Israel ben Samuel of Shklov

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ISRAEL BEN SAMUEL OF SHKLOV

ISRAEL BEN SAMUEL OF SHKLOV (d. 1839), talmudic scholar of Lithuania and, later, in Ereẓ Israel, where he was leader of the "*Kolel ha-Perushim," the local community of the disciples of *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Vilna Gaon. Israel was born and brought up in Shklov. Although he studied under the Vilna Gaon for only six months before the latter's death, he was nevertheless entrusted with the preparation of the Gaon's commentaries for publication. In 1809 he joined the third group of the Gaon's pupils, led by Ḥayyim b. Tobiah, that immigrated to Ereẓ Israel and settled in Safed, where there were already 40 families from the two previous groups. Within less than a year of his arrival he was sent by the Kolel ha-Perushim to Lithuania to organize permanent assistance for the immigrants. During the course of this mission, which proved extremely successful, he published the notes of the Vilna Gaon on the tractate Shekalim of the Jerusalem Talmud together with a commentary of his own under the title of Taklin Ḥadtin (Minsk, 1812). Though caught up in the Napoleonic wars which had meanwhile reached Russia, he succeeded in returning to Safed at the beginning of 1813. In the summer of that year, seeking to escape a plague which broke out in Safed, Israel and his family set out for Jerusalem. His wife died on the journey, his two sons, two of his daughters, and his son-in-law died in Jerusalem, and his father and mother at Safed and only he and his youngest daughter survived. In 1816, after having returned to Safed, Israel was chosen to succeed Menahem Mendel of Shklov, the leader of the Kolel ha-Perushim there, when the latter moved to Jerusalem. Israel served as head of the community, which now numbered 600, first in Safed and later in Jerusalem. He organized assistance from abroad, maintained amicable relations with the ḥasidic and Sephardi communities, represented his community before the authorities, and established good relations with the Arabs. Reports having reached Safed in 1830 of the existence of Jewish tribes in Yemen, he sent a special envoy there to search for remnants of the Ten Tribes. When Israel *Bak opened a Hebrew printing house in Safed in 1832, he entrusted him with the printing of his Pe'at ha-Shulḥan, on laws applying in Ereẓ Israel, which had been omitted from the Shulḥan Arukh. The work did not appear until 1836, its printing having been interrupted by an attack by the Arabs of Upper Galilee on the Jews of Safed. Israel organized help for those who had suffered from the attack, which lasted for 33 days and in the course of which much Jewish property was looted. On the first day of 1837 an earthquake killed more than 2,000 Jews in Safed. Israel was then in Jerusalem, and upon hearing of the disaster, he immediately sent help to Safed and letters to Jews abroad soliciting their aid for the stricken. Safed having been reduced to rubble, Israel for the last two years of his life lived, like most of the refugees from the earthquake, in Jerusalem. Louis *Loewe, who met him there, related that on the Sabbath Israel spoke only Hebrew. His health failing, Israel went in 1839 to Tiberias where he died. His grave and tombstone were discovered in Tiberias in 1964. Israel's diary has been partially preserved, as have numerous letters which he wrote to people abroad. They constitute important sources for the history of the Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel during the first half of the 19th century.

bibliography:

Frumkin, in: Zion, 2 (1927), 128–48; Frumkin-Rivlin, 3 (1929), 138–57, 164–7; Levy, in: Sinai, 5 (1939), 30–37; A. Yaari, ibid., 52–65; idem, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 324–63, 404, 550–1; Yaari, Sheluḥei, 674, 757–9; L. Jung (ed.), Men of the Spirit (1964), 61–81.

[Avraham Yaari]

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Israel ben Samuel of Shklov

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