Leibowitz, Baruch Ber

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LEIBOWITZ, BARUCH BER (1866–1939), Lithuanian talmudic scholar and rosh yeshivah. Born in Slutsk, at the age of 14 he delivered a discourse at the local synagogue, astounding his listeners with his erudition. A year later, when accepted to the Volozhin yeshivah, he had already mastered two orders of the Talmud. Soon recognized as an illui ("prodigy"), he was given special attention by his teacher, R. Ḥayyim *Soloveichik. He married the daughter of R. Abraham Zimmerman, the rabbi of Halusk. Leibowitz later succeeded his father-in-law in this position, and many talented pupils soon gathered around him, making Halusk a new center for talmudic study. Leibowitz' personality and system of learning greatly influenced his students, many of whom later occupied important positions in the rabbinate and yeshivot. His method of exposition was essentially based on that of R. Ḥayyim Soloveichik. In 1904, Leibowitz was appointed head of the Keneset Bet Yiẓḥak Yeshivah in *Slobodka which had been organized in 1897 as a memorial to Kovno's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan *Spektor. Under his tutelage, the new school gradually earned an outstanding reputation and attracted students from all over the Jewish world. Following the advent of World War i, he was compelled to leave Slobodka and moved his yeshivah to Minsk and afterward to Kremenchug. After the war it was relocated in Vilna, and in 1926 he transferred the school to Kamenetz, near Brest-Litovsk, where it continued to attract hundreds of students for the next 13 years. In 1939, shortly before his death, he fled with his school to a suburb of Vilna, in the hope of escaping from the Nazis and the Communists.

His Birkat Shemu'el (4 vols., 1939–62) is regarded as a classic among talmudic scholars. It represents, however, only a small fraction of his learning and teachings, treasured by his numerous disciples who recorded everything they heard from their revered master. His students and family reopened the Kamenetz Yeshivah in Jerusalem in 1942.


O.Z. Rand (ed.), Toledot Anshei Shem (1950), 73; I. Edelstein, Rabbi Baruch Dov Leibovitch (Heb.; 1957); O. Feuchtwanger, Righteous Lives (1965), 115–8; S.J. Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (19663), 295–307; A. Rothkoff, in: Jewish Life (July–Aug., 1969), 41–46.

[Mordechai Hacohen]