Aryeh Deri, teamed with Labor's Shimon Peres to bring down the
Likud-Labor unity government in what became known in Israeli history
as "the stinking maneuver." The two were stunned when Shach
back the left-wing government they intended to set up.
Relations between Shach and Shas never entirely healed, and ended
definitively with the 1992 elections, when Shach said Sephardic Jews
were not yet ready for leadership roles and Yosef defied Shach's
wishes and brought Shas into the Rabin government.
Especially since he ceased most activity in recent years, Shach had
become more important to the fervently Orthodox world as an icon than
in any practical sense, according to Samuel Heilman, author of
"Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Jewry" â€
hardly diminished his stature.
"More than him personally, there is this sense that is dominant
[fervently Orthodox] community that the great leaders and men are no
longer with us," Heilman said. The attitude "is that the giants
yesterday and we're pigmeat today. The older one is, when he dies
there's a feeling that 'woe is us, there are no greats to take his
and Julie Wiener, Jewish Telegraphic Agency