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Rabbi Aryeh Leib HaCohen Heller - The Ketzos HaChoshen Needs No Introduction
The parents of Rav Aryeh Leib HaKohen Heller were so poor that when
they became engaged no one could figure out how they would manage to
have food to eat. They went to a local tzaddik to consult with him on
the matter. He said not to break the shidduch due to finances, but
rather he suggested that the girl continue to eat in her parents home
and the boy in his parents home. History would not have been the same
without this ingenious solution. This marriage produced both Rav Aryeh
Leib the author of the Ketzos HaChoshen and his older brother Rav
Yehuda Kahana the author of the Kuntras HaSfeikos, both worthy
descendants of their illustrious ancestor Rav Yom Tov Lipman Heller the
Tosfos Yom Tov. The Ketzos, born in 5505/1745 in Kalusz, Galicia, grew up with his mother and his brother
with his father, until they managed to afford a house and the family
Rav Aryeh Leib went ot learn in the famous Yeshiva of Rav Meshulam
Igra. Rav Meshulam's Yeshiva produced some of the greatest ge'onim of
the generation including Rabbi Mordechai Bennet, the Rov of Nikolsburg,
Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Ropshitz, Rabbi Baruch Frankel-Teomim,
the Rov of Lipnik, and Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum, the Rov of Lissa and
michaber of the Chavas Daas and Nesivos.
Rav Aryeh Leib was appointed Rov of Rosiantov at a very young age. In
this small poor community he continued to lead a life of dire poverty.
His table consisted of a board held up by two barrels. It was there
that he wrote his famous work the Ketzos HaChoshen. It was so cold in
his dwelling that he used to keep the ink under a pillow as he wrote so it wouldn't freeze.
His Sefer Ketzos HaChoshen is considered one of the greatest works on
Choshen Mishpat. The story is told that after completing it at the age
of 40, Rav Aryeh Leib went to Rav Tzvi Hirsh Boshka to receive a
haskama. Skeptical that that this young Talmid Chochom could add
anything novel to what the famous Gaon Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz wrote in
his sefer Urim V'Tumim, he asked him to leave the sefer and come back
the next day. The next day before mincha, Rav Aryeh Leib heard an
announcement that there will be Sefer Torah dedication that evening
with the procession going from the Rov's house. During the procession
Rav Aryeh Leib came near the torah hoping to have a chance to carry
it. As he came up to the Torah, the Rov lifted the cover of the torah
and lo and behold underneath was not a torah it was the manuscript that
Rav Aryeh Leib gave the Rov the night before. A living sefer torah.
It is said that when Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz asked his Rebbi, Rav
Chaim Brisker, why he spends so much time giving shiurim on Kodshim and
not Nashim and Nezikin he said that he was scared to say something the
Ketzos would disagree with.
The Ketzos made an impact on the entire Torah world and Rav Aryeh
Leib's name became known far and wide. So much so that even though he
was a staunch Misnaged and upheld the Vilna Gaon's ban against Chasidim
which was written in his day, he was still widely respected by Chasidim
and Misnagdim alike. In fact after placing a Cheirem on the Chasidim
in the city of Stry, where he was then serving as Rov, the chasidim
decided to travel to their Rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, to complain.
Before even knowing their story, the Chozeh instructed his gabbai that
the group from Stry would need to wait two weeks before coming in to
him. That happened to coincide with the ending of the 30 day cheirem.
When they finally gained an audience with the Chozeh, he chastised them
for not showing enough respect for Rav Aryeh Leib.
Rav Aryeh Leib Heller was niftar on 19 Teves 5573/1813. He did not
leave this world without making his mark on all future generations. He
wrote three landmark works in the Ketzos HaChoshen, Avnei Miluim, and
Shev Shmatza. Yehi Zichro Boruch!
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