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Meltzer, Isser Zalman


MELTZER, ISSER ZALMAN (1870–1953), talmudic scholar and yeshivah head. Born in Lithuania, Meltzer studied in Volozhin under Ḥayyim Soloveichik and Naphtali Ẓevi Judah Berlin, and later under the Ḥafeẓ Ḥayyim in Radin. All of these exercised a profound influence upon him, Soleveichik by his talmudic methodology, Berlin by his love for Ereẓ Israel, and the Ḥafeẓ Ḥayyim by his humility and his ethical approach. In 1892 he married Beila Hinda, daughter of R. Faivel Frank of Ilukste. His wife possessed considerable scholarly abilities and throughout his life assisted him in transcribing his works and in arranging them for publication. In 1894 he was appointed by R. Nathan Ẓevi *Finkel one of the principals of the *Slobodka yeshivah and in 1897 the head of a yeshivah for advanced students in Slutsk, where Jacob David *Willowski was the rabbi. Hundreds of students flocked to the yeshivah, and when Willowski immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1903 Meltzer succeeded him as rabbi of Slutsk. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 the yeshivah moved to Kletsk in Poland. Meltzer, however, refused to leave his community in Slutsk, despite his suffering at the hands of the Bolsheviks, including imprisonment for teaching Torah. In 1923 he left Russia for Kletsk and in the same year participated in the founding conference of the *Agudat Israel in Vienna, at which he was elected to the Mo'eẓet Gedolei ha-Torah. In 1925 he became head of the Eẓ Ḥayyim Yeshivah in Jerusalem. In Ereẓ Israel, he devoted himself almost entirely to the dissemination of Torah and the strengthening of yeshivot. As a fervent Zionist, he exercised a moderating influence in the councils of the Agudah. In 1935 his first work appeared, Evenha-Ezel on the Mishneh Torah of *Maimonides which is regarded as a fundamental work of its kind. Seven volumes appeared during his lifetime, the other posthumously. He also edited and wrote commentary to the novellae of Naḥmanides (1928/29).


S. Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (19663), 337–60; D. Katz, Tenu'at ha-Musar, 3 (1957), 37–42 and passim; Yahadut Lita (1960), index; A. Rothkoff, in: Jewish Life (March 1971), 51–57.

[Mordechai Hacohen]

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