Gordon, Eliezer

views updated


GORDON, ELIEZER (1840–1910), rabbinical scholar. Gordon was born in the district of Minsk, and while still a young man was invited by R. Israel *Salanter to succeed him in Kovno as teacher of the younger pupils. Appointed in 1874 as rabbi of Kelme and head of its yeshivah, which now attracted many students, he became renowned as one of Lithuania's greatest and most pious rabbinical scholars. In 1884 he was appointed rabbi of Telz (*Telsiai) and head of its yeshivah, which, after the closing of the yeshivah of Volozhin, in 1858, became the spiritual center of Lithuanian Jewry. Gordon was one of the first to adopt what was known in Lithuanian yeshivah circles as "the method of logical comprehension," his lectures being distinguished for their penetrating analysis and their original and logical interpretations. He was also one of the first heads of a Lithuanian yeshivah to introduce the study of musar (ethics) into the curriculum, and he appointed adherents of the *Musar movement as mashgihim (student "supervisors"). Gordon took a special interest in the financial upkeep of the institution and was personally attentive to the needs of each of his students. So deep an attachment existed between them that even those of his students who later became estranged from his outlook and way of life continued to hold him in great personal esteem. As rabbi of Telz Gordon displayed great dedication and resoluteness. At times he would forgo his salary; he interceded with the authorities to protect the rights of Russian Jewry; and he played an active part in internal Jewish matters. At every assembly of Russian rabbis Gordon was one of the principal speakers. In Vilna, in 1904, seeking to establish an organization that would embrace all of Orthodox Jewry, he helped found the Keneset Israel organization, regarded by some as the forerunner of *Agudat Israel. In 1910 the Telz yeshivah was destroyed by fire, and Gordon died in the same year, while on a visit to London, where he had gone to raise funds for its rebuilding, and was buried there. His only published work is Teshuvot Rabbi Eli'ezer (2 vols., 1912, 1940).


S. Assaf, in: Ha-Ẓofeh (Feb. 24, 1950); idem, in: He-Avar, 2 (1954), 34–45; D. Katz, Tenu'at ha-Musar, 2 (1950), 426–36; Z.A. Rabiner, Ha-Ga'on Rabbi Eli'ezer Gordon (1969).

[Zvi Kaplan]