David Ha'levy (Faigenboim)
PRUZHANY'S RAV - ELIOHU FAINSHTEIN
In the book "Eliohu Paths" written by Pruzhany's Rabbi and published after his death, there is an introduction written by his son-in-law, then also Pruzhany's Rabbi DAVID HA'LEVY FAIGENBOIM who died as a martyr. In the introduction is said: "This book is the history of a man great among giants; his knowledge and intelligence were seven times higher to that of any other. Great Rabbi of Israel, Genius R' ELIOHU HA'LEVY". Of this introduction we obtain the following biographical details.
... .Rabbi ELIAHU FAINSHTEIN was born in Slutz in 1842, in his father's home R' ARON HA'LEVY, who was then Rabbi of the city Starobin. Being still a boy, he filled people with admiration for his wonderful talent and intelligence. The illustrious rabbi YOSELE of Slutz had given him great esteem, and predicted that he will be an outstanding and famous person. In the month Tamuz 1860, when the illustrious rabbi ELIOHU hardly was 18 years old, married the illustrious Rabbi's YTZHOK YECHIEL HA'LEVY daughter, who was Karelitz Jewish Tribunal Chief (ABD). His wife, GUTE CHISHE came from a family whose ancestors were of great rabbinical hierarchy. She stood out for her good qualities, was devoted to help orphans, helped widows, and dedicated with energy to build homes in benefit of unprotected people.
After the wedding, R' ELIOHU lived in his in-laws home, where he dedicated only to study Torah. Old men of that generation commented that in this period he had studied four times the sacred book "Shulchan Aruch."
After his father's AARON HA'LEVY death in Pesach 1863, the population of Starovy decided to accept as Rabbi of their congregation, the very young person who was hardly 20 years old, Rav ELIOHU. He refused and didn't want to load the yoke of Rabbinical throne. Intervened in this matter R YOSELE SLUTZKER who forced him to accept the position. The Rabbi of Slutz declared openly: " I want to see how directs Rabbinate my Rabbi ELINKE, while I am alive". The young Rabbi could not reject the illustrious Rabbi YOSELE desire, and accepted the Rabbinate, with a condition: urban affairs does not correspond to him. He will be devoted only to issues related with rabbinical trials.
In these times was very frequent the issue of different forms of Jewish holding of lands that belonged to Polish noblemen. In that issue, frequent discussions took place. It happened that many persons through usurpation and falsehood, expelled lessees and many times these powerful ones removed sustenance means of weak people. In favor of these unprotected souls, the Rabbi defended them with strong hand. His name spread out until distant places. Jews and gentiles went to see him and to listen his verdicts, which were right in such discussions.
After the illustrious Rabbi's ISSER YEHUDA death, Brest Jewish Tribunal Chief who wrote the book "Ezrat Yehuda" (TN "Yehuda's help) in the population of Brest, a city full with learned and studious people, went to see Rabbi ELIOHU and invited him to be president of Jewish Superior Tribunal (ABD, or "Av Bet Din"). He rejected this honorable position and dedicated day and night to study Torah.
At the beginning of 1870 he was elected Rabbi of the important community of Kletzk in substitution of the illustrious Rabbi YEHOSHUA NIESVIZSH. Both cities, Starobin and Kletzk disputed the Rabbi. At the end, Rabbi's ARIE of Yehumen and Rabbi GUERSHON TANCHUM of Minsk verdict, was that the city of Kletzk had the privilege to have him as Rabbi.
It was a time during which dominated to Jewish communities, strong, rich and powerful men. Each community should present a quantity of young people to military service. There was a possibility to liberate of military service children of rich people , by means of money delivery. Powerful men of the city presented to military service children of poor families. Nobody could solve this humiliating problem. When Rabbi ELIOHU took over rabbinical throne of Kletzk, he opposed vigorously to this plague. He pointed out that according to the law, children of widows should enjoy the privilege of not being sent to military service, in order to be able to help their families. He was in favor of Torah studious, that they should be respected while they were in military service (also recruited belonged mainly to poor class). Was necessary to have much courage to face the arrogance of powerful people. R ' ELiOHU did not scare them, and with lot of dignity defended those humiliated.
In winter 1874 died his father-in-law, the illustrious YTZHOK YECHIEL HA'LEVY Karelitz's Superior Tribunal Chief. Then he left the great city of Kletzk and travelled to Karelitz to assume Rabbi's position. Was necessary to wait until he, the deceased's son-in-law, the very young Rabbi FAINSHTEIN, was worthy of assuming the Rabbinate. The purpose of this attitude, was in order to permit that deceased's widow continues receiving rabbinical fees. During three years he did his mission as a simple salary workman. Before concluding third year, he rejected all proposals of important communities like Zager and Kobrin, to occupy Rabbinical position. Only ten days before concluding his third year, arrived a manuscript of the town of Chaslovitz, and he accepted that proposal. Some days later the illustrious Rabbi REUVEN proposed him the Rabbinate in the town of Amtislav (because the Rabbi REUVEN accepted the position in Dinaburg-Dvinsk). Whole population claimed his presence but he rejected it, and was rabbi of the small town of Chaslovitz.
In Reizn ELIOHU lived under different conditions than in Lithuania, in an atmosphere of different customs. The atmosphere was restless. There were discussions due to a new Ordinance about recruits of military service. Again he should fight mediating between poor and rich men. Also here achieved to impose order in relations.
In that time, began a new chapter in R ELIOHU's life. A Jewish movement began to settle in cities outside limits of Pale of Settlement. Little by little Jews settled in Oriol, Smolensk, Kurk, Charkov and other places. Arose the need of creating new Jewish life system settlements, and to provide to people judges, butchers, circumcisers, teachers, scribes. He devoted without pause to the task of preparing outstanding Jewish leaders for the conduction of these new communities. They built ritual bathrooms, and schools for the education of Jewish children. He was famous and renowned.
After terrible pogroms of years 1881/82 was called an encounter of big Learned and Wise People of Israel in Russia, carried out in St. Petersburg, to consider Jewish situation. Arrived following illustrious rabbis : YTZHOK ELCHONON of Kovno, YOSEF VER of Brest, ELIOHU of Kratingen, ELIOHU CHAIM of Lodz, HIRSH LEIB of Volozshin, REUBEN of Dvinsk, and among them also ELIOHU FAINSTEIN then Rabbi of Choshlovitz. He was the youngest of the group and came from a small town. However it was necessary that he attends this meeting. Among other issues they intended to send to the czar a delegation formed by Jewish distinguished members, and to tell him of the sufferings of Jewish citizens. They would request the czar to order his subordinates to protect Jews from "hooligans" and from those that order pogroms. The general opinion of the Council decided to send the delegation, because the important czars city intermediate's insinuated that the czar would receive them with pleasure.
Rabbi ELIOHU FAINSHTEIN opinion was totally opposed. He predicted that czar knew with certainty what happened, and that pogroms took place with his consent. Considering that gentile population didn't demonstrate enmity toward Jews, how is explained that so suddenly they changed their attitude and pogroms began? The programs was made with the consent of power authorities, to drown in Jewish blood the signs of the rebellion against the czar, and there is not thing "less significant" that Jewish blood which doesn't have who claims for it. The result of such a delegation, R' ELIOHU said, will be only a moral protest, and they will receive the promise that relationship with Jews will improve, as long as Jews better their attitudes. In fact, words said by R ELIOHU happened. This petition caused more suffering to Jewish population.
In 1884 R ELIOHU was received with big honors to occupy Pruzhany's rabbinical throne, and he fulfilled his mission full with dignity. From here he was called to participate in the second Rabbinical Assembly in St. Petersburg carried out in year 1911. In this opportunity he also demonstrated a clear concept about the problems and political questions, related to Russian Jews of that moment.
During his permanency in Pruzhany was invited by a quantity of cities to assume rabbinical throne. He didn't seek honorary positions, and he preferred warmth and serenity in Pruzhany, where he had the possibility to be devoted to the study of Torah, with all tranquility. He also received an offer from Jerusalem. For this sacred objective, he accepted the proposal, but a quantity of factors impeded him to take over the post.
Died in the month of Tishrei, 1929.