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Soloveichik, Isaac Ze'ev Ha-Levi


SOLOVEICHIK, ISAAC ZE'EV HA-LEVI (1886–1959), rabbi of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), halakhist, and talmudist. Born in Volozhin, Isaac was the son of Ḥayyim *Soloveichik, who was his only teacher and regarded him as his spiritual heir, who would continue that tradition of study which originated in Volozhin. Isaac's erudition and acumen were evident from his early youth, and his father stated that in insight he resembled his grandfather Joseph Baer, the founder of the Brisk dynasty of great talmudists. On the death of his father in 1918, Isaac Ze'ev was appointed by the community to succeed him as rabbi of Brisk. He soon became renowned as a central figure in the world of Torah and was popularly known as "R. Velvel." He did not establish a yeshivah at Brisk but gave lessons to a group of the best students of yeshivot as well as other select individuals who assembled in his bet midrash. Admission to his circle of students was regarded as a great privilege, to which every student who wished to perfect his knowledge aspired. Despite his youth, the great contemporary talmudists, well-known rabbis, and heads of yeshivot, acknowledged his superiority and paid respectful attention to his words, his ḥiddushim ("original deductions") passing from mouth to mouth.

On the conquest of Poland in World War ii, he fled from Brisk to Vilna together with five sons and two daughters (his wife and another four children were murdered in Brisk). Soloveichik was saved from the destruction of Polish Jewry and in 1941 went to Ereẓ Israel, settling in Jerusalem. He established there a *kolel of select young men. A yeshivah was founded and administered by his eldest son Joseph Dov. There was a great difference between Soloveichik's activities as rabbi of Brisk and his conduct in Jerusalem. During his 20 years as rabbi of Brisk he had been in the center of communal and congregational life, while in Jerusalem he confined himself to his studies, firmly refusing any official appointment and avoiding any public appearance or participation in daily public life. He even refrained from giving halakhic rulings, maintaining that "Jerusalem has a rabbi to whom problems should be addressed." Only in cases where he saw danger to the foundations of religion and faith did he break silence and give his ruling in the most vigorous of terms. He belonged to no party and did not intervene in political affairs, but as an outstanding halakhist he exercised great influence over extensive circles of Orthodox Jewry, especially after the death of Avraham Karelitz (Ḥazon Ish). In Jerusalem, as in Brisk, he lectured daily and his novellae were noted down or transmitted by his pupils. "R. Velvel" loved the Holy Land and believed wholeheartedly in the mitzvah of living there.


I. Goldschlag, in: Shanah be-Shanah (1961), 358f.; eg, 2 (1954), index; L. Jung (ed.), Men of the Spirit (1964), 195–41.

[Itzhak Goldshlag]

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