Rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR
Rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR was born in Rosh, a little village in Brodna district, in 1817. His father Rabbi ISROEL ISER was the village's Rabbi and he had four children: Rabbi MOISHE YOSEPH, Rabbi ABRAHAM ARON who died young, Rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN and Rabbi MOISHE DOVID who died in Eretz Israel. The most talented of them was Rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN, who studied with his father and was modest and prudent. His father minded his son's ability and perseverance, and he didn't want to divulge his knowledge.
One day, when the Rabbi of Kaidan visited his father. they began to debate on a Torah's subject, and then he discovered the young man's great talent. Rabbi MOISHE LEBAKBISK suggested the richest man of town, LEIZER YZARSKY, that the young man, 13 years old then, was his daughter SARA's fiancé. The engagement was arranged, and SARA became the faithful and selfless wife of Rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN.
After a while they had to suffer from poverty and hunger. This was in fact his second attempt of marriage. When he was 12 he was engaged to the daughter of the richest man of his town (Rosh), but the marriage was annulled a little time later because of a silly thing. The bridegroom was invited to his father-in-law's house and, together with a group of studious men began to analyze and get interested in Torah passages. Were put delicacies on the table, but the young man was concentrated on the study, so he was indifferent to all was served in his honor. That was the reason why the bride and her mother disapproved him. YTZHAK ELCHANAN soon forgot about this event but a few years later he came to visit Volkovysk town, when he was already a venerated rabbi of Kovno. Many men and women came over to get his blessings. Among them was his former fiancée, who recognized her fiancé she had rejected...
After the wedding YTZHAK ELCHANAN was very close to his father-in-law's home and studied Torah with Rab ELIOHU SHIK, later appointed as Rabbi in Lida. He also studied with Rab BINIAMIN DISKIN from Volkovysk.
The dowry Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN income was 300 rubles, which he put in the rich man's place in Volkovysk. This man went bankrupt and the young couple became "naked" and totally poor. The young wife demanded time after time a part of her money, but was refused saying that the Rabbi had to claim for the money since he had received it first. The young woman would beg his husband to claim for the money. Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN was currently very concentrated on study of a Talmudic Law chapter, and he didn't pay attention to his wife's words. She started to cry, her father heard it and explained her that one minute of her husband's studies was more valuable than all dowry he had got...
When his father-in-law's situation got worse, Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN had no choice but taking the post of Rabbi. In 5696 (Jewish calendar) he was appointed as Rabbi in Zablin. The salary was 5 polish coins of gold (75 kopikes) per week. People in town appreciated his work and he got an extra golden coin per week, but all this salary wasn't enough to buy a single bread. His father-in-law would provide them every Saturday "chalá" (plaited bread) and meat.
For then the couple suffered from shame and hunger. Every time the wife whispered about their sorrow, he withdrew to a corner of the house, with his book of "Gemarah" (post-bible laws) and studied with enthusiasm to forget their needs. .. This situation was getting worse every day and the Rabbi decided to go to Karlin in order to ask for advice to town's Rabbi. He had no warm clothes and borrowed it from rich men of town.
When he arrived in the Rabbi's house, from a corner he listened at deep debates between the Rabbi and other studious men, as well as their opinions about Jewish legal norms. Then he took part in the debate and he said his opinion about the verdict of one of the wisest men on the matter, in the paragraph 75. The men then present were astonished for the deep knowledge of Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN. When there was a vacant position for rabbi in Bereza, the Rabbi of Karlin proposed Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN and he was appointed as Rabbi of town in 1839, with a salary higher than 1 ruble weekly.
He was famous in Bereza, not only because of his knowledge and genius on Torah, but as wise and astute in other matters. The traders and contractors from whole area would visit him to present their litigations, and they accepted his clever rabbinical opinion. The Rabbi's situation got better, and he was able to save hundreds of "palatines" (each palatin was 3 roubles).
During those days there was an argument between Reb EIZL from Shavl and Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN about the subject of the possession's validity in divorces. Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN's opinion was unanimously accepted and that gave him a big fame. The community of Nishvish offered him the rabbinical post, but the of Bereza wouldn't give their Rabbi up. Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN left Bereza on a dark night and arrived in Nishvish, where he had a salary of 4 roubles per week, which was good enough. He studied and worked as Rabbi. One day one neighbor of the community got angry with the Rabbi and demanded him for a guarantee he had left in Rabbi's power. Finally this happened to be a calumny, but YTZHAK ELCHANAN had to turn up at the gentile authorities and show he was innocent and clean of any guilt. This incident forced YTZHAK ELCHANAN to move from Nishvish to Novorodok and from there to Kovno, in 1864, where he stayed until he died in 1896.
Rab YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR encouraged the emigration to Eretz Israel, and, together with the rabbinical leaders of his times, he was one of the greatest celebrities of Russian Judaism. The town "Nachalat Itzhak", a quarter between Tel Aviv and Yaffo, was named after him.
KLATZKIN family - Rav ELIOHU BEN NAFTALI- HERTZ KLATZKIN
One of the greatest persons of Jewish people who carried out rabbinical tasks in Bereza, after the wise YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR, was Rab ELIOHU KLATZKIN, between 1881 and 1894. From Bereza he moved to Maiampal in Lithuania, and was appointed as Rabbi of Lublin in 1910. In 1925 he emigrated to Jerusalem where he died in 1932. Rab ELIOHU KLATZKIN comes from a noble family. His father NAFTALI HERTZ was born in 1822 in the city of Dvinsk an he was Rabbi in Ushphall for ten years, then another 37 years in Shemberg city. He died there in 1894. His son ELIOHU KLATZKIN was born in Ushphall. All his brothers practiced rabbinical authority. Reb ISROEL ISER was Rabbi in Lieveneoph, district of Vitebsk. Another was Reb AVROM, Rabbi of Liazni, Mogilevsk district. The third was Reb ZALMAN, Rabbi of Rahatshev, Mogilevsk district, and the last one was Reb MOISHE TZVI HIRSCH, rabbi of Ramanave, Mogilevsk district.
Rabbi ELIOHU KLATZKIN wrote the following books: "Principles", Warsaw 1887; "Magnificence words", Warsaw 1895; "The Angular Stone", 1907; "Eliohu's Words", 1915; "Normative Words", Petrekov, 1921; "Complete as the Stone", Lublin, 1925; "Love for the Holy", Jerusalem, 1927; and "Some Words", Jerusalem, 1931. After finishing his rabbinical duties, he left Bereza and his cousin YEHOSHUA MORDECHAI KLATZKIN assumed the duty.
He also practiced his rabbinical task in the following villages: Sviatash, Horodek (next to Minsk), Kartuz Rasain (Kovno district) and Libui. He died there in 1925.
His son YAKOV KLATZKIN was born in Kartuz Bereza, in March 10th 1882. Was later a famous Hebrew writer and thinker. He studied in Marbug at HERMAN COHEN's and later he continued his philosophy studies in Bern, Switzerland. From 1909 to 1911 YAKOV KLATZKIN was editor of the Zionist German newspaper called "Ha'Olam" (The World). Later he worked at the head office of the KKL in Cologne. Between 1915-1918 he published French "Jewish Bulletin" in Switzerland, and between 1921-1922 he published in Heidelberg "Free Zionist Pages" (in German) with NACHUM GOLDMAN. With GOLDMAN, he founded Eshkol Publishing House, that began to publish "Judaic Encyclopedia" in 1926, and he was General Editor. Until Hitler assumed the power, he published 10 volumes of this encyclopedia.
Rav SHLOIME FAINSILBER
Rab SHLOIME FAINSILBER was born in Kartuz Bereza in 1871. His father YOSEF ARON was Rabbi of Bereza too, and wrote the book "Aaron's services", and later he practiced Rabbinical duties in Yalovka village. His grandfather Rabbi ARIE from Volkovysk, wrote the book "Aaron's face".
During his youth he began to comment and make some renewals on Torah. When he was 21 he received the honor of "Rabbinical Authority" from the wise man NAFTALY TZVI YEHUDA BERLIN, and from Reb YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR.
At first he practiced his rabbinical authority in Turek little village, and then in 1896 he moved to Farezave. In 1904 he worked as rabbi in Vakshne, where he founded a "Yeshiva".
With the expulsion of Lithuania Jews by NIKOLAI NIKOLAIEVICH during WWI, Rabbi FAINSILBER arrived in Minsk, where he was Great Rabbi of Great Temple, and there he founded a Yeshiva. In 1920 he returned to Vakshne and four years later he was elected Rabbi of Kaidan. Also there he founded a Yeshiva, and Rab SHIMEN DUBIANSKY was the Director.
During many years, Rab FAINSILBER was chairman of Rabbis Union of "Lite". At beginnings of WWII when Lithuania was conquered by Red Army, many refugees arrived in Kaidan, among them Yeshiva's young men. For a little time, the Yeshiva "Mir" was concentrated in Kaidan. Some of its disciples were able to leave through Japan and Shangai to USA. The rest were expelled to Siberia by soviet authorities. Rabbi FAINSILBER always cared about the refugees.
When Germans exterminated Jews of Kaidan in August 28th 1941, Rav FAINSILBER was shot with others, among them Rav ZALMAN PERMUT, general director of the Yeshiva of Kovno, Rav ABRAHAM SHLOIME KAVITZKY from Lukenik in Lita, and Rab GALIN, judge of Kaidan. Is said that before he was shot, he called the nazis and said "the innocent blood spread will be never be silenced".
Rav YAKOV MOISHE ASHEREVITZ
He was one of the last Rabbis of Bereza, Reb YAKOV MOISHE ben ISRAEL ASHEREVITZ. On his book "Lord's tends", dedicated to SHMUEL NOACH GOTTLIEB, published in 1912, are following details: The Rabbi was born in 1868, he studied in Volodzin with Reb NAFTALI TZVI YEHUDA BERLIN and Reb CHAIM SOLOVEITSCHIK. Later he studied in Kovno and got Rabbinical authority from Reb NAFTALY TZVI YEHUDA BERLIN and from the wise rabbi YTZHAK ELCHANAN SPECTOR. In 1895 he was accepted as Rabbi in Bereza. He was son- in-law of Reb YECHIEL MICHL who was Rabbi of Yanushak and author of "The Sea shore".
The book "Historic Treatise on the rabbinical noble records" has references from many sources. Unfortunately we don't have material enough about the Rabbis that practiced their duties during hundreds of years, but, by chance, the "Rabbi's Book" that was in Bereza came to our hands, and from its references we were able to learn about local lifestyle.
In the cover of the book "Oil Paintings of Joy", there were questions and answers of Reb BINIOMIN DOVID LEVIN, Reb SHIMSHON RAPHAEL's son. These works were written while the author was Rabbi of the Holy Community in Bereza and in Kapulie. Now he lives in Kalne. "Now" means 1904. The book was published by the author's son and disciple, Reb ARIE DOV LEVIN, and his father-in-law, Reb SHMUEL ARIEH ZAIDENBERG. The book was printed in MORDECHAI SEDERBOIM's printing house in Pietrekov, and published by LEVIN EPSHTEIN brothers in Warsaw.
The prologue was written by the author's father-in-law, and we deduce this was his second book. The first one was titled "Honeycomb", released in 1900, and its success encouraged the author to write "Oil Paintings of Joy".
It was obvious: the fiancé lived at his father-in-law's place, and in order to publish the book, he needed to ask for a loan from wealthy and outstanding man ZEEV BEN ITZHAK MELTZERSKY. In the prologue, the author says the name "Oil Paintings of Joy" goes to eternize his father's name SHIMSHON. The first book, "Honeycomb", comes from the biblical book paragraph "Mishli", according to which "honeycomb" are nice words. "Honeycomb" (TZUPH in Hebrew) in "Gimatria" (TN: addition of the numerical value of the Hebrew alphabet letters, frequently used in the Kabala) comes to the same value than the name BINIAMIN DOVID. The word "honey" (D. VA. SH. in Hebrew) is the acronym of DOVID BEN SHIMSHON, which is the author's and his father's names. On the other hand, the sentence "Nice words" has in Gimatria the same value than the letters of his mother's name REIZL....
After the preface, follows the treaty on family references, and here also we can know something about Bereza. His father was the seventh generation of a great wise man M. H.R.SH.A., died on 22 Elul 5867 and buried in Bereza near Brest Litovsk. His grandfather was an outstanding wealthy man, called PINCHAS HA'LEVY LEVIN, who had four children and a daughter. All performed important functions in Karlin, Vienna and Warsaw. The siblings LEVIN-EPSHTEIN were known in Warsaw, and they are also included in this family.
The author's mother, REIZL, was daughter of the famous wealthy man's YOSEF AVERBACH, nicknamed YOSEPH LEIPTZIKER. When he died was buried in the old cemetery. He was son of Reb HILEL from Chomsk and grandson of Rabbi NECHEMIA AMSTYBAVE. The author's mother died in 1879 and she was buried in Bereza. The author had four siblings Rabbis: Rabbi MOISHE MENACHEM who performed as Rabbi in Seratzk and Ratzianzsh and died in Warsaw. Reb BARUCH MORDECHAI, the second of the siblings, was Rabbi in Yvenitz, Stavisk, Stalftze, Moscow and now (1904) he is judge in Vilna. The other two siblings received rabbinical title, but not exercised it, and they are: Reb YOSEF YAKOV and Reb ELIEZER LEIB. Their only daughter died young and she was buried in Bereza. He also had other three children and three daughters. One of the children - ELIEZER LEVY - performed as Rabbi in the town of Charny (near Lomze).
The book includes 48 answers, thoughts and corrections of the book "Learning of thought", of the "SHULCHAN ARUCH" (synthesis of normative laws) .Has 92 pages. The 5 last pages include names of the signatories that lived in 30 cities and towns, but the name of Bereza is absent. Of this we deduce that the author's relationship in the past with his community, was not so good, and more, all answers were written in Kalne. A part of the answers, especially those that treat the issues: "Claim of debts through witness" and "Special approval to women abandoned by their husbands", are written in Yiddish. Among other things, it includes interesting details about Jewish way of life in those days.