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Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg: The Sridei Aish - Not Singed By The Fire

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Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg: The Sridei Aish - Not Singed By The Fire
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Born in Poland, he came of age in Slabodka, was the leading German posek and head of the Hildesheimer Rabbinic seminary, and got along famously with the Minchas Elazar of Munkacs and the Gerer Rebbe. This is the description of the great Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg whose life crossed lines within the spectrum of orthodox Jewry as well as two world wars.

Rav Yechiel Yaakov was born in Poland in 1878. As a child his great head for torah was discovered by Rav Elya Boruch Kammai, the Rov of the town where he lived. When Rav Elya Boruch was invited to become Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir he took along the young Rav Yechiel Yaakov with him. After a short period where he gained notoriety as an illuy, Rav Yechiel Yaakov went to learn in Slabodka, the crown jewel of the Yeshiva world after the closing of Volozhin by the Russian government. He quickly became a star there as well and was the apple of the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel's eye. When Rav Naftali Amsterdam, one of the leading talmidim of Rav Yisroel Salanter, came to Slabodka, Rav Yechiel Yaakov was given the honor to be his chavrusa for his Motza'ei Shabbos study of Ketzos HaChoshen, a custom initiated by Rav Yisroel Salanter. Rav Yechiel Yaakov also was privileged on a few occasions to spend time with Rav Yisroel Salanter's close talmid, Rav Itzele Blazer.

Rav Yechiel Yaakov eventually was sent back to the Mir by the Alter of Slabodka to help lead mussar seder, and he learned b'chavrusa with the Alter's son and Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Lazer Yudel. He became Rov in Pilwishki and remained there for seven years. At the outbreak of World War I he went to Germany where he studied at the University of Giessen and earned his Doctorate. Armed with his incredible torah knowledge from Lithuania and his PHD, he became the head of the Hildesheimer Rabbinic Seminary in Berlin started by the great Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer talmid of the Aruch LaNer.

Despite the more liberal leanings of the German derech as instituted by Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, compared to eastern European Torah Jewry, Rav Yechiel Yaakov maintained close ties with many of the gedolim form his generation including the fiery Kana'i the Minchas Elazar who when questioned about his respect for Rav Yechiel Yaakov said, Berlin is Berlin and Munkacs is Munkacs. He halachic opinion was highly regarded by the Chazon Ish and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky held him in high esteem. Rav Elchonon Wasserman once visited Berlin and gave a Shiur at the seminary.

Before World War II, Rav Yechiel Yaakov became terribly weak and feeble after an operation gone awry. Rav Yechiel Yaakov managed to survive the war and moved to Montreux, Switzerland where he had a Yeshiva and spent the last twenty years of his life. His halachic opinion was sought from all over the world. His Sefer of Tshuvos, Sridei Aish was reprinted with haskamos from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and ybcl"c Rav Elyashiv Shlit"a. He was Niftar 4 Shevat, 5726/1966. Yehi Zichro Boruch!

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