The Jewish Eye
Rav Refael HaKohen
Rav Refael HaKohen Author Toras Yekusiel and V'Shav HaKohen. Born in 5483/1723 and died in 5564/1803 at age 81. He was a Talmid and relative of the Shaagas Aryeh and served as Rav of the famous three kehillos Altuna-Hamburg-Wansbeck.
As a child he became very ill and nearly died. After that his father Rav Yekusiel Ziskind the Rav refused to let him leave the house and personally undertook to teach his son Torah. At age 12 his father took him to learn with his legendary relative the Shaagas Aryeh. He was an outstanding Talmid of the Shaagas Aryeh and at age 19 he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva in Minsk after the departure of his Rebbi who held that position. Over the next several years he was appointed Rav of various communities. At the time he was Rav of Smilowitz, his Rebbi the Shaagas Aryeh who spent some years wandering ended up in the town as well. While the elder Rebbi accorded tremendous respect to his younger talmid who was the official Rav, Rav Refael protested and soon resigned his position and moved to as neighboring city.
Subsequently he spent time as the Rav of Pinsk and Posen before at the age of 50 when his fame had already spread far and wide he was appointed to the prestigious position of Rav of the famous three kehillos Altuna-Hamburg-Wansbeck. There he fought tooth and nail against the haskala movement that had spread from Berlin to the three communities. At the age of 77 four years before his death during a Drasha he resigned his position because he it at various time subjected him to Lashon Hara.
At the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars he felt that it may very well be Milchemes Gog U'Magog and therefore as a Kohen anticipating the imminent arrival of Moshiach spent his last years learning the halachos of the Avodah and the Bais HaMikdash.
His seforim include Toras Yekusiel on Yoreh Dei'ah, Marpeh Lashon on Hilchos Lashon Hara, V'Shav HaKohen on all 4 chalakim of Shulchan Aruch, as well as a sefer on Kodshim and a sefer of Drashos. (from Gedolei HaDoros Rav Y.M. Stern)
He is said to have learned the Vilna Gaon and that he was a Rebbe of R' Chaim of Volozhin as well as being close with the Mezritcher Magid.
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