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Rav Yaakov Etlinger

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Rav Yaakov Etlinger: The Aruch LaNer - Receiving the Torch, Carrying the Torch, and Passing The Torch
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Rav Yaakov Etlinger was the great light in Germany as the reform movement was conquering Europe. He was the linchpin between the old guard and the new guard responsible for saving Yiddishkeit.

Rav Yaakov was born in 5568/1808 in the Germany and spent his youth learning with his father who was the Rosh Mesivta of the local Bais Medrash. Afterward he learned by the Rav of the town who was none other than Rav Asher the son of Shaagas Aryeh. Later he studied under Rav Avrohom Bing a talmid of Rav Nosson Adler on whose Matzeiva it is written "Aluf HaTorah Malach Ha'Elokim"; the champion of Torah an angel of Hashem. In his Yeshiva Rav Avrohom nurtured all the future German Gedolim including Rav Nosson Adler of Hanover who later went on to become the Chief Rabbi of Britain.

When was a mere 18 years old he was invited to Mannheim where he became the Rosh Mesivta. Among his talmidim included the future savior of German Jewry, Rav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch. Ten years later at age 28 he was appointed to the prestigious position of Rav of Altuna where his predecessors included Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz, Rav Yitzchok Horowitz, and Rav Refoel Hamburger. At this point Rav Yaakov wielded tremendous power as the German authorities recognized his Bais Din and the government police force was at his disposal to enforce his judgments. Altuna was the only city in Germany not infected by the Reform movement. It was the last bastion of Torah in Germany. Among his talmidim in Altuna included Rav Ezriel Hildesheimer and Rav Meir Lehman (aka Marcus Lehman author of books for German teenagers still read today).

Despite his important position his main occupation was still learning and teaching Torah. He was known to sleep three hours a night and fast many days. He knowledge of Zohar was famous and he gained acclaim as a Mekubal. He authored a number of famous seforim including, Aruch LaNer on Shas, Shailos U"teshuvos Binyan Tzion, and Bikurei Yaakov, which even in his day became famous throughout the world. Rav Chaim Palagi in Turkey and Rebbi Akiva Eiger both wrote comments on this sefer. The great gaon Rebbi Akiva Eiger wrote in his sefer in Succah, "Praise to Hashem that I have had the good fortune to to think of the same answer...(as the Bikurei Yaakov).

He fought the reform movement both in Germany and Hungary and his influence even spread to Eretz Yisroel as he was crowned "Nasi Eretz Yisroel" for his active involvement in helping out the Yishuv.

He was niftar the first night of Chanukah 5632/1871 at the age of 63.

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