Polachek, Solomon

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POLACHEK, SOLOMON (1877–1928), talmudic scholar and teacher. Polachek was early recognized as a precocious youngster and became widely known as the illui ("prodigy") of Meitshet where he studied. He entered the Volozhin yeshivah at the unusually early age of 12 and his bar-mitzvah was celebrated at the home of the head of the yeshivah, Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin. After the yeshivah was closed by the czarist government in 1892, Polachek studied with Ḥayyim *Soloveitchik in Brest-Litovsk and became "R. Ḥayyim's" most beloved pupil. Polachek also studied in the Slobodka yeshivah and at the "kibbutz" of Ḥayyim Ozer *Grodzenski in Vilna. Polachek mastered secular studies and modern Hebrew on his own and acquainted himself with the literature and problems of his time. In 1905, I.J. *Reines appointed him head of the Talmud department in the newly organized Lida yeshivah where the curriculum also included secular studies. After Reines' death in 1915 the entire burden of the yeshivah fell on Polachek. Shortly afterward, as a result of World War i, Polachek and the yeshivah were compelled to move to central Russia, where the school continued for five more years. During the war Polachek lost the notes he had amassed on over 1,500 different talmudic topics. After the war and the Bolshevik revolution, Polachek succeeded in escaping to Poland, where he became head of the Talmud department of the Taḥkemoni Rabbinical Seminary in Bialystok. In 1922 Polachek emigrated to America and accepted the position of senior rosh yeshivah in the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (the forerunner of *Yeshiva University). He was enthusiastically received by American Orthodoxy since he was the first renowned European talmudist who agreed to remain in the U.S. for the purpose of teaching Talmud in an advanced yeshivah. While in the U.S., he was a member of the *Union of Orthodox Rabbis and was active in the *Mizrachi movement. Polachek's Ḥiddushei ha-Illui me-Meitshet was published posthumouly in 1947.


A. Rothkoff, in: Jewish Life, Nov.–Dec. 1967, 29–35; O. Feuchtwanger, Righteous Lives (1965), 119–21; O.Z. Rand (ed.), Toledot Anshei Shem (1950), 94; Yahadut Lita, 1 (1960), index s.v., 3 (1967), 75f.

[Aaron Rothkoff]