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Volozhiner, Isaac ben Ḥayyim


VOLOZHINER, ISAAC BEN ḤAYYIM (d. 1849), talmudist and yeshivah head. Son of the founder of Volozhin yeshivah, popularly known as "Itzele of Volozhin," he acquired some secular knowledge, including foreign languages. Isaac taught at the yeshivah during his father's lifetime, and, upon his father's death, succeeded him as principal and became rabbi of the Volozhin community. After the Russian government closed the yeshivah in 1824, Isaac continued to maintain it, the local authorities closing their eyes to his activities. He exercised a profound influence on all the Lithuanian communities, particularly among the Mitnaggedim. Eliezer Isaac and Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin, both of whom taught in the yeshivah, became his sons-in-law, and on his death assumed the leadership of the yeshivah. Volozhiner took an active part in communal affairs. In 1824 M. *Lilienthal sought his support in the establishment of Jewish schools under government auspices. In the summer of 1843, together with M.M. *Shneersohn, Jacob Halpern, and B. Stern, he participated in the conference called by the government on the education of Jews, and defended the stand of the Orthodox circles, who objected that government-run schools might prove a danger to Jewish education and would be fruitless without political rights for Jews. In the end, however, he was compelled to submit to the demands of the government. He was one of those who gave approvals to the textbooks published by the government for Jewish children. He also gave his approval for the publication in Vilna of Mendelssohn's Biur. When asked for his reaction to the Russian government's degree ordering the style of clothing to be changed, he ruled that "the law of the government is binding" provided that it applied to all the inhabitants of the state. While taking part in the conference, Isaac obtained the government's permission to maintain the Volozhin yeshivah. He published Nefesh ha-Ḥayyim (Vilna, 1824), his father's ethical work, with his own glosses and a biographical introduction. He died in Ivenitz, in the district of Minsk. Millei de-Avot (1888), his homiletical commentary on Avot, was published posthumously.


Berdichevski (Bin Gorion), in: Ha-Asif, 3 (1887), 233–4; Y. Lipschuetz, Zikhron Ya'akov, 1 (1924), 82–83, 100–2; S.K. Mirsky, Mosedot Torah be-Eiropah be-Vinyanam u-ve-Ḥurbanam (1956), 31–34; Bialoblocki, in: Yahadut Lita, 1 (1959), 190–1.

[Yehuda Slutsky]

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